Release Date: Oct 15, 2013
Record label: Southern Lord Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Post-Rock, Heavy Metal, Post-Metal
While it's possible for an instrumental band to coast along by making their albums frenzied celebrations of the fine art of the guitar riff, the slower, more thoughtful tempo of Pelican's glacial metal instrumentals has required them to be a cut above the rest. On Forever Becoming, the fifth album from the band, as well as the first not to feature founding guitarist Laurent Lebec (who was replaced by touring guitarist Dallas Thomas after an amicable split with the band), the quartet create a series of musical journeys for listener's to embark upon, creating songs that, while slow, have a feeling of movement about them. This helps to give Pelican's sprawling epics a sense of momentum that allows the songs to feel inviting rather than impenetrable.
Instrumental rock bands engender a feverish devotion. Groups like Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor boast rabid fanbases yet get raked over the coals—much of the time by those same fans. But, perhaps none of the aforementioned groups have seen the kind of "Crossfire"-level handwringing as Chicago's Pelican. Couple the group's four-year hiatus with the fact that they often toe a line that dips into metal territory—another style that claims adherents quick to nitpick—and you’ve got a recipe for controversy.
Throughout four albums, Pelican rode the border between post-rock and metal. Thick grey fog rolled in from the former, partially obscuring the evils that crawled up through the cracked ground on the latter. With the departure of founding guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec, these Chicagoans had to do some reinventing in the creation of Forever Becoming.
Ataraxia/Taraxis, Pelican’s four-song 2012 EP, at the time provided a glimpse of foreshadowing that was absolutely necessary following the flatline mood of What We All Come to Need, the band’s last studio album. Along with incorporating acoustic elements that had been a long overlooked strong point within its style, the EP did what What We All Come to Need unsuccessfully tried to do: amp up the mood. As I wrote in my review of Ataraxia/Taraxis, the move to the Southern Lord label was one that made all the sense in the world when it was first announced.
Pelican — Forever Becoming (Southern Lord)Post-metal giant Pelican doesn’t work terribly well in confined spaces. Its tectonically massive self-titled debut EP was longer than most bands’ full-length albums. The six tracks on its first full-length Australasia were continent-sized chunks of dense, sludgy heavy metal marked with occasional drifts into major keys and acoustic interludes.
Pelican Forever Becoming (Southern Lord) Hardly the sole rock band to discover that heavy sounds better sans an annoying frontman, Pelican gets downright artistic about its "post metal" on fifth LP Forever Becoming. The Chicago quartet morphs the heavy crush of doom into compositions, and its ability to lay down the crunge in a painterly manner unfolds mighty and impressive. "Immutable Dusk" switches from snarling squall to shimmering seethe with unnoticeable edits.
It’s been a period of transition for Chicagoan post-rockers Pelican. In 2012, two years after he stopped playing out-of-town shows, guitarist and founding member Laurent Schroeder-Lebec threw in the towel admitting that his heart wasn’t fully into it anymore. Stepping up to the plate on Forever Becoming, the band’s fifth album in a decade, is Dallas Thomas.