Instrumental music has always been of massive interest to me as a music listener. My background in audio engineering has allowed me to hear many projects in their instrumental form before the final touches with vocals are in place. The amount of detail that one can hear without a vocal taking center stage in the mix is astounding, from subdued drum parts to bass lines. My increased interest in heavier instrumental bands led me to discover Pelican, and I haven’t looked back since. Nighttime Stories serves as a strong addition to the band’s discography and should be well received by longtime fans and new listeners alike.

While guitarist Dallas Thomas joined the band during the writing process for 2013’s Forever Becoming, the new record is the first in which Thomas contributed to the entirety of the writing process. Perhaps his increased involvement to writing has influenced the heavier sound found on Nighttime Stories, but that’s just one man’s speculation. The album’s title was to originally be for Pelican related side project Tusk, but vocalist Jody Minnoch’s unexpected death in 2014 put those plans to a halt. The band honored her memory by using the album title as well as pulling song titles from notes that Minnoch had intended for Tusk.

Thomas’ other band The Swan King has sonic similarities to that of Pelican, but their obvious lack of vocals allows the guitars to take center stage. The combination of Dallas Thomas and Trevor Shelley de Brauw on guitar is always an interesting listen, alternating from dizzying lead’s and distorted yet catchy rhythms. Unfortunately, Thomas lost his father during the writing process for the record, and he is remembered on opening track “WST” with Thomas using his father’s Yamaha acoustic guitar to record his parts. The somber yet brooding tone is a fitting introduction for what is to come on the album, building in intensity before jumping into the snare fill of first released single, “Midnight And Mescaline”.

Much of Nighttime Stories is groove heavy instrumental metal, but there are moments of fast tempo chaos, notably on “Abyssal Plain”. Drummer Larry Herwig is a hard hitting rhythmic backbone for the group, alternating from heavy hi-hat grooves and cymbal washed backbeats to uptempo blast beats that stand out every time they make a brief appearance. Bassist Bryan Herweg’s bass tone is another recorded instance of how important the instrument is to heavy music and rock in general.

The beginning moments of the album’s heaviest track, “Cold Hope”, find the guitars kick in before Herweg’s bass fills out the empty low end void and drives the down tuned main riff. The track twists and turns from the aforementioned riff into palm muted chunkiness, eventually devolving into a dissonant breakdown and epic end solo section. “It Stared At Me” begins with ambient guitars and subdued percussion, delayed lead lines dancing across the stereo spectrum.

The track serves as a break to the heavier sound found on a majority of the album, which returns on the next song and title track, “Nighttime Stories”. Dissonant chugging riffs are the dominant force throughout the track, and definitely gives “Cold Hope” a run for its money as the heaviest track on the album. The mid-song breakdown is a slower tempo face-off between open string chugs and harmonics before picking back up in pace until the track’s conclusion.

“Full Moon, Black Water” is the album’s longest track, opening with a subtle guitar like drone and some acoustic guitar, before launching into a full band riff charge with some acrobatic bass lines. The acrobatic leads take a backseat to a wall of guitar chords, letting the bass do much of the maneuvering. Another heavy palm muted section leads to an almost Tom Morello like feedback solo and subsequent set of catchy yet heavy riffs before ending in a subdued feel of ambient guitars and ride cymbal beats.

Nighttime Stories will be unleashed to the masses on June 7th via Southern Lord, and you can currently stream their 2013 record Forever Becoming in it’s newly remixed and remastered form. As a long time listener of the band and that album, the new mix is a refreshing listen that is sonically superior in every way.