Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"The Ghost I Used To Be"- Pallbearer

Within the insular world of heavy metal, the subgenres of "doom metal" and "sludge metal" are frequently confused with one another. Both place emphasis on low-end guitar textures and typically slow tempos, though sludge is fully capable of picking up on speed on occasion. Akin to the age-old square/rectangle discussion, sludge metal is almost always doom metal but doom metal isn't necessarily sludge. 

"The Ghost I Used To Be" from Arkansas doom-metal quartet Pallbearer elucidates the difference. As the first "single" after their critically adored debut Sorrow and Extinction, it has the sort of production "clarity" you'd expect out of a major album follow up. Brett Campbell and Devin Holt's guitars interlock remarkably, while remaining discernible. One has the feeling of clopping horse hooves on the ground; the other a creature steadily roaming the midnight skies. But neither has the slightest bit of grit or grime attached to their rough skin. Every punch to the midsection or volley over your head is heard loud and clear. For their part, the rhythm section of bassist Joseph D. Rowland and Mark Lierly raise hell as well. Over the song's 10 minutes I'm not sure if Rowland ever stops rumbling and Lierly prods the kit at every conceivable angle with the grace of a boozed-up knight. Then there's Campbell, whose voice has been unfairly compared to progenitor Ozzy Osbourne. Osbourne's vocals were often wails though whereas Campbell's work sounds like a last gasp. And sure enough, as the song languishes through the final stretch Campbell's voice is nowhere to be found. It's shuffled its mortal coil. In his stead, fidgeting Southern/post-rock guitar and murmuring bass sprout up. "The Ghost I Used To Be" spells "D-O-O-M" in every sense of the word. If there's any lingering confusing, all you have to do is hit play again.

("The Ghost I Used To Be" can be heard on Pallbearer's upcoming sophomore LP Foundations of Burden which drops August 19 through Profound Lore. Listen to the track now through NPR.

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