Band – Olde
Album – Pilgrimage
Country of Origin – Canada
Genre – Sludge Metal
Release Date – March 19, 2021
Label – Seeing Red Records/Sludgelord
Author – Hayduke X
After being so impressed with Temple, which was released in 2017 (my review here), I knew I had to check out Pilgrimage as well. Without hesitation, I can say that I’m glad that I did. The album continues the band’s growth into a force to be reckoned with in a genre where masters such as Neurosis hold sway. Pilgrimage is, as the name suggests, a voyage towards meaning. The music carries the listener forward into new realms where the lyrical content can be held up for careful examination.
While the line-up remains the same, various events made the recording, mixing, mastering, and so on a new experience for the quintet. Guitarist Greg Dawson moved away, meaning that he had to travel quite a distance to be a part of jam sessions. Vocalist Doug McLarty moved even further away, which precluded him from joining the band except for when he recorded his own vocals. (further details in the interview below) And yet, Pilgrimage sounds incredibly organic. The album sounds as if the songs were all written with the band in one room. At a guess (and based on some answers below), I’d attribute this partly to the process that happens after recording, but mostly to the chemistry the band formed prior to the location changes.
Forty-two minutes of righteous fury are found on the eight tracks on the album. The strain of punk I mentioned after listening to Temple is still definitely present, but on Pilgrimage I also notice a little more variation and complexity. As always, I’m not a musician, so I’m not sure if this will come across well, but the album is a little more progressive, but not in the genre sense. I also hesitate to use that word, lest the reader thinks the album is without direction. It’s in fact, quite the opposite. The album is driven – it just paints a masterpiece audio picture to drive the music home.
I’m not sure how many people have Olde on their radar yet. Based on the strength of their work up to and including Pilgrimage, I hope that it’s many of you. If they haven’t been to this point, let this be your clarion call to put in those headphones and press play. Olde are beefy magnificence!
Drop below the Bandcamp player to check out my extensive interview with Greg and Cory.
Hayduke X: Based on the strength of Temple, I reached out to Seeing Red Records when I first received the promo for Pilgrimage, without even hearing it. I was not disappointed. Congratulations on another stand out album. How are you guys feeling about it?
Greg: I think we all feel it’s our strongest release yet. I am quite pleased with the production as well. The sound of a recording is the hardest thing for me to be satisfied with.
Cory: We are extremely excited to get this record out. For us, it was a totally new way of working and writing (due to both Greg and Doug moving away from the area during the writing and recording of the record). We had to develop new ways to collaborate yet still remain faithful to what we love to do. When we were writing the majority of the record together, Greg and I were pretty confident it COULD end up being something we would really love, but the band’s future was in serious doubt to a degree, plus you never know how great ideas SOUND in the flesh until all is said and done. We’re quite pleased to be working with both Seeing Red Records and Sludgelord Records for the vinyl release. Both guys at those labels are excited to get the tunes OUT, which is the energy we were ultimately looking for in our partners. We just want this record to get into as many of the ears who would appreciate what we’ve always done and continue to do, sonically, but are open to the experimentation we’ve tried to incorporate. Greg worked like a dog on the production, too, and I sincerely think it shows. All told, we believe it is our strongest record yet, doing the Olde “thing” while still searching for more ways to crush riffs and push air.
HX: Can you two remind me of your roles in the band?
Greg: Well, I suppose I’m in charge of the music production being recording, mixing and mastering. Cory and I start the majority of the song skeletons (riffs and structures), but nothing really moves forward without everyone fully digging the song idea. Cory does most of the online work and communications like social media, mail outs, sorting out stuff with label dudes etc. Thanks Cory.
HX: And you play guitar, while Cory plays bass?
Greg: Oh shit haha, yeah, that too.
HX: It’s good to know the other jobs too. I think a lot of bands these days share those jobs internally. Cory mentioned that you and Doug have moved away. What have you had to do differently in order to write this album? How did you make that work?
Greg: I guess first off, trust in each other. By this point, being our third release, I had a great deal of confidence in Doug to be able to write and perform the ideas we were sending him. The main difference was Doug wasn’t there for the jams because he moved too far away. I myself moved three hours away, so I would drive three hours to Toronto, jam for five hours, and drive back home. Before jams I would email riff ideas to the rest of the band to get a feel for and to organize what we would work on in our jams. I was driving six hours for five hours of jam so we were extremely organized and productive at jam sessions. It was actually super rad. Our next album will be written in a similar way. Also, at jams, we would make rough recordings which I would work with a bit in the studio and send out to everyone and for Doug to write to. The communication between us was actually very killer.
Cory: Greg certainly took care of the mechanics in his answer, in regards to how the songs actually came together… But I think one of the formative pieces that was hugely important was that we had to sit down as a band and agree that our focus had to be 100% on writing the best song and making the best record we possibly could. Relying on live shows, for us at this point, was totally a reality not available to us anymore, without incredible preparation, use of holidays, massive travel etc. Once we had all agreed that we were dedicating our energies to just creating and capturing the art as best we could, the rest fell into place very easily. Although we all have very high standards and unique ways of working, we are all dedicated fiercely to the positivity of the project and the collaborative aspects.
Greg: Yes yes!
Cory: And, related, that discussion wasn’t easy. There is such a human and visceral reaction that you get playing live, that we are not privy to anymore. It was hard for some of us to resign ourselves to the fact that we were now what a lot of people would consider a “studio band”.
HX: I know the pandemic has killed shows for everyone at this point, but do you ever see yourself playing shows again? Maybe one-off Fests or something?
Greg: Super important that we (minus Doug) got into a room together and made music in the moment and bounced ideas around and felt it live and loud in the jam room. It’s why the record sounds like a band and not sterile. Every song on the record was recorded live by Ryan and I in the same room together with no edits, no headphones, just guitar and drums live and loud.
Then I have the other dudes come in and track their parts. Actually, every album was done that way.
Cory: It’s been a dream of ours to play some of the big scene fests, specifically in Europe.
We certainly are not saying that we will never play live again.It would just have to make a lot of sense and would require a lot of synchronization
Greg: Oh we’re playing live again but yeah, lots of organizing.
I’m just stoked that we’re still able to create real albums the way we do.
HX: Not to pick on Doug, but do you think this would have been harder/not possible if it had been one of the other members so far away, as opposed to the vocalist?
Cory: Hmmm good question.
HX: And I just mean logistically. Doug’s vocal style is obviously an important part of the Olde sound.
Cory: I think if it was Ryan (drums), the band would be done. His energy, groove, and overall feel are such an integral part of what we do. If we didn’t have the chance to run the songs with Ryan and see where his drummer-brain took them, they would sound completely different. I think for myself and Chris the other guitarist, we could maybe get by sending along home-tracked demos and additions to anything coming to us remotely.
As for Doug, certainly it was a lot different not having him right in the room. However, having said that, when we are in the room and writing new stuff, I personally am 100% concentrating on my own parts or how my parts are fitting in with the other musicians, that I barely ever got a chance to hear what Doug was doing vocally, even when he was in the room during the songwriting process. Often, the very first time I could concentrate on what Doug was doing on new tracks was when Greg would send out The first rough mix of the actual album studio sessions with Doug… And invariably my mind was always blown.
HX: So, would you send Doug rough mixes from the jam sessions for him to add vocals? How much back and forth was there before a track was considered done?
Greg: Yeah, that’s exactly what happened. However, Doug didn’t have a good way to record his pre-production vocals, which is where the trust came into play. Doug would send us his lyrics and he and I would discuss how the song would flow; where vocals would start, where a guitar lead would be etc.. he would also ask us to add and or take away sections; two more repetitions, etc. Doug was definitely a bit nervous coming into the studio because he didn’t get to try his vocals in a jam room setting. I was completely confident that he would crush it with some guidance from myself in the recording studio.
Once Doug was satisfied with his vocals and lyrics he drove out here and we spent the week recording his parts. It was tough, very tough. He had his patterns and parts down. but I was really pushing him for more, and it got a little uncomfortable for him. We had a rough start to tracking. We are just two different creatures in the studio. I can change things in the moment and Doug has a much harder time with that. I was also really pushing him to find more of a note and melody in his voice which we argued about. He’s an incredible heavy vocalist, in my opinion, and he would show these signs of melody in his vocal lines that went well with the guitar. I wasn’t settling with anything less than what I knew was his best. He would yell at me “I’m not a real singer” or something along those lines and I knew I could get more out of him. I took time, we battled at first, but eventually, we both started hearing the results we were getting. We settled into a great recording groove and he crushed his vocals. Very happy with his voice on this record.
HX: Sounds very intense! Regardless, the results speak for themselves. I’ve been listening to the record again this morning, and it sounds so cohesive. He crushed the vocals. You all crushed it really. Doug writes the lyrics?
Greg: Thank you very much. Doug writes all lyrics.
HX: Do you feel comfortable talking about lyrical themes?
Cory: I’ve discussed the lyrics with Doug so many times I am fairly confident I can answer pretty much anything to his liking
HX: What are some general themes that run through the album?
Cory: Doug has a way of attacking a certain moment in time in history, pointing out the thing that makes it not at all unique in terms of humanity and evolution. This record is certainly a statement on where we are as people at this point in human history… It isn’t science fiction in any way shape or form, but it is certainly as grim and speculative as anything in that genre. We, as the 99% are living in such unprecedented squalor, in terms of realistic hopes and dreams for the future of humanity and this world. Doug’s lyrics on this record are both incredibly global and personal; they take a broad look at the state of the world, the incredible gap and imbalance of power, while also looking inside oneself at the human condition, the things that we have to do, to be able to tolerate all of this modern insanity. On the surface, his lyrics are incredibly dark and intense… But there is hope there, hope that we still have time to fix things, hope that we still have time to fix ourselves and each other. At the end of the day, the lyrics are really trying to tackle the struggle of the modern man both internally and externally.
HX: There’s the punk viewpoint showing itself again. Do you guys consider yourselves leftists?
Cory: That is such a completely complex question and certainly might get five radically different answers within the band. Briefly, on the politics of the band, I think it would be totally fair and accurate to say that we are a bunch of guys who are trying to be good and positive people in general, in life and in our relationships to people, the earth, the economic machine. I don’t think “left” or “right” labels are apt when it comes to our M.O. as a band.
HX: You have some guests on the album. I’m pretty sure I heard some saxophone in The Dead Hand. Also, the promo material lists Nichol S. Robinson and Chewy as guests. How did that come about? What do you think they brought to the table for the band?
Cory: Nichol and Nick (guitar and sax, respectively) are friends of ours and astonishingly good musicians that we love and simply heard good “spots” for them on the record.
Greg: Yeah, having Dan on the record was huge for me. Not a super interesting story but. I had just been at a Voivod meet and greet at a local Toronto record store, which was followed up by a Voivod show the same night. We hung out a little bit and chatted, it was rad as hell for me.
The next day, I looked up Dan Mongrain on Google to check out his other music, YouTube vids etc…I stumbled upon his personal site for lessons and studio work and ding ding ding! I reached out to him, he got back to me very quickly, asked for some links to our music. I sent him the Temple record, he really liked it and said he would be into doing a solo on the Pilgrimage record.
It was a pretty special thing for me and all of us really. Damn he rips!
HX: That’s pretty amazing. I’m glad that all worked out so well for you guys.
I’d like to hear about the cover art. It looks very post-apocalyptic. Who designed it? How do you feel it fits with the album?
Cory: We’ve reached out over the years to plenty of artists, and generally we only work with the ones who exude EXCITEMENT over the concepts. So, we were extremely happy to have found Alexandre Goulet, a fellow Canadian, who was already doing a lot of work in the metal scene. We broached the subject of him working with us on “Pilgrimage”. We sent him the tunes and the lyrics and only the most basic and vague concepts of what we were hoping for and then we let him run with it. Too often, we have found, if you handicap the graphic artist by giving them too many ideas and guardrails, you run the risk of stifling their creativity. We wanted Alex’s “voice” to be reflected in the art just as much as ours. His take on the lyrics and our direction as a band was spot on (keep in mind all of the lyrics and the art were all completed pre-pandemic…which is scary). He ended up being the absolute EASIEST guy to work with (I think Greg has used him since him for two other side-projects) and we HIGHLY recommend him to ANYONE who wants to get some slick art. As for how it speaks to the record…well….this is how ONE listener visualized the record, literally. But it’s all there….the apocalypse, the wasteland, the fragile human taking on the world, gearing up for a journey into God-knows-what.
HX: How did you end up connecting with Seeing Red and Sludgelord?
Cory: Seeing Red was recommended to Greg by some other musicians he was recording, so we reached out and started a conversation. We reached out to Sludgelord Records semi-simultaneously (to not limit our options), and they both came back with genuine excitement about working with us. At first it seemed like we were only going to go with one or the other, but it turns out both label-heads are friendly with each other, and we all decided that a co-release was beneficial to everyone involved, including the fans who might end up saving some money on shipping things somewhat regionally, instead of internationally.
HX: I might be wrong, but I think they’ve worked together in the past. Both seem like a great fit for this record. I’ve worked with Seeing Red a fair a bit and was pretty excited to see this record land there.
Cory: When we did our due diligence into the labels, we were really impressed with both labels’ stables of bands and how much the label itself really pushed their art with a genuine love of the music, the scene, and the fans. And yes, I do believe they’ve worked together before.
HX: Have I missed anything? Do you guys have any last thoughts you’d like to share?
Cory: Personally, I’m just really excited for people to get a hold of these tunes and see what they think. I sincerely believe we’ve made a really great record that any fan of this style (and related styles) can really dig into. It’s always a massive pleasure to work with my Olde chums and we really believe in what we are doing, so it is really quite fun to finally see the tunes get their day in court, so to speak. We hope everyone that gives it a chance comes away happy. We are pleased with how the rollout has been going so far and, ultimately, can’t wait to get to work on our next record.
I’d also like to encourage anyone and everyone to check out the other great bands on both of our labels….these guys are putting so much great work into showcasing exciting new CRUSHING music. I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to help them out in any way. The scene depends, in a vital way, on all of these folks that do this stuff for the LOVE of the art and not for the paycheque….they deserve the extra shine.
HX: Thanks guys. I really appreciate your thoughtful responses.
Greg: Thank you dude!
Cory: Thanks. Take care of yourself and stay WARM.
Biography: Hayduke X has been writing for MoshPitNation since June of 2016. He is also a contributor to The Metal Wanderlust. Prior to joining the MoshPitNation team, Hayduke published reviews on his own blog Rage and Frustration. In addition, he has DJ’ed an online metal radio show of the same name as his blog, written for TOmetal.com, done interviews for Metal Rules, and collaborated with The Art of B Productions to create video interviews with a wide variety of bands.