Take a look around. Everything seems to be moving so quickly. Today's world is a fast paced, go-go, what's next, sort of place. We should all strive to take a few moments to slow things down a bit. Fortunately, we now have a soundtrack to help us achieve that very thing and it comes in the form of the new album by the Rhode Island based doom metal trio known as Pilgrim, "II: Void Worship".
"II: Void Worship" is a sequel to their first album, "Misery Wizard" which I was unfamiliar with prior to hearing this new album. So, this was my introduction to Pilgrim.
Before I get to that, I'll make some clarifications. Lest you become confused, I have been the Wizard (sometimes called Da Wizard, Wiz man, Wiz Bang or Wiz Dog) since 1994. I am not the first Wizard and I certainly won't be the last. Heck, Peter Boyle's character in Taxi Driver was named Wizard. The lead singer/songwriter/vocalist/guitarist of Pilgrim is also called The Wizard. There is no relationship between him and me. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, back to the album at hand.
By the way, in addition to all his aforementioned roles, The Wizard has also taken over bass duties on this latest offering, making Pilgrim a studio twosome.
Pilgrim is classified as a doom metal group. If you're not familiar with the genre, doom metal can trace its roots back to the band that is widely considered the origin of all metal, Black Sabbath. The tempo is slow, the sound is thick, guitars are often tuned down to D or lower and distorted like crazy to create a more doom-y sound. If you've ever heard the song "Black Sabbath" then you have a pretty good idea of what doom metal is all about. That being said, Pilgrim does a nice job of expanding on their influences instead of imitating them.
As the name indicates, most so-called doom metal dwells in the sphere of despair. It is generally not the kind of music you would pop in your car stereo and go cruising to. It's more like a soundtrack to a depressing movie. But Pilgrim manages to stay away from the "depressing" category. Their themes stay in the realm of the mystical as opposed to the despair. Like reading a story by Edgar Allan Poe, their music evokes a feeling, or mood, of someone not quite at home without making you feel sad.
The album starts with an introductory instrumental song, cleverly titled "Intro". It is followed by a slow, heavy number, "Master's Chamber" which is light on vocals and heavy on the slow. Why, it's slower than a cucumber doing calculus.
The tempo picks up a bit for "The Paladin" but not too much. The Wizard's vocals are clean but somewhat diminished by the overall thickness of the guitars. The focus is more on the music than the vocals anyway. The lyrics throughout the record are sparse.
A song like "Arcane Sanctum" really drives the doom home with a guitar picked so slow, I feared the Wizard may fall out of time with the drummer, "Krolg, Slayer of Man" (that's his name; "Krolg, Slayer of Man"). But he never does. He holds that note until the last possible moment until picking the next. This song is slower than a one-fingered typist.
One of the real treats for me was the title track "Void Worship", an 8 minute and 41 second dirge which may contain more lyrics than the rest of the album combined. It's still slower than a herd of turtles but, on this song, the vocals became more interesting and the rest of the song followed suit. For my money, it's the best track on the album.
As a fan of thrash, where speed is king, I was really impressed at Pilgrim's ability to play so slowly and still keep it all together. The real talent is in their ability to take a riff and just hammer it home. The songs are really melodic, hitting one "evil" sounding note after the other. It's like painting "American Gothic" with a guitar. Musically, there is a lot of talent in our friend The Wizard and his crew.
If you're a fan of early Sabbath, Candlemass and the like, then you will enjoy "II: Void Worship". It is, at times, slower than eating soup with chopsticks, but that's ok. It's minimalist metal and Pilgrim achieves its goal of creating a somber mood that is straight forward and full of energy. So, take a moment to step away from the hustle-bustle of the modern world and embrace a little doom, especially the way Pilgrim does doom. At least it's not as slow as a snail crawling through peanut butter.