The late-2011 announcement of Black Sabbath’s reunion turned out to be both the best and the worst news metal fans have heard lately. At first, Ozzy and the boys presented a united front, but the deal quickly soured. If guitarist Tony Iommi’s lymphoma diagnosis weren’t bad enough, drummer Bill Ward’s revelation that he’d been handed an “unsignable” contract was the pathetic final straw.
Not to worry, forlorn heshers: Pallbearer has you covered. Having issued only a single demo, this Little Rock, Arkansas, quartet stepped forward in February with Sorrow and Extinction, a monster of a debut that’s like inhaling a Baggie full of preserved 1970-vintage Sabbath. It’s really that earthy, really that slow and, best of all, really that poignant. Metal has uglified so thoroughly over the past four decades that it’s easy to forget how majestic it once sounded. (Think of Ozzy embodying a lovelorn Satan on “N.I.B.”) Pallbearer clearly doesn’t need reminding; its songs trudge grimly onward yet always set aside time to peer up at the heavens. Singing lines like, “As I gaze from my tower?/?I can see him…?/?Flickering in the gloom light of funeral pyres,” clear-voiced vocalist Brett Campbell suggests an excommunicated choirboy struggling to keep the faith. You don’t need to be a metal disciple to feel his pain. And in case you haven’t had your fill, Nashville’s Loss, tonight’s headliners and Pallbearer’s labelmates, will finish you off with their slo-mo chronicles of coal-black depression.—Hank Shteamer
Follow Hank Shteamer on Twitter: @DarkForcesSwing