Olde – Pilgrimage Review



Now with that out of the way… Ontario’s Olde have been banging around the sludge scene for an unknown period of time, formerly as Corvuss until around 2014 when they decided to change their name to what it is today. I’m usually pretty good at keeping an ear out for quality sludge and doom releases, but I will admit I’ve never heard of Olde until the accompanying one-sheet bio claimed that they’re for fans of High on Fire, Trouble, The Melvins, and Entombed.1 How do I say no to that?! So it’s with eager anticipation and perked ears that I dove into their third-album, Pilgrimage.

To their credit, when it works, Pilgrimage grooves with a firm confidence. The riffs that propel album highlight “A New King” deftly combine the death-‘n-roll of their Wolverine Blues swagger with a molasses-opaque bass-driven rumble that washes a classic sound with grime and grit. Its immediate follow-up, “Medico Della Peste,” rides that wave of groove further, adding tasty solos and impeccable drumming by Ryan Aubin. From these two tracks, you gain the sense that Olde have a finger on the pulse of what makes groove-laden sludge work, and won’t take it off until everyone within earshot is satisfied.

That’s when it works, though, because more often than not, some bizarre songwriting choices rear their ugly heads and throw a tree branch in the tires of Pilgrimage’s Schwinn. The title track opens up the album, and it starts off as a great instrumental chock full of heaving riffs and powerful drumming until the vocals kick in about three minutes in. On a five minute song. At that point, why bother? Speaking of those vocals, Doug McLarty’s voice doesn’t seem to gel well with the music, sounding like Tom G. Fischer after a carton of Marlboros which, in itself, isn’t the worst, but between his syncopation being off towards the end of “In Defiance” or sounding like he wants it over and done with on anemic closer “Wastelands,” it leaves me wondering if his tone and delivery would be better suited to front a band with a more hardcore leaning than what sludge provides.

But the faults don’t lie with McLarty’s voice alone. The entire second half of Pilgrimage is a tremendous slog to wade through. In the case of “Depth Charge,” that’s equally baffling, as it’s less than four minutes in length, but it still doesn’t build to anything of note. There’s a wildly out-of-place saxophone solo in “The Dead Hand” because of course there is. “Under Threatening Skies” lumbers on for way too long, with McLarty repeatedly chanting over the same damn riff for over two minutes. By the time “Wastelands” agonizingly drags across the finish line, it feels like three hours of time have passed instead of a mere 42 minutes. Yes, this is sludge and it’s supposed to be slow and plodding, but I’ve rarely ever wanted an album to get to the point as much as I did here.

I like my music heavy and driving. Therefore, it should be a no-brainer that Pilgrimage would be a grand-slam of epic proportions. However, even with guest appearances,2 it’s not enough to elevate an album where the songwriting needs help. Barring the two tracks above, Pilgrimage was a chore to navigate. That said, I’m hoping that “A New King” is a sign of what could come, because that’s the sound of Olde firing on all cylinders. I just wish the rest of Pilgrimage followed suit.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Labels: Sludgelord Records (Europe) | Seeing Red Records (North America)
Websites: oldedoom.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/oldedoom
Releases Worldwide: March 19th, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Rest in Peace, Lars-Göran Petrov.
  2. Voivod’s Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain contributes a solo on here, but the few solos on here all sound similar to each other, and the one-sheet doesn’t list where he contributed.
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