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Doom is a broad category, one of those descriptors that needs an extra word like “stoner,” “funeral,” “sludge,” “death,” or “drone” to help narrow things down a little. It can bring to mind the slower, low-tuned psychedelic metal of post-Sabbath American groups like Saint Vitus, Trouble, and Pentagram along with Sweden’s Candlemass, UK act Cathedral, and descendants who are crustier (YOB, Asunder), more flatlining (Sunn O)))), seemingly suicidal (Loss), and exceedingly smoked-up (Sleep). Then come the backward-glancing modern traditionalists like weathered North Carolina crew Hour of 13, Rhode Island upstarts Pilgrim, and now, even more gloriously, Pallbearer.
The Little Rock, Ark., quartet sounds much older than its years on its fantastic debut LP, Sorrow and Extinction. The band released a three-song demo in 2010, but reach greater heights here, due to both sharper songwriting and better production. Really, even though they end their Sorrow thank-you list with a blushing “and, of course, Black Sabbath,” they go much deeper than that. You could throw in Saint Vitus and early Candlemass (1986’s Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, especially), but it almost makes more sense to reference post-Sleep duo Om for the way each song insistently, specifically reaches for a focused transcendence. That said, there’s more variation and catharsis here, despite the occasional Mick Barr/all-nighter riffing. It seems like a simple formula, and maybe it is, but the execution’s flawless. It also shifts subtly and continually: They mix in psychedelia, 1970s prog melodies, clean vocal harmonies, and ambient keyboards without sacrificing a certain smoked-up genre purity. — Pitchfork