Let’s play a little game. Imagine the heaviest band you can and then imagine the most beautiful band (sound wise) you can. You know, heavy as in that it makes your stomach curl round your spine in fear and squashes you against the wall like a bug. Beautiful in the sense that you feel a huge lump in your heart and tears rushing to your eyes. Ok, and now combine those bands into one and what you have there is PELICAN.
PELICAN’s debut EP earlier this year was already enough to make me a diehard fan of the band. It totally blew my mind with its combination of extreme heaviness, slowly building epic melodies and absolutely no vocals. And no vocals is actually a great thing for without the distraction of a vocalist PELICAN is free to build songs without the compelling need to write choruses or distinct verses and are able to showcase their immense musical abilities. All in all it was one of the most original sounds I had heard in a long while and it left me with a deep yearning to hear a full-length from these guys. And guess what, the full-length is even better! It’s got all the elements that made the EP such a lovable experience and so much more.
“Australasia” picks up from where the EP left off, literally. The EP began with shorter songs and ended with the grandiose 13-minute “The Woods”. “Australasia” starts off right away with the 11-minute, heavy, epic and beautiful “NightEndDay”. The song is just amazing and those 11 minutes go by like that. It’s full of lush melodies, atmospheric beauty and still heavy as a 10 ton lead weight.
“Drought” builds up slowly like GODSPEED meets NEUROSIS. Its repetitive riffs get under my skin and enthrals me but still it seems to be always changing a fragment by fragment until fully breaking loose into a mind blowing mammoth-like riffage after the five minute mark. But as if that’s not enough there have all along been these subtle pieces of melody layered over the thunderous guitar attack that are just the icing of the cake. This song is the perfect example of why I love PELICAN so much.
“GW” was written in the loving memory of Gary Weber and I just have to say if such a song was written in my memory I’d be one extremely pleased deceased. The song is the shortest one on the album with only 3 and a half minutes but nevertheless it is just as superb as any other track on the CD. “ ” is a rather peaceful breather with acoustic guitars and introducing a rarely used instrument, the singing saw. The sound of it is hard to describe, kinda like a mournful violin. Its eerie sound is a great addition however and adds a little bit of extra enchantment to this tranquil song.
And then, the title track drones through the speakers with incredible heaviness and PELICAN’s trademark guitar tones. Slowly gathering power like a gathering storm that you know will eventually turn into a huge hurricane. And just like there’s calm before the maelstrom the song gets in a tranquil haven before going out in a beautiful blast of heaviness. The riff that picks up pace like climbing up a ladder here is simply ingenious. And this is how the song progresses, a calm spot before a storm of heaviness until breaking free of the pattern after the 7 minute mark. Here the song turns into a mellow guitar driven passage while the drums slowly pick up pace again and going out with a blast. Simply amazing.
Thinking of “Australasia” as a whole the biggest change compared to the EP is that this is more mature and has more melodies. The EP had them aplenty but somehow there just seems to be more of them on the full-length. Subtle, epic, beautiful melodies that are just… wow! But it’s still heavy enough to punch your liver through your spine. And this is exactly what makes PELICAN stand out from any other band. The ability to be so goddamn heavy and still so very beautiful at the same time is a very, very rare gift. Mind you it’s not the kind of heaviness you usually get, I mean everyone can just put the pedal to the metal on distortion and/or crank it up with double bass. No, PELICAN’s kind of heaviness is a more organic one. If it wouldn’t sound too weird I’d describe it as the musical equivalent of a vast landmass in movement. It’s enormous, slow, overwhelming and all-encompassing. Another perk is that even though there are a lot of repetitive riffs and the pace of the songs is normally not that hasty PELICAN is always able to keep up the interest, keeps the listener nailed to the seat so to speak. And that is achieved by the feeling that the songs are always moving. Going from place A to place B, picking up pace little by little, turning into something else bit by bit. Slowly but never too sluggishly. Not to mention the fact that when the song reaches this place B, or the highlight of the song, it is definitely going to be something amazing so it’s absolutely worth it (not that the actual travelling wouldn’t be a reward enough in itself). And one more great thing about PELICAN is that this works equally well as an aggression venting music and as headphones music. There’s always something new to be found with each repeated spin. All this and more is what makes PELICAN such a unique band and one of the most promising bands to shake up the Metal music industry.
If you like bands like GODSPEED, NEUROSIS and ISIS you can add PELICAN to that list as well. If you like music in general try this one out. Hell actually what I mean to say is that recommendations are trivial. You have to… no, you NEED to hear this. Now! (Online February 16, 2004)