Some things in life carry a level of excitement and anticipation that seems life-changing, almost transcendental: marriage; the birth of a child; a pilgrimage. It seems over-trivialising to compare the release of a Pelican album to any of the above, but after six long years, a new offering from the iconic post-Metal instrumentalists is akin to the herald of a new dawn. Nighttime Stories (Southern Lord Recordings) is an emotional, dramatic and involving as one would expect it to be.
Opener ‘WST’ is a pensive paean of guitar twangs, its powerful segments a resonant yet subtle grind of rhythm guitars and Larry Herweg‘s pummelling drums. The latter is also at the forefront of the ensuing ‘Midnight And Mescaline’, a mid-paced rocker with Dallas Thomas and Trevor de Brauw‘s wondrous lead and rhythm duels chiming like bells then revving alongside the mightiest of engines, while the fearsome bassline of Larry’s brother Bryan snarls menacingly below.
The quality setting Pelican apart from most other instrumental bands is the ability to link sweetness and dark as one. ‘Abyssal Plain’ has elements of post-Black and Prog power, the wrought storytelling of the strings exploding into a fulminating wall of battery, jagged melodies softening the impact of city-leveling rhythms. ‘Cold Hope’ is a more sinister beast, with industrial shards ripping brutally yet thoughtfully through the underbelly as the leads speak poignantly then pontificate wildly, howling into the skies, Larry’s drums booming through the mind.
The strikingly-titled ‘It Stared At Me’ is initially a slow prowl through minimalism: lead strings chiming against a constant rhythmic strum, the brooding pace set by the metronomic hammer of those sticks. That shuddering might returns to underpin the nightmares of the title track, a crushing journey through angry visions bossed by the glorious Thrash-like chug of rhythm guitars which play through movements of running and hiding, the cascading leads reflecting the fear. ‘Arteries Of Blacktop’ is a wall of sound like its predecessor: initially with a Doom sensibility, then breaking out into a speeding mass, the rush of the rapids careering down a mountain. Intricate, howling leadwork flicks and chicanes as the water shimmers in the sun, almost ceasing before storming forth in a slow surge of glory.
This segues delightfully into the moving early stages of ‘Full Moon, Black Water: an atmospheric, acoustic glide along a secluded waterway until the fire returns; still growling, but often with a ponderous sensitivity. When the menace re-emerges it’s with a stalking crawl, the tension building to unbearable levels before descending back to where we began: the delicate and haunting jangle of Indie strings. The whole album is authentic Pelican and joyously so: a vibrant melding of passion and emotion, always stirring and often euphoric. Thank God for this band.
8 / 10