Following 2009’s threadbare What We All Come To Need, it was clear that Pelican needed a rest. The pioneering post-metal band didn’t just seem exhausted by its own intense schedule of writing, recording, and touring over the previous few years; metal itself had mutated wildly in the new millennium, and Pelican seemed upstaged by any number of hungrier, more focused outfits. It didn’t help that Pelican circa 2009 seemed just a little quaint. The cerebral, atmospheric sound of instrumental post-metal didn’t leave as much of a bruise as it once had, at least not compared to what so many metal upstarts had begun to peddle. To its credit, Pelican not only resisted the temptation to blacken, broaden, or otherwise overhaul its signature sound, it took that much-needed break between albums. A four-year break, to be precise. The Chicago quartet’s comeback is Forever Becoming, its fifth full-length. And a comeback it surely is.
There’s more metal on the album than any Pelican release to date—as if the group was intent on exploring both poles of its post-metal globe, a world whose equator used to be where Pelican mostly dwelled. More dynamics, more extremes, more shades of light and dark, of melody and atonality: Forever Becoming embraces all of it, as well as its own newfound, euphoric renewal. Metal, post- or otherwise, hasn’t gotten any simpler or less crowded over the past four years. But by stepping back and taking stock, Pelican has reconnected with what made it a pioneer in the first place: force, vision, and soul. — A.V. Club