Pilgrim – Doom-metal, Heavy Drinking, and No Apologies

Doom. If you’re a nerd like me, the word conjures images of violent PC games and masked Marvel villains with PhDs in Evil Science. If you are a nerd of a higher pedigree, you might think doom-metal. It’s a sound that harkens back to Black Sabbath, emphasizing clean vocals and de-tuned guitars rather than screaming and breakdowns. As clean vocals return to preference in heavy music (thanks to bands like Baroness and The Sword), the heir apparent to the doom legacy may be Rhode Island-bred.

Pilgrim is a Rhode Island doom-metal act gaining acclaim in the realm of heavy music. The three-piece outfit was recently signed to Metal Blade Records (Unearth, Job for a Cowboy, Cannibal Corpse) and are creating the follow-up to their 2012 debut, Misery Wizard. There are only three guys in Pilgrim; Krolg the Slayer of Man (drums), Count Elric the Soothsayer (bass), and The Wizard (vocals/guitar), but they produce engrossing, dark down-tempo atmospherics as well as soaring vocals, powerful rhythm and groovy riffs as if they were a band twice the size. As far as heavy music goes, there are few RI acts as accessible or entertaining as Pilgrim. I talked with frontman, The Wizard, for more.

James Lucey: First off, congrats on your recent deal with Metal Blade! What have you guys been up to since you cut this new record deal?

The Wizard: We’ve been taking a little break and focusing on our lives outside the band. We just finished writing our next record (Void Worship). We dumped a LOT of time and energy into manifesting it completely. Now that the stress of writing it has subsided and we’ve got some time to kill before we actually record it, we’re just taking it easy. And drinking heavily.

JL: In an interview, Pilgrim once said Providence should be nuked. I don’t disagree. Sometimes Providence seems like a dystopia of hookah bars and Natty-Ice bros. What was so frustrating about playing shows and participating in the Providence scene?

TW: I’m glad you asked this. The whole thing has sort of blown out of proportion. When we first started as a band, we tried feverishly to play out in Providence, but every show we got was an opening spot on a dumb-ass post-hardcore show. Time and time again. It was infuriating. After a while, we built up a really horrible image of Providence, that it was this terrible nightmare of a city, living in the memory of its former glory as a big joke. But since we’ve been out to more doom shows, met more people there and gotten chances to play with great bands who we actually like, we’ve been overwhelmingly surprised by how nice it can be. Yeah, the people suck, but they suck everywhere, I guess. Do I regret what we said? No, not really. It was what we saw from our perspective as a young band. I just hope that people take the whole story into consideration before they absolutely hate us for it. Plus, it was really funny – totally worth it.

JL: Are there any redeeming qualities of Providence?

TW: Krolg and I were at a Windhand show last night at AS220 in Providence and I looked around and thought, “Fuck, I wish this was our first impression of the city.” I think that the doom is spreading and everything is getting a little bit cooler. You can thank Armageddon Records for that.

JL: Someone in the band (I think Krolg) said fantasy lyrics helps the band to deal with being such miserable human beings. Is it easier to conceptualize a song based on sword and sorcery than complaining about a shitty relationship? How does storytelling feed into the music aesthetic of the band?

TW: Yeah, it is easier. It’s sort of a no brainer. After 100-plus years of love songs, the same old lyrics get stale after a while. It’s all about prose. It’s all just another way to express the same feelings. That’s how I write anyway. Storytelling appeals to me personally because I love the idea of an epic journey or a quest. I get it from all the gnarly video games I played growing up. It will always be a part of the band and our style.

JL: What kind of musical background does the band come from? Did you always play together, and if so, was it always doom?

TW: We first started playing together when we were like 16 or so, and back then, like most kids, we worshiped our idols. We basically just wanted to be Nirvana. And then we just wanted to be The Melvins. After some time and after we discovered heavy, slow, stoner and doom music, we found that we really connected with it and that’s what we started playing. We always wanted our band to be a mix of doom metal and epic fantasy, almost like if Manilla Road was way slower and heavier, like Acid King or something! Imagine Acid King covering “Necropolis” (laughs).

JL: As metalcore fades into obscurity, do you think there’s a place for down-tempo doom as the new “heavy”? Would you even want Pilgrim to be considered “heavy” or “tough” music? That stigma seems to come with the metal territory. 

TW: The new heavy? Yeah, for sure. The new tough? I don’t think so. To analyze it in a bit of a spiritual way, I feel like most heavy bands that are truly unique and amazing worship the feminine energy, if that makes sense. Bands that are overly masculine are often fucking horrible. I feel that even a burly fucking band like Gates of Slumber has more of a feminine energy about their music. Maybe I’m just fucking insane.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most of the doom bands now (especially the younger guys like us) are WAY more influenced by hard rock than metal, per se. I was just discussing this with Garrett Morris from Windhand last night that neither of us really listens to too much metal or hardcore and we don’t really take influence from them. I think it’s because the masculinity is lost on us. We’re just a bunch of little girls. We’re inspired by bands that fucking ROCK, everything from Sonic Youth to Electric Wizard to Grand Funk Railroad; it’s more about the passion that makes a band good.

But at the same time, we still listen to metal, so don’t get your ideas crossed or whatever. Fuck it.

JL: What can fans expect from your upcoming release on Metal Blade?

TW: I personally believe that the material on our next record will blow Misery Wizard out of the water. I just hope we don’t fuck up recording it.

Check out Pilgrim online at metalblade.com/pilgrim for dates, info, and merch.

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