Brudenell Social Club, Leeds // Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Pallbearer’s last appearance in Leeds ended in rather unfortunate circumstances – a fire alarm curtailed their performance at Damnation Festival back in November. Perhaps with this in mind, the Arkansas four-piece put on a performance which was loud enough to drown out any potential alarms and that was so engaging and passionate that fans would be tempted to ignore any such call for evacuating the venue.
After five years of being wowed by Pallbearer’s amazing blend of doom, classic rock, prog and everything else that makes metal great, I was more than excited to finally get to see them live. Yet when I realised that they were actually playing the second room in the Brudenell, I felt somewhat disappointed, believing they were more than deserving of the main room at this stage of their career.
However, these fears which were quickly allayed once I’d checked it out and experienced the gig. Although the second room is smaller and perhaps lacks the charm of the main room, I have to say that it won me over with both its increased intimacy and its toilets – there’s actually somewhere to put your pint while you wee, which as a beer-drinker with a weak bladder is a distinct advantage.
Pint of Kirkstall Pale in hand, I took my position centre-left of the stage at around 9pm and watched as Pallbearer’s guitarists fiddled with their pedal boards, which were all the size of coffee tables, a dazzling array of all kinds of effects.
Once a brief soundcheck was complete, guitarist Brett Campbell kicked off the gig with the portentous and devastatingly simple opening riff to Watcher In The Dark, before his bandmates joined in, to cacophonous effect. This set the tone for what was to come – subterranean, churning guitars coupled with both soaring and abrasive vocal lines, as well as gorgeous lead trade-offs between the aforementioned Campbell and fellow axe-wielder Devin Holt.
As would be expected, the band delved into all three of their full-lengths in their setlist, as well as recently released single Dropout. At times there is almost too much going on in their sound, and you’re at a loss at which guitarist to follow or whether to stand agape at bassist Joseph Roland’s gorgeous melodies.
Worlds Apart, from 2014 sophomore album Foundations of Burden was unsurprisingly the highlight of the show. Anthemic lead guitars, concise and thought-provoking lyrics, that droney Bell Witch-esque middle section, which segues into a soaring solo, before a riff that Tony Iommi would be proud of carries the song into a crushing climax, during which the guitarists turned to their amps to draw on feedback, augmenting the sense of crescendo and unravelling.
You’d have thought that rounding off the gig with Given To The Grave would’ve been the perfect climax, but Pallbearer had other ideas, deciding to utilise another one of debut album Sorrow And Extinction’s heavy hitters to finish off the audience. Devoid Of Redemption was quite spectacular, and its closing refrain of “Swept into the dark, too late to return, he breathed in. From the emptiness, fear rose up in his throat”, where all three vocalists join in, echoed the apocalyptic chaos at the culmination of Neurosis’s Locust Star.
Overall, a magnificent and spellbinding experience, from a band that implausibly keep improving. Here’s hoping they’ll be back on these shores soon!