Yob Song by Song: Ball of Molten Lead

Yob - The Illusion of Motion cover art

Doom has many tricks up its sleeve, some clever, some not so clever (‘Hey, play riff A for 10 minutes, then riff B for 20 minutes, then I guess we’ll just jam it out from there’) (which, it should be said, does work sometimes) (Bong, I’m looking at you), but there aren’t many tricks that top that simple, atavistic sound with which metal was announced to the world: a tolling bell.

Comparing Black Sabbath’s titular song to the opening track of The Illusion of MotionBall of Molten Lead, the contrast between the two are more immediately obvious. In Black Sabbath the influence of the blues is more readily apparent, Ozzy sings, Iommi and Butler didn’t detune as far as Scheidt, it isn’t informed by three decades of metal – you can hear how much drummer Bill Ward was influenced by big band jazz – and the structure is a simpler and more compact AB pattern. Ball of Molten Lead is very much informed by doom, there’s a lotta slack in those strings (read: is detuned by seven notes), Scheidt roars, and the structure involves quite a more few letters of the alphabet. With a couple of listens, however, a subtler similarity arises; both Black Sabbath and Ball of Molten Lead tell horror stories, which in their form, are particular to the genre of doom. To generalise, where death metal and grindcore tend to be gratuitous with gore or suffering, as is thrash when it’s not talking about partying and nukes, and black metal is railing against Judeo–Christian ideology over there in the corner (sludge passed out in the bath tub a while ago), doom works more along the lines of you’ve got an unpleasant death coming up real soon, but we’re not going to give you the details, so you’re just gonna have to find those out for yourself. Hang tight while we soundtrack these closing moments of your life.

It’s straightforward enough to hear Black Sabbath and know that, after the intro of rain and a tolling bell and that tritone, an unreckonable and sinister figure designates the narrator ‘the chosen one’. As mentioned, at first Ball of Molten Lead compares as more sophisticated, but set up by the wailing wind and the tolling bell, when the rolling riff of the reverberating guitar and marching snare of Ball of Molten Lead enters there’s a comparable sense of the eleventh hour being at hand. To my ears/overactive imagination, it conjures a scene of surrounding and endless waves, being pushed along with their crashes and all alone. The opening lyrics are ‘Death on the horizon’, and the lead guitar line that enters at 5.20 reminds me of maybe that most canonical metal song about dying, For Whom The Bell Tolls. There is a new harshness to the vocals, Scheidt utilising screaming alongside his roar for the first time, exacerbated by the low EQ cut. As it mutates into what becomes the verse riff, it becomes more dissonant, with three harsh descending chords at the end of every four bars. The lyrics, told from the perspective of a dying person, deliberately jar just before the song ends; from first to last verse (let’s call it them ‘verses’ for the sake of argument) they describe moving from

The soul is unprepared
Fear runs deep
Always agonizing
On what can’t be known

to

Void the gaze without the eyes
Shedding tears but no one cries
Inhale the space of the vessel
Bid the host a last goodbye

But before we all get to join hands, hum Kumbaya and float off to the great gig in the sky, they close on

I try but I can’t dislodge this
Ball of doubt.

When it comes to dying, doubt has a powerful hold; what really happens after death? The truth is that no one knows – and that’s as heavy, unsolvable and universal is it gets.

Review ’em All: Heartless, Pallbearer

Signed by bass guitarist Joseph Rowland at the Camden Underworld 6/4/17 show. Cheers dude!

I initially wrote off Pallbearer, and in particular, their first album, Sorrow and Extinction, as dull critical darling material. Second album Foundations of Burden made me shut my big yap, by means of conjuring that rarefied mood of being happy to be so sad. Let’s face it, by and large doom metal is far too cheery for its own good, and with lead single Thorns delivering on weepy melodies, I’m excited about the potential of new album Heartless to turn that smile upside down.

 

Three albums in, by now Pallbearer have a couple of calling cards; the rich layering of riffs and melodies, clean guitar breaks with a neo–classical feel, long songs that make light use of repetition through rapid development between sections, and Brett Campbells’ mellow, almost subdued, singing, with the intelligible lyrics being a corollary to this last point. The two guitars are used cleverly; when there’s space they’re often playing different lines (I Saw The End and Thorns both being excellent examples), and the number of quick switches into clean or acoustic guitars makes me wonder if there is a fan of classical music in Pallbearer, besides the David Gilmour influence most obviously displayed on Dancing in Madness and the stamp of …And Justice For All all over the aforementioned clean breaks. Bass guitarist Rowland is also no slouch, carving fills and runs into the thickness, second track Thorns being a particularly good example. This track is also actually quite fast, as are parts of Cruel Road, so what is it that indisputably still makes this doom? A large part of it is Campbell’s vocals and Joseph Rowland’s backing vocals, mournful, sometimes imploring, but mostly resigned. Pallbearer have moved beyond anger; this is thousand yard stare stuff. The opening lines of Lie of Survival, after two minutes of dust mote arpeggios and a Gilmour guitar line, are

All ours gods have fled
retreated to the sky
from there they watch us fall
beneath the building tide

The cover art shows a sea of people reaching out to a sleeping colossus, only for the back cover to show them fleeing from its approach. Recurring lyrical themes are mankind’s atavistic resort to violence, endless travelling, Armegeddon, and trying to let go of anger in order to survive aforementioned Armegeddon. If you have any friends (pause) who you think could do with a bit more sadness in their life, Heartless, being fairly accessible through its clean singing, is a great way to start dragging them down. I’d even go as far as to say the vocals on closing track A Plea For Understanding are more like something I’d expect to hear on an indie album.

For the first few listens I did wonder if this album flowed, or, rather, was a collection of very good songs, but with each listen the flow becomes stronger, more apparent. The odd use of synths are unnecessary; they’re utilised for atmosphere, but as the rest of the band already has this covered, don’t end up adding much.

Want to mellow the mood in this post–Black Sabbath age? Think that doom metal needs to get real? Want to get worked up about 60 plus minutes of intense sadness? Put on Heartless and turn that smile upside down.