The inherent magic in stoner, doom, or sludge is the tension between deep sounds, emotional timber, their interaction and subsequent release. The best bands in these loosely tied genres, know perfectly the timings of expectation, urgency, and satisfaction. Drawing out the listener with supposedly repetitive ambiance, they lead them towards a crescendo of sound and emotion built on the foundations of those nearly discarded ground-works. The peak then, the execution of the most moving segment of the piece, gives the slower, heavier parts their meaning. This is the main disadvantage plaguing Pilgrim‘s Void Worship; the album itself is well-executed but what’s being performed is missing a vital part, namely a unique and evocative peak, a summit that would give the rest meaning.
The part that lacks this most are the vocals. Yes, the expected sound for this type of music is a drawl on each vowel, a certain sense of desperation and general apathy—a stoned out sound. But as we said before, it only works if there’s an awakening, a part where the vocals suddenly flare to life and shake off the detachment or melancholy they held before. Examples abound: Sahg are masters of this, the vocals consisting mostly of bass-laden intonations only to erupt into fire when the chorus strikes. HARK are recent additions to this art, featuring one of the most explosive vocalists in the industry. Here, with Pilgrim, these moments are missing. The album’s music is punctuated by a faint and unconvincing delivery, as if all words have been said before and interest has been lost. And, indeed, careful listening to the lyrics proves that this is true: demons, candles, and human weakness are the stock and staple of the album’s imagery.
The saddest thing is that when the vocals do rise above, they are brilliant. And indeed, the tracks where this happens are the saving graces of this album. ‘Void Worship’ itself is a masterful track: the guitars bear an irresistible poignancy and the drums work marvelously in the background to maintain the heaviness and cohesion of the album. At the three-quarters mark the vocals kick in, bearing a depth and then height reminiscent of Devin Townsend on his later works. The moment is punctuated by far-apart chords, all contributing to an unbearable overflow that is eventually perfectly resolved with the outro to the song. The other ray of darkness in this album is ‘Away From Here‘, a slow moving meditation on longing and homesickness. Here we experience the other form of structure that lends itself to stoner sound: instead of peaking, the track simply goes deeper and deeper accompanied by vocals that seem to almost come from within dream or another world.
Sadly, these two tracks do not suffice to make this album memorable. Besides them, only ‘Master’s Chamber’ deserves further mention, utilizing an interesting leitmotif that keeps one intrigued through the ten and a half minutes of the track. The rest of the tracks are sadly bland, never seeming to fully explore or utilize their basic structure or sound. Pilgrim need to undergo a thoughtful process; finding the place that hurts, the well of sorrow or anger that fuels such music, is necessary. The allure of heavier and heavier sound is understandable but does not hold enough weight in itself to carry an entire album and Void Worship is a sadly fitting example of this.
Pilgrim’s II: Void Worship gets…