I'm struggling to catch part of what Pallbearer bassist Joseph D. Rolwand is saying. His band is on tour with the iconic Norwegian black-metal group Enslaved. They played Denver the night before and are driving to Los Angeles on an off day. They're currently in the middle of Utah, and the call has already dropped twice. "I'm driving through mountains right now, so my signal is definitely not top-notch," says Rowland.
Right after the word "notch," the call drops a third time. Sometime later that Thursday I get a text stating the obvious: Today isn't a good day for interviews. So we try Friday. Traffic in L.A. is a bitch; how about Saturday? That doesn't work out either, so we settle on me sending some questions through email. The responses come a few days later.
The hectic schedule is understandable given the past year Pallbearer has had. The Little Rock-based doom-metal band's 2010 demo made such a splash that the expectations for last year's debut LP Sorrow and Extinction might have crushed a lesser group. But according to Rowland, there wasn't any added stress when they were in the studio. Instead, they released 2012's crowning achievement in metal, an album steeped in the classic tropes of the genre but just as informed by prog. It's muscular and crushing one minute, fluid and agile the next. It's sad but empowering, challenging but familiar. It's epic but not epic in the trite and frequently meaningless sense of the word — epic as in long narratives with high peaks and low valleys and lots of distances traveled in between. Plus you can bang your head while humming the melody.
In the brief chat I was able to squeeze in with Rowland before the satellites lost him, we talked about how the crowds for this tour were different than the previous one. I expected to hear they were bigger ("The clubs are slightly larger capacity, and they're pretty much at capacity every night"), but given that Sorrow and Extinction has been touted everywhere from NPR to Pitchfork to anyplace else bookmarked in your browser's hipster folder, this is what I wasn't expecting: "Our previous tour, we had a bit more varied crowd, and a lot of the crowds for these shows seem to be a little bit more metal than trendy."
Enslaved probably had a big hand in that, but if there's anything metalheads like to do more than champion an unlikely demo that sells out almost immediately via an obscure label, it's talk shit about that same band when NPR finds out. Regardless, Sorrow and Extinction was heavily repped during the season of year-end listing, and now one of 2012's "Best of" bands is returning to Nashville, a city that played a bit role in launching Pallbearer's notoriety.
When the Nashville-based funeral-doom band Loss was putting together their own behemoth of a record, 2011's Despond, for the highly regarded Profound Lore Records, they told label head Chris Bruni that the album's second-to-last track, "Silent and Completely Overcome," was going to have a guest vocalist: Pallbearer singer Brett Campbell.
"Before I even heard Brett's vocals," Bruni tells the Scene via email, "Loss vocalist Mike Meacham told me about Brett's guest appearance on one of the closing songs on the Loss album, and that there were actually going to be clean vocals on a Loss album (which was a bit of a surprise at the time, too, and almost uncharted territory for Loss to do something like this)."
This drove Bruni to taking an interest in Pallbearer, who'd in fact already made plans to release their debut album with a more underground doom-metal label. When those plans fell through, however, Sorrow and Extinction ended up on Profound Lore, and it ended up ruling pretty much everything.
Nice piece, Jim.
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