|Musical Style: Progressive Rock||Produced By: Scott Miller|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2010||Artist Website: Pilgrimsprog|
|Tracks: 15||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 57:39|
By every reasonable definition, Pilgrimsprog, the 2010 full-length debut of multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Scott Miller’s Pilgrimsprog project, is a progressive concept album. It’s progressive from the standpoint of the detailed and meticulous songwriting, ranging from shorter tracks (standing out with their light but unmistakable intricacies) to lengthy epics (exceeding ten minutes and featuring the twists and turns inherit of progressive music) to interlude pieces (mostly instrumental and serving to tie the storyline together). Similar to the Pilgrimsprog 2013 sophomore release Do You Have Thanatophobia?, a foundation of hard rock, classic rock and acoustic rock will also be encountered along with occasional Rush nuances.
It’s concept related in terms of being based upon John Bunyan’s classic book Pilgrim’s Progress. True to the narrative at hand, events revolve around main character Christian and his journey to the Celestial City. On the way, he meets Evangelist, who directs him to the Wicket Gate, but first he must make his way through the Slough of Despond. Help comes to the rescue, after which he receives instruction from Gatekeeper Goodwill about the Heavenly Path that leads to the Place of Deliverance. The House Beautiful ensues and gives way to the confrontation with Apollyon and imprisonment by Giant Despair in Doubting Castle. Following his escape and traversing the River of Death, Christian triumphs by making his glorious entry into Celestial City.
As far as concept albums go, Pilgrimsprog touches upon enough detail but not too much as to overwhelm the listener. Credit the artist in this capacity, in that he could have instead turned this into a tedious 2 to 3 disc concept series- keeping in mind the extensive nature of the subject matter potentially allows this. He also sidesteps the main pitfalls that often hinder concept albums, specifically the use of unnecessary interlude pieces and cheesy narration. My experience has been that the best concept albums forgo narration due to the music and lyrics being inherently strong enough to get said concept across on its own- and such is the case with Pilgrimsprog.
The album flows chronologically with each song reflecting a point on the main characters journey. “Dream” opens things strongly from this standpoint, starting with its ethereal keyboard instrumental introduction and hard rocking remaining distance carried by driving rhythms, searing leads and screaming Hammond B-3. “Seek The Gate” and “SOD” maintain the heavier slant, with former pointedly decisive in intertwining massive riffs with a smooth and airy chorus and latter every bit staunch from its more tumultuous feel as aggressive guitars and slamming drums trade off. What the two have in common is continued use of seventies influenced organ.
Minute long instrumental interlude “Help” introduces a more laid back and acoustic laced facet to the album. It begins with “Gatekeeper”, plodding with acoustic based verses and pristine refrain woven with layered vocal melodies, but also includes “I Believe”, uplifting from its decisive tempo and every bit forthright lyrical approach (as Christian finds redemption upon reaching the Place of Deliverance:
I believe in God the Father
I believe in His Holy Son
Jesus Christ the Sacrifice
I believe that He is the One
Firstborn over all creation
I believe my sins forgiven
Washed away by His precious Blood
A lighter touch also manifests itself in keyboard and piano based instrumental, “Overture”, and “Beautiful’, an aptly entitled acoustic heavy rocker with a worshipful feel and crisp guitar leads decorating the backdrop.
Album takes a more assertive and darker turn starting with instrumental “Confrontation”, ominously pensive from its contentious flavorings and joining of strident bass lines and brazen tempo. “Giant Despair” highlights a similar heading in a vocal format, as galloping riffs and solemn low end add to the downtrodden setting at hand. “The River”, in contrast, tempers the mood in playing up a warm and textured aura reflective in its acoustic aspects and inspirational refrain.
Pilgrimsprog reaches its apex with “Celestial City”, a ten-minute epic certain to delight fans of 70’s progressive giants such as Genesis, King Crimson, Yes, ELP and Kansas. Half the song is instrumental, including the first five minutes as classical instrumentation and symphonic choir vocals transition to staunch guitars and moody keyboards. Tempo picks up for the songs final half as a victorious tone is set with a perfectly flowing melody aligning with accenting organ and sublime instrumental moments. Lyrics serve to tie the storyline together:
I see the City of Light
I see the Gates of Glory
I see the Holy Creatures bowing down before Him
Where does this light come from?
I do not see the sun
This city does not need the sun to light the day
I am a man of unclean lips
Lord have mercy
All I see is the blood of my Son
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord
Enter into the rest, welcome to eternity
Outro piece “Compline” ends things to ringing bells, keyboards and acoustic guitars.
You will also find at the end bonus track acoustic versions to “Beautiful” and “Dream”.
Similar to Do You Have Thanatophobia?, Scott Miller takes a “one man band project” approach. Vocally, he continues to bring a smooth and clean middle register style that hints of Phil Keaggy- a compliment in the truest sense of the word. He also ably performs all instrumentation, including keyboards, bass, rhythm, lead and acoustic guitars and fails to spread himself too thin - as can happen with one-man band releases - despite the scope of the project. Lead guitar duties he shares with Kyle Kraft, who makes a guest soloing appearance on “Dream”.
Competently done production comes across textured with a full and rich feel emphasizing a hearty low end while playing up darker underpinnings (as befitting the subject matter) in the process.
Lone constructive comment potentially revolves around cover artwork that, while far from bad, I wish had better reflected the albums theme. For example, it might have worked better if artwork depicted some aspect of Christian’s journey, such as his getting stuck in Slough of Despond, fight with Apollyon, entry into the Celestial City, etc.
Pilgrimsprog proves as classy a concept release as you will find. I am surprised another artist has not previously broached the story at hand; hence, the album is unique from this standpoint. Again, credit Miller for approaching the subject in such an efficient manner without distracting the listener with a lot of unnecessary detail. Pilgrimsprog flows that much better as a result. Accordingly, if I had compiled a list of top releases from 2010 then it would have ranked highly. Likewise, similar sentiment exists on my part for “Celestial City” in terms of song of the year. Fans of progressive music and concept releases would be well served to check this out.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Dream” (5:13), “Seek The Gate” (3:29), “SOD” (3:16), “Help” (1:00), “Gatekeeper” (3:22), “I Believe” (4:28), “Overture” (1:29), “Beautiful” (3:09), “Confrontation” (4:03), “Giant Despair” (3:59), “The River” (4:04), “Celestial City” (10:37), “Compline” (2:05), “Beautiful” (acoustic) (2:57), “Dream” (acoustic) (4:28)
Scott Miller - Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass & Keyboards
Kyle Kraft - Guitars