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Pelican – Forever Becoming

Southern Lord

Pelican - Forever BecomingOpening with a kick drum that could loosen the fillings in your teeth, Pelican‘s fifth full length gets off to a brooding, ominous start with “Terminal,” a dark slab of menacing noise, its first half filled with an almighty bass and wailing feedbacking guitars. The dust then settles bringing in more melodic, dare I say it “post-rock” guitar lines before the ferocious bass re-enters and we ascend outwards on a rather pretty shimmering dual guitar pattern. It’s a strong return from the Chicago post-metal quartet, now featuring a slightly different line-up.

It’s all a peaceful calm before the storm however, as “Deny The Absolute” kicks in and things get faster, harder and heavier. Very fast and very heavy. It wouldn’t be wrong to say this is perhaps one of the strongest tracks in the entire Pelican catalogue. For a genre that is often lacking in ideas it does remind of the sheer power of instrumental music, in this case instrumental metal or post-metal, or whatever tag is currently doing the rounds. A track like this makes you realise that Pelican have found their obvious home on Greg Anderson‘s ever-impressive Southern Lord label.

“The Tundra” is another slab of metallic riffage, its initial half resembling the more traditional, less-sludgy Pelican sound of late. This is before we break-down into a seriously ominous mid-section resembling their mid-period output, particularly career-defining The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw, before imploding in a back-to-their-roots sludgey outro complete with always-effective beyond-heavy double palm-muted guitar chugs, a trick that never tires to these ears. This is definitely Pelican at their heaviest.”Immutable Dusk” brings things down a notch, beginning with a Neurosis-sounding guitar before we delve into a very traditional post-rock section that to me sounds like what Explosions In The Sky might sound like if I could ever be arsed listening to them. But thankfully this doesn’t overstay its welcome and we kick back into some seriously heavy riffage, and thank goodness for that.

Elsewhere we have “Threnody,” which revels in the kind of guitar technicality that was always present during the years with founding member Laurent Schroeder-Lebec, who has now left the group. “The Cliff” comes and goes without really making much of an impression and “Vestiges” comes across sounding exactly like “Triad” by Tool to begin with before entering a familiar chorus refrain but then overstays its welcome by a good few minutes. “Perpetual Dawn” brings things to a close, and follows the same basic formula at first, that being heavy guitar intro for a couple of minutes before a pretty breakdown section. However, things begin to take a slightly different direction with heavily-delayed guitars shimmering into a typical, but not Pelican-esque, post-rock soundscape. Solo guitars follow for what we all know will be the loud final pay off (and when they arrive it’s not quite as earth-shattering as I’d hoped for) before they tail off and we’re left with a pretty closing guitar pattern.

In an interview during their creative peak, Pelican admitted to basically filling their songs with as many guitar riffs as they could squeeze in. Those days are clearly gone, a lot of it perhaps due to the departure of Schroeder-Lebec, and where we once had crazy, intertwined riffing that could take your breath away (simply watch their live DVD When The Ceiling Cracked for many examples of this) we simply have guitars hammering chords in more traditional structures with more predictable chord progressions. Perhaps this is entirely deliberate but there is always the lingering feeling that they were always capable of offering something a bit more pleasing to the ear and less obvious. This always-present-never-to-go-away problem for instrumental bands lingers on.

-Stuart Low-

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