It’s always interesting hearing a relatively new band develop along their journey. Not all bands even seem to do that nowadays, as formulaic has become a commonplace description for a lot of newer musicians. This doesn’t mean all bands need to take major risks in order to get better or to fully form. Just getting tighter and broadening their horizons can be enough.
Rhode Island might not seem the ultimate cauldron of blackness and destruction, but the state did spawn Pilgrim, one of the United States’ more impressive new doom metal bands. They delivered their first full-length effort in 2012 with the strong “Misery Wizard,” a collection of six epics that stretch over 55 minutes, building off the excitement they generated with their killer 2011 demo “Forsaken Man.” They revelled in traditional doom but also drone, and while so many like-minded groups employ growls and screams these days, these guys stick to clean, majestic vocals to tell their tales. It fits their skullduggery, swords, and wizardry that are the themes of their music, and it was clear they had something good here on which they could build.
With the arrival of the band’s second record “II: Void Worship,” that potential Pilgrim held has seriously paid off for them. The music remains true to doom tradition, but they also branch out more than what they did on “Forsaken Man” and stretch it to altogether new areas. They sound stronger and more confident, their songwriting is even better than ever before, and there is just something about this record that grabs you and pulls you into their horrors. The vocals from guitarist The Wizard are more realized, have more depth and emotion, and really get their stories across with great effect. The singing wasn’t bad at all on their debut, but it’s now a strongpoint for the band. Of course, alongside him, is creatively named drummer Krolg Splinterfist, Slayer of Men, who bashes his kit and keeps an evil pace. No doubt he lives up to his name, at least from a figurative standpoint. Combined, these two have continued to create a demolition machine that tells stories of old and conjures weirdness you can feel in your bones. It’s awesome.
The record opens with the bizarre, classically minded “Intro,” that makes it seem like an old door is getting ready to open to take you into a story about creatures long since gone to their graves. “Master’s Chambers” (which runs 10:36) is the first foray into Pilgrim’s expanded headspace, as fuzzy guitars erupt, and The Wizard observes, “I was turned to stone,” that should put chills down your spine about the title character. The song plods along at a nice pace, as the guys hit on a long section of playing toward the end of the song, and once that smoky doom subsides, the vocals turn somewhat tender and vulnerable. The track dissolves into a pocket of rumble and feedback. It’s a tremendous song. That leads into “The Paladin,” a song that shows the more aggressive side of the band. It’s actually a little faster than what we’ve come to expect from Pilgrim, and the vocals have a ’70s-style prog edge to them. It’s a catchy, powerful explosion that’s damn fun to take in. Up next is “Arcane Sanctum,” the first of two consecutive instrumental cuts, that opens with clean tones that eventually meet textured guitars, eerie transmissions, and ghostly playing that might leave you intoxicated.
“In the Presence of Evil” is the next instrumental up, with dark riffs spilling out before they run headlong into pulverizing crunch and classic metal-style guitar work that get the energy level kicked into a higher gear. The title track follows, bathed in furious drone and chaos at the start, with the vocals slipping in and slowly unfurling. A scene of disturbing darkness is set up, with details such as burning candles, and the music fits the mood perfectly. The guitar work feels like it is worshipping at the altar of Black Sabbath, as it’s sooty and muddy, but there also is drone and suffocating darkness to all of this as well. That never really goes away. The vocals soar, all the music comes together, and it’s a damn well-done track. “Dwarven March” is another instrumental, but more of an interlude, and it paves the way for the finale “Away From Here,” a 9:38 bruiser that begins as a slow, mesmerizing killer and eventually gets treated with nuanced vocals and bludgeoning hammering. The Wizard hopes “to say one last goodbye,” as waves of classic doom lap over and darken everything with unforgiving tides. The song builds nicely through its running time, keeping your mind engaged and your fears realized as they build toward the final moments of feedback and suffocating smoke. It’s a great final statement at the end of the best thing Pilgrim have done to date.
I doubt Pilgrim’s formation will halt with “Void Worship,” and this should just be another steppingstone of their career angling toward doom greatness. It’s so satisfying hearing this great new record from a band I have followed from their first demo, and the bloody, darkened sky really is the limit for these guys. As long as Pilgrim keep moving on the path they’re on right now, who knows where they’ll go next?
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/hailthepilgrim
To buy the album, go here: http://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords/band/pilgrim
For more on the label, go here: http://www.metalblade.com/us/