on 1 September 2009
Southern Lord sure do like their psychedelic bands. With Boris, Earth and Sunn O))) already on the books, and rising stars such as OM eagerly signing up, bands like Pelican aren't much of a surprise inclusion into the star studded world that is being signed to one of America's major record labels. This record is home to some of the metal industries best known and most loved doom/drone bands. These areas of metal are incredible psychedelic, a world that the reader should become accustomed to reading if they're likely to survive the mammoth world of Southern Lord geniuses at work. According to the additional information, Pelican originally started as a side project to the members' main band, Tusk. However, as the band have developed, the musicians behind the band have seemingly taken it upon themselves to make this their number one outlet of musical projections and thankfully so. Pelican began as a typical Southern Lord band, but have evolved into something extraordinary that cannot simply be contemplated by use of reading. The sound of this American band will often contain connotations to clichéd ideas.
Lexical fields will be something anyone who addresses the sound of Pelican will have to become accustomed to, just like we would have to when entering into the world of any established band who deal with purely instrumental based music and genres such as doom, drone and sludge are part of the history of said band. These genres are often described as; astral, cosmic, psychedelic, reflective, relaxing and even brutal given the fact that a lot of drone inspired bands can be very minimalistic and contain lengthy songs. Just so you know, despite the clichéd nature of these adjectives and the respective connotations, these words are apt and definitely describe the music of such bands, influenced by the aforementioned genres, applicably. Whilst most people should be accustomed to doom metal, areas like drone, post-hardcore, post-rock and sludge won't be to everyone's liking. In fact, I can see some of these genres having an adverse affect on some. Considering Pelican are supposedly influenced by the likes of Cult of Luna, Red Sparowes and the monolithic drone inspired Jesu, Pelican are bound to be considered an interesting listen regardless of what they provide in the end.
Sure enough, that is precisely what they are - an interesting conception with a few niggling problems (the production has a habit of sounding a bit flat, but still, it doesn't intrude on the beauty which is often overwhelming) but, overall, `Australasia' is a stunning depiction of a truly beautiful region of the world and the many different forms it comes in. Personally, I don't hear as much doom or drone in this record as is described by the genre description. As I've never heard the debut self-titled EP, I cannot comment on the beginnings of this band and whether that EP consisted of music that is influenced by those two epic genres, but I certainly do assume so. This debut full-length is an intricate and intriguing piece that delves into areas of music that don't particularly relate to metal, or metal fans well. Post-rock, for instance, is seemingly an influence behind this beautiful record with its many well thought out themes including, what sounds like to me, nature, divinity, spirituality and nostalgia. As a fan of post-rock myself, though only a few exquisite bands exist out of the hundreds that have been involved in the influx towards the genre, I am able to make the switch from metal to non-metal without much fuss.
So I warn those of you who're not particularly fond of atmospheric sludge, or post-rock, that you had best steer clear of this beautiful beast because it does not cater well to the fans of extreme repetitive drones, or haunting doom metal. As I trace back to my roots in post-rock, surprisingly, I find that Pelican were one of the very first post-rock influenced bands that I liked from the genre. Although I do not consider Pelican to be entirely positioned with one genre, given their extremely expansive style, the band are still firmly rooted in the top 10 of my favourite post-rock bands, or even in my favourite atmospheric sludge bands. Unfortunately for the reviewer, genres such as post-rock, post-hardcore and even atmospheric sludge are incredibly difficult to describe, or even trace the roots back to certain bands that influenced the style - a subject that is bound to cause arguments and controversy. Although we already know the influence behind this record, it is still plain to see that Pelican are more than just a band who have been influenced by some of the best musicians in their associated fields. This American band are far too smart for just a "clone" tag and far too experimental just to harp on about where the sound was derived from. The opening song, which happens to be my favourite on the record, `Nightendday', is the perfect example of how Pelican intermingle their subtle influences.
Which, might I add, also includes the best of the best in Isis and Neurosis - into their own colossal sound which includes slow guitar leads, faster tempos with a fantastic array of percussionist elements and a contrasting euphoric guitar style that intoxicates and then everything else that is in between. This multi-functional record is one that reaches into our minds and pulls out our imagination, taking it on a journey through the extensive landscapes of lands like Australia, with its tropics, deserts and forests that warms our hearts, along with our imaginations. With interspersed electric-acoustic passages that slowly draws out a feeling of overwhelming bliss and happiness despite the huge production that does include some referenced back to the drone style, Pelican accommodate a lot of experimentation into a style that is usually dominated by repetition and monotony. As songs like `Nightendday' suggest, Pelican can afford to deviate where others do not because they're extremely capable and talented at providing punchy percussion passages alongside warm guitars and still manage fine with a vocalist to draw the attention away from the mighty and monstrous sound. As this includes influences from sludge, I must say I'm pleased with the lack of vocals. Sludge vocalists have a habit of ruining everything and that cannot be the case here, obviously. Monumental.