by Robert Bell
While we at the Times have been singing the praises of Little Rock's Pallbearer all year, it's worth noting that, as predicted in our 2012 A-Z list, the band ended up on several more best-of-2012 lists, including a highly coveted No. 1 spot on the best metal albums list over at Pitchfork.
Branson Stosuy, who helms Pitchfork's Show No Mercy column, wrote: "Upon its release in February, the Little Rock, Ark., quartet's debut Sorrow and Extinction immediately felt like a classic" going on to note that "close to a year later, Sorrow's five extended tracks — uplifting vintage doom fleshed out with psychedelia, prog melodies, and subtle ambient keys — are as fresh as they were on that first spin. Piloted by Brett Campbell, a singing vocalist/guitarist who straddles a sweet spot between young Ozzy and Geddy Lee, Pallbearer have a rare ability to write emotionally resonant guitar parts and epic dynamic arcs that don't lose their ability to give goosebumps, even after you've worn out your vinyl."
To put this ranking in perspective, it's helpful to note how many truly great metal and hardcore albums came out this year, many of which were on Stosuy's list. At No. 2 was Converge's "All We Love We Leave Behind" (here's our interview with Converge vocalist Jacob Bannon). Fort Worth duo Pinkish Black (who were at Downtown Music Hall this month) released an awesome debut that came in at No. 6, just ahead of "Honor Found in Decay," the the 10th studio album from metal gods Neurosis. There were also fantastic albums from Royal Thunder (with whom Pallbearer toured this year), Samothrace (who were supposed to be on the tour as well, but were forced to cancel) and Bell Witch (who played Downtown Music Hall). The list also included some of the Times staff's personal favorites, including Horseback's hypnotic, otherworldly "Half Blood" at No. 25 and Black Breath's bruising riff-a-geddon soundtrack "Sentenced to Life" at No. 18.
"Sorrow & Extinction" also came it at No. 2 on Spin's best metal albums of 2012 list, with the magazine noting that "doom-rock's newest Drab Four play metal as if the only bands who ever existed were Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, and Candlemass: suffocating atmosphere, downtrodden and downtuned funereal bleakness, heavy guitars, spooky vocals, and more hooks than should fit in that coffin. But unlike other pretenders to the crypt, these downer-rockers sell it convincingly, and Pallbearer's sincere, weirdly melodic hopelessness served as a perfect antidote to the 2012 pop charts' ubiquitous cheer: Their answer to Carly Rae Jepsen would be 'Call Me Never.'"
Entertainment Weekly's music blog put the album at No. 5. According to writer Kyle Anderson, "Profound Lore is one of the best labels for any genre of music working today, and the centerpiece of their unbeatable 2012 (which included an amazing album by Witch Mountain that just missed inclusion on this list) was the debut of Pallbearer, who take the Black Sabbath model of guitar sludge and slow it down even further. With that magisterial heft running underneath, Pallbearer are free to drop in some delightfully doomy vocals and flashes of orchestral swoop. Sorrow and Extinction is the sound of your brain melting one thrilling drop at a time."
The album made both the metal top 10 and the overall top 50 at NPR. Lars Gotrich — who's been kind to other Arkansas metal bands in the past, and whose taste is pretty right-on, IMO — wrote that "On my iPod, on my turntable, in melodies hummed to myself on the way to work, it's one of the albums that just stuck with me all year."