Live Review: Pallbearer with Sólstafir & Mortals at Barboza 12/11/14

Live Reviews
Gerrit Feenstra
Sólstafir // all photos by Allyce Andrew

It's not often you get to say you saw a three band gig where all three bands blew you away for completely different reasons. Luckily for those crammed in Neumos basement at the sold out Pallbearer, Sólstafir, and Mortals show Thursday night, that was 100% the case. Each with an entirely different flavor of "I'm probably going to need ear plugs for this", this excellent trio brought metal of all shades to the Barboza stage for three and a half hours of manic excellence. Kind of like a unicorn - like an episode of Headbanger's Ball that was actually 100% good from beginning to end - for those present, there was a mythical thing of beauty to be had amongst the countless amplifiers. For those that weren't, you sure missed out. Try and cope with the snapshot enclosed herein.


Brooklyn trio Mortals made their second trip to Seattle count Thursday night, opening the night up with one hell of a bang. Elizabeth, Caryn, and Lesley have been playing together since 2011, mixing bits of death metal, black metal, and thrash together to spin a pitch black circle with every single track. In between laying down murderous bass lines, Lesley's banshee scream puts a chill down your spine you won't shake, while Elizabeth compliments with piles of guitar. Meanwhile, Caryn rocks a double bass and split second toms all with a maniacal grin on her face the whole time. Altogether, it's a pretty excellent way to open a night of metallic joy. Mortals' new record Cursed To See The Future is out now on Relapsed Records.


KEXP makes no attempts to hide our love for Icelandic metal group Sólstafir. Whenever we've gotten a chance to put them on air - whether in regular broadcast (like earlier today) or at events like Iceland Airwaves, they are a force to be reckoned with. It seems like over the course of the band's near 20 year existence, they've only gotten better with time (which, noted, is quite hard to do over two decades). The band's fifth LP, Ótta, is out this year on Season of Mist. On it, Sólstafir take their ever progressive sound even further, expanding to use every sensory facet at their disposal to emotionally overtake you, including banjo. And sure enough, just for the new album's title track, Pjúddi broke out the banjo before returning to shred on the guitar for the rest of the evening.

Sólstafir didn't stop there with the americana vibes. Both Addi and Pjúddi wore spectacular cowboy boots, with Addi further rocking the vested look and Pjúddi looking as epic as possible in a brim down cowboy hat the shade his own eyes from the blistering fire he was laying down on the strings. Svabbi had full Willie Nelson vibes going, head to toe, while Guðmundur kept things pretty standard Iceland on the drums. Both a vision and a sonic wonder, Sólstafir looked and played the part like nobody's business.

Fans got to hear a plethora of material from the band's new record Ótta as well as 2011's Svartir Sandar, including the much requested song "Fjara". With every number, as the band raged in perfect sync, Addi would rotate between his hand-carved flying-V guitar and a solitary microphone for maximum effect. Crushing drink glasses, kissing the hands of audience members, and ripping out blistering solos were no big deal - this is just Sólstafir doing what they do best and tearing the stage apart no matter what the size.


And if that weren't enough, Arkansas doom metal quartet Pallbearer brought it all home in one of the most spectacular displays of technical brilliance Barboza has seen all year. Pallbearer could play for hours and you wouldn't even notice time go by. From one song to the next, Brett Campbell and Devin Holt trade brutal guitar riffs while Joseph Rowland puts your jaw to the floor with contortionist bass lines. Mark Lierly evades space and time with the drums, pacing with mood and mentality rather than a schedule or metronome tempo. While the room was properly populated with metal heads through and through, with nary a stitch of non-black clothing to be found in the place, it's nights like tonight that really make converts to the genre.

This year, Pallbearer are two LPs deep into their doom-filled journey. 2012's Sorrow and Extinction got rave reviews from all kinds, lighting up the metal critics left and right and even grabbing a "Best New Music" designation from Pitchfork. This year's Foundations of Burden picks up where that one left off with an even heavier uppercut. There are no softened corners on Foundations, and really, not even a breath to be taken until the atmospheric seventh inning stretch of "Ashes" before "Vanished" pummels through to the end. But as we saw tonight, Foundations sacrifices a touch of the studio polish that decorated Sorrow and Extinction to give listeners a better picture of what to expect live, where the record was intended to come to full incarnation.

As much as I loved hearing Pallbearer classics like "The Legend" and "Devoid of Redemption" live, the high point of the evening's energy went, undoubtedly, to Foundations cut "The Ghost I Used To Be". Over ten minutes, Pallbearer built a monster in front of us, breaking into double time in the center, seeing Campbell's cool 80s vibrato countered with vicious screams from Holt and Rowland. Meanwhile, Rowland plays full chords on the bass with more fingers than most right hands should use, and Lierly finally gets to break perfect form to hulk out on the drums like Ragnarök is approaching. Times like this where Campbell just leans back and wails on the guitar and the band are entirely off in their own world despite the waves of unkempt hair flying through the air, impossible to unsee or unfeel for the rest of us - this is what makes Pallbearer a truly incredible live band. There's no show, no gimmick, no theatrics - just doom how it's supposed to be done.


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