Live Report: Pallbearer @ Brighton Music Hall
A steady stream of classics rang out between sets at Brighton Music Hall on a recent Tuesday night, greeting revelers assembled for an appearance by Arkansas doom quartet Pallbearer. Judas Priest, Metallica, and a bit of Stooges for the sake of balance provided a fittingly retro atmosphere for a band often cited as having one foot in the past. And it’s true that there’s plenty of tradition in Pallbearer’s epic musings – particularly in their reverence for the sounds of genre pioneers and an old-school approach to meticulous work in the studio.
But to simply call Pallbearer “revivalists” glosses over their knack for melody, atmosphere, and pathos – qualities that have made them a breakout band with a broader appeal than your average doom act. A gambit for that crossover success seemed to inform the band’s third LP Heartless (released in March) and the tour which brought them back to Boston for their biggest headlining show in the city thus far.
First up in Pallbearer’s supporting cast for the night were Bask, a North Carolina quartet sharing some common influences with their hosts. The group’s widescreen songs fused melodic post-rock slow builds with thunderous, doom-tinged crescendos in satisfying fashion --their loud-quiet-loud dynamic visualized by a periodically illuminated kick drum head. The songs occasionally meandered, but usually ended up somewhere worth following. Backed by earnest enthusiasm, the band’s first Boston appearance left a positive impression.
Brooklyn’s Kayo Dot were next, emerging sunglasses-clad and looking like a budget version of Nine Inch Nails at the Roadhouse. The long running, shape-shifting group, led by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Toby Driver, originated from Boston once upon a time. Nowadays, they operate as a trio who channel some intermittently intriguing tension from an icy goth-rock sound. For much of this night’s set, though, they struggled to land on a tone or a solid rhythmic footing. An extended final song, where an auxiliary guitarist helped the band veer toward a deconstructed sludge metal assault, was far and away their most engaging moment.
From Pallbearer themselves, there were few surprises in store. They know their strengths, and they played to them loud and clear. Opener “Thorns” succeeded in dispelling any concern that Heartless’ doubling down on the band’s stateliest qualities, and its occasionally more toothless results, would take away from their live prowess. From there on, the set was all oceanic swells of down-tuned grandeur from four guys utterly playing their hearts out.
For a band whose thematic concerns so often revolve around death and loss, Pallbearer exhibited a surprisingly cathartic sense of joy on stage. Their evident love for the craft also shone through in just how good these songs sounded live. Those dense studio creations seem like a self-imposed challenge to replicate, but there was nothing lost in translation. Both the old songs – a solid mix of cuts from both 2014’s Foundations of Burden and 2012 debut Sorrow and Extinction – and the new ones were appropriately massive and moving. Front to back, it was an set to remind us why Pallbearer continue to captivate.