PHARAOH - Alchemical Heaviness Blended Traditionally To Perfection!
by Martin Popoff
Pharaoh turned a lot of heads with their '03 debut, After The Fire, but it was all in a sort of toiling heavy metal netherzone, Pharaoh's recognition coming the old way, through the underground. It all sorta fit, given the band's pre-power metal, pre-prog metal attack at those very genres. There was something 1985 about the album, or maybe just its metal for purity sake's ethic, that had people hooked, notwithstanding the fact that Control Denied/Psycho Scream vocalist Tim Aymar was in there lending a whole Arch-era Fates Warning/Graham Bonnet vibe to things.
In any event, now this thumping, galloping, yet smart of architecture band is back with an album even more stirring of the purist metal cockles. The Longest Night recaptures what made bands like Virgin Steele and Savatage and Crimson Glory (and even the likes of Steel Prophet!) so exciting in their prime. Heroic, top-notch constructs like Endlessly and Sunrise (guest slot - Chris Poland) shape the record, and with straight headbangers like Fighting... well, this is a journey sequenced for maximum range.
"First of all, the production values on The Longest Night (speaking from the producer side of the board) are improved by an astronomical degree," begins Aymar, asked to chart the development from record one to record two - if this reads a little formal, it's because Tim answers to my questions came via email. "The sound is huge and ambient and has a sweet analog warmth that makes a refreshing difference when it's compared to anything that's been released in the past few years. I'd have to say that overall the execution of the playing has kicked up a notch, maybe even two notches. After The Fire showed me that the band had great potential for excellent songwriting and arrangement, as well as expertise on the instruments, and I feel that The Longest Night realized that potential and at times even exceeded what I had hoped for. Matt especially impressed me with his guitar work this time. Really, I mean that; the guys know that I shoot straight about that sort of thing and it smarts a little sometimes when I do, but it's always for the best, and not just to flex my ego. I would say so if there was something that bothered me about any part of the record, and they would take me seriously about it. This record also demonstrates the band as more unified. It wasn't about "my drums" or "my bass" etc. The bottom line was - as always should be - creating a great record. Also it was more unified in the sense that in reality we live great distances apart; Matt and Chris K in Philly, Chris B in Chicago, and me in Pittsburgh, so it's not like I can go hang out with anyone and write something together, but we can communicate well enough musically by swapping project files that it's practically unnecessary to be in the same room together when we create."
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