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The Pelican's Visit To Australasia. - 75%

Perplexed_Sjel, July 26th, 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.

Incredible Instrumental Sludge. - 80%

almightyjoey, June 25th, 2009

This album really is something. From the LP Replica Digipak packaging alone, you immediately get the impression that this is going to be a little bit special. This is very true. Pelican seem to be quite run-of-the-mill at first glance; a sludge metal band on Hydrahead with artwork by Aaron Turner. The light shines through, however. This band manages to make sludge original again. They mix mellow post-rock sections (a la Explosions in the Sky) with massively heavy Neurosis-esque riffs without sounding like a band with a lack of original ideas. What particularly interests me about this release is how heavy the guitars sound. I've pretty much lived on doom, sludge and stoner for about 4 years, but the thickness of the guitar tone on this album still caught me out. The best part about the guitar tone is that when more mellow sections (like 3.00 on Nightendday) crop up, it emphasizes the heaviness when it comes back. Like the antagonist in a horror movie, it comes back frequently, and comes back stronger each time.

Each of the other instruments sound completely amazing, too. The drums, whether slowly pounding away a typical doomy part, or clashing away at each track's climax, are completely top-of-their-game. The singing saw on 'Untitled' is also a very nice touch, and really puts images in one's mine of the album's namesake. Speaking of which, another thing I really love about the album is that the instruments just take you away, and let you imagine all of these landscapes. It's rare you can both tap your foot and daydream to an album. The tracks themselves seem to merge together into one. The fading between the songs suggest that this album needs to be listened to in full to experience it's true greatness. It's probably for the best, since if you're not accustomed to doom, a lot of the songs might seem too long. Personally, I feel that not a single track overstays its welcome, which I imagine is quite a task for an instrumental. The prime example of this is album highlight, "Drought". Every single second of this track is completely chock-full of riffs, and interesting ideas. That's not to say the other tracks aren't, however.

I have to say, while I strongly dislike the name, "post-metal", I can strongly declare that Pelican are probably the best band of the so-called genre. And don't let anybody tell you that these guys are Isis clones. I've heard that criticism a lot, and the only comparison between them is that they're both sludge bands, and both on Hydrahead. I strongly recommend this to anybody who likes their music sludgy, heavy and beautiful. This one is all three.

Epic "Post Metal" - 96%

frenchie, September 19th, 2006

The more underground or extreme side of metal that has been pushing the boundaries of what metal can sound like ever since bands like Death, Atheist and Opeth started to make their mark in the early nineties. Whilst many bands still try to be the next Metallica, there is thankfully still a dedicated part of metal that is completely original, and try to take metal to a place with less metal cliches, and more possibilities of where metal can be taken. One example that is applicable here is when bands like Isis and Pelican took the inspiration of the rising post rock genre. Metal is now starting to absorb post rock writing and playing techniques into the expanding art of heavy metal, just like Death metal absorbed complex jazz and genres like folk metal and drone metal started to surface. So the pattern seems to be, to make sure that metal keeps pushing the boundaries, non metal genres can not be discarded from the mix.

Pelican's instrumental cross between chuggy sludge metal riffage and post rock's epic build ups and explosions in some sort of minimalist frame are an example of how metal continues to push the boundaries and avoid the cliches of 80's speed metal and so forth. "Australasia" is an album that is certainly epic, and could be called a metal version of Godspeed You Black Emperor! or Explosions in the Sky. Of course Pelican have managed to form a sound which is, Pelican, and doesn't seem to be stealing or ripping off any post rock bands, but instead proving that Pelican are one of the best that post rock has to offer.

To say that "Australasia" is an album of songs wouldn't technically be true. This album is an epic journey where all the tracks flow together as one big piece, sort of like a concept album if you will. The tracks have been divided up very well however, as each of the 6 tracks tells a different part of the same big story. "Nightendday" and "Drought" display a massive barrage of slow, chugging riffs that display raw energy, emotion and power. The tones of the guitars are unforgiving and leave an unforgettable trace of pure emotion with the listener, perhaps a kind of emotion that words and vocals could never have described. 11 minute opener, "Nightendday" is an instrumental that sets the scene admirably from its drawn out eruption of sound. Although 11 minutes of pure riffing may not appeal to all, it is surprising how Pelican never seem to over stay their welcome. Each riff is precisely calculated and the last thing this album does is drag on.

The drumwork on this album is incredible. This is heavy stuff, without ever resorting to blastbeating to make it's point. Whether slow and relaxed, or crushing and showing off just what drums can do, the drums are never too much or too little on this record. The most impressive piece in terms of metal here has to be "Drought". Eight minutes of relentless balls out metal, complete with stuttering palm muting, all out chuggy riffing and excellent drum fills. The song starts out pretty much raging, yet still managed to build up in tempo and power to offer an ultimate climax.

Pelican prove they are masters of the newly dubbed "post metal", however they also provide a delicate ode to the less heavy style of post rock that inspired them. Track five, untitled by the band, is a delicate display of clean sweeping guitar that allows the listener to float on a dream. A completely different display of emotion is felt before we are lead back into the unforgiving, sonic riffs of the final epic track.

"Australasia" is a masterpiece of an album. Pelican are another band that are making sure metal can still be original, inspiring and going beyond the limits. The musicianship is tight and precise. This is an album that is preciously organised, with a full range of different emotions to be felt. "Australasia" is more than just music, but a sound that wraps around you for a whole 50 minute epic journey.

Yawn... Another Pelican classic. - 99%

caspian, October 23rd, 2005

Pelican right now are probably my favourite band. I've bought most of their albums recently, and they all kick huge ass. IN a way, I was kind of hoping that this album would surprise me. I was hoping for something that I might NOT like straight away, something that would force me to listen to it lots and lots until I got the hang of it. But, these guys have done it again. This album takes a lot of listens to get every subtlety, but as soon as you press the play button, it hits you with the strange slow, doomy, major-key riffs that are Pelican.

This album is a good mix of the Debut EP and Pelican's later work. The guitar riffs are still absolutely huge, even as huge as the ones of their first EP. The massive guitar tone is still there, slowly crushing everything in it's path. Yep, there's some really huge riffs here. Drought is absolutely chockers of the biggest riffs you will ever find. Just one big riff piled on top of the other. Damn. Angel Tears has a huge, majestic riff at the start, and well, all the other tracks have super cool riffing too. The huge chunky guitars are very well recorded, and much tighter then in the previous album, and there's a lot of great two guitar interplay in the tunes. The humungous riffs are well complemented by the great, beautiful mellow parts that pop up once in a while. They're used a lot more sparingly in this album, but they do all sound really damn amazing. They have a very different feel too. While later mellow Pelican moments have a very spacey feeling, these parts feel very earthy. It's kinda strange. In fact, the whole album feels super earthy.

I've known Pelican are good for quite a while now. I didn't realise they where this good, however. This album proves that they are right up there with the giants like Isis, Neurosis and Cult of Luna. Their strange mix of crushing riffs and hypnotic melodic moments are as good as any band has ever done. A very, very well deserved 99%. Any fans of doom will be well advised to check this out.