The melodic sensibilities, prog indulgences, and production values so beautifully balanced on Sorrow and Extinction and Foundations of Burden suddenly threatened to dominate their music. The trademark heaviness that set them apart from their peers now bridged musical elements rather than driving them. The album also sold better and charted higher than its predecessors, lending credence to the notion that Pallbearer were drifting from their core sound.
Forgotten Days, produced by Randall Dunn (Sunn O))), Earth), will put trepidations to rest. The album's primary lyric themes are time's passage, with heavy yet intimate reflections on family, loss, and healing framed by music at once massively heavy and heartfelt. The opening title track is an illustrative metaphor for the album: It commences with white noise and caterwauling feedback before drums, filthy bass, and twinned guitars jump in with a crushing, Sabbath-ian riff. For over six-and-a-half minutes, it circles itself with shards of layered vocal harmonies and supporting guitar melodies threaded through the riffing, not on top of it. The hard-grooving lineage riffs displayed so amply on their first two albums are shot through here with the detailed arrangement and production tenets displayed on Heartless -- not dominated by them. "Stasis" offers glacial drumming under a massive bassline that frames the twin guitar interplay under Brett Campbell's emotionally resonant lyrics. The album's hinge piece is "Silver Wings," a monolithic 12-minute exercise in classic funeral doom. After a skeletal, brooding guitar intro, drums and bass engage in a ratcheted intensity. A lone synth bleat brings it to a halt before Campbell's and Devin Holt's guitars alternately ring, riff, and grind. They meet bassist Joseph D. Rowland at the turnaround, while drummer Mark Lierly piles on majestic fills amid a thundering, almost processional pace. When Campbell convincingly sings "I cannot remember," the band tries to buoy his memory with intricate harmonics and anchoring riffs. Things get simpler on the midtempo "The Quicksand of Existing." The dirty, detuned guitars push and pull against the rhythm section with a force of their own. As the track segues into "Vengeance and Ruination," this becomes doubly true. "Rites of Passage" is prog-oriented -- it's hard to miss its massive psych-doom center. Holt's guitar emulates a string section while Rowland's bassline paces him and adds emphasis to shifting time signatures before Lierly envelops and brings them home. Closer "Caledonia" is an outlier. Using melodic doom to frame Campbell's sublime vocal, the guitar harmonies are stitched inside a goth metal frame that meets prog head on. Forgotten Days is the album that will likely unite all Pallbearer fans. Its return-to-roots aesthetic is planted in a physical base that carries the band's dark, progressive doom into a new era.