"Misery Wizard"

By Earthdog

Pilgrim are a three-piece doom metal outfit, hailing from Rhode Island, USA who are getting a major promotional push at the moment. The album has only just been released and the internet has already been flooded with reviews of 'Misery Wizard' so you have to ask yourself: is all the hype and publicity worth it? Well, the answer is both yes and no. This band is pure old-school doom metal and it is good but it is also so much of a recycling of other bands that it is a case of been there, done that before. The main reference point with Pilgrim is Reverend Bizarre, so much so that it could be that band reformed under a new name. There is also major nods to Saint Vitus, Black Sabbath and Pentagram so we are not talking about originality here. However, I think most people would agree that originality is overrated when it comes to a genre such as doom metal and it is better to have killer riffs that crush than to be original but be completely boring and a lot of that has been creeping into the doom metal scene over the past couple of years.

Pilgrim have been signed to Metal Blade Records so that is somewhat of an oddity in the doom scene and in fact this is one of the first Metal Blade releases I have ever reviewed but of course, being signed to a well-known label means nothing if your songs are garbage so it still all comes back to the music, So what about the music of Pilgrim? Well, there is plenty here for the traditional doom metal fan to get worked up over. First of all, the riffage crushes and it is insanely infectious at times while never getting stuck in plodding mode for long. The worshiping at the altar of bands like Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus and Reverend Bizarre never quits and never shifts direction. This is a pure doom-laden riff feast from start to finish. This is the kind of doom metal that purists insist is "real doom-metal" but we can argue about that for months, can't we? 'Misery Wizard' features six songs, half of which top the ten minute mark and none of them get too dull but they don't offer any surprises either.

This album follows the Sabbathian blueprint to the letter and never throws you a curve ball but thankfully, their riffs are very good so that is what saves this from just being another throwaway traditional doom metal release. The album highpoints are when they strike at something that has more of an original flavor and I use the term "original" very loosely in the case of Pilgrim. The album opening and closing tracks are both highlights, those being 'Astaroth' and 'Forsaken Man.' On 'Forsaken Man' they up the atmospheric end of their style with a very bleak, harrowing piece of epic doom. While it is still very similar to Reverend Bizarre's better works, they at least put their own spin on the style. 'Astaroth' 'Adventurer' and another track 'Masters of the Sky' work by mixing up the tempo just a tad by injecting a little speed with some galloping rhythms and if you can stop your head from moving during these two tracks, you must be on some serious downer drugs.

Elsewhere on the album however, it is pretty standardized traditional doomy fare. The title track can get a bit tedious after a while and never really gets off the ground and 'Quest' is a sinister tune but it cries out for some dramatic tempo and riff changes that never really happen so it tends to get meandering. The production is great and the guitar sound is big, fuzzy and thick. Drums pound with unrelenting power but the vocals are the band's weak point. They are far from horrible but the vocals seem rushed and buried in the mix. Whether this is intentional or not, I have no idea but the voice is average at best so maybe the vocals are buried for a reason, who knows? Despite all its flaws however, 'Misery Wizard' is an album that is impossible to hate but it would help a lot if you are a dedicated traditional doom metal fan as fans of funeral doom and death doom may find the Reverend Bizarre worship a bit like overkill after nearly an hours worth of these tunes...7.5/10