Review Summary: A phoenix (pelican?) rising from the ashes.
For those who’ve been following Pelican for the last few years, it’s been very much a “wait-and-see” type of game. As I mused Pelican’s inevitable break-up in my previous review of their out-of-nowhere and hard-hitting Ataraxia/Taraxis
EP last year, they’ve continued to surprise me yet again by delivering a full-length practically out of nowhere. With original guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec out of the picture, and some much needed time off to recharge their creative batteries, it was no doubt that the bands fifth full-length, Forever Becoming
, would be a much different addition to their discography, but I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be one of their best.
Starting a few years back, Pelican had hit a wall. After evolving their sound from a droning, post-metal sludge to a more straight-forward, energetic sound, 2009’s What We All Come To Need
was a band who had been stuck in a rut, too comfortable with their sound and creatively grasping at straws. After years and years of quiet layoff, Forever Becoming
is a band that’s back and better than ever. After moody, plodding intro “Terminal”, “Deny The Absolute” kicks off the album with the gusto not seen since City of Echoes
: speedy, melodic riffing in a groove so deep that it could reach the earth’s core. “Tundra” also shows Pelican bringing their enthusiastic, off-kilter riffs to the fore-front before mellowing out into a melodic section and ending with a chunky, brutal, sludgy head-banger. There’s certainly enough good ideas swirling around during the start of Forever Becoming
, which is something I thought that Pelican wasn’t capable of any longer.
But not only has Pelican brought back the sound that they’ve worked on the past few years since City of Echoes
, the band’s is heard reaching further into their bag of tricks. “Immutable Dusk”, one of the strongest tracks on the record, starts strong before slowing down into something reminiscing of “Last Day Of Winter” from The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw
, building softly before crashing into another groove-stricken riff. Follow-up “Threnody” continues in the same vein: a slower, longer build-up that is reminiscent of Pelican of old, hosting a breathable, acoustic section amongst the chaos, while closer “Perpetual Dawn”, up there with one of the best songs this band has done, finds the group taking their time to slowly brew an enveloping atmosphere that was a trademark of their early days, and the pummeling pay-off brings chills to your spine.
However, sadly, there are a few tracks on Forever Becoming
that house some of the lazy Pelican traits of old. “The Cliff”, while a great song, never really finds the time to become fleshed-out, and just seems like a collection of riffs and not an entire, evolving idea. “Vestiges” is another heavier collection of riffs that take a back-seat to some breathable sections, although the latter’s fade-out ending leaves a little more to be desired and is something that is completely uncharacteristic of this band, who usually sticks an exclamation point to all their finishes.
But as it turns out, sometimes a lengthy break is all a band needs. While it usually spells out doom a majority of the time, Pelican’s sound here is invigorating, and that can only be due to the time they spent away from music to recharge their batteries and create a fresh, creative and delightful listen. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes (or, more appropriately, a pelican rising from...I dunno, a pile of fish bones?), Pelican has found a second-lease on life, and the story is just as satisfying as the product they’ve put forth.