Interview with Joseph D. Rowland from Pallbearer: Finding Truth In Devastation

Doom prevails.

That’s what it does. It prevails. And on their first full-length through influential Canadian imprint Profound Lore, the Little Rock, Arkansas, four-piece Pallbearer show it. Over the course of Sorrow And Extinction’s five extended tracks, Pallbearer craft their own impression of American-styled doom metal—with some vaguely psychedelic leanings in their tonality, but more emphasis on oppressive, crushing mood and an atmosphere that feels like all the oxygen has been sucked out of it.

It’s doom for doomers, and as the band are heading north for a show next month with labelmates Moss (info below), I figured no time like the present to introduce them to anyone who maybe hasn’t yet had the chance to experience their lung-collapsing sonic heft. Below, bassist Joseph D. Rowland discusses the new album, what goes into the band’s writing process, and more.

How did you wind up working with Profound Lore?

Kind of a long story. I don’t want to get into too much detail just for some of the parties involved, but we were initially approached by another label, that we had verbally agreed to work with, but as time went on, we decided we weren’t really sure that it was the right fit for us, and in the meantime, Mike Meacham from the band Loss, I guess he had shared the Pallbearer with Chris Bruni from Profound Lore, and he was really excited about it, so we had kind of already had a little bit of discourse back and forth with him, and when we were free of any obligations to the other label, we spent a little bit of time trying to decide what we wanted to do.

We actually had quite a few offers from different labels, and we decided that just from the relationship that we had built with Chris at Profound Lore, that we thought that was the right choice. So far we’ve been really happy with that.

You recorded over the course of a year, then?

Part of the deal was that Chuck [Schaaf, also of Deadbird], who at that time was the engineer, now a member of the band, he lived several hours away from us, and his studio was several hours away, so we kind of had to work around all of our schedules to be able to go up there and record. More often than not, we’d end up getting really fucked up (laughs) while in the studio, and sometimes we’d end up deciding that some choices that we made while recording should probably be changed.

We just worked slow, too. It took us a long time to get to the point where we knew that what we had was what we wanted to be the final product. It was a slow whittling away of things here and there, and adding a few things here and there until we just knew that what we had was right.

Did that play into how the songs were structured at all?

The songs were already written. It was mostly just some aesthetic choices and the way that a few of the things played out. The structures were all still the same. Listening to the record, I’m sure you can hear there’s a lot of layering in places, and sometimes we would end up pulling back a little bit, not having it be such a bombardment of tone. Let it be sparse. Some of the acoustic sections. At some points we had clean guitars there, and I don’t know. Who could really remember for sure? There was quite a bit of alcohol consumed over that time.

But yeah, there was a lot of pondering over making it feel exactly the way that we wanted it to feel. That’s really one of our cornerstones of the band, is the feeling. More than anything else. If something doesn’t feel right, then it gets thrown out.

What was it you wanted to bring out of the album? Was it the title, Sorrow And Extinction?

I don’t really want to get too much into that, just because I think there’s a lot of interpretation that can be made from the listener—that you can hear some of the themes in there, and if you’re able to have the lyrics in front of you, I think there can be a little bit of that interpretation. Just in a vague sense, it has to do with the struggle of the journey towards the end.

There’s sorrow in that, but at the same time, there’s a catharsis in letting that grief go. There’s a lot of intricacy to it. Sometimes I think I might even notice something a little different that I might not have before, like in the feelings that I have about it. But it definitely has to do with dealing with loss and also dealing with the inevitability of your own life winding down in its journey.

How have your feelings on the record changed since it was recorded? You mentioned noticing other things and feeling differently about it.

I think as time has gone on, I’ve started to notice a little bit more some of the triumph in the record. There’s definitely some peaks and some valleys in the recording. There’s points where I think the music almost lets a little bit of light through. It’s not 100 percent darkness all the time.

Just as in life, you know, even if it is a lot of drudgery, there’ll still be high points, and I think there’s a few places in the record where you can feel you’re on the verge of having a little bit of triumph, even if it ends up crashing down in the end. But, say for the instance, toward the end of “Given To The Grave.”

That’s where, to me, a lot of the catharsis comes. It’s not like a wholly pitch black ending to the album. It lets a little light shine through as it begins to fade out.

I wanted to ask you about “Given To The Grave” specifically. Did you guys know that you wanted to end the record with that?

Yes, absolutely. Everything on the record, when it comes to the tracklisting, was planned out ahead of time.

How did that process work? What were you going for in the way the songs were arranged?

There’s a lot of aspects. We thought it flowed best that way. We looked to a lot of our favorite albums—I don’t really feel that the album sounds like a Black Sabbath album, but Sabbath had a lot of different-sounding songs on all their albums, so we wanted to have every song have a kind of different feel. “The Void” and “The Legend,” even, are pretty drastically different. And like I said, the journey. There’s a bit of a thread of the journey.

It’s kind of denoted in the artwork as well. Some of the songs don’t deal as specifically with that, and they fall a little bit more in the allegorical style that has been popularized by a lot of different bands over the years. But there’s definitely, in the flow of the order of the album, I think you can discern that there are steps in a journey towards what is eventually the end, when it gets to that denouement at the end of “Given To The Grave.”

So it was written with it being the closer in mind?

It wasn’t necessarily written that way. When we wrote it, we just knew that’s what it was intended to be. It was just meant to be that. If that makes sense. That’s definitely our most improvisational song, and we knew from the get-go, once we had stumbled upon the way everything was gonna work in it, that that was absolutely the closer for the album. It was just the perfect finish for us, we thought.

Any plans for more writing or more releases this year?

Yeah, as soon as we get the chance to record our side of it, we have a split 7” with the doom metal band Uzula. That’s coming out sometime this year. Killer guys, for sure. Really good friends with those guys. There’s another split that we’ve already got our track written for, but I don’t know that I really want to say any more details about it until we get a little farther down the line.

Apart from that, we’re already writing material for the second album, and we’re going to keep writing material for the second album until we know what we have is the second album. There is no timeframe on that. The first album is just now out.

We’re not resting on our laurels, waiting around for a year and then we’re gonna start trying to write something. We’ve got bits and pieces that we’re putting together until we know that what we have fits the feeling for album two.


Sorrow And Extinction is available now on Profound Lore. Pallbearer hit Brooklyn’s Saint Vitus Bar on May 19 with Loss and Sewer Goddess. They will also be at the North Star Bar in Philly on May 26. For more info, check out

JJ Koczan once made an offering of grief, but it was regifted.