Pilgrim’s “Misery Wizard” is an album that pays tribute to doom metal by concentrating solely on the singular root of the genre. Where modern doom metal acts like Candlemass, Type O Negative or Crowbar have injected fantasy, blues or visceral attitude to twist the genre to their liking, Pilgrim has added none of those embellishments.
Instead, “Misery Wizard” is an album telling the story of what would have happened to doom metal if Black Sabbath had only ever recorded the song “Black Sabbath” and nothing else. Not even bluesy in the traditional Black Sabbath sense, Pilgrim instead relies on long constructions and drawn-out cadences to achieve the same end. There is a section or two of the song “Quest” that pops along, but those pieces are few and far between. You won’t need a seatbelt to listen to this record.
To add to that effect, the album is soaked with a healthy dousing of wonderfully low-rent analog fuzz and sludge. The entire effort has a dirty, garage-y feel that helps the album feel more authentic. Additionally, The Wizard’s (that’s a guy’s name, not a song, just for clarification,) throughout are spacey and echoed, which makes the listener feel as though he or she is being talked down from unseen mountaintop.
The Rhode Island trio making up Pilgrim is dedicated to their craft, bringing the songs to life in a sort of misty, bleak landscape. The Wizard (guitars and vocals,) Count Elric the Soothsayer (bass) and Krolg, the Slayer of Man (drums) have clearly studied the doom metal classics and are writing songs in that pattern, but without the kind of grisly macabre that accompanies so much of the work of bands like Autopsy. “Masters of the Sky” is a piece filled with ugliness, but it is contained to the evil chords and desperately slow pacing, rather than the lyrics. In truth, the song carries just an echo of Alice in Chains.
That said, Pilgrim doesn’t showcase enough variety to truly make this album a worthy contender. The long songs are a touch too slow and a bit too long, and the quicker pickups at the end don’t stand out when snapped out of the band’s preferred playing style. There is little to distinguish one song from the next when you hear them back to back. That’s not to say they all sound the same, but simply, the seams get lost and the album begins to drone more than it should. It doesn’t help that Pilgrim goes to the feedback loop well a couple too many times to end songs.
Pilgrim’s “Misery Wizard” is doom metal if doom metal never evolved. The snarky cynic in me would say that there’s a reason it did, but that would be unnecessarily harsh against an album and an artist that clearly have created a labor of love. If you love ambiance, mystery and delayed gratification in your music, and I know you’re out there, then try this album.