Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 21/4
support Pinkish Black
author MIN date 15/04/17 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN
Having just released their third critically acclaimed album in a row, “Heartless”, a headlining show in Copenhagen is way overdue for Little Rock, Arkansas’ progressive rock/doom metal band Pallbearer. The band has visited Denmark a few times previously (including a show in Århus the day prior to tonight), but every time as a support band or on the undercard of a festival. Therefore, it’s not surprising that I find Pumpehuset’s smaller room filled to the brim with a buzzing atmosphere occupied by everyone from young teenagers to 50-year-old Swedes. And luckily, unlike the last time I saw Pallbearer live (a show at the Roskilde Festival hindered by sound issues), the band’s full potential flourishes and exceeds every expectation I might have had prior to the show. But more on that later, first there’s a support band to check out.
Like an industrial gothic doom-version of Depeche Mode or Talk Talk, Pinkish Black’s music takes a few minutes to get used to, but once they expand their sound they progressively get better and better. Frontman Daron Beck stands in front of two synthesizers/keyboards and solemnly drones out his baritone voice while drummer Jon Teague quietly follows, creating a dark and slow atmosphere. Admittedly, I’m a little skeptical at first as I find very little variation within the first few songs, but throughout their set, the band’s songs evolve and get bigger, adding elements of both post-punk and a heavier set of industrial and doom, very often resulting in a huge catharsis of electronic noises and bouldering drums. Beck even shows a greater extend of his surprisingly solid and varied vocal-delivery every time the songs draw closer to their final grandiose stages, as he both yells and croons on top of the music.
Suddenly, 35 minutes have flown by like nothing and I’m honestly a little confused as to where time went. However, I consider this a quality in the band’s set – I mean, if you (past the first 10 minutes or so) immerse yourself in the performance this much, the band’s done something right – and therefore I'll grant them a relatively high score. I’m not sure if I’ll run home and check out their discography, but I’ll definitely catch their set if they’re playing an event around here in the not-too-distant future.
Having known Pallbearer since their release of 2014’s ”Foundations of Burden”, my interest in the band has only grown since then. In fact, you could almost say that my fandom has reached its peak right about now as I can barely contain my excitement tonight, and luckily I’m not the only one. “Thorns” kick off Pallbearer’s set with a bang, and afterwards, when the band decides to air “The Ghost I Used to Be” this early in the set, several fans look like they’re about to explode. In fact, a few drunken fans even get so excited this early in the set that they create tumult in the small most-pit up front and eventually get thrown out. Happy Easter, eh? Luckily, the disturbance doesn’t bother me enough to pull me out of the atmosphere that’s created by the band, and as soon as the wonderfully playful and rumbling baseline in the second half of “Fear and Fury” runs me over, the incident is completely forgotten. The only thing notably wrong is the fact that I’m having a little trouble hearing Brett Campbell’s vocals, but all it takes is a step away from the stage, and everything flows crystal clear.
From here on out, the show’s pure bliss. First the band take us on a voyage through their lengthy “Heartless”-standout, “Dancing in Madness”, which sees guitarist Devin Holt tugging at our heartstrings during his solo in the final part of the epic song. The moment where the melodic guitar turns into four wailing chords that then descends into decrescendo is magical, and anyone with a liking to guitar solos and melancholic melodies is most likely getting the same goosebumps that I am. However, the set’s real highlights are only getting in line as the next three songs simply pull the rug out from underneath your feet and then punch you in both your solar-plexus and your heart. “I Saw the End” and “Worlds Apart” are delivered in such a defining and crushingly beautiful manner that the crowd decides to, over and over again, yell out ”Pallbearer, Pallbearer” unsolicited. The interplay between infinite heaviness and soaring melodies is breathtaking, and the crowd is feeding off it, thus giving energy to the band that look like they’re having the time of their lives. Rowland on bass is pumping his fist in the air, getting the crowd going like a whip to a horse; Lierly is a raging beast on the drums; Holt stands in the shadows and does his magic; Campbell amazes with the ability to both play his guitar perfectly while singing better than I’ve heard him before. When the latter of the four-piece suddenly breaks out in a huge smile while looking at the front of the pit and says that tonight’s one of the best nights they’ve played, you can feel his sincerity. Tonight feels special, and the band’s movement (however limited on the small stage) only increases throughout the remainder of the set.
If you were standing close to the stage, as I was, you could tell that next up was “Lie of Survival” off the band’s latest album. However, the band talks for a moment and then decides to play “something off their first demo” instead, resulting in the phenomenal “Devoid of Redemption”. The two guitars sounding like the cocking of shotguns pound my chest so hard that they feel like a defibrillator to the heart, and you can see several older fans, who so far had confined themselves in the back, suddenly moshing forward, no longer able to keep their distance. The rest of the set consists of some slower material, mainly concerning “A Plea for Understanding”, where I can’t help but fear that the intimate song might drown in drunken chatter, but the instruments are turned up so loud that even now the crowd is engulfed in the warm yet saddening hugs from the enormous guitars. When the band ends the show with their classic “Sorrow and Extinction”-album-opener “Foreigner” (minus the acoustic intro), whatever fan of the band’s material you might’ve been, it’s impossible to leave the venue disappointed in any way. Tonight’s show by Pallbearer is probably the best concert I’ve seen in Pumpehuset’s small room, and it’s a show that, for me, launched them straight into being one of my current favorite bands. Surely, not everything went perfect from the get-go, but through 95 minutes of juxtaposition between the band’s doom-oriented material and progressive retro rock excursions, they managed to translate their melancholy into something huge and relatable while maintaining what good old rock and metal is all about: a feast of awesome riffs and killer solos.
- 01. Thorns
- 02. The Ghost I Used to Be
- 03. Fear and Fury
- 04. Dancing in Madness
- 05. I Saw the End
- 06. Worlds Apart
- 07. Devoid of Redemption
- 08. Heartless
- 09. A Plea for Understanding
- 10. Foreigner