Pilgrim – II: Void Worship (Metal Blade Records, 01 April 2014)
Blizaro – Cornucopia della Morte (I, Voidhanger Records, 15 April 2016)
Hey! Did you enjoy Monday’s post about old-school occult/doom metal? I hope you did, because [[SPOILER ALERT]] there’s plenty more where that came from. Today we’ll be taking a look at another pair of bands who fit that description: Pilgrim and Blizaro.
As it turns out, each of these bands will be joining together with Castle on a handful of their upcoming tour dates (which we had discussed yesterday); one of the shows Blizaro is scheduled to play (July 31st in Pittsburgh) also will feature Brimstone Coven; a few lucky people will get the chance to see both Blizaro AND Pilgrim together. Further details about all this will be tucked into the comment section below, so be sure to check that out. But first, let’s talk about some music …
Newport, Rhode Island natives Pilgrim had their debut album Misery Wizard issued by Metal Blade Records back in 2012, to much critical acclaim. Since that time, bassist “Count Elric the Soothsayer” has departed; however, drummer “Krolg, Slayer of Man” and vocalist/guitarist/lyricist/songwriter “The Wizard” remain in the fold, with the latter adding bass-playing to his resumé. With the trio now reduced to a duo, their follow-up II: Void Worship was recorded and released (also by Metal Blade), two years ago in April.
The album opens with a mysterious, minor key guitar figure (sort of along the lines of “In the Hall of the Mountain King”) that makes up the short “Intro,” leading directly into the main riff of “Master’s Chamber.” Built upon the same basic guitar part as the opening track, but heavier and much slower, this song is certainly one of the album’s highlights that will stick in your head for quite a long time. The vocal melody — done in a slow baritone at first, and then slipping up into the tenor register in a later repeat — follows the guitar line practically note-for-note. For a long time, we have a slowly developing progression of chords in the guitar and bass parts, eventually turning into a new riff about halfway through, this one a bit more chuggy, but still very slow. Over the last two minutes everything slows down even more, giving off a feeling of grandeur — and finally around the nine minute mark the vocals return, closely following this new guitar part just as they had done earlier. These first two tracks by themselves — about twelve minutes altogether — are worth the price of admission (and secured the album a slot in my Top 14 of 2014 list). But don’t go anywhere, because the quality never diminishes over the remaining six tracks.
From the dark guitar arpeggio and slow waltz-time drums of “Arcane Sanctum” through the medium-tempo 6/8 “In the Process of Evil” to the two-minute “Dwarven March” based on a riff similar to the one at the end of “Master’s Chamber,” heavy doom instrumentals are interspersed with longer songs (“The Paladin” and “Void Worship,” for example) full of early Candlemass-style singing and thick, billowy layers of overdriven and reverby guitars. The overall tone here is somewhere halfway between Pallbearer and Volume 4 era Sabbath. In fact, the way closing track “Away from Here” progresses from a series of slowly-moving chords to an increasingly complex and chaotic conclusion seems similar to the way that album ends.
More than two years later, I am not aware of any immediate plans for new Pilgrim material — although we can certainly keep our fingers crossed — but at least we know that three lucky east coast cities will get the chance to see this band perform in August (see the details down in the comments). In the meantime, check out this crazy animated video for “The Paladin” and then go buy a copy of this amazing album!
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Rochester’s Blizaro is essentially the brainchild of guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist John Gallo, with whom you might be familiar as one of the founding members of Orodruin. It initially was a solo project with occasional guest contributors, through a series of demos and splits (and debut full-length City of the Living Nightmare which came out in 2010), after which Gallo had written the material for a second album, but this was reportedly shelved temporarily while he embarked on yet another solo journey, this time as John Gallow. Returning to the Blizaro material sometime later, he recruited Orodruin bandmate Mike Waske on drums and bassist Mark Rapone and put these nine tracks to tape; this peculiar and haunting opus finally saw the light of day about two months ago via I, Voidhanger, who had previously released the John Gallow album in 2014.
Okay, with that history lesson out of the way, let’s talk about Cornucopia della Morte. The record can be viewed as two different halves, more or less, with one central track joining them. “Giallo,” the instrumental exploration in the middle, starts off with a bassy synth incorporating a LFO filter (or some fancy jargon like that, basically I mean that it sounds all spacey and weird) combined with a driving rhythm consisting of syncopated guitar/bass/drums — overall the extended jamminess of the composition (with different instruments trading the lead melody back and forth) and the vibe of the background part combines to remind me a bit of “Green-eyed Lady.” A bit more synth-driven than the classic doom sound of the opening four tracks, this song seems to set the stage for the darker, nightmarish journey that’s forthcoming through the remaining four — and (fitting the song’s title perfectly) at one point an organ melody jumps out front, with a sort of horror movie (i.e. The Exorcist) soundtrack feel to it.
The preceding songs are identified as the four parts of a larger suite called “Nemesis,” though each is further subtitled. Spanning a wide range of influences (under the overall umbrella of doom metal), we go from the Egyptian/Arabian intro of “Daughter of the Scarab” through some lead guitar that could have fit perfectly on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath as well as a handful of electric piano, organ, and other synth sounds thrown into the mix; “Citadel of the Lunatic” further develops the mid-70s Sabbath sound while seeming equally inspired by late-70s NWOBHM (and a healthy dose of Gates of Slumber-style doom as well). “Interludio,” just under two minutes long, features a classical-style acoustic guitar set against atmospheric synths, flutes, and choir sounds — giving off a vibe remarkably similar to “Solitude” from Master of Reality, while finally “Altered State” seems like more of an old-school metal jam, a bit faster and with a cool guitar solo to boot, though it later slows down with a fuzzy bass in the driver’s seat and the lead part alternated between an organ and synthesizer.
The latter half of the album seems to portray an Inferno-like expedition. Despite the playful-sounding synth lead that opens “Frozen Awakening” (definitely giving off an ELP vibe), once the vocals enter the song takes on more of a Witchcraft quality, and things just turn more sinister from there. “Voyage to Hell” (a cover of a song originally by Paul Chain Violet Theatre) includes some rather menacing, almost frightening, vocals and aggressive guitar riffs — in essence, the song is a a three-minute descent into madness (seeming like the title is being interpreted as a metaphor for internally sinking into despair?). Continuing on with the references to moving downward, penultimate track “The Staircase” features widely sweeping synths and a sort of jauntily flanged guitar sound; later on the wild drum parts bring to mind the style of Ginger Baker. And this brings us to “Stygian Gate,” which includes the sound of falling rain and tolling bells, creating an atmosphere gloomy and doomy enough to fit its title’s literal reference to the entrance to hell.
When combined as a whole, the ‘abundant supply of death’ of this album will satiate anyone who’s craving high-quality doom tempered with uniquely experimental and progressive leanings. And don’t forget to check down in the comments for a list of the band’s upcoming travels all over the northeastern USA!
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