Woah. It’s apparent from the gargantuan opening thuds of ‘Terminal’ that Chicago riffmongers Pelican have undergone some major surgery in the four years since the lacklustre What We All Come to Need limped into earshot. Indeed, it transpires that founding guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec has flown the nest, to be replaced by The Swan King’s Dallas Thomas. Gone, too, are the grungy guitars, spacier textures and vocal dabblings of the previous record; Pelican 2013 is an angrier beast, pounding the listener with monolithic slabs of guitar abuse, pummelling rhythms and huge bottom end.
If all this sounds strangely familiar, it’s because it is – ‘Forever Becoming’ sounds uncannily like the work of the band who first threatened eardrums with the crushingly weighty Australasia and their self-titled EP all those years ago. Whether this is a much-needed reboot or a disappointing leap backwards will largely depend on your opinion of their output since – for this listener, the feelings produced are mixed. The return of that geologically massive sound is certainly welcome; Chris Common (These Arms Are Snakes, Chelsea Wolfe) has done a sterling job capturing the impact of the quartet in full flow.
They’ve come up with some fantastic material, too; the aforementioned ‘Terminal’ kicks things off in inimitable style, ‘Immutable Dusk’ is a chugging behemoth and ‘Threnody’ a riot of caterwauling guitars and rolling drums. Oddly, it’s the best track here, ‘Deny the Absolute’, which hurts the album a little. Its perfect balance of heavy, fast riffing, melodic breakdowns and subtle resonances is a stark reminder of just how flawless City of Echoes actually is, and how this collection, despite being very good indeed, can’t quite match up to it. That said, this is unquestionably a quality effort from a reenergized band, and comes highly recommended. Lee Gorman
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