When listening to Forgotten Days (Nuclear Blast), Pallbearer’s fourth full-length, it’s hard to remember a time when they were ever this riff-driven. The title track sets an immediate precedent with its beginning feedback transitioning into pummeling yet catchy verses, a surprisingly hooky chorus, and a softer bridge that manages to keep the momentum going. ‘The Quicksand Of Existing’ and ‘Vengeance Ruination’ serve up even more heaviness in the album’s second half with the former’s straightforward chugs standing out. Considering past jabs I’ve made about Pallbearer being one of the most riff-adverse groups in Doom Metal, it’s a very refreshing change of pace.
On the flip side, the album also has remnants of the Progressive tendencies that were implemented with 2017’s Heartless. There’s a greater emphasis on the synths this time around, giving a little extra color to the shorter numbers while fleshing out the spacier textures on the more drawn out tracks. The closing ‘Caledonia’ is the most notable highlight in this regard as its extra layers during the verses give it an almost Post-Punk makeup. I can also appreciate the centerpiece ‘Silver Wings,’ which makes for a multitude of emotional passages across its over twelve-minute runtime.
These adjustments also seep into the musicianship itself, resulting in performances that toy with the Pallbearer formula while ultimately playing into it. The guitar tones are as hazy and washed out as ever and even with some more prominent riff work, the structures on tracks like ‘Riverbed’ and ‘Stasis’ remain primarily driven by enveloping progressions and dynamic shifts. The vocals are also thoroughly caked in the usual reverb, but a more upfront position in the mix along with some lower-pitched harmonies gives them a weighted, confident presence.
Overall, Forgotten Days is another fine example of Pallbearer’s gradual yet constant evolution at work. The more riff-oriented guitar work and better-developed vocals make this the most attention-grabbing effort that the band has released thus far. I find myself wishing that they would have pushed the Progressive elements to even further extents, but it is neat to see how the adjustments affect their signature tropes. Much like their peers in Spirit Adrift and Khemmis, Pallbearer may need a more radical push to achieve the magnum opus that they’re perpetually just shy of but there’s still plenty to enjoy here.
8 / 10