Archive for May, 2014

Originally published here: http://www.thesleepingshaman.com/reviews/album-reviews/p/pilgrim-ii-void-worship-cd-lp-dd-2014/

To truly understand a band like Pilgrim, I truly believe you need to be stoned. Like, Cheech and Chong stoned. Like Rob Ford stoned. Unfortunately I don’t partake in the Mary Jane, so maybe I’ll never know how good this band really are. For me, I try to understand a new record by a band by listening to where it fits with their previous material. With Pilgrim, to understand ‘II: Void Worship’, you need to listen to ‘Misery Wizard’. Don’t worry, I’ve got 55 minutes, carry on.

Done? Ok good. Now, how good was that record? How much did it remind you of classic doom like Electric Wizard, Cathedral and new heroes Pallbearer, but yet in an exciting and non-derivative fashion? Exactly. Pilgrim are one of those bands that can take the basic tenets of doom and meld them into something riveting. Slow, not plodding. Atmospheric, not ‘moody’. Thunderous, not heavy. Pilgrim are the aural equivalent of being steamrollered by the Magic Roundabout. ‘II: Void Worship’ has a lot to live to.

Thankfully, it does. After a suitably short intro, we are immediately thrust into the ten minute thunder of ‘Master’s Chamber’. Capturing the essence of Cathedral and Vitus in a matter of riffs is definitely a good way to start, and this lumbering beast of a track doesn’t disappoint. The more upbeat ‘Paladin’ is next, rocking a faster pace and a mighty psychedelic vocal delivery. It is a cracking tune, led by the hand by a seriously catchy main riff. Pilgrim lay down every song with the intent of becoming THE next icon in the doom world, and with ‘II: Void Worship’, they are putting their case forward with gusto.

Arcane Sanctum’ has one of those classic mournful doom intros, a slow guitar melody that lurks in the gloom, lost and searching. When the lurching riffs appear, the melody slots in perfectly and it takes on a new life. Pilgrim don’t do much at speed, but good doom was generally always slow anyway. ‘In The Presence of Evil’ has a relentless, seasick groove to it. It sways and grooves, and demands that thy head be nodded in approval. ‘Void Worship’ is like being dragged slowly, inexorably to your doom (pun intended), slipping, sliding with no hope of rescue into the void. It is cavernous, endless and glacially slow. It’s also fucking perfect. Pilgrim have arrived on the scene in time to pick up Cathedral’s mantle, and drag it onward.

Closing with the ponderous ‘Dwarven March’ and the titanic ‘Away From Here’, Pilgrim are doom’s new flagbearers. ‘II: Void Worship’ is the sound of the endless space, reaching up to drag us in. Utterly, magnificently essential.

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I had the pleasure of interviewing The Wizard from Rhode Island’s heaviest sons, Pilgrim after reviewing their latest record, ‘Void Worship’. Originally published here at the Sleeping Shaman: http://www.thesleepingshaman.com/interviews/g-q/pilgrim-sandy-williamson-questions-founding-member-the-wizard/

 

Where did the idea for Pilgrim come together?

I started Pilgrim back in 2011. The original concept of the band was to mix my worship of doom metal with my worship of fantasy games and role-playing. I always felt like the way fantasy was represented in metal was not exactly the way I thought it should be in my head. It started strictly as a recording project, but it quickly turned into a live band when I asked Krolg to play drums.

What is the doom scene in Rhode Island like, and is there anything specific about the state that led you to creating Pilgrim’s style?

There’s not too much doom metal in Rhode Island. There’s us and our friends in Balam and that’s about it, at least for the style of doom that we enjoy. The scene has grown quite a bit though. A doom metal show in Rhode Island is ALWAYS sold out, whether it’s in Providence or not. I’m quite pleased with the scene here now.

I’m not really sure that anything about Rhode Island has influenced our music. I didn’t even know that HP Lovecraft had anything to do with Rhode Island until I was a young adult. If Pilgrim was Rhode Island inspired, all the songs would probably be quahogs and sail boats.

‘Misery Wizard’ was very well regarded when it was released in 2012, did this create pressure for the second record?

There was massive pressure on ourselves to not fuck up the actual recording quality of the record. We were quite unhappy with how our sound came across on the first record and were HELLBENT on making sure that our new record was one of the heaviest things people ever heard in their lives. Krolg and I find the first record to be quite embarrassing now sonically. We can barely listen to it.

Many doom bands can share such similar traits and styles that a new band can become lost in the mix, no matter how good they are. Has it been difficult to ‘breakout’ and become a unique entity?

I don’t think so. Originality and uniqueness is something that we wholeheartedly represent as people. We absolutely loath unoriginal music. It’s such a waste in our eyes. There’s a difference between worship and utter unchecked plagiarism.

Did becoming a duo affect the recording process for the new record?

No. Although we credited Count Elric on bass guitar on the first record, he never actually played on it. I played bass for that record as well. So it was pretty much exactly the same experience tracking wise. The major differences were that we worked very closely and intently on the sonic quality of the record, something that we neglected horribly on the first one.

Onto ‘Void Worship’. There’s something inherently dark about it, an ominous vibe permeates each song. What were the main inspirations for it?

It’s simply our second record. There was no crazy concept or planned goal for this record (other than being heavy and awesome). It’s just a collection of songs, the next chapter in our musical pilgrimage. A lot of the material is actually old material from before Misery Wizard that I recorded, forgot about, and then rediscovered.

The lyrics themes are a bit private, but I think anyone with a keen mind can figure out what the songs are about if they listen closely enough.

Is there any band who inspire your style of playing more than others? I feel that you could be spiritual successors to Cathedral, you have the same eccentric, dragging groove that they had.

Thanks! I think a massive amount of initial inspiration for Pilgrim came from Sleep and Electric Wizard. Electric Wizard warped my fucking mind. That band changed who I am and who I will always be. Quite brutal. Eventually, the mighty Reverend Bizarre became my #1 inspiration as far as the style of doom that I loved. Slow, crawling, epic, expansive, but not cheesy.

You recently played with Mount Salem in Chicago, one of my own new favourite bands. Is there any bands you’ve toured with who you’d recommend people to check out, and is there anyone you’d like to share a stage with?

The best tour we ever did was with Windhand, but everyone knows who they are now! Some extremely excellent bands we’ve played with that I recommend are Druglord, Natur, Balam, Ice Dragon, The Wounded Kings, and Sinister Haze, just to name a few.

We’re really hoping to share the stage with Conan or Bongripper sometime soon.

If you could sell the idea, the concept of Pilgrim in one sentence, what would it be?

Fuck, I can’t. Something about heaviness and wizards, whatever.

Thanks for the interview and please use this space for any final words…

Take drugs, worship Satan, reject reality.

How do you begin to approach something as important as the new Triptykon record? In the light of cover artist H.R. Giger’s unfortunate passing recently, it makes it all the more difficult. The man behind Triptykon is one of the most genuine visionaries in all of metal history. The last two records he has written have been two of the darkest, heaviest and most affecting albums of the past 10 years. Tom G. Warrior creates his own pressure for followups, yet it doesn’t seem to phase him, especially if ‘Melana Chasmata’ is anything to go by.

‘Tree of Suffocating Souls’ is not, however, where I saw this album going at the start. Previous work has leaned more toward the occurence of riffs like earthquakes, shaking whatever your belief is heavy to the very core. This is about as thrash as the man has been in years. It’s jarringly welcome; taking your preconceptions and tossing them out the window. This morphs into the slow burning ‘Boleskine House’, which brings back the tar thick riffs, juxtapositioning delicate female vocals over Warrior’s sombre tones. It invokes the same feeling I got the first time I heard ‘Shatter’, still my favourite Triptykon song.

‘Altar of Deceit’ provides the first properly MASSIVE riffs of the record, crashing tectonic plates of doom at it’s darkest and most malevolent. Warrior’s roar sermonising the end of the world, his vocals taking that delightfully sparse approach. He says more with a few words than most vocalists manage in an album. Around the six minute mark, the death march begins, dragging us all to an inexorable end. And we’re only on the third track…

‘Melana Chasmata’, and Triptykon itself, is the unblinking, unwavering sound of pure doom. Not the genre, the feeling of the end. Apocalypse. Darkness. Death. It personifies the coming end in various forms, be it the savage attack of ‘Breathing’ that invokes some of Celtic Frost’s most iconic early work, the melancholy gothic undertones in the majestic ‘Aurorae’ or the slow crawling, inescapable darkness of ‘Demon Pact’.

By the time the record is over, after the titanic menace of ‘Black Snow’ and the atmospheric beauty of ‘Waiting’, I feel almost empty. ‘Melana Chasmata’ takes everything from you, taking a work of ugliness and despair and creating something beautiful. ‘Melana Chasmata’ stands above ‘Monotheist’ and ‘Eparistera Daimones’ as Tom G. Warrior’s most powerful, devastating statement of intent. He is the whisperer in darkness, and the architect of death, and this is the blueprint for demise.

This is Phil Anselmo performing Pantera’s classic ‘I’m Broken’ with Black Label Society in New York on the 10th of May. It’s fucking cool to see Anselmo performing Pantera songs with arguably the only guitarist that could play Dimebag’s guitar parts with the same feeling and technique. But should we get a Pantera reunion with Zakk on guitar? I think no. As cool as it would be to see, I think Pantera as an entity should be kept at rest out of respect for Dimebag. Keep doing cool moments like this for the fans, and let them have the songs Dimebag helped to create in the past as a memory. Respect the dead

How to react to ‘Heroes’ is really a question of who you are. Do you like massive singalong choruses about war and soldiers and TANKS?! Do you appreciate a power metal band capable of writing a ballad that doesn’t sound like a Michael Buble song with a killer solo (‘The Battle of Bull’)? Do you like TANKS?! Then this is 2014’s best record so far.

Well, I’ll clarify that a bit better. This is 2014’s most FUN record so far, wrestling with the new Edguy album for the top spot. Sure, on a musical, emotional, visceral level, releases from Behemoth, Triptykon etc are better records, but you are unlikely to get a record that exemplifies the fucking joy that metal can bring people more than ‘Heroes’. Just listen to the infectious melody that leads ‘To Hell and Back’ to worm its way deeper and deeper into your brain until you go for a piss at 3am and find yourself whistling it.

‘Heroes’ is a record full of such moments. Opening with the bombastic power of ‘Night Witches’, which brings back pleasant memories of ‘Ghost Divison’ from ‘The Art of War’, it’s a guaranteed gig opening track with its fist pumping refrain ‘unexpected, undetected, wings of glory, tell the story’! Joakim Broden holds court with his distinctive vocal style, infusing songs with power and might. The album deals with the concept of, unsurprisingly, heroes, from the female Soviet bombers (Night Witches), to Witold Pilecki (Inmate 4859) who went undercover in Auschwitz to relay the truth about the Holocaust. Fittingly, the music is all very heroic and epic. You can imagine vast crowds singing along with ‘No Bullets Fly’, ‘Smoking Snakes’ or second single ‘Resist and Bite’.

Sabaton was the band that inspired my ongoing project to examine the influence of history on metal bands and songs as a lyrical inspiration. They manage to create a narrative throughout each song that tells the story without sacrificing melody nor catchiness. Nor are they constrained by taboo subjects, having taken on the Holocaust again after ‘The Final Solution’ from 2010’s ‘Coat of Arms’, or celebrating the 12th and 9th German armies that protected fleeing refugees over the Elbe while retreating from the Soviets (‘Hearts of Iron). War takes a toll on all sides equally, whether victorious or in defeat, and its refreshing to see it explored.

‘Heroes’ is a brilliant, energising record. With a discography full of some of the most memorable power metal songs of the past 5-6 years, it’s always a pleasure to see Sabaton create a record that mixes all of their best traits while reigning in some of the overindulgence of ‘Carolus Rex’. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and attempt to remove ‘To Hell in Back’ from my brains… Fuck it. ‘CROSSES GROW ON ANZIO, WHERE NO SOLDIERS SLEEP AND WHERE HELL’S SIX FEET DEEP!’

This was originally published here: http://www.thesleepingshaman.com/reviews/album-reviews/l/leppe-origins-cd-dd-2014/

Origins’ is the debut EP from Bristol riff manglers Leppe. They take their name from an Irish castle that is steeped in stories of bloody murder and occult practices, which should give you an idea of what this’ll sounds like. ‘Origins’ is a collaboration between the forces of black, doom and grindcore, mixed with a liberal dose of bile and hatred.

Opener ‘Hate’ is thirty six seconds of squalling feedback and throat wrenching screams. It sets the tone for what is to come. ‘The Bloody Chapel’ is a churning, riff powered track, underpinned by a rumbling battery of drums. Drenched in a suitably dark and savage vocal delivery, it brings to mind some brutal, atonal d-beat with added drum power. Frankly, it’s a belter of a track. ‘Gnaw The Goat’ is another rager that descends into a slightly uncomfortable riff before racing off again.

There is an element of danger with Leppe; a feeling that you can’t quite shake. The band are ready to jerk in all directions, be it layering howling feedback over thick, chugging riffs as in the close of ‘Gnaw The Goat’, or the more straightforward intro to ‘Elemental’ with its Neanderthal chug. This unpredictability gives you the pleasure of nodding your head to their slower, head caving riffs, all the while expecting a sudden change of direction. When it finally kicks in, you’re ready for it in all its crusty, d-beat glory.

‘Elemental’ may be the best track on this EP, but crushing closer ‘Voices Of The Oubliette’ is damn close. Eschewing the previous tracks’ penchant for full throttle grind riffs, ‘Voices Of The Oubliette’ throws in massive doom riffs, an unstoppable wave of heavy. It becomes almost hypnotic, with the raw ‘we are the voices of the oubliette’ refrain burrowing under your skin. Of course, this ponderous thunder doesn’t last too long before we’re treated to yet another cracking speedy riff. Leppe excel at this kind of riff; a churning gallop with a solid battery of drumming underneath it.

Origins’ is merely a taste of what this band could do with a full length release. As long as they keep to their current formula, I could see Leppe releasing something rather special in the future. As it is, ‘Origins’ is more than worth the £4 from their Bandcamp. Support this hateful, thunderous mob, because they’ve made a scorcher here.

Now, the question mark is really because I don’t know how to refer to the area that includes India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh etc of which my most recent scene discovery is. Middle Asia? Indian subcontinent? Anyway, whatever it is referred to officially, I have found that, as with most places in the world, there is a thriving metal community with some pretty kick ass bands that deserve attention. So I did what seems to be the best way to find music these days; scoured Facebook and Bandcamp for acts.

My first find was a split between Pakistan’s Foreskin and Nepal’s Maowali. It’s only a track each, available on Bandcamp here. The Foreskin track is some catchy, propulsive hardcore/thrash with a very cool solo. Maowali’s track, ‘El Dhoti’ is another short, sharp burst of hardcore, sounding like a melting of Converge and Hatebreed. Cool stuff.

Next up is a band that appeared often in my searches, Binaash. A brutal and slightly unhinged deathgrind band from Kathmandu in Nepal, their debut record ‘Binaashkaari’ is available on Bandcamp here. Check out ‘Dheet’ as the track that’ll sum them up in roughly two and a half minutes of savagery. They are nasty.

My next pick are Necrodeity, who I can’t find any actual recorded music for but they have a number of live videos up on YouTube of them performing at some live events. They also do some sick Terrorizer covers here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7S5N4SAfPkg . I think I’ll keep an eye on them, because they sound like they could have a lot of potential.

Blood Division, a Singaporean blackened d-beat band (their words, not mine) are a definitely highlight of my journey so far. They have a debut record in the works, and some of their demo material is still available. Listen here and prepare to accept them into your blackened hearts. ‘Razed in Nuclear Fire’ is another scorcher.

I’ll leave it there for tonight, but I shall return to these lands soon. They seem to have taken on the spirit of late 80s Brazilian metal with everything being raw and savage. It’s an exciting place to explore and promote, because every hard working metal band around the world deserves support. \m/