Pelican: Forever Becoming (Southern Lord Records)
Ready for a spot of post metal instrumental doom and gloom? Chris Lockie enjoys the new offering from Pelican.
An album of entirely instrumental guitar-based music is a difficult prospect for a reviewer. The entire creative output of a band has to be put across via instruments alone and more often than not begs to be heard in a live environment.
Some bands obviously pull it off. Caspian are the best recent example of vocal free music done well. Russian Circles are about to return with a new LP of their own. Mogwai remain the genre’s overlords, although even they resort to lyrics from time to time.
And meanwhile we suffer an endless stream of dull, lifeless bands with no vocals to fall back on, attempting to sift for gold and ending up with the musical equivalent of a pan full of pebbles.
Each band attempting to slot into this style has to find its own niche and in the case of Pelican it’s gravitas. The third track on Forever Becoming is named The Tundra, a suitably heavy name for a track that stands out as a quite excellent example of music that feels weighty, meaty, of epic substance. It’s quite impossible to listen to this track on a pair of headphones without your face creasing into consternation at the various miseries of existence.
Pelican work better when they combine slower contemplation with angry melody. They almost veer into 65daysofstatic territory with Deny The Absolute, with its up-tempo opening, pile driving centre and return to speed to finish. Whether it works is hard to judge – it certainly offers an odd choice for track two given there’s little like it later on in the record.
Vestiges is the most obviously metal of the album’s eight tracks although its slightly more accessible style could serve as a soft landing for anyone keen to check Pelican out without immediate commitment to 45 minutes of gloom.
Because those of a more optimistic bent might have a hard time with this album, for sure. Four of the tracks are above seven minutes long, which may be enough in itself to put some people off, though in truth none outstay their welcome. It can be quite crushing as guitars smash into drums and Bryan Herweg’s ever-present bass drives another track into the base of your skull without let up.
But since when has post-rock, or post-metal as Pelican are sometimes categorised, been for optimists? No, open your pain riddled hearts for a little catharsis, allow Pelican to flood right in to cheer you up in a way only pure misery can.