Pelican – What We All Come To Need
Pelican have always been a hard-hitting band, and refused to be pinned down to one style of music throughout their career. They’ll play stoner-tinged sludge on one album, and much brighter post-rock on the next, and even go as far to fuse these elements in between, which – although it isn’t necessarily uncommon, as far as direction goes – all unifies around some form of “classic” Pelican sound. In fact, it is this ability to display their signature take on post-metal, whilst maintaining distinctiveness throughout their discography that makes them such a prominent force in the post-metal scene.
But if there’s anything that has been plaguing Pelican, moreso lately than before, it’s inconsistency and seemingly uninspired music – something one wouldn’t have dreamed them of being back in the days of Australasia and The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw. 2007’s City of Echoes featured a mellowed-out Pelican, expanding on the atmospheric, post-rock tendencies of TFIOTWBTT, yet it lacked the moving and epic passages the latter album displayed, which were actually convincing of emotion and true to the Pelican name.
What We All Come to Need is similar to their last full-length, in this respect, as it largely draws on influence from Australasia and the Pelican EP, but it fails to execute as these releases do. The music itself isn’t exactly lacking in quality, but rather, the band’s normally superb songwriting has been significantly toned down. In fact, the true genius behind the fine architecture of Pelican’s post-metal is the otherworldly chemistry of guitar duo Trevor de Brauw and Laurent Shnoeder-Lebec, as the climaxes they create on songs such as “The Woods” and “March to the Sea” are truly remarkable. Frankly, the band’s recent efforts have been completely devoid of such exemplary performances, and it is especially disappointing because certain songs on WWACTN show potential of such sonic excellence, such as “An Inch Above Sand”, which features a brilliant Isis-inspired bridge, that eventually crumbles into an extremely underwhelming follow-up section– for Pelican’s standards, at least.
On a refreshingly positive note, Larry Herweg’s drumming seems to be constantly improving, and though his contribution is still quite minimal, it is relieving to see him actually get his parts down effectively. The latter makes his presence much more apparent throughout the album, as do sections such as the bass-driven bridge on “Strung up from the Sky”. Pelican are, after all, a primarily guitar-based band, so it isn’t expected of Larry to pull any Dave Turncrantz antics, but it is nice to see a good performance from him, simply for the sake of his contribution to the band.
Not surprisingly, the album’s greatest moments are “Ephemeral” off the Ephemeral EP (formerly “Embedding the Moss”) and “Specks of Light”, featuring the mighty Aaron Turner. If WWCTN was anything like the brilliant Ephemeral EP was, this would be a much different review, as passion and aggression are two things that would have perhaps, pushed this album into legendary territory. Also, unlike Greg Anderson, who is barely noticeable on “The Creeper”, Turner makes his mark and adds an exceptional touch to the album.
It goes without mentioning that, as good as Ben Verellen’s vocals were, they were completely unnecessary, and only further push the album into inconsistent territory. All Pelican need at this point is to add vocals, and become a poor man’s Isis. Thanks, but no thanks. Generally speaking, however, the band’s future is fairly bleak at this point, unless they reignite the spark that made the chemistry between Trevor and Laurent possible, and hell, it wouldn’t hurt to see some more of Larry now that he’s in shape.