Sometimes imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery. Pilgrim are a three piece doom metal outfit, hailing from the rather charming shores of Rhode Island, USA but with their hearts firmly entranced in the industrial heartlands of the English Midlands, the spiritual home of a certain Black Sabbath. Don’t get the idea that their debut album, “Misery Wizard,” is some knockabout karaoke-lite throwaway though. On the contrary, in “Misery Wizard,” Pilgrim have delivered a slow paced, slow burning metronome of a record. It ebbs and flows, rises and falls like a cold sea at midnight. The songs are doom laden, with pounding drums and howling vocals that pierce the soul.
Although, there is much that nods, in a slow headbanging fashion, to the angst laden early work of Mr Tony Iommi and Co, there are also echoes of Pentagram and St Vitus that howl through the album’s grooves. You can also hear the organic, earthy influence of Primordial, particularly on the up-tempo ‘Adventurer.’ This is not the biggest of surprises given the band have signed to Poison Tongue Records (although distribution will be handled by the mighty folk at Metal Blade)and spent much of last autumn working with a certain A. Nemtheanga. Yes, him.
So, hopefully you get the idea. If that hasn’t whetted your appetite for what’s in store then the opening track, the mystical sounding, relentless doom carnage that is ‘Astaroth‘ will blow away any ill conceived notions that you might have had that Pilgrim are mere imitators.
They might worship at the doom altar but they’ve gone and added several more inches to the hymn book. The album’s title track takes this theme into what I would term “proper doom”; it’s brutal, punishing and, at nearly eleven minutes long, you think that your patience might be tested but, thanks to to a combination of artfully down-tuned guitars, howling vocals and a sense of hypnotic rhythm, the band seem, almost effortlessly, to bring the listener into their dark, foreboding world. This skill is perhaps best extemporised on the majestic ‘Master of the Sky’ a track that has a real sense of the epic and one which Cathedral would have been pleased to record.
The closing epic ‘Forsaken Man’ delivers the anticipated but still welcome denouement that is trance like its execution and will have you enthralled. As with all the tracks on this album, it has dark, unsettling tales of cosmic journey, fallen heroes and bleak, harrowing landscapes: what’s not to love, I hear you say. Quite. Nothing.
“Misery Wizard” is not a record for the early morning commute or the Saturday morning jog around the local park. It is a record of the night and for the night. It demands attention and total immersion. That the band can deliver this demands a sizeable nod of recognition. Pilgrim might wear their influences as clearly as someone with a tattoo that says “I like Black Sabbath”. It scarcely matters. I like Black Sabbath. You like Black Sabbath. I like Pilgrim. I think you will like Pilgrim too. Definitely worth seeking out.