Pelican - What We All Come to Need
Southern Lord
8 songs (51'28")
Release year: 2009
Pelican, Southern Lord
Reviewed by Adam
Album of the month
When I read a quote that claimed Pelican’s new material is a return to their Australasia sound, from Greg Anderson no less, I have to admit to being pretty excited. Of course, I had to temper my excitement with the knowledge that Anderson is a little biased, being the boss of the band’s new label in Southern Lord. Still, I felt that City of Echoes, with its cleaner and brighter sound, was a bit of letdown, so any amount of harkening back to the earlier works would be welcome in my view. The new album in question is What We All Come to Need, and while it is not a complete return to Pelican’s first couple offerings, it is a decidedly heavier record that sounds more akin to The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw than the last album.

After working with Dylan Carlson of Earth on their recent EP Ephemeral, the boys in Pelican have apparently contracted a case of the collaboration bug, as the likes of Aaron Turner (Isis), Ben Verellen (Helms Alee), Allen Epley (The Life and Times), and the aforementioned Anderson (Sunn O)))) all make appearances. Verellen is the first, adding some bass on the opening track Glimmer, which sounds like it could have come right out of the sessions for The Fire in Our Throats… with its expansive and epic feel. Then again, with its clean approach, it has much in common with the City of Echoes sound as well. The rise in heaviness comes, not surprisingly, when Anderson makes his contribution on the following track The Creeper. After an opening that borrows a page from Earth and Sunn O))) style guitar drone, a distorted but light riff supplemented by an earth shattering bass leads you through the “verse” portions of the song, with an excellently heavy and doomy riff for the “chorus”. This is the style that Pelican pulls off best in my opinion. Thankfully continuing in this vein is Ephemeral, the darker and heavier rehash of the title track off the EP. If you have yet to hear the original, you’ll find a few differences from the standard fare. In particular, the inclusion of pounding muted riffs is a new wrinkle that works quite well if you ask me. Specks of Light is only slightly less heavy than the previous two, but the speed is dialed up as well, at least for the first half of the track. Unfortunately, its this latter slower half is where the track stalls for me, as I enjoyed some of the galloping leads and bass lines in the earlier moments, and the abruptness of the tempo switch just hit me all wrong. Bassist Bryan Herweg takes the songwriting reins on the next two tracks, Strung Up From the Sky and An Inch Above Sand. The former is dominated by some really heavy bass sounds, while the latter contains a deep lead towards the end that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. What they both lack in length (they are two of the shortest tracks on the album), they make up for in heaviness with some of the meatier riffs Pelican has unleashed in quite some time. I have a soft spot for the heavier parts of their arsenal, if I haven’t made that abundantly obvious by now, but I will admit that cleanly picked gallop on the title track outshines the louder moments, in no small part due to some excellent rolling fills by drummer Larry Herweg. This is also the track where Aaron Turner guests, with some looping soundboard work on the slowly fading end that has a nice trance effect to it. Of all these notable guest appearances though, Allen Epley’s is sure to make the most waves. Unlike all the others, his contribution is instantly noticeable. Why? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that his is the only vocal accompaniment. Yes, you read right, a Pelican track with vocals. Interestingly enough, Epley’s harmonized and smooth voice sounds not the least bit out of place. Other than his voice, everything sounds much like you would expect, with a deep and dark rhythm section providing the base for a soaring post rock guitar line. In fact, this is one of the better tracks on the album in my opinion. After the initial shock wears off, Epley’s voice settles right in and makes for one powerful and slowly burning epic track. I doubt that this signals the beginning of the Pelican with vocals era, but it is still a novel idea and its cool that they had the guts to go through with it.

After hearing What We All Come to Need, I’ve...uh…come to realize that Pelican is likely never going to truly return to the sound present on their self-titled EP or Australasia, but that is not really so bad. City of Echoes was too safe and standard in its overtly post rock style for my liking. While this album still retains some of that vibe, the return of the heavier riffs present on The Fire in Our Throats… to supplement the beauty of the calmer guitar work brings the band’s sound full circle. In addition, the inclusion of the guest appearances are fun to listen in for, and perhaps working with the likes of Carlson and Anderson has lent a darker tone to the band’s songwriting as well. Actually, the cover art is a nice microcosm of the album, as it has much in common with the soaring sky of The Fire in Our Throats…, but the “sea of blood” and bleak horizon visuals foretell that you are in for a much darker journey.
Killing Songs :
The Creeper, What We All Come to Need, Final Breath
Adam quoted 91 / 100
Other albums by Pelican that we have reviewed:
Pelican - Forever Becoming reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Pelican - Ataraxia - Taraxis reviewed by Alex and quoted no quote
Pelican - The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw reviewed by Daniel and quoted 96 / 100
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