Review Summary: Fans of "The Fire in Our Throats...", approach with caution.
Acting as a bridge of sorts, between the genres of post-rock and post-metal, Pelican have never been afraid to experiment with their vocal-less sound. 2005's The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw
saw Pelican trying to distance themselves from their previous releases such as Australasia
, an album that drew much attention because of the obvious similarities presented by their peers, Isis. The Fire in Our Throats...
was Pelican's attempt at making a diverse and transcending album that would give headaches to critics who were trying to slap a label onto it. Through the use of melodic passages, acoustic guitar playing, tempo variety, and moody atmospheres, Pelican succeeded to a certain extent. Though they were not fully able to escape comparisons to bands such as Isis and Cult of Luna, there was definitely a movement away from them. With Pelican's newest album, City of Echoes
, the battle has been won, but instead of adding new and exciting elements to their music, they decided to take most of them away. They stripped their music to the core and disposed of the thrilling atmosphere and epic qualities and we are left with a collection of guitar riffs.
While Pelican's music has always been guitar based, past releases displayed how the instruments seemed to blend together. On City of Echoes
, however, the guitarists take the main stage and rarely is any atmosphere created. The lack of open space on the album was somewhat of a letdown. Only on a few of the tracks that Pelican are non-stop heavy is the lack of space not missed. The album opener, "Bliss in Concrete", starts the record off with Pelican's distinct sludgy guitar riffs. Being one of the better songs on City of Echoes
, "Bliss in Concrete" actually progresses, becoming heavier throughout. The track seems to pull itself together when the guitars are accented with the use of a charging double bass pedal. "Dead Between the Walls" presents itself in a similar fashion to that of "Bliss in Concrete" with more of the sludgy, low-tuned guitar riffs. Reminiscent to songs from Australasia
, a doomy feeling to the guitars carry the entire song. Concluding the song, an extremely well placed reverberated guitar passage that provides one of the few exciting climaxes that can be found on the album.
City of Echoes
comes off as trying to be a more direct album than its predecessors. Most of the songs fall into the five minute range and only one track barely breaks the seven minute mark. When Pelican decided to trim their songs, they removed one of the more intriguing elements from their music, the atmosphere. Here, there are only a handful of impressive instrumental build-ups. Without the ambient sections that were present in previous albums, much of Pelican's music has become rather bland. Some of the songs never distance themselves from a mid-tempo collection of riffs. Tracks such as "Spaceship Broken - Parts Needed" feel overly relaxed. The rhythm section picks up the pace of the song only for a brief moment. Almost sounding like a rehashed version of The Fire in Our Throats...
untitled track, "Winds with Hands" is an attempt at incorporating dynamics into an album that has little variation. The title track falls into the same pattern by taking a only a couple of ideas and dragging them on for far too long. Although, a chord progression can be found at the end, but the surprising section is almost ruined by an irritating bend in one of the notes. Even the majority of the guitar parts end up being tedious because of their similar nature.
As disappointing as City of Echoes
may be, it represents a major change for Pelican. Even though they are far from mastering new sound, steps certainly are taken. A more direct approach to the genre wasn't a bad idea, it just wasn't executed that well and could have been better. More variety throughout the album is definitely needed, especially with the guitar because many of the riffs and passages sound so similar. As much as I wanted to love City of Echoes
, I couldn't forget the fact that elements that made past albums so exciting were taken out or underdeveloped on this album.