The Longest Night
posted on 2/2006 By:
My problem with today’s traditional metal is that the majority of it has little to do with the music I fell in love with more than twenty years ago; instead coming off like tired, diluted versions of what was, at the time, the only music that mattered. But when a band breaks from the pack with an outstanding traditional metal album, it connects me right back to what I loved about metal in the first place. That’s where Pharaoh comes in, and with The Longest Night, the band has gifted fans with the best traditional metal album I’ve heard in a long time, proving that they are capable and loyal keepers of the flame. This, my friends, is how American-made metal should sound.
The Longest Night is the second effort from Pennsylvania’s Pharaoh, and based on the mp3's on the band’s site, since their first album the band has become more focused and lethal. This album simply bleeds metal–ageless, trend-proof metal that’s entrenched in tradition but presented with a contemporary flair. The band has some obvious Iron Maiden leanings, but in general, you’ll hear bits of just about everything good in the mid to late 80's, and it’s delivered with energy and class. You’ll remember the massive voice of frontman Tim Aymar from his Control Denied days, and as you’d expect, he comes up huge here. But you might be surprised at just how well he uses his range, giving most of the material a powerful mid-range grittiness, and making judicious use of his soaring, higher registered delivery. Aymar alone is enough to grab your attention, but Pharaoh’s secret weapon is guitarist Matt Johnsen, who strings together an unrelenting flow of headbangable riffs, persistent hooks, and dizzying leads. Johnsen is the most effective kind of player, constructing guitar lines that dazzle and punch but always serve the structure of the material. As a collective, the band has a sublime melodic sensibility, creating a textured blitz by weaving undeniable hooks around a foundation that has a gutsy, fist pumping heaviness that’s well anchored by the rhythm section of Chris Black and Chris Kerns. No over the top melodic histrionics here; no twinkling shininess; no cheese--No shit.
Ex-Megadeth (it’s a growing group) axe-man Chris Poland contributes a solo to the potent eight minute album opener, “Sunrise”, a statement of intent that creates a high benchmark. But the album contains no substantive dip. The band flexes some muscle on “I Am the Hammer,”and “Fighting”, dealing out some rapid fire Iced Earth gone Iron Maiden riffing. Songs like “In the Violet Fire” highlight the band’s ability to skillfully blend clean guitar lines and slower tempos with sweeping, intense choruses and looming heavy transitions. The album flows incredibly well, and even at nearly an hour long and with two 8+ minute songs, The Longest Night feels like anything but long. This is an album that’s easy to listen to from front to back without getting the least bit antsy. The band closes the affair with the album’s only instrumental track, “Never Run”, which teems with an energetic, “Flash of the Blade” vibe.
The Longest Night reminds us(and hopefully other bands) that today’s traditional metal doesn’t have to be second rate, or cliche ridden fluff, bereft of creative passion. Pharaoh has joined a small circle of bands that get it right, and continue to live the tradition. Just great metal, existing outside of sub-genres, trends, and pretense. This thing smokes from start to finish–Very highly recommended.
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