Pallbearer Credit: Courtesy the artist

The consensus on Pallbearer’s new third album, Heartless (Profound Lore), seems to be that the Arkansas doom-metal quartet have finally unmasked themselves as a prog band. But even if you’re one of those benighted souls for whom “prog” is a four-letter word, you needn’t be alarmed—the shift is more of degree than of kind. After all, on Pallbearer’s debut, 2012’s Sorrow and Extinction, the stately riffs follow long, serpentine paths, weaving together melody and countermelody in a complicated dance. The occasional airy synths on Heartless aren’t a new development either—keyboards make similar cameos on 2014’s Foundations of Burden. This isn’t to say that nothing important has changed: Pallbearer’s music has always evoked desolation, solitude, and grief, but now its tone is as heroic as it is melancholy, as towering and radiant as it is bleak and cavernous. Much of this has to do with the bright, relatively conventional mix by Joe Barresi (Tool, Queens of the Stone Age), which frequently backgrounds the band’s grainy bedrock of colossal drop-tuned guitars in favor of steely lead lines or multiple tracks of Brett Campbell’s clean, mournful singing. The songwriting on Heartless has evolved too, relying less on the glacial patience of funeral doom and more on the familiar gratifications of rock ’n’ roll. The operative word here is more: more athletic bustle, more nimble counterpoint, more up-tempo riffing, more shouted vocals, more overripe harmonies. “Dancing in Madness” and “Cruel Road” even include what might be the group’s meanest-sounding unison chugging, while Campbell manages a convincingly contemptuous snarl. Maybe you can’t reconcile the Pallbearer sound you fell for with this much studio polish or this many notes—in that case, you can take solace in their increasingly impressive live shows, where they play material from across their career at roughly the volume of Mount St. Helens. You’ll never feel so good while a band asks you to mourn the onrushing collapse of your civilization. Prior to tonight’s show Reckless Records in Wicker Park (1379 N. Milwaukee) will host a meet and greet with the band beginning at 6 PM.   v