Pharaoh – The Powers That Be (Cruz Del Sur Music)

Wednesday, 30th June 2021
Rating: 9.5/10

Rare is the day that you have a band containing the same four members and remain on the same record label their entire career. That’s what we have for US power metal group Pharaoh – releasing their debut After the Fire in 2003 and now up to album five for The Powers That Be. The nine-year gap between efforts is the longest in their career – yet never diminishing the deep trajectory plus stunning performances and careful craftsmanship put into these records. Numerous passes allow the listener to expect an effort that is just as melodic as past outings, but also give off a bit more of a progressive and extended dynamic atmosphere present, especially in terms of the guitar layers and acoustic/electric choices.

Guitarist Matt Johnsen takes influence from outside metal convention at times to reinterpret in a Pharaoh context – everything from 80’s artists like The Police, U2, or Men at Work to older progressive rock/jazz acts fair game that prove fruitful in his intricate riffs and harmony choices for “Will We Rise” early on. Bassist Chris Kerns steps up to Steve Harris/Geddy Lee heights of prowess against the gallops, twists, and turns on “Lost in the Waves”, as vocalist Tim Aymar soars in a raspy confidence that resorts back to a clearer David Wayne circa the debut Metal Church effort. Acoustic guitars appear from time to time for an effective dynamic broadening to lighter moments of the record – check out “When the World Was Mine” during the first minute before the electric Maiden-esque marching riffs and hefty progressive kit work from drummer Chris Black pushes this five-minute track into majestic power glory. Specific shouting gang vocals punctuate the potent passages of “Freedom”, while closer “I Can Hear Them” takes the best of Blind Guardian, Iron Maiden, and Riot and molds those treasures into impressive musician interplay that carries tremendous attention to detail from initial exposure to subsequent, deep dive listening. Guest solo appearances from Jim Dofka and Daniel Mongrain (Voivod) add that extra colorful touch to an already tremendous front to back record.

The Powers That Be takes decades of metal consumption, respect, and admiration for the genre and puts forth a modern record that has all the musicianship and songwriting ethics to stand up very well to those first-generation albums.

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