The instrumental group
Pelican was formed in Chicago by three former members of Tusk:
guitarists Laurent Lebec and Trevor de Brauw and drummer Larry Herweg.
Tusk had recorded two albums of grindcore:
Get Ready (He Who Corrupts) and The Tree of No Return (Tortuga).
The 30-minute EP
Pelican (Hydra Head, 2003) contains four terrifying instrumental pieces
Boris and Earth.
The 13-minute The Woods improves over the role models by coupling a
steady beat and oneiric overtones. The combination creates the ideal launching
pad for the abrupt explosions and crescendoes and, more importantly, lays
the foundations for a series of melodic passages before the final onslaught
of power riffs.
If Pulse and Mammoth are the typical Black Sabbath-esque orgies
of loud dark riffs, Forecast For Today is full of life and detours,
almost dissonant through its limping seesawing pace; and, again, what sets
them apart from the legions of doom-metallers is the ability to introduce
a melodic element (that gets repeated faster and faster in a frenzied finale).
The all-instrumental Australasia (Hydra Head, 2003) was the manifesto
of their progressive metal that takes off from post-rock and sails towards
the droning avantgarde.
The incandescent stream of consciousness of the eleven-minute
Night And Day begins in the realm of atonal chamber music before the
ritual mega-riff propels it to Black Sabbath's paradise. Here one guitar
modulates a stately drone while the other intones a rootsy melody. They
interrupt each other with jagged, discordant and oblique passages. The drums
bring the rhythm down and the guitars shift to a more subdued tone, while
the asymmetric drumming manouver moves to the forefront. Finally the guitars
recover their riffing power, sometimes echoing more the
Allman Brothers than Earth or Boris.
The panzer pace of Drought, created by one guitar resonating with the
other on the bass notes, drifts towards a series of subtle variations at a
slightly faster tempo, but this time the guitar inventions flow seamlessly.
Angel Tears, the third pillar of the album and the one that feels most
improvised, is the least distinctive
because the slow, meandering beginning never quite attains a strong identity,
with the guitars undecided on which route to take and the drums playing almost
The impressionistic jams of
The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw (Hydra Head, 2005)
are even more removed from the stereotypes of heavy metal.
Last Day of Winter (9:36) may start out with a bluesy theme, but it
soon becomes more concerned with penning an abstract soundscape of loose guitar
tones and sparse beats, as if they had taken one of the previous album's
massive pieces and remixed it in the vein of glitch music. Then the instruments
concoct a crescendo of sorts, but it sounds like they are simply all banging
The transition of Autumn into Summer (10:44) from tranquil new-age
pointillism to loud and clunky metal riffing is instead gracefully
choreographed. The crescendo is a model of surgical precision and group
coordination, each note and each beat contributing to the overall drift.
The apocalyptic March to the Sea (11:37), perhaps their artistic zenith,
employs a similar process to build up a
Mogwai-like tidal wave of instrumental sounds
but then begins to slowly undo it, a complementary process that reveals the
hidden melody. That process eventually implodes to the point that the
guitars are merely strumming skeletons of melodies to each other. Then the
process reverses itself again, and the tidal wave is progressively
reconstructed, more menacing than ever.
(The EP version is 20-minute long).
Red Ran Amber (11:20) is another study in organic development that truly
starts from the minute of collective noise, after which the music decays to
a humble whisper only to slowly regroup and accelerate towards an epic ending.
The brief Sirius (5:47) that closes the album might actually be the
heaviest piece on the album.
Pelican's journey away from heavy metal led to
City Of Echoes (Daymare, 2007), that often sounded like a
heavier version of Midwestern post-rock of the 1990s
June Of 44).
The EP Ephemeral (Southern Lord, 2009) and the album
What We All Come To Need (Southern Lord, 2009)
moved towards a more accessible and vastly less interesting sound.
who had never heard the previous albums.
Pelican's guitarist Trevor Shelley-de Brauw
pushed the hyper-doom ideology to its ultimate extreme on Chord's
an album of four songs, each played on a single chord,
and on their ambient tour de force
Progression (Important, 2011), that contains
the 40-minute Gm11 (the title is the chord).
The four pieces of the EP Ataraxia (2012) are unusually subdued,
focusing on textures and technicalities rather than on swelling polyphony.
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