posted on 2/2012 By:
Like a number of folks out there, I was first drawn into the world of Rhode Island's Pilgrim through 2011's Forsaken Man demo. (Which, incidentally, is still available for Bandcamp downloadage for zero dollars and zero cents.) That particular slice of poking filth served as a perfect introduction to a band whose purpose showed an avid focus on furthering the creeping tenets laid down by bands like Reverend Bizarre and Forest Equilibrium-era Cathedral. Simply put, it's slow (desperately, at times) doom that's shootin' for a target that's as heavy as your Aunt Myrtle's ass dropping into a lawn chair.
But I ain't looking to sugarcoat things here: As much as I enjoyed Forsaken Man, it's taken me a bit to warm up to its successor. A portion of that blame belongs to me, however, because my initial exposure to Misery Wizard was limited to a choice between MacBook speakers and a fairly tinny set of headphones, and really, no album deserves a review under such feeble circumstances. So, I vowed to wait until the hard copy was in hand and I could drop the bastard into a real sound system, which proved to be critical.
This is the sort of album that's begging to be shared through multiple walls with your neighbors. The formula is fairly simple, and it's honestly nothing fans of this style haven't been exposed to before, so it's through the strength of exaggerated volume and heavy speakers that the three Pilgrims' strengths truly swell. And really, a huge tip of the hat is owed to the near-perfect production job found here; everything sounds rich and vivid, but there's still an element of rawness left over from the demo that makes it feel as if Pilgrim stepped right into the studio and ripped through each tune together and without a ludicrous amount of multi-multi-multi-tracking. So, in a sense, Misery Wizard feels a bit like The Wretch (The Gates of Slumber) in that a fairly simple formula of stripped guitar, bass, drums and vocals gets perfectly augmented by a warm, organic production to help drive home a win.
But there are faults, too. Misery Wizard is a fistful of solos shy of top-shelf material, and that point gets driven home by the fact that principal songwriter/guitarist/vocalist 'The Wizard' shows evidence of being quite the savvy leadsmith on a couple of occasions. The superb "Quest" was the peak of the demo, and it remains the pinnacle on Misery Wizard because it wisely spices the slogging with a sudden bolt of lightning half-way through that includes a particularly scorching lead. "Adventurer" similarly sports a fiery solo and is by far the most energetic tune of the bunch, but that's it in terms of hustle; the rest of the fare is sans bells and whistles and emphasizes the plodding side of the doom sphere. The method works for the shorter opener "Astaroth," but the 10+ minute self-titled track and 11-minute "Masters of the Sky" offer little in the way of footholds to secure and hold full attention.
Still, even with its few foibles, Misery Wizard works if you're a fan of the style. The Wizard's vocals are perfect for doom of this ilk: clean and confident, but still comfortably gruff enough to appropriately match the band's primitive, stripped approach. And the album's grisly artwork -- much like ye Forest of Equilibrium of olde -- gives the listener plenty of Dalí/surrealist eyeballing to do as you pour through the minutes. In other words, the positives easily outweigh the negatives, so fans of tromping, vinelike doom should surely put Pilgrim on their radar -- Misery Wizard, imperfections and all, marks the beginning of what I hope is a long, heavy and strange trip.
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