Pilgrim Fathers - Short Circular Walks In The Hope Valley
Progressive/Space Rock
10 songs (1:02:09)
Release year: 2008
Reviewed by Goat
Surprise of the month

A relatively new band based in England, Pilgrim Fathers play an intriguing style of Progressive Rock, with hints of the Post-Doom of Isis and company. On the surface, however, there’s an almost Indie quality to the band, vocalist Shelf especially sounding more Rock than Metal, but give them time and the often cacophonous sound will make more sense. There are the usual influences from the 70s and since; Hawkwind, Sabbath, Zeppelin, etc; but with a Stoner Rock vibe to the songs and a determination not to write basic hooks, the band have presented an honest, deep and true debut. Songs vary from three to nine minutes, melodies meander, guitar effects pick you up and set you down several miles from where you started, and all whilst sounding like nothing but five stoned lads from Nottingham spending their Sunday afternoons making, as their Myspace says, ‘music for astronauts to die to’.

It’s actually difficult not to be lulled into a blissfully passive, yet gripping state of relaxation whilst listening to Short Circular Walks... before being shaken awake by harsher moments such as the dip into heaviness in Old Man Time In The Rivers Of Rhyme. Opening track Ballad Of The Trojan Elephant suggests its out-thereness with backing synths that soon rise to a crescendo; contrasted with early Isis-y noodling and suggestions of ambience. Shelf’s almost afterthought vocals reference old King Crimson, the music the main focus. Almost every track is complex and interesting, even shorter ones like Gold, Gold! Lengthier moments like the seven-minute rise-and-fall of Great North Road have a natural emotional tug that frequent electronic effects can’t bury. It’s also worth noting how the album flows perfectly – often you won’t be aware that one song has ended and another begins. The production is excellent, sounding unpolished and straight out of the 70s, vocal effects and all.

I’m quite fascinated at how compelling the album is. The Jazz and Stoner moments on Cosmic Space Lazers, the fade-outs and Avant-Garde quirks of DogYoghurt, the descent into madness that is Ultimate Attack Helicopters... Initial concerns about the music being too repetitious proved unfounded quite soon, and it’s hard not to keep listening. It may not be the most original form of music in the world, but in their own way the Pilgrim Fathers have done much with it, and hopefully their tours with the likes of Monster Magnet and Nebula will find them a decent fanbase. Short Circular Walks In The Hope Valley, meantime, is an excellent debut that should find much favour with fans of the experimental and progressive. Few bands are capable of mixing styles with as good results as this; Pilgrim Fathers ultimately present a distillation of all that’s wonderful about Rock, never resorting to plagiarism or commercialism. What’s not to like?

Killing Songs :
Ballad Of The Trojan Elephant, Gold Gold!, Great North Road, Cosmic Space Lazers, Ultimate Attack Helicopters
Goat quoted 83 / 100
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