When: Wed., Nov. 13, 8 p.m. 2013
I approached Pelican’s new Forever Becoming (Southern Lord) with caution: it’s the long-running instrumental quartet’s first full-length in four years, and its first minus founding guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec, who was replaced last year by Dallas Thomas of the Swan King (up till that point, Thomas had been filling in for Schroeder-Lebec only on tour). My worry was that pairing Trevor de Brauw, the post-heavy band’s other founding guitarist, with a new studio and writing partner might result in a record that sounded like Pelican trying too hard to conform to their idea of themselves—which is always distracting and hacky. But nothing of the sort happened: Forever Becoming is one of their best efforts ever. It’s immediate, cohesive, and unflinchingly heavy in that multifaceted Pelican kind of way, sliding from ambient to thick to proggy to thundering. In their 13 years together, the band has always maintained its identity as a band—a collective entity creating a sound that everybody helps shape, with no one person more crucial than the next. This is underlined by the absence of vocals, especially given that many of the songs have verses and choruses that sound tailor-made for them. And though Schroeder-Lebec is gone, Pelican has preserved that identity, and almost seems shaken into greater coherence by the split. “Deny the Absolute,” the album’s first proper track (following the feedback-heavy intro “Terminal”), sets the bar with a galloping riff wrapped in a melody played by the other guitar. It’s sharp posthardcore, touched here and there with sludgy rock—the band has been described as both, and as any and every other genre that makes even a little sense—and it flows into a pile-driving number called “The Tundra,” which peaks in one of Pelican’s most viciously chugging metal moments. Forever Becoming combines the drive and hooks of Pelican’s late career with the awesome hugeness of its earliest material, and though you could hardly call it a dramatic evolutionary leap for the band, it’s nonetheless cathartic to hear these guys realizing exactly who they are. —Kevin Warwick Bongripper and Enabler open.