Pharaoh - The Longest Night
Cruz Del Sur Music
Classic Heavy Metal
10 songs (53'04")
Release year: 2006
Pharaoh, Cruz Del Sur Music
Reviewed by Alex
Surprise of the month

I am not a mind reader, so I can’t tell you if Pharaoh guys consider Powerslave to be their favorite Iron Maiden album. The moniker and 2003 debut After the Fire might attest to that theory, but speculation it will remain nevertheless. However, it is clear that the foursome from Philadelphia decided to press on after the positive reception of the aforementioned debut. The ideas laid on After the Fire sprouted, leaving the band true to their roots, yet clearly experimenting and stepping up the complexity.

As proudly as Pharaoh waved the Iron Maiden banner on After the Fire, I did not feel that it was all-out Maiden worship. The Longest Night is even further away from the sounds of Harris & Co, introducing what must have been deeply stashed progressive wrinkle to go with Pharaoh’s interpretation of classic heavy metal. Matt Johnsen’s guitar still can lay out some quite recognizable triplet riffs Jon Schaffer made a career off (Like a Ghost). Yet, from the very start, from the longer and contemplative Sunrise, there is a new-found intricacy in Pharaoh’s music, punctuated with progressive rhythmic arrangements. Galloping riffs in the verse yield to a gliding guitar in the chorus, solo on Sunrise also coming in multiple layers.

In no way I want to imply that progressive touch on The Longest Night makes Pharaoh to be devoid of the muscle. Choppy prog on I Am the Hammer is definitely muscle wound, sounding like a little less caffeinated Lost Horizon. Fighting is a clear-cut edgy Judas Priest style rocker having more balls than anything Hammerfall had ever done. At the same time, Pharaoh’s pride and passion of Endlessly does not impede it from feeling a little introspective on In the Violet Fire. Most importantly, these songs stick with the listener. They have the power to jump at you immediately, due to awesome riffs like Celtic-tinged Gary Mooresque opening intro of By the Night Sky, or, like Sunrise, call for multiple perusals to fully digest. Even the somewhat self-indulgent instrumental closer Never Run can be construed as a showcase for the new ideas to come, rather than a flash in the pan.

I am simply impressed how one guitarist, Matt Johnsen, can do so much with riffing, solos and harmonies. Legendary Chris Poland (Megadeth) lends a hand on Sunrise, but other than that Matt rules the roost. Being a Metal Maniacs scribe, he puts his considerable guitar wielding abilities where his mouth is. Always screaming for the lack of good classic/power metal albums, Pharaoh (with Matt) is an example of how to not let the history fade, adding your own pages to it in the process. Bassist Chris Kerns is eager to follow suit, going nuts on By the Night Sky, practically carrying one whole verse all by himself.

The band is proud of their vocalist Tim Aymar. What had to be good for Chuck Schuldiner in Control Denied, should be good for Pharaoh, but Tim is no Dickinson, Dio, or even Daniel Heiman, or Harry Conklin. The production on The Longest Night is cleaner than on After the Fire, and the vocals are pushed up, making Tim more of a centerpiece. He does well when he stays within himself. Choruses, which are tailor-made for sing-along, and reflective moments come naturally to Tim. Yet I do not like his strained, right-on-the-edge of a range, vocals. Tim is just not born to be a stratospheric vocalist, and that is OK, as long as he does not try to overreach. Fortunately, there is Matt to lend a hand (or his guitar) at Tim’s moments of struggle.

The story has it that Pharaoh set out on their journey hoping to prove to the masses that heavy metal is not dead. They are doing a fine job of it here in the US, along with the other bands of the same ilk, like Twisted Tower Dire and Icarus Witch. These days when I reach for a classic heavy metal album I often end up with an album I have heard so many times before. There is just no way around the fact how much Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dio, etc. shaped the genre. It is so refreshing then to see that there are new bands willing to add to that lore. Pharaoh is one of them.

Killing Songs :
Sunrise, By the Night Sky, Endlessly, The Longest Night
Alex quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Pharaoh that we have reviewed:
Pharaoh - Bury the Light reviewed by Alex and quoted 82 / 100
Pharaoh - Be Gone reviewed by Alex and quoted 88 / 100
Pharaoh - After the Fire reviewed by Ben and quoted 80 / 100
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