An absolute classic from one of the USPM scene’s finest
Although having released a split E.P. with Canvas Solaris in tribute to Coroner (2010) and their bits and pieces E.P. Ten Years last year, it’s been a long three year wait for something new from Philadelphian (Pennsylvania, U.S.) power metal outfit Pharaoh. But after some unexpected delays, Pharaoh (who comprise vocalist Tim Aymar, guitarist Matt Johnsen, bassist Chris Kerns and drummer Chris Black) has finally returned with their highly anticipated fourth full-length effort Bury the Light.
Given the band’s firmly established sound (think Iron Maiden worship mixed with traditional ‘80’s heavy metal influences), most fans will already have an idea what to expect from the band on their new album but in the lead up to the album’s release, there was talk of the band pushing their sound beyond the tried and true formula heard on their past efforts. It sounded intriguing to say the least, and I was keen to see just where the band was heading direction wise with Bury the Light.
Having given the album plenty of spins, it’s clear that Pharaoh have made a concerted effort not to retread old ground. But having said that, the band hasn’t entirely forsaken the fundamental elements that made them so appealing in the first place. Instead, the band has created an album that’s a whole lot more varied song writing wise than anything they’ve produced in the past.
Although starting off in a cracking pace, the opening track Leave Me Here to Dream is a powerful mid-paced opener that features plenty of the band’s Iron Maiden-like gallop on the rhythm guitar front, while Kerns’ bass serves as the song’s true driving force, with the instrument sounding heavier and louder in the mix than usual, which is only a good thing. As expected, Aymar’s powerful and passionate vocal delivery is nothing short of amazing, while Johnsen’s solos are as impressive as ever.
The fast paced The Wolves is surprisingly aggressive for Pharaoh, and yet still melodic and progressive enough to slot on the album without sounding out of place one bit, while in terms of traditional Pharaoh fare, the band offers up Castles in the Sky (which features a guest solo from Mercyful Fate/King Diamond guitarist Mike Wead) and Graveyard of Empires.
The Year of the Blizzard is an interesting track which showcases the band’s progressive edge, with the transition between acoustic passages and ‘70’s sounding guitar riffs (not to mention guest Jim Dofka’s inspired solo) bringing to mind early Rush in places, while The Spider’s Thread (and it’s reprise at the end of the album, both of which are based lyrically on Ryünosuke Akutagawa’s short story), the melodic and hard rocking Cry and the infectious Burn With Me are definite favourites.
Despite releasing three previous albums to high acclaim, Pharaoh is still largely overlooked in the power metal scene in the U.S. But with any luck, Bury the Light will draw Pharaoh some well earned attention, and earn its place as one of this year’s truly impressive releases.
(Cruz Del Sur Music)