At this point in their eight year career, Pelican has spent more time being known for playing their blend of lumbering, brooding drone-metal than they have actually playing it. As heavy instrumental acts go, they’ve always seemed like a one-trick pony, albeit a satisfying one, in a genre that never strays far from its comfort zone.
With their latest release, What We All Come To Need, the Chicago-based band aims to refute that notion entirely. For starters, the album neither looms nor drones, with the exception of the Jesu-esque final track, “Final Breath.” Instead, the band has built upon on their doomy, downtempo origins and delivered a product that clearly shows the evolution of the band as a whole.
But that’s not to say Pelican has become unrecognizable. The chugging guitar riffs, aggressive repetition and more than competent drum work are still there in full force, however the band applies the formula more adventurously than previous efforts.
It’s still fast, much as their last LP, 2007’s City of Echoes was fast, but it seems more intentional this time around. The album doesn’t strive to stay in one place, with the opening track “Glimmer,” the bands builds up to a majestic sparkle, seeming more pop than metal, while “Ephemeral” builds itself upon two dangerous, mildly progressive riffs.
Possibly the most significant change in Pelican’s formula is seen in the closing track, “Final Breath,” which introduces vocals to the band’s work, provided by Allen Epley of The Life and Times. This is the first use of vocals in the band’s almost decade-long history, not including their split with These Arms Are Snakes. While some diehard fans might not appreciate the change, it serves as a pivotal moment for the birth of a new era with the band.
All that being said, while What We All Come To Need does break the mold of previous Pelican releases, the album doesn’t introduce any new concepts to a genre that thrives on simply meeting the audience’s expectations.
The brooding guitars and quiet-loud dynamics a listener would expect from any post-metal release are still in full force, and little ground is made to differentiate the act from their contemporaries. Fans of the genre will be pleased with the release, while those outside it won’t find too many new elements to encourage them to explore.
Album: What We All Come To Need
Released: Oct. 27, 2009 on Southern Lord label