Is lumbering, elephantine doom your thing? Well, it had better be if you plan on spending quality time with Rhode Island doom-sayers, Pilgrim. That’s because their Misery Wizard debut serves up six ginomous slices of crawling, droning, monolithic doom with all the subtlety of a steel cage wrestling match. Do you think Saint Vitus and Reverend Bizarre are slow? Pilgrim is slower. Think Cathedral has some huge sounding riffs? Pilgrim has bigger ones. In a doom pissing contest, these chaps are mellow yellow. To help explain their sound, I’ve compiled a short list of things that move faster than Pilgrim. These include: octogenarians with bad knees, glaciers, evolution and innovation in black metal. Yep, Pilgrim is mighty slow. For a power trio, they make a lot of racket and stay true to the old school style of Sabbath-infused dirgery. They aren’t innovative or particularly dynamic and at times, they can get rather tiresome and tedious, even for a doom fanboy like Steel Druhm. Because of that last factoid, Misery Wizard is an album intended only for tried-and-true doom-hounds who don’t suffer from the slightest trace of ADD [I’ll be over here, looking at moss. – AMG]. If your mind tends to wander, or drone makes you snooze, skip this release, or patience you’ll lose (HA! I waxed poetic).
Almost instantly, you’ll hear a big Reverend Bizarre similarity in the lead riff on “Astaroth.” It’s huge and sloth-like and Pilgrim uses it to beat you senseless, repeating it over and over until you’re curled up in a ball on the floor. Like most of the songs here, this one crawls along like a sleepy snail in Snail-ville, with just the riffs to keep you company. The vocals don’t come in til the halfway point and feel a bit like an afterthought. It’s a classic doom song and at about six minutes, it’s the perfect length and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Others, like the ten-minute-plus title track and the whooping thirteen minutes of “Forsaken Man,” require far more stamina and indulgence from the listener as Pilgrim shambles, rambles and meanders (slowly) across a largely barren and static musical landscape. There are few, if any, tempo shifts and its usually one molar-shaking riff after another, with a minimum of window dressing. “Quest” and “Adventurer” shake things up a bit with faster tempos and actual solos (though “Quest” only accelerates at the midway point), and after all the lethargic rumbling, the increased speed ends up making a real impact and these tracks are high points because of it.
The riffs generated by the Wizard (that’s his name!) are fairly doomtastic and steeped in old timey doom ethos. He knows how to craft a thunderous lead and use it as a weapon of mass destruction. While solos and showy fret-work clearly aren’t his bag, he does his doomy duty and delivers the gloomy goods in workmanlike fashion. Sadly, as a vocalist, he doesn’t do much to excite or impress. He has a rather monotone, chant/shout style which doesn’t add much to the material’s impact. He doesn’t hurt things, but doesn’t elevate them either. This issue is partially alleviated by the mix, which brings the guitars way upfront and submerges the vox into the background. Still, a better vocal performance would make the songs pop a bit more.
As good as some of this material is, Misery Wizard would have benefited from a bit more diversity in tempo and song dynamics. The long song lengths, paired with a single-minded devotion to super slow riff-play, wear the listener out when there’s no break or respite from the doom-o-thon. Even the best riffs can be overused and eventually beaten into the ground and that happens a bit too often here.
Misery Wizard is a good debut by some promising doomsters. If they progress as songwriters and the Wizard works on his vocal approach, I can see highly depressing things in their glum future. If you cotton to the slow-motion bludgeoning of Reverend Bizarre, Saint Vitus or YOB, this should be right up your alley. You might want to bring some coffee along on the journey though, just in case.