Three cheers for “Los Angeles-based purveyor of all things heavy,” The Power of the Riff, for completely blowing Tuesday, August 16th out of the water. Pelican play at The Mezzanine along with heavy metal heroes Pentagram, Alpinist, Masakari, Early Graves, Baptists and Aeges.

Pelican have been playing post-rock doom-ish, metal-ish, prog-ish, sludge for ten years. Why all the –ish? Because they are a damn hard band to define. The band is truly genre defying, pirates of sound and repudiators of category. All this from an instrumental band from Chicago? Yes. Formed by guitarists Trevor de Brauw and Laurent Schroeder-Lebec and sibling rhythm section Bryan Herweg on bass and Larry Herweg on drums, the band signed to Hydra Head Records in 2001, run by Aaron Turner of Isis, and were heavily influenced by that particular style of progressive, expansive experimentation. This style was – at that time – a newer genre; one that Isis had helped to define and Pelican took the ball and ran the fuck away with it. Says de Brauw on the topic:

“I don’t think of Pelican as a metal band… I feel like we’re part of a trajectory of Midwest bands that kind of blend aggression with a pop sensibility, so while it’s easy to classify us with instrumental bands, we’re not instrumental by design. We just didn’t know how to put vocals in our music and for it to sound right.”

That sounds just about right, though I have a hard time using pop to describe a band that can lay down riffs as crushingly brutal as Pelican, but it is true that there are elements of their music, especially on their later releases such as 2009’s What We All Come To Need (Southern Lord), that are downright catchy. There are lines that are quite lovely, and whole songs that lead the listener through an entire spectrum of emotion without losing an ounce of edge or an inch of weight. The songs are, essentially, metal whether the band like it or not, and whether guided by aggression or pop sensibility, they have managed to create a perfect balance of all the elements that put the post in post-rock and metal. They are thinking beyond their means, playing above the standard abilities of the genres and creating an expanse of sound, a sonic unknown, that is leading their peers and fans alike. I have not seen a line-up like this in a while. For the true believers this is a metal show not to be missed.

Pelican play at The Mezzanine on Tuesday, August 16th alongside Pentagram, Alpinist, Masakari, Early Graves, Baptists and Aeges. Doors are at 6:30, tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door and the show is 21+.


Photo Credits: Marty Watson