PALLBEARER pick 10 great melancholic metal songs | Revolver

PALLBEARER pick 10 great melancholic metal songs

Crushing cuts that'll make you cry while you headbang
pallbearer 2024 PROMO 2 crop, Dan Almasy
photograph by Dan Almasy

If anyone knows doom and gloom these days, it's Pallbearer. After all, the Arkansas quartet have been tapping into a particularly devastating kind of molasses-drip melancholy for more than 15 years, with that sublime sorrow once again riding high through the band's brand-new Mind Burns Alive.

The group's latest release naturally revisits the longform yearning and distortion-trudging minor-key melody-making of their earlier work. Vocalist-guitarist Brett Campbell has also explained — in regards to the thematic "sicknesses of the spirit" explored on Mind Burns Alive — that "true heaviness comes from emotional weight, and sometimes sheer bludgeoning isn't the right approach to getting a feeling across."

With that in mind, it's fair to say Campbell and Co. are not just heavy-hearted practitioners of their chosen musical path, but also champions of their gloomiest cohorts. So, it's no surprise that the guitarist's favorite bits of metal bleakness plunge his playlist habits into an endlessly inspirational and ultimately "lightless" abyss.

From gruff-growled extended death-doom, to hopelessly harrowing addiction dirges, to downright blues-broken soul-stirrers, these are his picks for the most melancholy metal songs of all time. Fair warning: You're going to need a box of tissues to get through this.

Shape of Despair - "...In the Mist"

This song, and the entire album from which it comes, is in 3/4 waltz time. Pretty unusual for a metal record. But the effect of that choice creates a weird sensation of being lost, and wandering through a strange, dreamlike otherworld, listening to the sad melodies of ghosts surrounding you.

Their later material is more refined — and not confined to 3/4 — but this is a unique song and album that offers a rewarding experience to a patient listener.

Anathema - "A Dying Wish"

Positively fast, compared to most of the songs on this list, this song was an early discovery in my musically formative years, and remains favorite of mine. There's something compelling about the bipolar nature of the constant mood-and-tempo shifts combining with Vincent Cavanaugh's anguished screams and sobs that keep bringing me back to this one over the years.

Saint Vitus - "Dying Inside"

A song about being in the throes of alcoholism, delivered in Saint Vitus' trademark no-bullshit style. You want to stop drinking; it's ruining your life. But the bottle beckons, and you hate yourself for it.

Messa - "If You Want Her to Be Taken"

One of the most interesting doom-adjacent bands of the last several years, Messa is able to cover a lot of ground with their sound in a natural feeling way. Sara Bianchin's engrossing vocals meld with the swampy sound of slide guitar and thick riffs, before the song builds up to a hard-rocking climax.

Unholy - "Neverending Day"

The purity of the relentless riff, combined with Pasi Äijö's moaning laments, gives this song an uncomfortable atmosphere of pure anguish. The production leaves plenty of room for the synths to breathe and provide much of the song's movement.

A perfect example of doing more with less.

The Gathering - "Eleanor"

The Gathering is a great example of a band that evolved over time, but stayed compelling with each metamorphosis.

For fans of melancholic metal, though, Mandylion — the album from which this song comes — hits the sweet spot of heaviness and atmosphere. Anneke von Giersbergen's silky, radiant voice rises above the slow, doom-laden chords to admonish the song's subject for their two-faced ways.

Mournful Congregation - "Whispering Spiritscapes"

Nobody does guitar harmonies better than Mournful Congregation. Their triple-guitar symphony on this epic composition weaves mental tapestries as Damon Good's growls draw the listener into a lightless spirit world.

Skepticism - "Chorale"

Of all bands, I feel that Skepticism's style embodies the idea of funeral doom as a concept the most perfectly. Beautiful reversed guitar harmonies open up into a proper dirge, led by Eero Pöyry's ominous church organ chords.

Short by Skepticism's standards, this song nonetheless packs all the punch of their more extended epics.

Warning - "Echoes"

I'd be remiss to not include a song from what is widely considered to be the pinnacle of sad, emotional metal. Really, any song from Watching From a Distance could be included, and the album is best experienced as a whole. Make sure you have a box of tissues handy, though.

Colosseum - "Dilapidation and Death"

Released posthumously, it's hard not to see the opening track from the final Colosseum album as a goodbye to this world. Achingly beautiful in the honesty of its sadness and despair, the incredible build-up and release of the song's climax is genuinely startling in its emotional power.