I’ve been a bit of a doom hound since the early 90’s. This intensified during the mid 90’s, when I was ensconced up north in the delightful northern city of Leeds. The reason? Well dear readers, I’m afraid that aside from the natural love for all things Sabbathian in vibe, it had something to do with the vendor. You see, there used to be a craft market every Sunday under the railway arches – hell, for all I know, this still might be the case. Nestled alongside the hand knitted snoods, carved effigies of Alan Bennett and stencilled Bob Marley flags was a handful of boxes piled onto a folding table. Within these boxes were imported CD’s – from Italy, mainly, as I recall. It was here that I got hold of the first Acrimony album, my first Orange Goblin and Iron Monkey – Pentagram, Trouble and Saint Vitus CD’s. The woman who stood behind the table was a gothic lovely – svelte, clad head to toe in black and with a look that was equal parts Mona Lisa and the Witch from the first Sabbath album cover. I never did have the courage to ask her out on a date, but she did leave me with an amazing legacy of great doom albums.
This rather pronounced introduction does actually serve a purpose. You see, for me, music is always a bit of a time machine. I can remember things with absolute clarity, as long as I can recall the tunes that were playing at around that time. For that reason, I have always revised for exams with music playing, as sometimes humming the tune will bring back what I was studying into the front of my head. Playing “Misery Wizard” brought back some memories, which was a bit odd, as I hadn’t heard it before. Of course, traditional doom, (for this is what Pilgrim, from Rhode Island USA play), isn’t necessarily the most inventive of genres, being fiercely proud of playing to an effective blueprint of what the fan wants. That is to say that here you will find lumbering, grave sounding guitar riffs that stretch out for longer than the most epic vista that can be found in any fantasy film. The drums are pounded – hard, but slow – in a Bill Ward-on-downers vibe. The vocals are high, clear and ever so slightly in that hysterical, almost religious style. No, what sparked my memory, (co-incidentally, of drinking flat beer in a rather drab upstairs music room of a particular northern pub), was that this sounds so much like the much loved, and much departed Reverend Bizarre.
This isn’t a simple case of copy cat musical direction, but there is a lot of similarities between their monolithic brand of excruciatingly slow, confident and – let’s face it – fucking miserable doom and the music here. The title track, for instance, has that glacial speed and atmosphere, with the guitar riffs occasionally threatening to break into a trot over the ten minute long span of the miserable hymn, but that dawn never comes. The same effective atmosphere of grimness and painful, unrelenting despair remains here, though to be fair Pilgrim do break out some more intricate guitar work from time to time, among the seemingly endless reverb of the speakers. I have never been a stoner – indeed, goody two-shoes that I am, I have never even smoked, but I do like to listen to strung-out doom when I’m having a drink or two. While polishing off the last of the Christmas booze recently, I found “Misery Wizard” the perfect company to a draining the tins of their fetid alcohol, and even better at being the soundtrack to the inevitable ensuing hangover. There are but six songs here – though of course each track goes on for longer than the Bulgarian national anthem. You’re still going to get your money’s worth here. The production is excellent too – with plenty of grit and grime in the guitar tone among the rumbling fuzz. An excellent album then, for the true doom fans among you. Oh, and as a slight spoiler, there is a brilliant mid-tempo work out to be found mid way through “Quest”. You’ll just have to be patient to find it!
(8/10 Chris Davison)