In metal, or actually in most musical genres, the vocals are usually a key factor in deciding whether you like a band or not. Even if the band plays the most crushing riffs, the most impeccable melodies, or the most emotional acoustic heartfelt ballads that make your tearducts suddenly work at two hundred percent speed, you've probably listened to a band that has any of the above elements and still falls flat because the singer sounds like a goose with its throat cut.
Now if you're clever, and you are a pretentious band to boot, you think "screw the vocals, we'll play instrumental!" That's what Pelican did on this offering. And they do it mighty fine too, at times. But there comes the keyword that describes this album. At times. Instrumental music requires skill and musicianship, and Pelican aren't lacking in that department. In fact, they create some beautiful tracks that crescendo and decrescendo, switch gears, switch gears some more, deliver enthralling melodies, and round it off with a perfect flow to boot. Pretentious, maybe, but the band can do it. If you're unsure, see the album opener Last Day of Winter, and you'll get what I mean.
But they also know how to be ridiculously boring at the same time. Red Ran Amber takes too long and is too uninteresting for the band's own good. I think it was an excellent idea to cut the song March Into The Sea for this release, because by the time you'd get by the end of it, chances are you've turned the cd player off and have gone fishing (maybe it's a good idea to take this with you for those sort of excursions, but that's beside the point.) In any case, what can be a blessing for some bands (In Flames, I'm talking to you) can be a curse for others. Pelican don't actually fall into either category as there are moments of both on here, but usually the first predominates.
What's good about this album however is that despite the boring moments (found mostly at the end of the album) it overall manages to convince in the atmosphere department. Pelican write instrumental songs, but not the virtuoso way with all the guitar solos and wanking going on. That isn't to say the band can't play their instruments. But they use them for an ulterior motive: to suck you into the album like light into a black hole. They pull it off better than most, that's for sure, and on say 70% of the album you will feel like they've put a spell on you, forcing you to sit down and rack your brain what musical twist is around the next riff corner.
The album falls short of being a classic however, thanks to the 30% that makes you yawn and look the other way. Pelican make good music, great even, the only thing they don't know is how to keep it up for the nigh sixty minutes that make up this record. If Pelican could come up with a way to be enthralling for the whole duration of their next release, they could be one of the best instrumental bands in the world. Now they're just a very good one.