When last we checked in on Pilgrim, they were really fucking slow! Even by doom standards, these guys were the car in the right lane with flashers on and a “Wide Load” sign on the bumper. That’s because they specialize in unflinchingly minimalist, old school Sabbath riffs slowed down to a root’s pace, lightly seasoned with a hint of psychedelic fairy dust. Their Misery Wizard debut was heavily influenced by Reverend Bizarre and Cathedral and weighed down with insanely long, drawn out doom yarns so heavy, they made you feel like a Buick was parked on your chest. This presented an arduous test to one’s attention span, despite the overall quality of the riffs and writing. II: Void Worship keeps the basics of the sound, but reduces the dependence on drone and tries for a more diverse and melodic approach. There are fewer mega-long dirge marathons and the writing is much more energetic and diverse, sometimes approximating the works of Argus and Grand Magus. This makes things much more listener friendly and should keep some of the ADHD mob from flocking to the moss peepery.
Basically, you get two types of songs on Void Worship. There are the big, glacier sized odes to sloth like “Master’s Chamber,” which is ten minutes of huge, ponderous doom fuckery with riffs designed to bury you under their weight and awful girth. Unlike their older long-winded slogs however, the reduced dependency on drone and a more upbeat pace gives the listener a chance to hold on for the whole trip. At times the riffs hint at Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and Kyuss, but the traditional doom approach is still dominant. Could they trim it to a lean, mean…8 minutes? Sure. But it ain’t bad at all and some of those riffs are G-money. In stark contrast, “The Paladin” is all about ballsy, attacking riffs of steel and a retro doom style almost exactly like Argus. It’s bruising, choppy and rough, but tasty and easy to digest.
In the spirit of diversity, “Arcane Sanctum” rumbles along like moody Agalloch mixed with traditional doom, while “In the Process of Evil” feels like a mix of stoner fuzz like Uncle Acid mixed with post-metal. The album has a lot of junk in the truck, winding down with ginormous, overlong monoliths like the title track and “Away From Here.” Where the former borrows bleak and bombastic riffs from the early Saint Vitus category for a morose, but over-extended voyage down despair street, the latter brings back a bit more post-metal/shoegaze and more emotionally damaged vocals. Neither needs to be as long as they are, and though both sport convincingly big, reverberating riffs and some nicely suicidal moments, neither are an easy listen unless you’re in a trance-like mood.
The biggest surprise here is the Wizard’s vocals. They’ve improved so much from last time, I checked to see if it was the same guy. He sounds like a mix of Ozzy and Butch Balich from Argus and he adds a lot more to the songs than he did on Misery Wizard. He really shines on “The Paladin” and on “Away From Here” where he sounds about a minute away from slashing his wrists with a lawnmower. He proved himself as solid riff writer on the debut and builds on it here with a series of over-sized, but mostly effective, earth rocking leads. He stretches the boundaries of his doom repertoire with some post-metal and retro metal ideas and for the most part, it helps the sound.
Speaking of the sound, I love the production here, especially the drums. Krolg Splinterfist (yes, that’s his Christian name) doesn’t get to do a ton behind the kit due to the pace, but the drums sound very warm, organic and powerful. I also enjoy the big guitar sound and the nuances the mix allows it to achieve when it shifts between genres ever so subtly.
Void Worship is a step forward for a band with promise, but still seems a bit stuck in low gear at times. Pilgrim is a worthwhile addition to any doom fan’s collection, I just can’t help but feel they’re still missing that one ingredient that would put them over the top. I’m a patient man though, so I’ll wait. If you’re also patient, you may love this album.