Two years ago I had this epic night of music, fresh from a trip to Chicago and my first ever Cold Waves experience the previous week I doubled down on my Industrial live experience and caught KMFDM and Ohgr once again but bailed early to walk down the street to catch Pelican who easily won the night with this intensely savage set that was like an reintroduction to a band with this raging fire within them.
A year later I’d see them in Los Angeles for the Caleb Scofield benefit and, even as somber and introspective as the night was, their set stood out and brought an excitement that elevated the evening that would later feature a former Boston outfit reuniting as Celestial and many more surprises.
But I digress.
Kids, Pelican is back and they mean business. One of the coolest things when listening through Nighttime Stories is hearing these songs that I’ve already heard live a few times now and being able to put a name to the sounds (Like “putting a name to the face” only not).
“WST” is the perfect reintroduction to the Chicago quartet with equal sounds emitting a feeling of something ominous, foreboding, and even mystical at times driven by acoustic guitars. Pelican remain a vocal-less band that says so much without saying anything, y’know? Next, listeners get “Midnight and Mescaline” which was the first taste of this beast of the new record and is all that and a bag of chips.
I have this theory about perfect albums and how they open which I really started thinking about after Soundgarden’s Down On The Upside was released in 1996. The first track needs to draw you in. It’s either the lead single (Like “Pretty Noose” was) or some rabble rouser or some way out there piece that’ll entice listeners to keep on keepin’ on. It’s the second track that’s the most important, though. You see, this is the one that needs to keep listeners in their seats…or at least in the vicinity of the speakers (You can get up and dance around the room if you feel the need) like “Rhinosaur” did with barely three minutes of just compelling mid-tempo rawk.
But back to Pelican! Nighttime Stories checks both those boxes with their one-two punch of an opening salvo. And the most perfect of albums? Those are the ones that get even better as you get deeper in. Like this one.
Like “Abyssal Plain” and Larry Herweg’s intense drumming which, at times, is bordering on Black Metal and blast beat territory before going psychedelic, getting heavy again, then throttling listeners with the full power of Trevor de Brauw and Dallas Thomas’ guitar fury. Or like “It Stared at Me” which is a moody little ditty with spacey guitars, Bryan Herweg’s bass drone humming serenely, and Larry brewing subtle intensity with his bass drum hits.
Later on, the title track immediately brings to mind the sheer heaviness of the monolithic Australasia while “Arteries of Blacktop” churns out a good old riff wallopin’ and “Darkness” follows suit with a steamroller of riffage and chugging. But in between those two, “Full Moon, Black Water” offers that lengthy aural journey Pelican fans clamor for highlighting the brothers’ Herweg, de Brauw, and Thomas in their natural environment: crafting and executing masterful songs and just plain rawkin’!