Pelican The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw

[Hydra Head; 2005]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: stoner metal, doom metal, instrumental post rock
Others: Isis, Skullflower, Centaur, SunnO))), Hum, Explosions in the Sky

Being a fan of genres, be it in movie or music form, metal provides a fascinating case. A band can invoke the elements that make me cringe or pick up the sounds that make me want to give them a hug (albeit a violent, ugly hug.) Furthermore, metal bands seem to embrace the tag with pride rather than bands in other genres who are prone to using brilliant interview witticisms such as "I don't know... I like to think we're just a rock band;" but perhaps that is due to the fact that when you are tearing it up with harmonized lead guitars over a double kick drum, it's kind of hard to pretend you are anything but metal.

As such, Pelican, along with Isis, to my mind, bridge the gap between the sludgy metal of the Melvins and the epic composition of Explosions in the Sky or Godspeed You! Black Emperor. However, since we last heard Pelican on Australasia, the band has backed further away from metal. Take for example, the conclusion to the third part of their trio of really long songs (the more eloquent might call it a "suite") "March Into the Sea"; after numerous compositional twists and turns, repeated melodies, and discarded riffs, the guitars escalate and escalate, and just where old Pelican would have dropped the hammer and pounded out the central riff as loud and low as possible, the guitars turn to Sonic Youth-y noise and overwhelm the track as it concludes.

As such, spiting the climactic return to the central riff seems to be Pelican's "new thing", if you will. On the other hand, perhaps it's best not to use a negative to define their "new thing," so let's say, rather, that "more complex melodic resolution" is employed in lieu of the oh-so-underused "starting quiet than getting really loud later." Not that there aren't dynamics, rather Pelican have decided that they can do more than put a riff through the loud-soft machine. The only trouble is, occasionally, this leaves the band a bit meandering, most notably on the opening track "Last Day of Winter." While not a waste of time, it lacks both the effective melodic shifts of their new style and the effective dynamic shifts we knew and loved previously.

But where are the riffs at?? Fear not, dudez and dudettez, Pelican haven't completely given up the metal, they just dig it up in unexpected places. "Untitled" falls back on that old convention of "the acoustic one." In all seriousness, though, despite the lack of the distortion, the deep tones mixing with the spacious acoustic sound actually makes this the heaviest track on the album. While this may not satisfy those who loved Australasia for a song like "Drought," it is an interesting way for the band to keep one foot in the their generic roots. In the end though, The Fire In Our Throat is less a seamless blend of epic post-rock and metal, then a band that seems a little less sure of itself as it thwarts easy generic tags. Fortunately, Pelican's songwriting is strong enough that they can get away with it.

1. Last Day of Winter
2. Autumn Into Summer
3. March Into The Sea
4. Untitled
5. Red Ran Amber
6. Aurora Borealis
7. Sirius