OLDE – Pilgrimage (2021)REVIEW

Be it for the sake of penance, for community, or in display of defiant perseverance whatever reason northwest Toronto area sludge metal quintet Olde persist with on their third full-length album, ‘Pilgrimage‘, certainly makes for a convincingly irreverent apocalyptic doom n’ shout devotional here in still-early 2021. A greying, long dead world is all one could envision (and hear) in approach of their slow-burning dynamism, a wrathful assail of fine details and mountainous grooves breathing fire across the plague lands envisioned throughout much of the album. Vitriol, remorse, and an uncanny sense of sifting through ashes of the ‘self’ for the sake of memento from the auld world are enriching for their damning confrontational values yet it is the tempered, quietly passionate bits of ‘Pilgrimage’ that most genuinely seethe and strike beyond the eardrum. More than mournful escapism or catharses, these sophisticated Canadian brutes tap into the truest reality-based devastation that sludge metal has always needed to survive, at least with any reasonable distinction.

Hailing from somewhere in between Mississauga and Toronto to start, guitarist/producer Greg Dawson‘s experience working with stoner/doom stalwarts Sons of Otis would ultimately induce the birth Olde. The fellow has been in a pretty broad stretch of sub-genre bands over the years although I’d personally recognized his name from production credits on recent concept albums from black metal band Panzerfaust. Olde would source a solid crew of folks from the get-go, including current Sons of Otis drummer Ryan Aubin and distinct vocalist Doug McLarty, who has an interesting musical resume including a few early 90’s thrash metal bands: Holy Order and hidden death-thrash gem Catharsis (see: ‘…Under Threatening Skies‘). Their edge was apparent from the start, readying a simply titled debut full-length ‘I‘ (2014), a record that’d acted as a blunt instrument for their fuzzed and sludge-defeatist sourness, lead by vocalist Doug McLarty‘s golem roar. A quick EP (‘Shallow Graves‘, 2016) a couple years later modulated some of the groovy heavy rock spirit back into the band, helped along greatly via a sharp Motörhead cover. A moment of weakness or, a fleeting respite, as Olde‘s second full-length (‘Temple‘, 2017) wasn’t far behind and it’d found them chunking back into the dirtier, painful side of early sludge metal by emphasizing period adjacent hardcore that has long influenced sludge metal. It’d been a brutal slog for my own taste but a memorable experience nonetheless.

Much as I’d delight in suggesting some lightened similarities with Entombed‘s muscular ‘Inferno’ or the sludgier, bluesy edge of the deeper cuts on ‘Uprising’, the post-High on Fire generation of sludge heavy stoner/doom metal is probably the most valid place to look in conveyance of what Olde actually sound like. The raw-stomping and heroic moments of Horn of the Rhino comes to mind first, maybe Firebreather for their obvious influences and downtuned strum, yet I’d also have to flesh out that mental imagery with finer slow-burning sludge metal bands like In The Company of Serpents as well as the psychedelic doom buzz of Obelysskh circa ‘White Lightnin” a few more years back, a deliberate pace and well-layered sound that mingles in the ear in the same way modern doom/sludge metal often does. With McLarty as our clear-yet-grizzled narrator the vocal patterns presented drive most songs with the air of damning revelation, often breaking into hardcorish bane one could equally attribute to late 90’s Neurosis or that same era of post-‘Wolverine Blues’ L-G Petrov. The distinction to make from all of this is that we’re getting the signature gruffness that Olde have presented thus far, the voice is there yet elements of psychedelic and modern doom metal help to round out the tough-chunkin’ edges of ‘Temple’. Pulling in bigger grooves, landing with eased atmospheric tension and amping up the contemplative stoner metal surrealism via both classic and modern guitar compositions helps ‘Pilgrimage’ get its point across, we aren’t all about endlessly screaming punishment but we -are- fucked.

“Medio Della Peste” is a rightful and well-placed single in the running order, Olde haven’t fully indicated the heavier oppression of Side B by the third song and this piece softens the blow by picking up a stoner metal cap for a few minutes. “The Dead Hand” will likely ring in the ears of folks who love the traditional doom metal torsion of early High on Fire and for my own taste this piece was reason enough to go forward with the full listen beyond that already waist deep point. The well-paired finale of “Under Threatening Skies” and “Wastelands” features the quintet at their most dense and doomed depiction of apocalyptic doom with the latter piece allowing for some bluesy respite as it plays us out. Though I haven’t found the full listen to be earth shattering revelation in terms of style or riffcraft I have appreciated the lyrics matching up with the intensity of the vocals, if a fellow is going to scream it might as well be in depiction of a world at the end of the noose. The production values are fantastic, clearly having learned the lessons of the 2000’s sludge boon and found distinctive yet harmonious placement for each performance to cohere. A professional, heavy, and darkly resonant modern (but not post-metal) record with plenty of value beyond its first listen Olde‘ve done a fine job in terms of songcraft, performance and render here on their third album. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (75/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Sludgelord Records,
Seeing Red Records
RELEASE DATE:March 19th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Sludge/Doom Metal,
Stoner Metal

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