Review: Pallbearer slow-churns The Summit
(1)It speaks to the widespread respect for Pallbearer that (a) they're on their way to open for Enslaved for three-plus weeks and (b) they were able to pack out The Summit on a Monday night on about two weeks' notice. That's pretty impressive for a band touring on its first LP. This being a Monday night, the powers that be kept the show humming along efficiently. That's wise, and I would usually appreciate it, but a prior commitment and some confusion among friends kept me from arriving in time to see Before the Eyewall. Word is they were fantastic, so props to everybody but me, I suppose.
(2) Definitely witnessed Lo-Pan, though, and let me assure you, all that touring has sharpened this band into a deadly weapon. This is hard rock in its purest, most powerful form, with fuzz-addled pentatonic riffs and power chords colliding and comingling with Jeff Martin's belly-busting howl. Hearing them locked in and pummeling relentlessly was damn near transcendental.
(3) Frankly, I haven't seen a lot of doom metal shows in my day, but Pallbearer's performance suggested that further exploration might yield significant rewards. Then again, this is the pick of the littler, the platonic ideal of a genre whose go-to visual shorthand is towering glaciers approaching ominously in the distance. If I had to imagine my ideal doom band, it would be closer to chunky peanut butter than black tar. That's why I found Pallbearer's slow-churn harmonics so attractive: They somehow plucked breathless excitement from the darkest despair.
(4) All I'd heard about Pallbearer's live show was how mercilessly loud it was supposed to be. Maybe it's just my ears showing the wear and tear of all those years without earplugs, but it didn't seem exceptionally loud in there. Not that it was quiet, mind you - just not the kind of show that left my auricles throbbing. This also could have been a symptom of The Summit's unsatisfactory sonics striking again. Singer-guitarist Brett Campbell's voice was lost in the mix all night; when he announced they'd be finishing with the debut of a brand new song, he added:"There's no vocals at this bar, so it's going to be an instrumental." (UPDATE: Videographer Nicholas Anstine filmed the concert and says Campbell's actual words were, "There's no vocals at this point, so it's going to be an instrumental." So it's possible he wasn't dissing The Summit's sound mix, just explaining that the song doesn't have words.)
(5) Nonetheless, that song was the exclamation point, the moment I got really excited about Pallbearer. It had more pace than your average doom track, but it was still unmistakably descended from the band's prior material- a hare battling it out with a tortoise; a blue whale leaping from the ocean and into continuous flight. Don't fret too much if you haven't seen this band yet at this early juncture. Its best days might still be ahead.