It's hard to find much to relate to in metal music for me anymore. It turns out that the problem is mostly the vocals. They're usually screamed in a manner such that lyrics are rendered useless. One might argue that the vocals are more of an artistic touch meant to convey a feeling or emotion. Well ok, this can be made to work I'll agree but it becomes hard to beleive that this sort of anger can be sustained, in the singer, much less(more importantly) in the minds of listeners over any period of time(teenagers and psychopaths excluded). Screaming as an instrument does makes sense to me, very few bands though can pull this off.
Take the vocals away though and a few things happen. The focus is taken off the screamer and instrumentation must carry the song along. Without a vocalist the traditional song structures seem awkward and vestigial. With the music of midwestern post-metal group Pelican this emphasis is given to the change of movements and the building of melodies, harmonies, and volume. The songs swell and break almost organically.
Unlike say jazz though the effect isn't entirely avant garde. In the absence of lyrics to hold a theme or narrative, the songs retain a sort of cinematic quality. Bands like Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky have used this to great effect in actually scoring popular films. Yet without a proper narrative the compostions have to be interpreted though the scant few impressions given by song title, album title, and album art.
With Pelican's The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw the impressions are grand, naturalsitic, time spanning, and represent fantastic and unstoppable forces of nature. With this in mind the album can play as various narratives. To me, it's glaciers slowly carving out continents, it's great squids and white whales and mammals coming aground, it's the volcanic birth of islands and mountains. Its great and powerful forces of nature playing out thier ruthless and unpeopled stories.
Consider the difficulty of trying to express such a scope verbally, and you'll find that those who try often end up sounding over the top and goofy, where classical intrumentals have succeeded. Much like the classics it's not just size of your orchestra, but the grace and complexity with which you can use it. Fire in our Throats is Pelican's most melodic and complex composition to date, every bit as nuanced as the albums of thier post-rock bretheren mentioned above.
Nevermind those metal bands who strive for darkness of the industrial, the tribal, the fuedal, and the sacrelige, Pelican is capable of expressing the greatness and complexity of the natural and the primordial which is far more interesting.