Pelican - What We All Come to Need (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


What We All Come to Need (2009)

Southern Lord

Why did it take so long for me to review this album, you ask? Well, I kept waiting for the promo company to send me a lyrics sheet, but I never got one.

[insert rimshot / crickets chirping awkwardly]

In reality, I kept shuffling this disc to the bottom of my pile in the hopes that someone a little more qualified to review this would take up the task. I mean, I really like the Buzzcocks' "Walking Distance" and that nice little "doo-doo-doo-doo-do-do-do-doo" secret song after the Descendents' "Thank You." But when it comes to instrumental music of the stoner, post-metal sludge variety, I know just about as much as your average rube plucked off the street. So if anything, you can credit this review for its genuinely unbiased (and uninformed) reflections on all things related to this release.

Rather than attempting to go track-by-track describing the music of one sludgy stoner metal instrumental after another, I think this space would be more effectively spent on sweeping generalizations of the album as a whole. This makes even more sense given that each song is an average of six-and-a-half minutes long, moving through a diverse set of moods, melodies and timbre.

As a whole, Pelican's What We All Come To Need is a dark, brooding, passive-aggressive swirl of guitar-driven rock. The steady rhythms range from timekeepers to tempests, displaying everything from moments of prodding sludge in "The Creeper" to a punk rock tempo in the buildup during "Specks of Light."

Despite their Chicago roots, the wandering, ominous psychedelic post-metal of Pelican has a desert rock feel that goes further than the barreling crashes of "An Inch Above Sand." Where it does deviate, though, is on the album's best song, the riff-heavy and melodious title track. While the bulk of the record is a dark cloud of misanthropy, "What We All Come to Need" shines through like a heavenly beam of light bathed in major-scale ecstasy.

On the closer, "Final Breath," Pelican crawls out from their instrumental pigeonhole, as former Shiner frontman Allen Epley croons along with a ghostly disposition to the jagged, staggering rhythm. It's an interesting way of rounding out an album that also features the guitar work of stoner metal stalwarts Greg Anderson (Sunn O))), Goatsnake, Lotus Eaters) and Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom, House of Low Culture, etc.).

While it's not something I'm going to pull out for a drive to the beach or afternoon skate session, What We All Come to Need is a solid rock album with a dark, almost symphonic feel of layered guitars and crashing walls of sound. With eight songs in 50 minutes, it puts your attention span to the test, but rewards you in the end with overpowering riffs and tumultuous crescendos.