REVIEWED: Pelican's 'Nighttime Stories'
In the grand scheme of post-metal, all things are cyclical. In fact you could say it's the defining trait. Pelican follow this too: bone-crushingly disciplined and tight sludge riffs wordlessly pounding like stormy water on the rocks of the psyche characterised their earlier work. However they truly came into themselves with the landmark 'The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw', which effortlessly shifted moods, melody and tempo to be the full rounded package of major key riffs that swooped and soared like the titular bird; each a perfect cross-country journey.
However, after follow-ups 'City Of Echoes' and 'What We All Come To Need', they once again changed tack – slightly. Last full release 'Forever Becoming' was a sleek rock beast that was once again packed with riffage, but this was a much more concise affair, barrelling along but determined to pack as many cool riffs in as well, taking full advantage of the spiralling leads but otherwise you still feel like you're flying free through the great outdoors. As you might have gleaned from the title alone, 'Nighttime Stories' is an altogether darker affair. While opener 'WST' is a lullaby-like herald, acoustic guitar lingering like a candle flickers, before 'Midnight and Mescaline' slams in with a snare and a belligerent snarl. There's a real sense of menace, the riffs have teeth and it's a major thrill ride; just Pelican at their best. Imagine a version of Karma To Burn, strip away the moonshine and instead substitute Gaia's rage and you'll get some way there.
Or not. It seems scaring the crap out of us is their raison d'etre today: 'Abyssal Plain' has rapid tremolo picking and blast beats that seemingly pounce out of the shadows upon a hip-swinging riff and feasting on the carcass with great delight. 'It Stared At Me' is an ominous pitch-black post -punk burner, that makes you aware just how massive the dark is around us. Especially when scary fuckers like the title track and 'Full Moon, Black Water' are lurking like a particularly malevolent thundercloud overhead, with that thick heavy guitar tone that heralds very much back to their early self-titled and 'Australasia', only with a clearer production and songwriting experience that enhances the experience. For anyone used to their more optimistic work 'Nighttime Stories' will come as a shock, but this is Pelican coming home to roost that has become even more terrifying and unpredictable since they took flight.
'Nighttime Stories' is out now on Southern Lord