Thron – Pilgrim Review

Bands like Thron felt much more special to me as a fledgling member of the AMG staff back in early 2017. In those days, I was just happy to be covering something good. Thron’s debut LP wasn’t just good; it was damn good, and the best record I had covered for this blog at the time I penned my review. Its follow-up, Abysmal, was nothing like its namesake. We unfortunately never received a promo for Abysmal, but it was a successful risk for the band, as they pivoted from pure meloblack to something more diverse and richly textured. As ironically great as Abysmal was, I am somewhat happy I never covered it in retrospect. Its successor, Pilgrim, is on an almost identical playing field, a sequel in the purest sense that lightly tinkers with Thron’s ingredients in successful ways.

So sequel-like is Pilgrim that it follows an almost identical trajectory as Abysmal. It begins by echoing Thron’s earliest material with “The Prophet,” worshiping mainstays of Swedish black metal like Dissection and Necrophobic. Its bridge section, an Opeth-like departure into gloomy prog, teases Thron’s more atmospheric leanings before the following tracks rip the curtain clean off. The established base of Swedish black metal is re-draped with a gothic shroud. Like Wormwitch (without the crust – thanks, mom), Thron’s post-debut style reminds of Tribulation gone black metal, its dark rock grooves and blistering black metal personality beautifully interwoven. The marriage of these two sides of Thron feels more cohesive than it did with Abysmal. Thanks to the greater sense of cohesion, paired with improved songwriting that effortlessly flows between movements, I’m comfortable placing Pilgrim on a slightly higher pedestal than the already impressive Abysmal.

I say “slightly” higher because as much as I love both records, the similar trajectory of the two means that Pilgrim shares Abysmal’s one notable weakness: a lesser B-side. “The Valley of the Blind,” “Den of Iniquity,” and “Gaia” are my three least favorite tracks on the record, piled together after a stream of excellent cuts. They’re perfectly good tracks, mind you; they just lack the enticing tonal duality and story-like songwriting that defines Pilgrim’s best songs. Still, “The Valley of the Blind” is a worthwhile experiment that shows Thron successfully trying their hand at blackened thrash, and the final song sees the band at the top of their game once again. A marriage of Maiden-like riffs and late-era Skeletonwitch catharsis, “Into Disarray” is easily Thron’s most melodic composition, and closes the record with a sweet, lingering aftertaste.

As always, Thron’s musicianship is universally workmanlike, exhibiting rock solid fundamentals without a hint of indulgence. Vocalist SAMCA remains an excellent frontman; his mid-range rasps spew venom with every note, and his delivery is imbued with enough clarity that at this point I’ve memorized most of Pilgrim’s lyrics without a lyrics sheet. Less impressive, however, is the production. While notably beefier in its guitar and bass tones than the average black metal record, there is something off about the drum sound here. There is an uncomfortable, crackling quality that’s given off by multiple components of the kit, and it always takes me a couple of tracks before I can become acclimated to the sound. It’s not bad enough to impact my score, but Pilgrim would have been better off if this issue had been isolated and resolved before being sent to press.

At three albums in, I’m confident in saying that I love Thron. While I’d still rank each of their albums at the same numbered score, each one has been an improvement on the next, to the point where they are now literally scraping right up against the hallowed 4.0 club. While Pilgrim isn’t quite the leap over Abysmal as Abysmal was over Thron’s debut, it is agonizingly close to bonafide greatness, with only a small handful of tracks holding it back. If big, bold black metal with modern melodic sensibilities is your bag, then Pilgrim is an easy buy. That way, you’ll already be in the know whenever they release their true masterpiece.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Listenable Records Official | Bandcamp
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 19th, 2021

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