Too on the nose
There are quite a few ways to reach redemption. Outside of some sort of religious pursuit, redeeming oneself after something less piously crucial can be just as difficult, depending. That’s particularly applicable to much less forgiving mediums, like music—one flop could really be the end-all. Some fans of the Little Rock dramatic-doom band Pallbearer would file their 2017 record Heartless in that category. It turned off the melancholic yet elementally true to form road they had been on since their debut and instead, sped their way down the prog route. Its reception mixed, Heartless was necessary for Pallbearer to get to where they are now with Forgotten Days, in more ways than one.
For starters, Forgotten Days doesn’t really lean on any progressive tendencies at all, falling back on riffage closer to the Sabbathian elements found in their earlier work. The title track builds into a dark and doomy cloud that opens the record. Its slower pace and mild harmonies from Brett Campbell do hold a bit of attention—as does “Stasis,” one of the shortest in their whole career—but the real kicker on Forgotten Days comes from the 12-minute voyage of “Silver Wings.”
It’s definitely long, but other than the track’s length, its main feature is its level of sadness. Forgotten Days as a record was written to reconcile familial demise—for bassist Joseph Rowland, it was the loss of his mother. For Campbell, it was watching his grandmother’s battle with Alzheimer’s. These sorrows are lamented not only in the lyrics, which touch on how life is evanescent, but in the instrumentation as well. Riffs and lines intermingle as if snarled in mourning’s throes, and collective harmonies toward the end of the song conclude it with symphonic sadness. It’s slow on purpose, and a deeper dive into it helps in appreciating it even more.
A swift change of energy in “The Quicksand Of Existing” follows, its pounding introductory drums are almost jarring after the somberness that preceded it. The other of the band’s short tracks, they pack many a lick into four minutes, warbling tones around the midway point that blend effortlessly into Campbell’s vocals. That type of excitation doesn’t really happen again until the latter half of closer “Caledonia.” Like some of the others, it slowly and prototypically builds into a hefty funeral doom dirge.
That said, recognizing the high points took a couple of run-throughs. At first listen, Forgotten Days seems to be an appropriately named description for many of the tracks, though a second and third spin brings up certain moments in certain songs of note. It’s a record to take some time with and though it’s not the highest point in their discography, it certainly isn’t the lowest.