|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website: Pilgrimsprog|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 40:10|
Meet the independently released 2013 sophomore album from Lawrence, Kansas’ Pilgrimsprog entitled Do You Have Thanatophobia? Defined as an abnormal fear of death, thanatophobia confronts the listener with the obvious question in light of the albums title: Are you afraid of dying? Founding member Scott Miller comments further (from the Pilgrimsprog press material): “Are you afraid of death? What really happens when you die? Is that the end of it? Try as you might you just can't get it out of your mind. Talking to people, even Christians, I was surprised to find many people are afraid of death.”
The artist, who debuted in 2010 with the concept album Pilgrimsprog based around John Bunyan’s classic book Pilgrim’s Progress, takes a one-man band approach in similar fashion as the Theocracy debut, Sacredfice, Babylon Mystery Orchestra and others. I have suggested in past reviews that one-man band projects potentially spread an artist too thin in that it is not always possible for a single musician to do all things equally well. In other words, it is important that for those going the one-man band project route to know their limitations. Hence, the understandable decision by Miller to use “Beta Music Loops”, which are live drum loops recorded by a real drummer. He handles everything else, including lead, rhythm and bass guitar, keyboards and lead vocals, and quite competently at that.
Pilgrimsprog delivers a tasteful blend of straightforward hard rock, classic rock and progressive rock. Progressive aspects are somewhat understated and not quite pronounced as some (there is no Neal Morse like epics or Dream Theater type ‘wankery’ here) but noticeable all the same. You will encounter some Rush nuances as well, albeit more along the lines of Awake and Paragon as opposed to Trytan in that Miller (mercifully) is not a dead ringer for Geddy Lee in the vocal department. Speaking of which, the artist brings a smooth and clean middle register vocal presence that reminds me a bit of Phil Keaggy (a compliment in the best sense of the word!).
Album opens to four equally good straightforward hard rockers. “Galatians 5” represents the most upbeat, with its quirkily done and bouncing rhythm and recognizable at once melody. Slowing the tempo and taking a heavier direction is “Scandal”, from its churning guitar walls and conspicuous low-end, and “Thanatophobia”, every bit staunch in yielding a front to back tenacious momentum. Impetus picks up again for “Pray”, infectious with its uplifting disposition and engaging chorus interwoven with layered vocal melodies.
The immediate impression left by the four is the cleanly done production that reinforces crisp rhythm guitar and clearly defined leads, which the artist performs quite ably. Consider the extended stretches of razor edged soloing he imbues “Scandal” and “Pray” in addition to the more aggression direction he takes on “Thanatophobia”.
The acoustic based middle section to the album follows. “Detour” plays up a richly textured and inspiring milieu, while “Ceiling Of Brass” takes the slower stance with its darker flavorings and emotional stretch of soloing. I can see those into the acoustic material of Liberty N’ Justice embracing the two.
Do You Have Thanatophobia? closes to an even joining of heavier rocking and acoustic numbers.
Instrumental “Faith Hope And Love” stands out with its catchy guitar harmonies and tightly woven melodies in proving another piece in which the artist showcases his underrated guitar abilities. “Forgive” highlights a driving hard rock feel, high energy in form in amalgamating bluesy guitar underpinnings with a heavy as it gets rhythm guitar sound.
The ensuing acoustic versions to “Scandal” and “Thanatophobia” represent two of my album favorites. I appreciate how the two take an acoustic heavy rock approach, with former featuring a fantastic bluesy guitar solo and latter playing up the lower-key feel with more bluesy guitar and narration from I Corinthians 15. Musically, once more I am reminded of Liberty N’ Justice, particularly its 2007 release Independence Day. Closing things is acoustic worship piece “Beautiful”, which made its initial appearance on Pilgrimsprog.
Lyrically, Do You Have Thanatophobia? proves as bold, upfront and Biblical based release as you will find. Listening to the prose here cannot help but make one wish that many of the ‘rockin’ for the Rock’ and ‘reason to Rock’ White metal bands from the eighties had attended the same school of theology as the artist. Also, note that another benefit to the polished production is how cleanly vocals stand out in the mix, which makes lyrics that much easier to understand.
Message is unmistakable, as can be found in “Galatians 5” - “Father sent his Comforter/He sent His Holy Spirit/He sent His only Son to Die/So that you may hear it” - and “Scandal”: He said we was God’s Son/That He had a plan/Took Him, they killed Him/They hung Him on a tree/But He rose again”. “Pray” exhorts the listener to do just that - “See the suffering happening all around/So many people are lost and cannot be found/You’ve go to pray/Lift up your voice” - while “Forgive” proves aptly entitled: “I need forgiveness/Even as I forgive/Seventy times seven/Seek peace with everyone/For you have been given piece”.
From a constructive standpoint, I bit more thought could have been given to album artwork. Five acoustic numbers on an eleven-song album, at the same time, is a bit heavy. Not that the acoustic material is bad (it really shines in places!), but the quality to the heavier material here is such there deserves to be a bit more of it. I also wish the artist had explored his progressive side a bit more and included an epic along the lines of the awesome ten minute “Celestial City” off Pilgrimsprog.
If interested in classic hard rock with a slight Rush feel and vocals hinting of Phil Keaggy then look no further than the Pilgrimsprog sophomore release Do You Have Thanatophobia? Standing out about the album is how the artist does so many things well for a one-man band project, and not just musicianship wise but also the areas of songwriting and production. Of equal note is the variances to the material here, ranging from hard rock to acoustic to bluesy to instrumental. Lyrically, the album successfully captures the spirit of what made early Christian rock so special- ministry! Overall, I look forward to hearing more from Scott Miller and his aptly named Pilgrimsprog project in the future.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Galatians 5” (2:51), “Scandal” (3:14), “Thanatophobia” (3:34), “Pray” (4:54), “Detour” (2:49), “Ceiling Of Brass” (3:33), “Faith Hope And Love” (4:44), “Forgive” (3:59), “Scandal” (Acoustic) (3:15), “Thanatophobia” (acoustic) (4:21), “Beautiful” (2:56)
Scott Miller – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass & Keyboards