CONTROLLED INSTRUMENTAL CHAOS: Even after six years between albums and writing and recording their first album with guitarist Dallas Thomas (who replaced founding member Laurent Schroeder-Lebec), pioneering instrumental merchants Pelican have lost nary a step on their latest release, Nighttime Stories, showcasing time and again why they are the kings of heavy instrumentation.
The hard rock leaning “Midnight and Mescaline” comes laced with an underlying sense of dread and danger, and the seven minute “Cold Hope” is an opus of heavily fuzzed out sludgy riffs that crescendos and bottoms out, crashing down upon the listener like a tidal wave, before the utterly serene “It Stared at Me” welcomes a much needed cooling off point, a necessary comedown awash in tranquil notes. That sense of security proves to be false however, a brief respite of calm before the storm, as the following “Nighttime Stories” returns us to our regularly scheduled program of doom and gloom. This is a Pelican record remember.
All the grime and foreboding tones come rushing back on the title track as you plummet into another valley of this emotional roller coaster. The subsequent “Arteries of Blacktop” ratchets up the pace while still serving up breakdowns galore courtesy of the band’s dynamic six string section of Thomas and Trevor de Brauw. The standout “Full Moon, Black Water” features all of the album’s best aspects over the course of its eight minutes—intricate and precise ax work, a cacophony of crashing symbols, and heavy, sustained guitar refrains, all built around moments to catch your breath. This album is heavy as hell, but it’s not just for metal heads. ~ Brian Campbell