Ever since I heard the opening of "Astaroth" from Pilgrim's first album Misery Wizard, I've been a dedicated fan. If you've never heard it, go check it out. I don't see how any fan of doom metal can resist its near-perfect blend of heaviness and warmth especially in the development of its initial riff. It's a classic track on a great album. Since its release, I've kept Misery Wizard close at hand, listening to it on road trips, walks, and on lazy afternoons. It's one of my favorite doom metal albums—and I've heard a lot of pretty great stuff.
I suppose my opening paragraph sets things up for a story of disappointment, as though I had just heard St. Anger for the first time after years of only knowing Ride the Lightning. But this isn't that kind of story. Simply put, the new album is terrific, a worthy successor to a great debut. Sure, when I learned that Pilgrim was working on Void Worship, I worried a little. Most people would; follow-up albums are notoriously a challenge to get right. But when the album fell into my hands (a gift from the Wizard himself) I knew I would be pleased. I had already heard a couple of tracks and felt confident the mighty Pilgrim would bring the goods again. My experience with the album so far (I've listened to it four times) has been entirely positive.
With this album, Pilgrim's sound is slightly darker, gloomier even. The distorted riffs, as in "Astaroth," are here, but they lack the warmth, the distorted brightness, of that earlier track. Instead, the guitars here are bathed in a darker tone, vibrant and distorted, but deeper and darker. The lyrics, much like the earlier release, have a fantasy aspect to them. The guys in this band love Dungeons and Dragons (so I hear) and this album is as much a love letter to fantasy gaming as it is to doom metal itself. Interested fans should check out tracks like "Intro," "Master's Chamber," "The Paladin," "Void Worship," and "Away from Here."
As I write this, I wonder if some readers will tell me that this is a good doom album but not an essential one, as if Pilgrim has stayed too close to the genre and not explored its other possibilities. In response, I would say that this is the kind of album that doom does best. The music here is unpretentious and exciting; the song structures are minimal and the lyrics unobtrusive. This band knows how to hold on to a note or a chord. To me, the slow and patient pace was just right for discovering the hidden secrets of dark halls and forbidden paths. There's an almost hypnotic quality to the music here, one that almost carries me away into my own fantasy worlds.
One more thing: I saw Pilgrim perform in Salt Lake City in late March. They played a short set, but they made an impression. My favorite thing about the show was the way the guitar and bass players flanked the drums, sometimes even turning more to the kit than the audience. A small gesture, sure, but the band swayed to the power of the music together, making it seem more powerful, possibly even more introspective. It was as if the three members of the band were letting the music build up a wall of sound for the audience to enjoy, letting them feel what the band feels, to hear what they hear. Fans of doom metal: this one's a winner.
- Master's Chamber
- The Paladin
- Arcane Sanctum
- In the Presence of Evil
- Void Worship
- Dwarven March
- Away from Here