Album Review: Pelican – ‘Nighttime Stories’

Lullabies to paralyze

The last time Pelican put an album out, there was still only one Avengers movie. A lot has happened to the members of the Chicago/L.A. instru-metal quartet since then—side and solo projects, the deaths of family members and former bandmates, the birth of children. It’s heavy stuff. And Nighttime Stories is a heavy record. Maybe their heaviest to date, despite its titular promise of soothing sleepytime music.

With titles taken from lyrics by Jody Minnoch (the late frontman of guitarist Trevor de Brauw’s Tusk project), compositions by newest member Dallas Thomas (of the Swan King) and production courtesy of Sanford Parker (who helmed their first two releases), their sixth LP is both a look at where they’ve been and a guide towards the future.  It also reminds us that they know how to rock. Outside of the understated opener “W.S.T.” (in honor of Thomas’ father, who also passed away during the writing sessions) and mellow interstitial “It Stared at Me,” they’re on full blast here. Whether it’s the guitar heroics of “Midnight and Mescaline,” the mathematically discordant “Arteries of Blacktop” or the scream-less sludge of the title track, they show that, in order to have post-metal, you need metal first. It can be oppressive, but it’s never boring.

The amount of emotion they invested into this release shows. It may be a half dozen years since they last put out a full statement like this, but Pelican prove as articulate as ever, even without words.

Review taken from the July 2019 issue of Decibel.