Accessible, fun and dumber than an elephant with a headcold, Pelican gives us the arena orientated rock album we’ve been waiting for.
Pelican are the Kansas of 2013. While not every track on Forever Becoming sounds like ‘Carry on my Wayward Son’ there is a sense of destiny and ostentatious technicality that underpins each song’s construction, with interludes, bons mots and righteous ‘yeah man’ moments aplenty.
Not as life changing or as the Isis/Deftones Palms record, better than the Jesu release, and well above the usual limp boner metal that ceaselessly pours out like a flood of Municipal Waste.
So why is it so hard to love?
Forever Becoming feels a bit stock in places, and while reminiscent of classic era Mastodon, the comparison doesn’t necessarily work in the band’s favour as Pelican chugs where Mastodon would put a blistering solo.
penis dragons as Vikings traverse
heavy seas towards dimension
holes guarded by bong-sucking
The songs are palpably well written and there isn’t a boring moment on the album, but it rarely elevates itself. The decision to put three very similar sounding tracks (‘Immutable Dusk’, ‘Threnody’, ‘The Cliff’) back to back in the middle of the album doesn’t do the songs (which are good) any favours, as it comes across as though the band is short of ideas. Which isn’t the case.
At their most crowd pleasing the band keeps pace by weaving Sabbath monolithic riffs with some major scale indie passages and beyond-the-bar extensions. But it’s on tracks ‘Terminal’, ‘Vestiges’ and ‘Perpetual Dawn’ (not an Orb cover) that we see a band exploring their range, from Neurosis-esque angry grind to folk-inflected doom. It is here that they capture something emotive and heavy without resorting to their own formula.
The power of Pelican is that without vocals there is a wholly developed sense of story to each of the songs. At their most formulaic, huge yetis pound and penis dragons as Vikings traverse heavy seas towards dimension holes guarded by bong-sucking Freudian anachronisms and their gossamer-clad horny manifestations of beery yearning.
Whereas when they actually get serious there are some serious art statements here too. If only the two bands could come together on the same track.
Pelican deserves to be mentioned along with Palms, Mastodon and Meshuggah as a band that really gets it, and while Forever Becoming isn’t the full bore statement that we’d wish it to be, it is a good record nonetheless.
Recommended but not essential.
Out now on Southern Lord