The major component that turns most people away from black and/or death metal is the vocals. People will cover their ears and say something like "God, how can you stand that infernal screaming?", or "What they hell are they doing to that guy?". Simple logic therefore tells us that if we were to strip each genus of its syllabic histrionics, the average listener would have no reason to disavow heavy metal. Like some megalithic math equation come to life, Chicago quartet Pelican have done exactly that, stripping metal down to its instrumental core in order to wrench every last drop of silvery goodness from its distended belly.
If you described Australasia as Hum on black metal pryloquin, or Isis gone titanic metal slumming, you wouldn't be far off. At the same time, such assessments only serve to limit the extent of Pelican's ambition. Theirs is the most colossal resonance you're likely to hear all year -- a dense, pulsating mass of relentless guitar firepower and pin-drop rhythmic accuracy that shifts like tectonic plates, yet remains as beautifully fragile as a newly-formed glacier. Fully expounding upon the intensity and magnificence they wield is a bit like trying to lasso a lake (seemingly, impossibly difficult); much like forebears My Bloody Valentine and Opeth, they're truly a "hear and believe" type of band.
The heaving guitars and dripping molasses cadence of "Rightendday" feels like someone pushing a mountain onto your chest, a hypnotic drone slowly ascending into a stratospheric wall of sound that's both enigmatically awe-inspiring and completely impenetrable. The terse acoustic guitars of the untitled fifth track are the respite Australasia offers; the rest of its landscape is dominated by dynamically explosive, battleship-sized guitar anthems like "Angel Tears" and "Drought". Nothing they unleash here is anything but gigantic; even their most accomplished contemporaries -- )) Sunn and Tarantula Hawk -- sound minuscule and blasé by comparison.
While the band's opaque walls of sound could well become a tedious and daunting affair when spread over an hour's time, the furious old-school bluster they bring to the proceedings drags their muse out of the abyss and into the cosmos. There are whiffs of Volume 4-era Black Sabbath in the title track's lumbering rhythms and spike-riffed guitars, and "GW" spirals around in a spectral haze reminiscent of bong-lords Sleep. The fact that Pelican emerged from a hardcore background makes them a better (and far less predictable) metal band, and a damn sight more intriguing than most of the so-called doom-metal outfits stalking the same terrain.
Whether you consider them a metal band for those who don't like metal, or a hardcore band weaned on black metal as opposed to Black Flag, Pelican are facing down the future with antagonistic aplomb -- something you can't really say about many outfits these days, metal or otherwise.