Being completely honest, there are times where I’ve considered power metal to just about be as good as dead, largely because of the fact that I really do like the old US style of power metal FAR, FAR more than the horrible flowery style that generally took hold in the late 90’s/early 2000’s – I could tell you that out of all of those bands, the only one in which I didn’t find myself despising is maybe Kamelot
. Even a lot of the bands that tried aping the 80’s style, like Hammerfall
, always left me with a really empty, sour feeling – I guess it always seemed to me that the only thing they really did was superficially ape the 80’s teutonic style (read: Accept
, Iron Angel
, etc) without really establishing an identity of their own.
Anyways, the whole point of that paragraph is that Pharaoh is a great band and one of a few bands that actually give me some hope for the genre. This, their sophomore effort, is easily one of the best power metal albums to come out in a LONG time, in my estimation. No cheesy theatrics, no chintzy-sounding keyboards, no hideously overloud and uncreative double-bass drumming, just great fucking riffs and solos and excellent, powerful vocals from Tim Aymar (whom some would know for being the front man of the late Chuck Schuldiner’s final band Control Denied
The riffwork is really just stellar stuff all around – it’s true this had has a huge Iron Maiden influence, but – interestingly enough – there’s also a lot of Jag Panzer
and Crimson Glory
-isms in them. You don’t hear an influence from those bands every day, but they have ‘em here and I dig it a lot. Also, despite those influences, these guys clearly have their own identity and ideas around them, unlike say, Hammerfall
. The lead work is actually quite superb – really Iron Maiden-esque (Piece
of Mind/Powerslave-era) – in its application and really tastefully played – this isn’t the overblown soloing of Stratovarius
or bands of that ilk, these melodic leads are fucking great without at all overstaying their welcome. The vocals, as I mentioned earlier, are excellent, Tim Aymar really gets to show what he is made of with this band (sadly unlike Control Denied
) and he does an excellent job vocally, the best comparison I can make is a cross between Tim Owens (Judas Priest
, Iced Earth
, etc) and a lower-pitched Harry Conklin (Jag Panzer
The songs are excellent, and despite the length of a couple of them (the opener is around eight minutes long and “By The Night
Sky” is a little over eight), but Pharaoh can justify this, because the excellent riffs and the really interesting song structures can easily hold ones attention for the length that these songs run. “Sunrise
” is an excellent opening track, with its various progressive touches reminding me more than a bit of early Crimson Glory
, while a couple others remind of Maiden’s faster moments (“Endlessly”, the title track, and “Like A Ghost
). It’s ALL executed extremely well, there isn’t a bad or even a mediocre section on here, the quality of songs are that good. Even the closing instrumental is actually quite phenomenal.
The production also gets my appreciation, because while it’s clear and pretty clean, it’s not the blatantly overproduced, shiny production job that makes a lot of the ‘flowery’ power metal albums so tiresome, this is clean and all, but it’s still, you know, heavy. The guitar tone is really great, the rhythm tone is sharp and crunchy, while the lead tone is smooth, really bringing out a lot of those Maiden-esque melodies really well. Furthermore, the drums aren’t stupidly overloud or constantly double-bass-ed in the mix, not only does the drummer know how to play the appropriate parts, the drums NEVER overpower the guitars in the mix.
This is really just ultimately a great, satisfying album, and again, one of the very best power metal albums in a long time. Highly recommended overall.