Rhode Island doom pioneers Pilgrim release a debut album so monotonous, that it will reduce the most hardened metal fan to the point of sweat and tears.
Pilgrim’s aptly named 2012 Metal Blade release Misery Wizard, is probably one of the most difficult albums I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. Clocking in at around an hour from start to finish, and not one song on the album lasting less than four minutes, even those that live by doom/sludge/drone (etc) metal, will want to pull off their hardened ears and hug them better after enduring this mountain crumbling chug-fest.
There are only three tracks on Misery Wizard really worth giving a positive review to, the first being gigantic opener ‘Astaroth’, which introduces the album with a very slow, sludge-tinged Black Sabbathesque guitar riff, soon swallowed by a wave of distortion and a slow rolling drum rhythm. As soon as “The Wizard”s vocals kick in half way through this first song, it’s clear that they will be one of the more standout aspects of the album. With vocal melodies that seem to gracefully swim beneath the doom and despair of muddy guitar hooks and snail-paced drum blasts, this adds an effective and powerful melodic edge to the surrounding corrosion and hopelessness that is Pilgrim’s sound.
Third track ‘Quest’ is a more accessible doom affair, with a vocal melody that again shines through the cracks of the surrounding sludge like a diamond in the rough. Pilgrim show a more varied sound on this track, adding a fast(er) paced, more heavy metal tinged section mid way through, and throwing in a dirty as hell guitar solo for good measure. The album as a whole would honestly have blown me away if it had contained more of this formula, yet it seems to be a rare occurrence and none of the tracks ever really “peak” as much as they could.
The final track on Misery Wizard worth listening to is ‘Adventurer’, a much more up-tempo (for Pilgrim at least), sludge-metal headbanger which provides a welcome, yet temporary, change in pace and song structure that I would love to hear the band expand on more within future releases. Filled with meaty heavy metal riffs, dirty guitar solos and even a black metal influenced screech in the vocal department, Adventurer could have closed the album on a huge positive note, and I would have been left with a sense of hope and excitement for the future of Pilgrim, possibly even with a smile on my face.
But instead we end on closing track, ‘Forsaken Man’, a thirteen minute wall of chugs, strange ominous chanting, and a heavily progressive sense of “what the fuck”. ‘Forsaken Man’ sits alongside second track ‘Misery Wizard’, and fourth track ‘Masters Of The Sky’, as being overly drawn-out, emotionless, stressful, and generally what seems to be… a lot of filler.
All-in-all the vocals on Misery Wizard are it’s saving grace, and the vocalist (simply known as The Wizard) shows that he can compliment the accompanying music perfectly, adding a unique sound to what could, in essence, have been a brain melting bucket of sludge. Hopefully the band will take this into account in regards to their future releases, and I look forward to seeing whether they expand their sound at all, or stay safely within their own boundaries.
So if you like you’re doom-metal painfully slow, slightly tedious, and full of no surprises whatsoever, you actually will probably enjoy Pilgrims debut offering for what it is. Which is very, very, very slow. Yet if you have more of an experimental approach towards metal in general, or are just getting into this sort of genre, I would simply avoid delving into Misery Wizard altogether, and instead use the hour gained to do something productive like listening to Sabbaths’ Master Of Reality album, or baking a cake.