Photos by Marfa Capodanno
I first saw Pelican perform live in 2006 as part of their City of Echoes tour and I always felt that it was City of Echoes that found the band settling to a particular tone and modus operandi. Carrying over the heavier elements of Australasia and the ethereal post-rock presence of The Fire In Our Throat Will Beckon The Thaw, Pelican found had uncovered the post-metal sweet spot. Heavy guitars, pummeling drums and a towering bassline came together to mould this heavy rock informed post-metal opus. It was the level of balance that Pelican had found in City of Echoes that continues to define them to this day, and it is refreshing and at the same time stunning to see that they still follow the power of the riff. So, there was no way I was going to miss them now, touring in support of their new record Nighttime Stories, alongside heavy, shoegaze act Slow Crush.
Slow Crush has definitely chosen the appropriate name to describe their sound. The band from Belgium comes to the stage in a mesmerizing setting highlighted by the impressive purple lights and the heavy smoke. The presentation sets a thick and hazy atmosphere, and for the first couple of tracks it constructed a quite overwhelming sensory experience. The band was mostly veiled through this fog, and at the same time their heavy, all encompassing sound was creating a warmly, smothering performance. Slow Crush is a very interesting specimen of a modern shoegaze act, managing to inherit much of the tradition of the heavy indie scene of the ‘90s, yet embrace it in such a way as to make it their own. Through their set they showcased exactly that, managing to incorporate the extreme shoegaze perspective, taking advantage of all the effects in their disposal to create an astounding wall of sound, while not forgetting the intricacies of dream pop music and its ethereal touch. And even though for most of their performance Slow Crush relied on this otherworldly manifestation they also unleashed a couple of moments of absolute heavy bliss, with their distorted guitars merging with an almost punk-ish approach. Never forgetting their pop sensibilities, the band always makes sure that the next hook is always more intoxicating than the last. Definitely check them out, their debut record Aurora is an absolute dream in the best way possible.
And it is time for the headliners and they do not disappoint. Pelican come to the stage in the most astounding way offering two openers from their last two records. “Deny the Absolute” is simply terrifying, the guitars of Trevor de Brauw and Dallas Thomas in perfect symphony unleashing the heavy riffs forth, while Bryan and Larry Herweg lead the way through the volatile structures of the track. “Midnight and Mescaline” contains the same energy and aesthetic as “Deny the Absolute”, but it is bounded by an underlying elusive nature. The melodies display a touch of nostalgia and a subtle hallucinogenic dose that gives the track a much different flavour and opens the way for what soon follows. The lion’s share of the set if of course defined by Pelican’s latest work Nighttime Stories, and “Abyssal Plain” comes just in time to offer its erratic switches. The tilt from the heavy rock riffs, full of groove and movement to the caustic blastbeats are perfected with the whole venue crumbling under these explosive alterations. The fantastic ride carries on through some of the band’s heaviest work with “Nighttime Stories” and its monolithic riffs taking over, with the band even offering a small surprise performing the B-side of their “Midnight and Mescaline” single, “Darkness on the Stairs”. Following their darker theme the track evolves through weaving veiled riffs before reaching its towering presence and seamlessly devour the entire venue through its sheer weight. From that point on everything becomes a blur, tracks melting in one another, with Forever Becoming and Midnight and Mescaline becoming a singular entity as the delicate melodies of “Immutable Dusk” with its fantastical build up and the fast paced “Vestiges” collide with the eerie sense of “Full Moon, Black Water” and the punishing rendition of “Cold Hope”. The band leaves the stage only to return and offer a final goodbye with “Arteries of Blacktop” leaving everyone speechless. It is fantastic to see that in their almost 20 year history Pelican remain dedicated to the power of the riff and embrace it completely in their live performances. On stage they are fully immersed in the performance, possessed by the energy of post-hardcore and the rage of heavy rock, and that does not look like it is going to cease anytime soon.