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Pallbearer live at LA’s Echoplex

Words by Jason Roche Photos by Anna Hummell
Words by Jason Roche
Photos by Anna Hummell

There was a short window of time where it felt like Pallbearer was going to do for the doom metal what Deafheaven had done for black metal. Each band made slight alterations to existing formulas and steered into more musically accessible turns. Deafheaven continued the breakthrough arc started on 2013’s Sunbather and doubled down on both heaviness and melodic shoegaze on their 2015 record New Bermuda. Pallbearer’s newest record Heartless isn’t quite the similar leap forward from 2014’s Foundations of Burden. It did however solidify them as a band that will continue to find the perfect metallic balance between melancholy, beauty, and power for years to come. The group’s mastery of this delicate mix was evident on May 18th at the Echoplex in Los Angeles.

Grand Lord High Master, a last-minute local addition to the evening’s bill, opened the show with an energetic performance, but received a tepid response from the small crowd that arrived early. Their musical output is an experimental hardcore assault enhanced by bass-heavy sludge riffs. Vocalist Nathan Fletcher staggered all over the stage with the mannerisms of an out-of-control punk rocker and spewed forth venomous vocal screams. Their set, which concentrated on material from their just-released self-titled full-length, would have gone over better on a bill filled with bands from labels like Deathwish and Ferret, but the crowd this evening wanted something more purely metallic.

Gatecreeper took the stage next and satisfied the audience’s bloodlust for a heavier sound. The Arizona death metal act turned heads in Los Angeles on the undercard of last year’s Power of the Riff festival, and most recently on Nails and Toxic Holocaust’s spring tour. A lot of those same heads were whiplashing again in the pit for Gatecreeper’s set on Thursday night. The band’s 2016 full-length Sonoran Deprivation was a hit with those that prefer their death metal to be short on flash but long on brutality. Gatecreeper is simply intense death metal made by intense metal dudes. Vocalist Chase Mason raised his arms proudly over his head whenever the pit broke out, similar to a champion combat sports practitioner standing above a fallen opponent in victory. A portion of the crowd was beaten and bruised by the end of Gatecreeper’s set.

Pallbearer took the stage at 11PM and played the crowd into the night with a hypnotic set that showed a band fully confident in their shell. Half of the setlist was culled from Heartless, with the rest of the set evenly split between Foundations of Burden and their 2012 debut Sorrow and Extinction. The band’s new material rested comfortably amongst their already-established crowd favorites, and shined greater in the live environment more than they do on record. Brett Campbell’s soaring vocals are the defining characteristic of the band’s music, and at times were close to hitting classic Geddy Lee territory in its higher points. The Echoplex’s sound system was on point, allowing the band’s clean guitar tones to reverberate throughout the entire room. Flash and stage banter was minimal. Instead, Pallbearer allowed the already-existing emotional force of their music to take center stage.

Pallbearer’s grouping within the doom-metal genre has seen multiple comparisons to many greats in that subgenre, but in the live setting their musical strengths are more reminiscent of post-metal pioneers Isis. Pallbearer’s clean guitar harmonics, their small nods to psychedelia, and their mastery of a hypnotic build towards an emotional musical climax was on par this night with the more powerful performances we have seen from the now-defunct quintet.

-Jason Roche

Grand Lord High Master

Gatecreeper

Pallbearer

Catch Pallbearer on tour at the following dates:

5/25 Kansas City, Mo. @ The Riot Room ^^
5/26 Minneapolis, Minn. @ 7th Street Entry ^^
5/27 Des Moines, Iowa @ Vaudeville Mews ^^
5/28 Madison, Wis. @ High Noon Saloon ^^
5/30 Columbus, Ohio @ Ace of Cups ^^
5/31 Pittsburgh, Pa. @ Rex Theater ^^
6/01 Washington, D.C. @ Rock and Roll Hotel ^^
6/02 Philadelphia, Pa. @ Union Transfer **
6/05 Harrisonburg, Va. @ The Gameolden Pony ^^
6/06 Louisville, Ky. @ Zanzabar ^^
6/07 St. Louis, Mo. @ Fubar ^^

% w/ Gatecreeper, Spirit Adrift
^^ w/ Gatecreeper, Inter Arma
** w/ Baroness, Nothing

All photos by Anna Hummel. Follower her at Photophobic Reflections

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