It becomes fitting, upon listening to Pelican’s music, that the band hails from Chicago. When Tortoise and their contemporaries ushered in a new wave of instrumental music over a decade ago from the Windy City, it was a pastiche of genre-defying sound, simultaneously cohesive and expansive in influence. Similarly, Pelican’s songs touch on so much from the canon of rock music. Yet they have refined their own sound over the course of their career—perhaps nowhere as progressively and courageously as on their third full-length, City of Echoes.
Now, with City of Echoes, a new step in Pelican’s evolution is unveiled. However, this new album doesn’t depict a shift as much as it exemplifies maturation. Growth is in the sharpened and charged delivery, and the clarity that the band’s dynamics are finally afforded. Pelican has always reveled in textured progressions, but this new album showcases more twists and unexpected turns; songs with more of a narrative or lyrical feel. And as evidenced by the post-DC-punk influenced title track, the band’s disparate influences are urgently clear—Failure and Jawbreaker are now easier reference points, thanks to a stellar recording by Andrew Schneider (Keelhaul, Cave In, Old Man Gloom). Fans of the band’s heavier side won’t be disappointed, though, with behemoths like “Dead Between the Walls” and “Bliss in Concrete.” And whereas past recordings seemed to push forward Laurent Schroeder-Lebec and Trevor de Brauw’s dynamic guitar playing, this album finds the rhythm section of brothers Larry and Bryan Herweg more exhilarating and present than ever before. “Far From Fields,” “Lost in the Headlights” and “Spaceship Broken – Parts Needed”—songs inspired by spending months criss-crossing the country in a van—show Larry and Bryan finding exceptional new ways to drive the songs as a whole, rather than simply backing the guitar lines.
With a heavy-handed approach and a sound that crashes like thunder, HIGH ON FIRE has put the power back in ‘power-trio’. Less a band than a supersonic exercise in conquest by volume and sheer heaviness, the band has burned the metal rulebook and forged a new archetype.
HIGH ON FIRE was formed by guitarist Matt Pike in late summer 1998. Formed out of the need to simply play guitar again, Pike jammed with and settled on a line-up of powerhouse drummer Des Kensel and longtime guitarist friend George Rice, who made the switch to bass to round out the trio.