Album review: Pelican, Forever Becoming

For all its peaks, valleys and landscapes, instrumental post-metal can be one boring fucking genre. Chalk it up to impatience or the modern urge to be stimulated, immediately, all the time, but to really truly digest this stuff, endurance of the earholes is an absolute necessity.

That's not to say Pelican's latest, Forever Becoming (Southern Lord Records), is an absolute snoozer — but more a litmus test for your audible patience.

Opening with a crushing tom drum and a snarling, feedbacked-fueled drone, “Terminal” takes an interesting dip, meandering into altogether different territory than you might expect before entering second track and album single, “Deny the Absolute.”

Here, Pelican sounds muscular as shit with airtight riffs, a crushing, upbeat rhythm, and a nice, conscious compositional flow that dips and dives but never loses sight of what the song seems like it wants to accomplish as a whole. Definitely worthy of the 'single' designation.

Track three, “The Tundra,” opens with a burly, menacing riff that wallops and trudges like a drunk mutant silverback before pittering out into familiar, safe Pelican territory. And that’s where an overarching issue in Forever Becoming appears. There’s three more songs that start with crushing riffs like this, and then just kind of fizzle out, as if someone had the idea but the rest of the band couldn't commit to stretching their collective boundaries so far.

The savior, however, is “Immutable Dusk,” a gnarled anchor point amid Becoming’s eight tracks. Pelican jams a wrench in the pacing at about 2-and-a-half minutes in with a start-stop pattern of slithering bass and ominous guitar that builds like a million gallons of saltwater before crashing down and demolishing everything in its wake.

And then, eventually with little fanfare, it quietly disappears. Because, that’s what instrumental post-metal is supposed to do — excite, and then restrain, never letting you have too much fun, but ultimately telling you a story in ways no other artform can. (Critics' Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars)

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