Sometimes, it's easy to suggest that something as run-of-the-mill as a change in personnel is the reason for a band deciding to pursue a different sound, but in the case of Chicago post-metal outfit Pelican, it's quite difficult to, in their words, deny the absolute. There is no question that the departure of Laurent Schroeder-Lebec - the band's second guitarist since their formation in 2001 - has had a significant impact on the direction the quartet have chosen to take for this, their fifth album.

Drafting in Dallas Thomas of The Swan King could only do so much to fill the void, and this has resulted in an album that's best summed up by band leader Trevor de Brauw as being 'dark, depressive and angry'. While past albums have featured the band venturing into more straightforward territory at times, Forever Becoming is an album that delights in its many twists and turns. Somewhat of an instrumental concept record ('a meditation on the infinite cycle of death and life'), it flows with the natural ease of a band who have become experienced storytellers.

Given that it deals with such weighty themes, it comes as no surprise to learn that it is the band's most aggressive album yet. Not very much is offered in the way of respite; sure, the funereal pace and feedback-drenched atmosphere of opening track 'Terminal' is a surprisingly calm way to begin things, but Bryan Herweg's distorted basslines hint at what's to come, and once the record gets going, it never looks back. 'Deny the Absolute' comes crashing in with all the force of a track that intends to make a statement, and make one it does, sounding tighter and more focused than the single version released earlier in the year. It's difficult to predict where the record's 8 tracks will lead, so it's best to just go along for the ride, safe in the knowledge that the likes of 'The Tundra' and 'The Cliff' will throw something new into the mix every few bars or so, ending in places far removed from those in which they started.

For an album that was created in a 'nervous headspace' by a band who briefly considered slimming down to a trio in the wake of Schroeder-Lebec's departure, Forever Becoming sounds remarkably confident. It'll be interesting to hear what the band get up to in the future, assuming their line-up can remain stable. Their newest member's presence is felt throughout the record; it would have been easy for him to be overpowered by a trio of musicians who have been playing together for 12 years, but he's adjusted to Pelican life wonderfully, and is at his best (along with his bandmates) on sister songs 'Immutable Dusk' and 'Perpetual Dawn', the latter of which moves the band back into conventional post-rock territory whilst simultaneously proving that they can do that sort of thing better than a great deal of their contemporaries. Their fifth album was created amid much unrest and uncertainty, but the band have come through it sounding stronger than ever.