PALLBEARER - Northcote Social Club 06/07/2017
Updated: Aug 31, 2020
Thursday night saw Pallbearer, Arkansas doom metal quartet return to Melbourne for the second time in as many years. They come off the back of their 2017 release, Heartless, an album which marked a decidedly different sound compared to their first two
Opening the night was Cascades, a Melbourne post-metal five-piece who played to roughly 40 people. Opening with the track Whitewater from their new album, the harsh vocal introduction was an unsettling beginning for a few audience members. A little bit shaken, the band continued on with their hardcore influenced post-metal tunes, with a solid nod to the likes of Neurosis and Isis. With an almost even mix of ambient interludes and dense slabs of post-metal, these guys are a talented and technically proficient bunch of instrumentalists. I daresay their name will be popping up as the promote their new album, White.
Next up was the noticeably mature three-piece, Bog. Straight away these guys gave the impression of American doom band Yob due to their image, three-charactered band names and (to a slightly lesser extent) their sound. These guys got two albums behind them and are pretty good at making hearty, sludge laden doom. With shared vocals ranging from growls, cries and shrieks, Bog’s deep, feedback heavy sound definitely scratched that doom itch we’d come to the Northcote Social Club for. Bog made a fan out of me (for reasons beyond their comical band name) and I’m looking forward to the next time I get to see these guys play.
Teasing with feedback while hiding behind black stage curtains, a stage hand manually pulled back the curtain to reveal Pallbearer waiting in position as they opened with Thorns. Pallbearer gave little to no eye-contact during the opener, wrongfully mistaking their focus for a lack of crowd interaction. The band made full-use of the intimate venue and slightly dwindled attendance numbers (this earlier show being the second announced Melbourne gig) as they unpretentiously chatted with the crowd and seamlessly deflected Dopesmoker requests.
Pallbearer began their career with a dreamlike start when their first album Sorrow and Extinction won the #1 spot on Pitchfork’s “Best Metal Albums of 2012”. Off the back of this, certain fans have been scratching their heads when their latest album, Heartless, opted for cleaner vocals and a sound-scape that leaned toward an orchestral atmosphere rather than sheer distortion. Bass player Joseph was quick to assert that the show was “…gonna be mostly new songs, hope that’s ok” with a shrug. Holding onto the glory of your first album is seldom a good idea, despite how much online pressure mounts in favour of it. Progression is key, especially in metal, and Pallbearer are a band who are in it for the love, and know exactly what they want to do.
Pallbearer’s set was more varied than they’d previously led us to believe. Fan favourite Devoid of Redemption, got the crowd moving, or at least, head banging more vigorously. Pallbearer moved through numbers off their latest album like the catchy opener I Saw The End, the epic title track Heartless, and ending with the untouchable Pallbearer anthem, Foreigner.
The Northcote Social Club left a little something to be desired on both the bands and audience. A somewhat inattentive sound technician needed to be constantly reminded to turn the volume on instruments and microphones. By the end of the show the band’s monitors were completely gone, Joseph jokingly compared their monitors a Merzbow show. But not all bands are going to take these shortcomings so light-heartedly; there is certain limitations from performing a smaller venue, but they shouldn’t be arising from a neglectful sound technician.
Technical difficulties aside, Pallbearer are the heart of the show and they had no problems entertaining their audience with their unique, epic, and at times operatic brand of doom-metal. The band gracefully accepted handshakes and planned to party with the crowd after the show. A sound show by a good bunch of dudes who are heavily invested in both their band and fans alike.