Pilgrim’s 2012 debut, Misery Wizard, was the exact type of album you’d see discussed enthusiastically by hardcore fans of a particular style, ignored by most everyone else, and largely forgotten within a short time. Not that it was at all bad; their melodic, crawling doom boasted solid riffery, and the vocals of Jon “The Wizard” Rossi were more than passable at worst and Albert Witchfindery at best. But the lack of almost any unique traits placed the band squarely in the check-in-later category. Sophomore effort Void Worship reveals a band that has certainly gained a better understanding of their identity, but at the same time has blurred the end goal of making a concise album, despite showing flashes of greatness.
Void Worship kicks off with one such flash, as “Master’s Chamber” reveals a more honed, interesting Pilgrim than on the debut. The shades of Reverend Bizarre are still very much present – even enhanced in the greatly improved, vibrato-drenched vocals – and aided by a touch of smokiness and loads of texture. But the real sign that Pilgrim worked on their approach comes from the hints of Revelation’s laid back vibe, providing a depth unheard on much of Misery Wizard.
But then, as quickly as the album makes a strong impression, it levels out. Some quality guitar breaks in “The Paladin” can’t quite save what is an otherwise rather drab rocker, while the ensuing two instrumental tracks hammer down what is likely the album’s greatest fault: a criminal shortage of vocals. When the album’s four total instrumental tracks (those two plus an intro and yet another interlude later) are added to the long stretches of vocal-less minimalism in other songs, it means that far too much of Void Worship is not utilizing Pilgrim’s greatest asset. Beyond just depriving the listener of those sweet croons, stuffing the heart of the album with such filler also might cause major issues with pacing and flow.
Thankfully, Void Worship emerges from this slump with the epic Bizarreness at which Pilgrim so specializes. The title track, and especially the closing “Away From Here” – with its bottom end trill riff and soaring vocal melodies – show the band at full strength, leaving listeners to wonder what this album had been like without about a third of the time spent meandering. Overall, Pilgrim takes a sideways step on their second long player. More unique, but less focused, and until they figure it all out, destined to remain a strictly niche act.