Pharaoh - The Powers That Be
Cruz Del Sur Music
Heavy/Power Metal
9 songs (44'33")
Release year: 2021
Pharaoh, Cruz Del Sur Music
Reviewed by Alex

US heavy/power metal heroes Pharaoh have been dormant for a long time, not releasing an album in nine long years. When I came across The Powers That Be, before plunging into the album, I did two things. First, I was happy to see (at least that is what my research shows) that the full Pharaoh lineup of Matt Johnsen (guitars), Chris Kerns (bass), Chris Black (drums) and Tim Aymar (vocals) is back. Having come across Chris Black’s stuff quite a few times recently (Aktor, Dawnbringer, Professor Black and High Spirits), I haven’t heard much from others, so it was great to see the old gang getting back together. Took me back all the way to the days of my Metal Maniacs subscription when I enjoyed Chris Black’s and Matt Johnsen’s columns. Next, since I haven’t listened to a Pharaoh album in a while, I dusted all of them for a quick spin through. Looking back and comparing The Powers That Be with the past output it is great to see Pharaoh hasn’t lost it. And how could they lose it, given the amount of pedigree and experience. It also must be a nice feeling that after 18 years after your debut was a seminal release for the label The Powers That Be are again issued on Cruz Del Sur.

While many other power metal bands either strayed towards the dragons & fairytales overproduced epics or release mundane samey doublebassed romps, Pharaoh remain true to their own Maiden inspired, but individually crafted, brand of US power/heavy metal with a certain degree of gristliness and attitude. Pharaoh has never been about immediate easy catchiness and The Powers That Be is not either, but the album is bound to ensnare you with its masterfully crafted guitar weave. Blessed with Tim Aymar’s high voice, which continues to go strong, the album also showcases a very strong bottom end, without artificially juicing it up. Basically, every member of the band has its shining moments at times, contributing to a strong collective output.

For some reason I haven’t noticed before how percussive Pharaoh can be, but The Powers That Be definitely reveals the band’s sense of rhythm. Just take the opening track which probably has elements of Jamaican and African beat, combining with Hungarian chardash and the chorus with a subtle hook. This song must have been fun to create and jam together. This bass infused percussive dazy dreaminess is a perfect background to an otherwise full of valor, vigor and buoyancy mid-tempo galloping Will We Rise, or Lost in the Waves with its epic feeling. Sometimes Pharaoh stays strong throughout (Ride Us to Hell), and once in a while becomes particularly soaring and bright, when Freedom implores you to run and break through walls. Or, it can gather strength slowly, after a more acoustic entry (When the World Was Mine, Dying Sun), with Dying Sun delivering a foreboding riff and easy to love melody. Waiting to Drown stays darker and electroacoustic throughout, and the album’s songs are sequenced rather well, so things never fall into a rut. The only track I wasn’t too keen on was X-Factory sounding closer I Can Hear Them, and that is a very minor complaint.

A gift after a long silence, fans of the band should definitely seek The Powers That Be and those complaining of the fact power metal has gone stale have an example to the contrary.

Killing Songs :
The Powers That Be, Will We Rise, Waiting to Drown, Dying Sun
Alex quoted 88 / 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 - The Longest Night reviewed by Alex and quoted 85 / 100
Pharaoh - After the Fire reviewed by Ben and quoted 80 / 100
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