Pelican, in brief
"If we had some big burly man in front screaming, we'd be classified as metal," Pelican bassist Bryan Herweg told the Ottawa Sun last year. "If we had some scrawny guy, we'd be emo. As it is, no one can pin us down."
It's hard to argue with Herweg's logic, yet I can't help thinking this instrumental rock band would be well served by the kind of presence only vocal cords can muster. Perhaps a series of collaborations with various vocalists is in order?
Even if nobody lends their singing to Pelican's punishing riffs, the band continues to be one of the more inventive presences on the instrumental rock circuit, which makes their show at Ravari Room - Pelican's only Ohio tour stop - one of this fall's most anticipated live music events.
Pelican indeed branches out in countless directions. The title track to last year's City of Echoes finds them grafting shards of melody into a harmonic pogo before descending into a bass-driven crunch. "Lost in the Headlights" starts out much more traditionally metal, with foreboding riffs and nasty pinch harmonics tempered by some video game-worthy pop excursions and a few moments of sobriety.
Yes, Pelican is definitely hard to pin down, to an almost detrimental extent. But in the hands of such talented players, such restless creativity will always be more of an asset than a liability.