It’s been four years since instru/post-metal heavyweights Pelican’s last record, Forever Becoming. Recent activity on the band’s Facebook page seems to indicate that they’re in the process of writing its follow-up with an eye towards having it ready for release some time next year. However, despite the absence of new music from the Illinois-based quintet—the lone exception being “The Wait,” from 2015’s mostly remix EP The Cliff—things haven’t been totally quiet in the Pelican camp. Last year, guitarist Trevor Shelley de Brauw got together with Locrian’s Sven Hess and Colin DeKuiper of Bloodiest for the very well received RLYR record, and he also released his first solo album, a collection of ambient guitar drone pieces called Uptown, earlier this year. Now it’s drummer Larry Herweg is set to release the first EP, simply titled I, from his new project INTRCPTR (I have no idea what he and de Brauw have against vowels, but I digress…), which sees him pairing with 5ive guitarist Ben Carr for five tracks of surprisingly catchy instru-metal.
While it may be a bit unfair, it’s pretty difficult to talk about a new record from anyone associated with Pelican without looking at it through the lens of their main band. In fact, it’s difficult to discuss any instru/post-metal record without bringing up Pelican because they’ve been the standard-bearers for that particular style for the better part of the last fifteen years, and for my money at least, their 2005 masterpiece The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw will forever be the definitive album of the genre. When it comes to their bands outside Pelican, though, Herweg seems to play with bands that sound different from his main gig as compared to de Brauw’s other projects. That’s not meant as a knock on de Brauw, though; instead, it’s more of an acknowledgement of how distinctive his style of playing is and how it’s become such in integral part of genre’s DNA. I compare just about every guitarist playing in a similar style to de Brauw, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. On the other hand, Herweg, while unquestionably just as vital to Pelican’s sound, has the more diverse outside resume, having also spent a few years with sludge/doom outfit Lair of the Minotaur and playing on the first (and probably best) album by the more radio-friendly riff rockers Æges, The Bridge.
INTRCPTR is probably the closest Herweg has come to mining the same territory that he does with Pelican in that both are instrumental bands. Om the whole, however, the music here feels looser, though it certainly doesn’t lack for drive. A lot of that has to with Carr’s playing style, which has some post-metal flavor to it but tends more towards desert/stoner rock territory and even evinces some psychedelic influence. There’s a bot more space in his playing style, and the song structures seem more open instead of following the pattern of building and releasing of tension before reaching a crescendo that’s so common in this type of music. The EP kicks off with the short, relatively straightforward post-metal of “Nightrider” before moving in an almost Karma to Burn-like direction with the groovy “Sandstorm” and wide-open vistas of “Turbines.” Closing track “Watchmaker” marries canyon-sized riffs a la Kyuss with a hella tasty, spaced-out lead guitar break. The highlight of I, though, is undoubtedly “Ruby.” Built around a slow, droning riff that reminds me more than a little bit of Brand New’s “Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis” (yes, I like emo – don’t @ me), the song eventually picks up in tempo before finally opening up into one of the heaviest sections on the record.
All in all, I is a really enjoyable little record that should more than satisfy fans of both Herweg and Carr’s main bands and fans of instru-metal in general. I really hope this doesn’t end up being just a one-off project, because I’d love to see what else these two musicians could do. A couple of Midwestern gigs at some point would be pretty welcome, too.
I will be available digitally on July 21 via Magic Bullet Records.