Sorrow and Extinction
When Brett Campbell sings, you can almost picture his outstretched arm extended toward the horizon, palm upturned, fingers and thumb slightly clawed as if to seize an obsidian orb, or perhaps a chalice of bitter regret, yet as empty as the winds that swirl around the lofty mountain crag on which he perches. Wait, what? Oh yeah, Pallbearer’s singer. In fact, Campbell’s usually working a guitar when he sings, so any metal-gesture jazz-hands are probably kinda limited, but he’s one of the rare metal singers these days who invokes them. It’s a clear voice, almost choirboy high, pitched at a plaintive timbre, with subtle drama in every phrase. YOB’s Mike Scheidt may have brought the style back from whatever prog-metal graveyard it lay in, but Campbell perfects it.
Yet Campbell’s vocals are just one reason that the Arkansas doom quartet’s debut album is so distinctive and, well, bitchin’. Sorrow and Extinction’s five lengthy tracks all lumber along at a saurian pace—only a section of thick downtuned guitar churn in the middle of “Devoid of Redemption” feels like it picks up any speed—but Pallbearer never bores. Campbell’s vocal style is made for melody, and each track builds and benefits from winding tunes, punched up with the occasional deft harmony. You can even hum most of the guitar solos. Campbell and company also prove themselves adept at textures and dynamics, dropping in quiet acoustic interludes here, doubling up vocals or adding thick layers of shriek and pound there, sometimes all of the above within a few bars (see “An Offering of Grief”). And yet the full-bore crunch and clanging cymbals that underpin the spectral moments of “Given to the Grave” are the real, head-banging deal. This is not metal from which one can maintain an ironic distance. You have to give in fully to Campbell’s siren song, his metal grasp. Do so, and you will be rewarded.