Pelican - Forever Becoming

by Andy Brown Rating:7 Release Date:2013-10-22

Pelican have been treating us to their unique brand of instrumental metal for over a decade now, releasing their much-loved debut album Australasia in 2003. Last year's Ataraxia/Taraxis EP gave fans something to latch onto but Forever Becoming is the band's first full-length LP since 2009. It's also the band's first album since original guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec decided to call it a day, adequately replaced by touring guitarist Dallas Thomas. Well, that's the formalities out of the way, now what about the album?

Forever Becoming opens with some monumental feedback and noise in the form of the heavy-as-heaven 'Terminal'. The band had talked of a darker direction with the new material and this certainly seems to support that notion. Southern Lord is definitely an apt home for these Chicago riff-o-nauts , specialising as they do in boundary-pushing metal and all things heavy. The show really starts with the thundering 'Deny the Absolute'. Trevor De Brauw and Dallas Thomas piling on the head-banging riffage as Larry Herweg drums like his life depends on it.

'The Tundra' continues the aural assault with tense, heavy riffs. It probably isn't all that different from much of their other releases but it's still very much the sound of a band on form. 'Immutable Dusk' starts with some Kyuss worthy riff-work before taking us on many intricate, post-rock detours. It's heart-racing stuff. I seem to have mentioned the word 'riff' quite a lot already, but that really is where Pelican's heart lies: All-consuming riff worship.

'Threnody' tones down the 'metal' vibes (well, slightly) with some brilliant, spidery guitar lines before 'The Cliff' drags us down into a kind of swamp-blues metal with Bryan Herweg's pummelling bass leading the way. 'Vestiges' rocks unashamedly; combining some modern post-rock ideas with some good old-fashioned heavy guitars. This is where Pelican have carved out their niche, the meeting point between thoughtful modern rock and old-school thrills.

'Perpetual Dawn' soars over nine minutes, driving riffs rubbing shoulders with dusty, desert-rock vibes. If I was going to wonder about the desert for days, chewing peyote and smoking 'special' cigarettes, than I would probably have this on my headphones. It's the strongest track here and a suitable closing epic.

If you're heard Pelican before than you've probably made up your mind: you either dig their post-rock/metal vibes or you don't. Forever Becoming won't necessarily change your mind if you fall into the latter camp but is certainly one of the band's strongest releases. There are some beautifully understated moments inbetween the head-nodding onslaught of riffs, and the band have a strong sense of atmosphere and texture. However, Pelican have delivered what we really wanted to hear and that's riffs, riffs, mighty riffs!

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