Pelican's music tough to categorize

ALLAN WIGNEY - Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 3:31 AM ET

You'll hear their name spoken in hushed tones by stoner-rock fans, prog-rock fans, instrumental-band fans, metalheads, psychedelic-rock fans and, well, the list goes on. Much to the members of the Chicago-based quartet Pelican's amusement.

"It's flattering, really," bassist Bryan Herweg says of the double-digit number of genres that have been attached to his instrumental band's complex compositions.

"I take that as nobody being able to classify what we're doing. I really don't want to be fixed in one genre."

Even as early as the band's 2003 self-titled debut EP, there was little chance of that happening.

Boasting an overpowering sound that picks up cues from heavy colleagues like Neurosis and Isis (the latter of whom played a key role in bringing Pelican to the masses), the quartet confidently changes styles and time-signatures at will, crafting epic post-metal musical journeys that sound only like Pelican.

'Twas not always the case for the music of Herweg's bandmates -- Trevor de Brauw, Laurent Lebec and Larry Herweg.

As members of Tusk, the trio played (and continue to play) music that falls into the grindcore category.

They launched Pelican with Larry's little brother Bryan as a non-genre-specific side project.

"They used to practise upstairs in my parents' house," Herweg relates.

"And we started playing together and realized it would have to be something different. For one thing, I would never join a grind band."

Nor did any of the four intend to take the role of vocalist. Hence, Herweg suggests, Pelican could be whatever it wanted to be.

"I think there are limitations that come with having a vocalist," he notes. "If we had some big burly man in front screaming, we'd be classified as metal. If we had some scrawny guy we'd be emo. As it is, no one can pin us down."

So far, eschewing any desire to settle for an identifiable sound has worked to the band's advantage.

Pelican's is music for metalheads who would as soon tap their feet as bang their heads.

The latest release, The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw, ups the ante from previous releases, incorporating acoustic-based interludes amid the metal madness.

But for all Pelican's instrumental complexity, Herweg reports each aspect of the band's many heads is represented in concert.

"We test songs live before we go into the studio, so it's all pretty meticulously worked out by the time we record," Herweg says.

"Personally, I love to go see a band and find that they sound the same as they do on the albums.

"If the sound is perfect on the CD, that's the sound I want in concert. With us, the only difference is that it's three times as loud and twice as impressive."

More music more music ... The newly re-opened Bytown Tavern on Elgin St. returns in style tonight with a little help from Lucky Ron ... The Golden Dogs return to Mavericks Friday; be there ... Saturday, Unearth and a slew of heavy, heavy bands with Ozzfest experience turn it up at Babylon ... Sunday, the long-MIA hard-rockers Dynasty return to Zaphod's for the second time this month to sing of fever, cougars and other such matters.


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