Unhindered by the impositions of the vocal yoke, Chicago instro-sorcerers Pelican transcend the limits of time and space to expound upon the stunning finesse and painstaking subtlety with which they command their already indelible sonic signature. Restoring instrumental composition to its former glory is no insignificant task, and to do so with such remarkable authority and presence is a testament to the sheer will and unmitigated talent of Pelican's membership.
Copyright Aurore Gangloff - www.explosions-in-your-eyes.com.
Levying cinematic melody upon glacial heaviness, they achieve the sort of inevitability usually reserved for weather systems and natural disasters. Channeling the seasonal progressions of various far-flung landscapes, the sounds of Pelican are easily adaptable to both the active and passive listening experience, but their harmonic minutiae are best appreciated in a high-volume stereophonic headphone scenario.
Copyright Aurore Gangloff - www.explosions-in-your-eyes.com.
After a few albums, Pelican establish themselves as an inimitable force of nature, soaring skyward in triumph toward some celestial nadir, shepherding out the frost with a wash of seismic rumblings. On their last album, acoustic guitars even take their place beside Pelican's traditional (read: highly amplified) power-drone majesty; the heavens part to allow full deliverance of tidal euphony, awe-inspiring instrumental anthems, and bucolic narco-rhythms. Whether this signals the end of the underground musical landscape as we know it, or the beginning of a new one, is anyone's guess. Luckily, the shit rules either way.
-) 2002 : 'Pelican', self-released.
-) 2003 : 'Australasia' on Hydra Head.
In Music We Trust's point of view :
Australasia, the 2003 debut LP from furious riff-metal masters Pelican is an amazingly composed machine of momentous melodic assault. This is the destructively elemental sound of slowly shifting landmasses, of the bowels of Earth's furnace churning sick madness up from the blood fires of its molten center.
Pelican masterfully composes carefully constructed stoner rock landscapes with real cinematic sensibilities, creating lush melodically rhythmic sounds that resonate a sense of sonic imagery. The music illustrates the thunder vacuum of metric ton industrial God Machines breaking the land, leaving an overturned wake of raw havoc and unforgiving annihilation.
This LP contains some of the most impressive contemporary progressive riff variations I've heard, laying down a massive, symphonic thrust of low-end time signature prowess, with engineering and production wrought with heaving depth and dimensional duality. At times, Australasia is a punishing, steel fisted attack and at times it carefully retreats into nuanced, minor chord acoustic shading. There is even some textured use of Theremin present, eerily underscoring the waves of dual guitar violence.
There is no singer or lyrical content present on this LP, however an array of breathy, high pitched and brightly separated symbols act as a form of ethereal vocalization, communicating in whispery, stretched languages. This is a long album, maybe a little too long; it is six songs, one full hour of focused material. The length may feel a bit self indulgent, but, with this display of compositional confidence, it is difficult to fault Pelican for choosing to open it up and elaborate. Australasia is meant to be ingested as a whole, uninterrupted; it is a mood piece and works if you are willing to interface with a symbiotic mindset. Anyone into Sabbath, Kyuss or even Monster Magnet should check this album out. I don't know about you, but any band that willingly refers to themselves in their liner notes as 'Sorcerers' gets my fucking vote. I will wave that flag, no questions asked. Australasia is definitely an important underground watermark for riff-metal rock music.
Paul Hullabaloo - website.
-) 2005 : 'March into the sea' on Hydra Head
-) 2005 : 'The Fire in our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw' on Hydra Head
Punk News's point of view :
It seems more and more by the day, Hydra Head is becoming my favorite record label. It seems everything that they release is not only good, but exceptional. Their bands are constantly striving to put out the best albums they can, and Iíve yet to see them fail. Sure, they mostly adhere to the experimental side of metal, drone, and grind, but whoís complaining? Nobody that likes good music, thatís for damn sure. Pelican are certainly the rule rather than the exception, but The Fire in Our Throat Will Beckon the Thaw is a whole new dawn for the band.
Dropping previous comparisons to Neurosis and Lungfish, the band has dropped something else as well. The aggression. The pummeling, bombastic riffing that fans of Pelican are used to have seen a reconstruction of sorts. Now more akin to post-rock than the experimental metal that garnered so many, warranted or not, Isis comparisons, Pelican put a brave foot forward; whatís left to be determined is whether or not that foot has moved in the right direction. As with any evolution, they were bound to catch flack for the changes, but when a record like this truly soaks in, there's no argument as to whether or not the changes was for better or the worse.
Pelicanís songwriting has taken on a much more linear approach than they had ever attempted, with each song building out rather than just piling riffs on top off riffs on top of rips. Itís the space that the band has created that allows each musician to blossom into the force hinted at on previous albums. Each of Pelicanís guitarists works so fluidly with the other to create these songs, that itís hard to imagine them ever going back to their previous style. ďLast Day of WinterĒ is an extremely slow developing track, relying on a fair amount of methodical, repetitious drum fills and clean guitar to progress itself. Starting out immediately with some tight melodic grooves, the song seemingly ends before thereís some harmonic guitar plucking that slowly but surely gets louder, until the veritable timebomb explodes and the wall of fuzz and distortion comes in, but underneath that layer of drone the quickly moving clean guitar pushes the rhythm right through that wall, all the while the drumming picks up, with each slap to the snare and each thumb on the bass drum just a tad louder than the last, with the chord progressions on that clean guitar becoming tighter and tighter until everything subsides, and slowly creeps back down to nothing. Itís that kind of mastery that Pelican have finally been able to work to perfection.
And only Pelican would try to follow up such a masterpiece with an equally engaging, but even longer song. ďAutumn Into Summeríí is that track, and while it follows in similar fashion, with a great amount of buildup and a crushing crescendo, it lacks the gravity that made ďLast Day of WinterĒ so special, but it has its own unique charms. Transitioning hastily between rhythms and levels of distortion, it undoubtedly keeps you on your toes, but without any real risk thereís not as big of a reward. The rewards do come, however, starting with the grace and beauty of the acoustic, untitled fourth track, which serves as only a prelude to the attention that the beauty and power of ďRed Ran AmberĒ will command of you. Going through several stages, the track shines the spotlight directly on the precise, calculated songwriting that still manages to leave so much to the imagination. Straddling the thinnest of lines between metal and post-rock, the guitars arenít too aggressive and the drumming not too loud, but at the same time the almost-twinkle given off in some of the quieter parts will not let you rest on your laurels. No matter how delicate the sounds, you can feel the rumble build up in the pit of your stomach, and you just know whatís around that bend, but itís the beauty of a journey that makes the payoff just that. By the time the song is in full swing, you canít help but sit back and be engulfed by the harsh beauty of what youíre hearing.
This time of year, the record of the year argument inevitably comes up. Whatís troubling is, out of all the people Iíve talked to about this, Iíve heard not one mention of this album. My words really cannot do justice to the grandeur of this record; itís truly the best album of its kind to be released in as long as I can remember. While others may be selling this band short, rest assured, when my year-end list rolls around, these guys are making a hell of a case for number one.
-) 2006 : 'Split - Mono/Pelican' on Temporary Residence Records.
You can listen to a few tracks on their Myspace page.
-) Titre, taken from 'Titre'.