Pallbearer (Photo: Mike G./Mark Pantoja)
Pallbearer (Photo: Mike G./Mark Pantoja)

Pallbearer had one of the best—if not the best—metal releases of 2012 with Sorrow and Extinction. The album clocks in at around 50 minutes despite having just five tracks, which tells you a lot about the type of music they’re playing. That is, epic would be an understatement. This is some of the most towering, majestic metal ever made.

Saturday night was my first chance to see Pallbearer live, and the band delivered. What impressed me most was that the guitars were every bit as Earth-shatteringly heavy as on the record. From what I could tell, based on their live set, there is absolutely no studio wizardry going on to give them such a massive sound on their album—not that it sounds heavily produced or anything, just that it can be tough to achieve the exact tone you want in a live setting. Pallbearer brought the thunder.

And it wasn’t just the guitars: singer/guitarist Brett Campbell hit all of the soaring melodies on Sorrow and Extinction cuts “Foreigner” and “An Offering of Grief”, sounding like the love child of Ozzy and Geddy Lee howling across an abyss of doom.

The best part, though? There was something a little unrefined about their set—not shaky but rough around the edges. And even though Sorrow and Extinction topped Pitchfork’s year-end “Best of Metal” list, you can hear it there too: moments where the seams show, where you realize this is a band that has yet to really achieve its full vision. I want to immediately see them live again, but I also hope they go straight back to the studio and record another album.

While I felt the crowd thinned out a bit after Pallbearer’s set, there was no doubt that the majority of the crusty punks in attendance had come for Enslaved. More than two decades after they founded the band, Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson are still going at it, and they’re still clearly loving every minute. I mean, it’s not everyone’s jam, but if you enjoy playing extreme progressive Viking metal, then how could you not love life if you were Bjørnson or Kjellson, who started Enslaved as teenagers? It’s like that one girl with the face tattoo said: “Enslaved or fucking die, man. Enslaved or fucking diiiiiiiiiiie!”

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