Pelican - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Pelican - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

by Andy Brown Rating:8 Release Date:2012-11-26

It's mid-July and we're a couple of weeks into a thoroughly sweaty and unexpectedly hot summer. It feels like I'm slowly being sapped of my body's weight in water so the idea of standing in a warm gig room doesn't appeal all that much. Then I think, "Stop whining, it's fucking Pelican!"

There are two certainties tonight. One is that I will sweat so much you could wring my eyebrows out like a particularly absorbent sponge; the other is that Pelican will provide a loud and heavy soundtrack to my already disoriented and dehydrated mind. In other words, tonight should be awesome but a little sticky.

Supporting Pelican tonight is Birmingham-born Justin Broadrick aka JK Flesh. Broadrick was the founding member of industrial-metal band Godflesh and post-metal types Jesu. He was also briefly in Napalm Death. Basically Broadrick has specialised in anything doom-laden, down-tuned and heavy for years and has built up quite a following in the process. Tonight, Broadrick is accompanied by his guitar and a laptop.

As you would imagine JK Flesh is far from laid-back, with Broadrick building up layers of rumbling noise over unforgiving, industrial beats. Broadrick's face is all but covered by his hood and the stage is enveloped in smoke as he adopts a typically guttural, metal howl. The whole thing is pretty powerful at first, Broadrick fully focused and barely looking up at the audience.

However, at times the music feels a little too obviously angst-ridden for my tastes and doesn't seem to hold my attention for the sets duration. JK Flesh has more than a few good ideas and combines elements of all 'the good stuff' (metal/industrial/noise) but tonight it doesn't quite add up to the sum of its parts.

Many have found it difficult to completely pin-down Pelican's music. Since emerging in 2001 the band have merged elements of metal's many sub-genres (post-metal/doom/stoner) and created something pretty special (and entirely instrumental) in the process. Their music has always sounded too creative to be boxed in by one particular genre-label. This makes Southern Lord a perfect label for the band, who will soon release their new record, Forever Becoming.

The easiest way to describe Pelican's music would be to say that it rocks. In fact, there are times in tonight's set where the band resembles an alternate universe version of Spinal Tap. But maybe that's just Trevor de Brauw's sleeveless shirt and flailing metal hair as he enthusiastically whips up an impressive array of riffs and fret-board wizardry.

Pelican are certainly a band you could imagine many will admire on a technical level but, really, who cares about that? It wouldn't mean much if the music wasn't very good. Thankfully Pelican's music is genuinely thrilling. Pelican perform a tightly orchestrated yet thoroughly exciting blend of head-nodding metal riffs and emotive melodies to create impressively sprawling epics.

De Brauw and new(ish) member Dallas Thomas pile on the riffs while Brian and Larry Herweg underpin everything as the brutally tight rhythm section. The fact that three quarters of the band has played together for over a decade clearly hasn't done them any harm. They unleash some new material, with the non-stop riff-fest 'Deny the Absolute' standing out for me. The new material doesn't sound drastically different but this doesn't seem to lessen the impact live.

De Brauw talks in-between a few songs and comes across like a really relaxed guy. In fact, after a set as good as that they must be utterly knackered. Long live Pelican Tap!

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