Pelican What We All Come to Need
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02. The Creeper
04. Specks of Light
05. Strung up from the Sky
06. An Inch Above Sand
07. What We All Come to Need
08. Final Breath
Reviewed by: Nick
// Published: 1/5/2010
After a long run on Hydra Head Records, Pelican seemed to be in need of a change. It could have been the general restlessness that tends to drive bands to seek out other label options as their career progresses. It could have been the desire to distance themselves from the post-rock tinged City of Echoes (which although it is still a good record, the test of time revealed it to be the clear front runner for the 'weak link of the discography' award). Or it could have been inspired by the fact that even though the group has grown to be an instrumental metal/rock household name, the band members are still very much interested in surrounding themselves with a roster of darker, more inaccessible acts that a label like Southern Lord could provide. I'm going to go out on a not-so-dangerous limb of assumptions and take a guess that it's a combination of all three.
The great news is that What We All Come to Need is a confident step back in the direction of pre-City of Echoes Pelican, a feat that is deserving of a fair amount of congratulatory high fives. The return of a songwriting style that's more riff-centric and more focused on slower, organic progressions feels quite natural in comparison to the up-tempo rock leanings of the last record. "Ephemeral" might be the best example, as it flows effortlessly through a series of thick, precisely executed riffs before transitioning into a passage of winding guitar lines and warm bass tones. "The Creeper" sports one of Pelican's most cleverly written chord progressions at the 2:30 mark, helping to make the track a memorable standout. The title-track is the disc's most melodic effort, but thanks to layers of warm distortion and tasteful guitar leads, it serves as an excellent step in winding down the album.
The big surprise comes with the closing track, "Final Breath," and the inclusion of The Life and Times' Allen Epley for a guest vocals slot. From an instrumentation perspective, the song is fairly uneventful, but Epley's brooding singing gives it a great shot of unexpected innovation, ultimately causing it to stand out as the record's best track. It's quite an interesting move on the band's part -- primarily due to their previous light-hearted confronting of critics' request for an additional band member (see their video for "Lost in the Headlights") -- and quite frankly, it begs the question: why don't they create an entire record like this What We All Come to Need is an excellent record, but it still won't eclipse the influence that records like Australasia and The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw had upon the instrumental metal/rock community. But if they crafted a release utilizing well-placed vocals similar to Epley's, it could end up as another career-defining record. That's the bigger picture that I'd love to see with Pelican. Make it happen.
Bottom Line: From a focused perspective, Pelican's What We All Come to Need is a superb addition to their catalog and manages to pick up some of the slack accrued from their last full-length by returning to better riffs and more organically developing songwriting. But if you view the album from a higher level, it's apparent that its greatest aspect (Allen Epley's vocals on the closing track) represents an unrealized potential for greatness. Don't fight the vocals. Embrace them, and perhaps create a landmark record in the process.
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