Found at heights greater than 20,000 feet, Cirrus Clouds are formed of narrow bands of white, delicate filament. Gifting painterly waves, they do little to diminish the brightness of the sun and fade as quickly as their fibrous bodies complete. The subdued, sonic equivalent of such formations ghosts Manchester’s Ruby Lounge. The tail of a traversing neo-jazz refrain swells and searches before dissipating. The fractured acid-puzzle calls across the room before disappearing. Elusive aerial elegance, and then nothing. The room is now shadowed by a patient silence – as is the stage, until finally met with four figures. Within moments of introduction, Cumulus Cloud has gathered in the wake of eclipsing hyper-doom. The air thickens. The light suffocates. Gloom looming apparitions swim to the edge of blood, and where the room was once lifted by fleeting mists, Arkansan-natives Pallbearer have swallowed all and everything.

Since scaling metal’s high walls in 2012 with roses-in-mouth debut ‘Sorrow and Extinction’: an effort divided by equal measures mountainous abandon and transcendent fragility, Pallbearer have been blowing gold into the sludge-ridden world of extreme music, and their most recent effort in ‘Heartless’ does no different. Offering panoramic explorations of an unseen landscape – littered with funeral-march endings that escape elemental and ascend, ‘Heartless’ is Pallbearer’s very own ‘Master of Puppets’ – their own ‘Reign in Blood’. The Little Rock quartet have already reached dissolutive territory within a career that has only ever seen this side of the decade – rejecting influences and trusting the language in which they speak: their very own.

‘The Ghost I Used to Be’ reopens wounds where ‘I Saw the End’ imitates clairvoyance – shading a tomorrow defined by corruption and greed. Musically, the set constantly moves, but never feels confused. With each tectonic shift – mirroring the effortless elegance of rushing water, we’re offered a new vision. ‘Dancing in Madness’ slowly bleeds-out before reanimation takes place with ‘Foundations of Burden’s all-consuming ‘Worlds Apart’, and although tonight’s performance is coloured with incredible levels of musicianship and surgical precision, the catharsis of Brett Campbell’s colossal vocals continuously dim the light of everything around him. ‘Heartless’ cut ‘A Plea for Understanding’ holds a yearning, Sisyphean desperation close as Campbell’s voice pushes dead weight up-hill only to let it all fall with the words “nothing ever changes” – words that circle pools of voiding sky and speak to the thinking that has permeated the evening: expand, expand, but all is dream. Everything is as we are. Nothing is real. Everyone is ending.

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James Musker

Music Journalism student and lover of all things sensory and cosmic.