The clean, retro-looking cover of this record, Pallbearer’s third full length, perhaps belies a softer, more psychedelic sound within. Some had complained that they pulled an Opeth on this album, moving more toward prog and away from metal. To wit, when they recently performed in Toronto, their bassist asked the crowd if there was anyone who liked old-school doom… right before they played a song from their latest release.
Heartless clocks in at almost exactly an hour, and you won’t find any songs shorter than five minutes here—as is to be expected from this Arkansas outfit. They start off with the two “shortest” songs in “I Saw the End” and “Thorns,” which collectively last a little less than 12 minutes. Right away, you notice the clean guitar tones on the former, although the bass still provides a low-end doomy rumble. The clean vocals cut and soar above the mix, adding a further prog-metal touch, with some two-part harmonies past the four-minute mark. I can see how this isn’t as doomy as their earlier stuff—this sort of slow-mo power-metal wouldn’t sound outta place on an Atlantean Kodex album.
With that said, “Thorns” opens with a solid Maryland-style doom riff that recalls the likes of Iron Man or Pale Divine. We do get a few lighter touches here and there, but this tune is solidly doom—and a solid effort, at that!
“Lie of Survival” leans back toward power-doom territory, with a soothing, mellow intro gradually giving way to a less-than-mid-paced chug. The even-longer “Dancing in Madness” has an equally mellow, extended intro, with an early guitar solo showing shades of Pink Floyd. From there, it does take a doomier turn around the two-and-a-half-minute mark, sounding fairly reminiscent of Warning—the band they were often accused of cloning. If anything, I’d give them credit for branching out a bit more here.