14 October 2013
Pelican’s fifth full-length, Forever Becoming, has one of those nebulous and noncommittal titles that progressive instrumental bands tend to choose, presumably for the merit of not having to set their stall thematically. It’s indicative of a movement that the band have made with this album though; even for an act whose second nature is to push forward with the exploratory scope of their music, is this a step too far away from their roots?
Just after the release of Ataraxia/Taraxis last year, Pelican parted with founding member and guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec, leaving a gap that was filled by the obvious choice of Dallas Thomas who had been touring for two years in Shroeder-Lebec’s stead. Despite the speedy replacement, the loss of such a colossal song-writing component in Pelican’s line-up meant that the weight of expectation on this album would’ve been monolithic in the lead up to this album. Being a band so used to seeking and fleshing out their music with unexpected segues and seeing the endless potential and jumping off points of a single note, Pelican sound unperturbed.
You see, Forever Becoming is bred for the road; Thomas arrives, slinging weighty riffs from his time with The Swan King, adding an altogether heavier clout to the record and raising the gig-friendly potential of their discography. ‘Deny The Absolute’ is a five-minute forest of riffs that’s the first real evidence of Pelican paying homage to the post-metal tag that they’ve often tried to sidestep. ‘Terminal’ is pitch black, the slow, advancing footfall of death with Neurosis in the backdrop, hinting at the unsettling feel of the rest of the record, something which guitarist Trevor de Brauw is responsible for. If this is an album inspired by the difficult headspace created by Shroeder-Lebec’s departure, then it sounds like it’s been a long road out of hell for Pelican.
Forever Becoming provides a slab of explosive and solid music, but it does so without achieving the chameleon effect of its forebears. There’s just not enough space between the riffs to properly allow the overarching darkness to seep into your bones. The heavy miasma of the album is staggering, but it’s hard to gauge the depth of the forest without the light from the stars.
Sounds Like: Neurosis, Russian Circles
Standout Tracks: Terminal, The Tundra