Pelican – Untitled EP

5 out of 5

Label: Hydra Head

Produced by: Sanford Parker (recorded by)

It was a little after when I’d first discovered hardcore label Hydra Head, and while I’d spent some time picking up back catalogue releases by known quantities – Cave In, Botch – Pelican’s EP was one of a few that I picked up as they came out, without any awareness of what it’d sound like.

Since I’d come to expect math metal from my limited HH sampling, I was a little put off by opener Pulse on the EP, as it seemed pretty dang basic.  Just some feedback.  Leading in to Mammoth, I appreciated the appearance of guitars, but again – the pace was slow, sludgy.  And then the drums come in.

This was the loudest dang thing I’d ever heard.

Mammoth is kind of a little sloppy – there’s some drumming that, no matter how often I hear it, still sounds off – but god damn does its rattling abilities on speakers never wear thin.  It surpasses its simplicity with its heft and darkness.  Followup Forecast for Today is even better, taking that impact and moving it out of the mire into rock, and making it clear that the comparative compositional minimalism of the first two tracks was very much on purpose and not due to lacking skills.  There’s even a badass breakdown towards the end, before a final stunning smashing of all noise barriers.  And then The Woods, which does it all together, climbing from stoner stomp into a cacophanous slaughtering of instruments over its ebbing and flowing epic 13 minutes.  Now sold on the album’s awesomeness, Pulse is, of course, the perfect lead-in to Mammoth’s mammoth low-end stomp, which in turn leads perfectly into the disc’s following tracks.

On the back of multiple repeats of the EP, Hydra Head blossomed into a definite source of new and experimental metal for me; Pelican became one of my favorite bands; their live show became one of the few live shows that I felt was worth it; and the EP became an ultimate comparison point for what heavy instrumental metal can sound like.  The group has softened up over the years, producing some amazing work along the way, but I still look to this EP as the perfect distillation of what I want from this genre…