Don’t think of Pelican as being an experimental/post hardcore, hard rock, or progressive metal four piece from Chicago. Think of them as being an uncolored photograph surrounded by bright paintings.
Pelican use guitars, bass, and drums, so they are, essentially, like most every other rock band. Except they’re missing one thing: a singer (who brings color to the music). And, even though the lack of color won’t grab your attention right away and may even bore some fans continuously, there are many advantages to being a colorless picture. This way, you can focus on the art itself, be mesmerized by its subtleties, and not be distracted by the loud, sometimes dominating and overbearing colors. And it’s not like this group’s second release, “The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw,” is monochomatic by any means. On the contrary, the guitars, drums, and bass make the music come to life and almost leap off of the page (and out of your headphones). Plus, the use of acoustic guitars gives this album some needed texture, contrast, and splashes of light.
“The Fire…” certainly doesn’t skimp on riffs, as most of these songs are at least partially heavy. These parts of the songs usually echo Burst or Mastodon; but there are just as many melodic and Isis-esque atmospheric moments to offset them. Furthermore, many of these songs are a little of each, since they start out slowly and build to a heavy crescendo.
“Last Day of Winter” begins this album with the sound of serene guitar feedback backed by a crashing, reverberating drum beat. From there, the song becomes increasingly noisy before fading out and eventually becoming occupied by pretty acoustic guitar plucking. “Autumn Into Summer” is similar to the track previous to it. It begins with light, dwindling strings and slow drumming, but it gradually becomes faster and climaxes with crunchy, churning riffs.
At eleven and a half minutes long, “March to the Sea” is one of the lengthiest track on this record. It’s mostly one speed, and its lumbering power chords and thumping drums also make it the hardest song. But, conversely, the very next track, “Red Ran Amber,” which has two squeaky clean acoustic guitars, is one of the prettiest and most docile tunes you’ll find on here.
Next, “Aurora Borealis” features a few more semi-heavy guitar hooks which transition into a wall of ear-drum piercing guitar feedback, and the song ends by segueing into a dreamy string arrangement.
Song number six, “Sirius,” is mainly a very low key and spacey number, due to its beautifully ambient acoustic strums. Lastly, the seventh track (a hidden track), continues in the same vein as the song that came before it, until about two minutes in (when the punching electric guitars storm back onto the scene and close out the album.
“The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw” isn’t for everybody. Even though it goes up and down in volume, it definitely does not follow the traditional verse-chorus-verse song structures. Plus, most of these songs will seem a bit anti-climatic at first. If you don’t like either of these things, or if you think you’ll be frustrated without a vocalist, this disc is not for you. But if you’re willing to expand your horizons, listen to this album more than once, and try something unconventional and innovative, don’t be surprised by the surprisingly rewarding results “The Fire…” gives you.
Even I can’t help but wonder what Pelican might sound like with a singer; but, all in all, this band needs a frontman about as much as a painter needs a piece of chalk.