Traditional doom warriors Pilgrim spill blood and fantasy into ‘Misery Wizard’

I’m not a huge demo guy. It’s not that I don’t like them, because I actually really do, but it’s because I don’t have the proper time to scour for them. As it is, my inbox is bursting at the seams with press releases and album downloads from tons of labels and publicists, and if I checked out/listened to each one, I’d have no time to do this site. Or anything else. At all.

I just don’t have time to spend hours on the Internet trying to find good demo releases, and since I don’t run a label or PR agency, I don’t have them pouring into my e-mail account, quite sadly. But now and again I’ll get something I really like (we’ll be talking about the Obolus cassette release soon)or I’ll pick up on some word of mouth about something that’s lighting people’s worlds on fire, and I’ll see what the fuss is about. That happened last year with the two-track demo by Rhode Island trad doom band Pilgrim, and it turns out all the praise heaped on this thing was totally justified. It was a rough recording for the most part (which I like), the magic and majesty were there, and once it was announced they band signed on with Poison Tongue/Metal Blade, my anticipation shot through the roof.

You can tack onto these guys the normal reference points such as Black Sabbath, Witchfinder General, Electric Wizard and St. Vitus. You easily can imagine this music was made in a dungeon or in a castle overlooking a mad sea, and with names such as The Wizard (guitar/vocals), Count Elric the Soothsayer (bass) and Krolg Splinterfist, Slayer of Men (drums), they may very well have been as inspired by “The Legend of Zelda” and “Game of Thrones” books as that type of darkness envelops their music. It may come off as a little dorky to outsiders, and really, it kind of is to me, who enjoys all the elements of their game. But who cares? I dig that about them. Dio had his hilarious moments, but I wholly revere his legends. With more albums like “Misery Wizard,” Pilgrim could have volumes of prose written about them, too.

Along with the slow-driving doom, skull-crushing punishment and ventures into fantastical realms come The Wizard’s passionate, cleanly sung vocals that often remind me of Jethro Tull’s leader Ian Anderson. He has a world-weariness yet timeliness to his singing, and on a time when vocalists don’t often stand out anymore, he does the moment he opens his mouth. His delivery and storytelling are like no other, and when he bellows a line such as, “Don’t you torture me,” on the title cut, it stands out as the most memorable destination point of the song. He’s a serious strength to the Pilgrim machine.

Both demo tracks – “Quest” and “Forsaken Man” — show up here, albeit in re-recorded and expanded form. The creepy chant/prayer that cites Astaroth still is a major part of “Forsaken,” and it’s done in such a monotone, robotic form that it makes it scarier. But the band refines the song a bit and expands upon its borders, making for a stronger piece. Speaking of that hellish prince, “Astaroth” opens the record, letting the same brands of evil and darkness into the room that always have been a major tenet of this style. The song has tasty Tony Iommi-style guitar trickery and a nice, stomping tempo, and it’s an effective introductory for anyone hearing Pilgrim for the first time. “Masters of the Sky” is an excellent epic, clocking in at about 11 minutes and really letting the band unfurl its flags. The Wizard even changes up his vocals a bit and goes deeper when warning, “Rejoice and fear them, they’re the one true god.” “Adventurer” is a nice change of pace, as it’s a far shorter song that is faster and more aggressive, and it acts as a bridge to the closing journey “Forsaken Man.” I found that while the album asks a lot of me and makes me take herculean steps in my mind, I always want to go right back again.

There’s going to be a lot of doom metal that comes out this year, but when all is said and done in 2012, “Misery Wizard” will persevere and be remembered as one of the genre’s finest. This is an exciting new band that does things in an old-school fashion but sounds very up to date. There’s evil afoot and adventure around every turn, and chances are you’re going to step in more than one blood puddle. Pilgrim make every investment in their music more than worth your time, and if you’re a doom junkie, you’d be a fool not to spend time with this titanic document.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy “Misery Wizard,” go here:

For more on the label go here:

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