Pallbearer’s 2012 debut album ‘Sorrow and Extinction’ was a weighty, riff-laden slab of largely traditional doom, heavily influenced by classic ‘seventies heavy rock and metal but also characterised by hints of more progressive tendencies than many of their peers. Since then those tendencies have continued to come to the fore, via the excellent second album ‘Foundations of Burden’ and culminating now in new album ‘Heartless’.

The Arkansas band has by no means lost their weight of delivery nor their unerring sense of melody, but their sound is now even more expansive and diverse. When this is combined with deeply considered and intelligent song-writing, covering such deep themes as mankind’s seemingly endless capacity for greed, selfishness and corruption (encapsulated visually in quite stunning fashion in the video for I Saw the End), it makes for a remarkable album.

Classic metal and heavy rock influences still abound, notably on Cruel Road which adds some early Judas Priest bombast to an otherwise relatively straight-ahead doom template, but a couple of other, more recent touchpoints personally would be Elder (and in particular their most recent album ‘Lore’), and perhaps more surprisingly the epic progressive metal of Atlantean Codex.

A superb production job has resulted in an album that simply sounds huge, while also allowing for Brett Campbell’s powerful, emotive vocals and the many searing guitar solos to really stand out amid the crushing rhythms. There are no flat spots across the seven songs that make up ‘Heartless’, but the highlight for me is the album closer A Plea for Understanding. A sprawling and ultimately stirring twelve-minute-plus epic that manages to be simultaneously melancholy and uplifting. Mellow passages, soaring solos and mighty dirge-like riffs all come together seamlessly as the song steadily builds to its climax. A fitting way to bring such a splendidly crafted album to a close.

To do beery justice to such deep, immersive music, you will require an ale of significant substance, weight and complexity and in my view ‘Canis Major’ Double IPA (8% ABV) from Barossa Valley Brewing (http://bvbeer.com.au ) fits the bill in fine style.

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Canis Major (named after and inspired by the Great Dog star system) doesn’t get the plaudits of say Pirate Life’s incredibly successful IIPA, but it is a wonderful and beautifully balanced example of the style. Open the can and your nostrils are hit and hit hard with an explosion of fruity hop aromas. Pouring an amber colour, the liberal lashings of malt ensure that there is some slight caramel sweetness layered alongside stonefruit flavours and intense bitterness (100+ IBUs) from the bucket loads of hops. There is certainly some alcohol warmth but this is by no means excessive and the finish is deliciously piney and resinous.

So pour yourself a glass, sit back on the couch, crank the stereo and let the combined, relentless  weight of ‘Heartless’ and ‘Canis Major’ wash over you.

Jimmy Mac