Throughout four albums, Pelican rode the border between post-rock and metal. Thick grey fog rolled in from the former, partially obscuring the evils that crawled up through the cracked ground on the latter. With the departure of founding guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec, these Chicagoans had to do some reinventing in the creation of Forever Becoming. Four years after their last LP, that shift finds the quartet separating the crisp metal pounding from the mist.
That isn’t to say that Forever Becoming is the stuff of rippling barbarians doing battle with goblins as painted on the sliding door of a van. The rhythms certainly still groan and drone, Larry Herweg’s cymbals splashing out in overlapping waves, Bryan Herweg providing a crumbling plain of distorted bass. But after an ineffective ambient opener, the riffy “Deny the Absolute” relies on Trevor de Brauw and newcomer Dallas Thomas, their guitars glinting like unsheathed swords. Without a second thought, the full band chug out some unified lightning strikes on “The Tundra”, and “Vestiges” hits upon a guitar progression nearer to the Foo Fighters than might be expected.
The other end of the Pelican spectrum is represented in equal doses on Forever Becoming. “The Cliff” ends having jumped off, airy guitar gliding over the top of minimal cymbal. Ironically, a section of “Immutable Dusk” rides on shimmering guitar and rim-clicking percussion. Closer “Perpetual Dawn” spends a large part of its nine and a half minutes on empty-set guitar wavering, evoking the peace of its title. When the bass and drums crack back into the picture and begin to pummel, though, they again signal what could be an entirely separated movement; the transition between the two feels a bit abrupt.
Though not as resonant as Pelican’s material that better blended their two strengths, Forever Becoming nonetheless carries both. Pelican deliver an album that shows little of the rust that should come with a four-year absence and the loss of a key component of their core. If this is starting over, the putting the pieces together is a lot easier than coming up with the pieces in the first place.
Essential Tracks: “Vestiges”, “The Tundra”