Joseph D. Rowland of Pallbearer on the transportive powers of psychedelic doom metal
For Sonic Cathedrals Vol. LVIII, you curated a mixtape of material from Popol Vuh. How did you discover that band?
Man, Popol Vuh is one of my favorite bands of all time. I'm not really sure how I came across Popol Vuh years ago, but they have consistently stuck with me as one of the most atmosphere-filled music groups that's able to conjure up such an incredible feeling, a meditative feeling, [with] simple but with awesome melodies, hypnotic.
Obviously you've seen the Werner Herzog movies for which they did soundtracks, like Nosferatu and, of course, Aguirre, The Wrath of God?
Yeah, [sure did]. The music is so evocative of this mystical feeling that they're able to conjure up. I admire that to an incredible degree.
In what ways would say that it has impacted your own music, and what it can do?
It's definitely pushed me toward looking at the subtleties of creating an atmosphere in songwriting. Not to say that Popol Vuh is simplistic at all because there's obviously a lot of composition that goes into it; it conjures a primal melody. I don't know how to describe it other than to say it's full of mystical feeling.
The introduction of "Given to the Grave" had shades of that kind of thing.
Yes. I hope to imbue that feeling even more in our future material. There's a little bit of that atmosphere on Sorrow and Extinction but probably not as much as I think we might be capable of in the future.
You've said in various interviews that the band and this music has helped you to get through some of the hardships you've been through in your personal lives in recent years. What about that music gives it the ability to alleviate that kind of pain?
I think music has a lot of ability to draw out emotion that may not be able to manifest in any other way. I guess for us Pallbearer is a vessel for that feeling to go out in the world, instead of just remaining inside. It seems to me that a lot of music today doesn't seem to place much emphasis on feeling. There's still plenty of lyrics that have a tendency toward emotions, but it doesn't seem like there's a lot of music that puts out that feeling as much. It feels like there's less emphasis on emotionality in the music itself and more in the lyrical aspect. We try to hearken back to what centuries of composers and musicians have been doing but in our own fashion.