Pharaoh, "The Longest Night"
"The Longest Night" is the sophomore release from Pharaoh. The band has gotten hyped on the message boards that I lurk, but this is the first I've heard by them. Formed in 1997 by drummer Chris Black, bassist Chris Derns and guitarist Matt Johnsen (also a scribe for "Metal Maniacs"), the group eventually landed Control Denied screamer Tim Aymar to do the vocals and they rolled out their debut, "After the Fire", back in 2003. Much praise arose and thus high expectations were burned into my brain. Three or so years later, I'm off to critique their latest.
So were my expectations met? Absolutely. Matt is a great guitarist who cranks out powerful "American power metal" riffs, Iron Maiden-styled harmonies, nice acoustic interludes and blistering, melodic solos. My kinda shiznit. I really like Aymar's voice, too. Dude utilizes different aspects of his instrument very well; whether he's belting it out, screeching or softly singing, he has an impressive power and range. Tim is not your average European power metal eunuch, he's got a gruff mid-range that hits you right in the chest.
There are ten tracks (one fun, galloping instrumental to close things out) that span 53 minutes. Song arrangements combine straight forward riffs with interesting, often mellow bridges that give Pharoah more in common with latter day Maiden than the Brits' early era. Production and mix are solid, though I'm not keen on the bass drum sound. My small bitch aside, Pharaoh is well worth seeking out for fans of "darker" traditional and/or power metal. I'm happy to report that some bands do meet great expectations, and Pharoah is one of those groups.