music review: Pelican – Nighttime Stories

Pelican, the somewhat Chicago & LA based quartet that mostly makes instrumental metal (post-metal, ugh) music that is consistently brilliant, released its first new album in 6 years. I need to preface my review of this because I am afraid of sharing any blasphemous thoughts I have: Pelican is one of my favorite bands since hearing their debut. In a time in my life when I stopped collecting singles with obscure B-sides if any, I was diving as deep as I could with Pelican. I bought CDs AND vinyl releases, the latter often being works of art themselves. I have a remix “EP” that qualifies as new material in my mind, and I don’t question its existence as necessary.

“Do you need a 20 minute spacy remix of a 10 minute instrumental?” Duh. I certainly do.

They have not been all that quiet – for this band as a unit, they’ve released by my count 3 live albums (one having a vinyl release, the other two being soundboard recordings you can pick up on Bandcamp for like five bucks each) and a remix single including giving lyrics to a previous instrumental. But, no new material until late 2019.

Every album since the debut, with in my personal taste Austrailasia being the only exception, is a solid home run or grand slam or game winner for the baseball team that is Pelican. I recognize that my opinion on Austrailasia is in the minority, I think most fans dig it. It was their first full length but their debut “Untitled EP” works as a great introduction to the band’s dense, mighty, and well thought out music. It might sound like a wall of punishing guitar noise, but there’s a lot going on throughout and I always pick out something new that grabs me. So much that I was able to put aside my indifference to Austrailasia when The Fire In Our Throats Beckons The Thaw came out as another shot, and I haven’t been disappointed since.

The band released a few songs early for the latest album and at the time…I wasn’t impressed. Just, I didn’t hear anything I was excited about. I bought Nighttime Stories anyway… and I feel like it took a lot of listens for me to come around to the material. “Midnight and Mescaline” is the heavy song after the quiet buildup opener “WST” and sounds like a heavy number left off of City Of Echoes and followed by “Abyssal Plain,” both good entries. After several spins, I even enjoyed “Cold Hope,” which was a track I was turned off by initially. “Arteries of Blacktop” is one of the standout tracks near the end of the album. Throughout, most of it is pretty punishing guitar stuff, and maybe that’s where I didn’t enjoy this album as much – was it too much? Not enough tender exploration?

Is it the track order? I listened again and again but I didn’t give up – the songs are fine, the album itself I get kinda bored by, and even then little stands out track to track through a full listen. I’m disappointed in myself for kinda being “ah what was that? was that it?” listening to a band I never get tired of otherwise. I will say that there are albums by bands I love(d) where I just stopped checking them out completely. Megadeth’s Risk, Fear Factory’s Digimortal…I could go on, where I just said “meh, no more from these guys,” and they’ve released plenty I’m sure I should jump on again and be happy. But it could also be a matter of “I used to be really into this, but by the time these awful album in their catalog appeared, I had possibly outgrown my interest in that kind of music anyway.” (“Hey,” says the post metal hipster, “Fear Factory? really?” then they point and laugh at my love for pseudo industrial metal.) I don’t feel that way about Pelican, and I might have a mood that this particular album wasn’t worth a 6 year wait, and I hopefully don’t have to wait another 6 years for what I hope is something a little more interesting, as a whole.

It’s still worth checking out and I think most Pelican fans other than myself (I don’t see anyone disappointed) enjoy Nighttime Stories. If you’re new and trust my opinion, start with Untitled EP and City Of Echoes and mill about there. It’s easy to find something to like. I bought Fire In The Throats for Jesse when he visited and he (says he) liked it. Their last album, Forever Becoming, the first without a founding member who also wrote most of the previous material, was FANTASTIC. I was worried then it wouldn’t have the same impact, but they delivered. I think Nighttime Stories is better than Austrailasia so at least for me it has that going for it. I have guilt for not liking this album as much as I should. I’m definitely headbanging to most of the stuff as I listen again but in previous listens I’ve skipped a lot. I’m disappointed in that it’s not as good as I hoped or compared to other albums I personally love, yet I’m in it for the long haul so hopefully we get more music out of them soonish.

You can check out, and purchase, albums from the band directly here. Oops, gotta mention: they have TWO bandcamp sites, this one here features their newer albums, including Nighttime Stories. Visit both sites & buy their stuff.

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