I had reservations about getting this album; Red Sparowes opened for them at a show here a couple months ago, and what I heard was that they blew Pelican away. Well, that put me off getting this album for a while, but now that I've caved, I'm glad I did. The two bands are clearly related - I could get a lot of flak from specialists in the instrumental metal/post-rock arena, but they share a lot of characteristics. The format and pacing of their songs is similar - drawn-out, cinematic, heavy - and though I thought the Red Sparowes album had something Pelican doesn't (well, aside from a lap steel), this is still a fantastic record, better than I thought it'd be by far, and an excellent find for those thirsting for more music in the same vein.
The opener, "Last Day of Winter" is a great representative for the rest of the album. Heavy but melodic, guitars screaming everywhere, lofty highs and deep lows... it even has a little acoustic outro. It's like a little album to itself. "Autumn into Summer" takes its time a bit more, growing for about four minutes without a hint of distortion, then some really fantastic thrashing and even a little sludgy bass for a bit to satisfy the metalheads. That's actually the side of the album I like the least - when it moves towards darker, heavier metal, and less the soaring melodies and crunchy high-end distortion. "March to the Sea," then, is probably my least favorite song because it is the most like that. There are still very enjoyable parts, but as a matter of taste I prefer the other songs. There is a break for an untitled acoustic track, which is decent but when you've got Jack Rose in your collection every other acoustic break just sounds amateurish. It's a nice break from the rough stuff, though, as "Red Ran Amber" comes in pretty hard, sounding to me more like a heavier alt-rock instrumental than anything else until a fantastic, distortion drenched break a few minutes through, ushering in a quiet middle section that blows up at the end. It's a really well-paced song - the movements are self-contained but work great as parts of a larger whole. "Aurora Borealis" is a bit of a different sound, embellishing a repeating figure a la early Mogwai. The closer, "Sirius," establishes a really great melody late in the song, one of my favorites on the album - it's short but seems just right, a little treat to end with.
For anyone who likes Explosions in the Sky, Saxon Shore, Red Sparowes, and that sort of instrumental rock, this is a great asset to the collection. It's a bit of a different sound, which at times may bother you as it did me, but for the most part its just great stuff, so give it a shot. I wish I could give you "Last Day of Winter," but it's awfully large so you'll have to satisfy yourself with "Sirius."