posted on 4/2008 By:
To say I've been a wee-bit anxious for the release of Be Gone would be equivalent to saying Richard Simmons is a wee-bit fruity; it's an understatement of magnificent proportions. Honestly, this album ranks at the top of my list of most anticipated releases for 2008. Yep, I'm a Pharaoh zealot, and I wear that badge very proudly. As far as I'm concerned, along with a small handful of others, these dudes stand as our country's most ostensible champions valiantly waving the flag of tried-and-true traditional heavy metal, directly alongside conquerors such as Slough Feg and Manilla Road.
My first exposure to Pharaoh was actually 2006's uber-exalted The Longest Night -- an album I consider to be a shorthair away from unmitigated perfection. That being said, nothing would bring me greater pleasure today than to tell you kind folks that Be Gone topples that which the band delivered two years ago, but I'm afraid I just can't do that. As much as I've been enjoying this record over the past couple weeks, I'll be the first to admit it's rather different than The Longest Night, and not quite as impervious. BUT (and this is a but big enough to fill a bus driver's seat, folks), TLN was so ridiculously captivating, so unbelievably STRIKING, it very promptly rooted itself deep within my core of essentials, much the way Powerslave and Awaken the Guardian did for me back in the mid 80's. So, how does a band go about the daunting task of following up a bona fide classic? Well, I'd imagine you wipe the slate clean, go back to square one, let the mojo flow, and hope the results are well received. And in the case of Be Gone, I'd confidently say Pharaoh can cast any worries aside; this is an excellent album in its own right.
First and foremost, fans are gonna hear something quite a bit different this time around. There's a shift on Be Gone that leads the band further away from the cozy confines of Maidenville and closer to a land best described as...Pharaohio? (Somewhere between Randy Rhoad Island and Moshington). It's nothing to get too worked up over, however. Your brow will crook initially during the fairly sufficient moments when the band employs a more modern approach to the riffing: the foreign way the record (and "Speak to Me") begins, the main riff in "Dark New Life" and the fairly choppy attack at the heart of "Telepath", for example. Be Gone is also a smidge more straightforward as compared to the bands previous two releases. But the strangest thing afoot, and the sole element that still leaves me scratching my head, is the considerably odd way the record ends. The self-titled closing track has a very peculiar repeating keyboard bloop and a fairly progressive "stoppy-start" midsection that stands out like Steven Segal at your grandmother's book club meeting. (editing note: M.Johnsen has informed us through the lashes below that the curious "blooping" I've referenced above is actually a guitar creation. Pharaoh remains keyboardless.)
And the rest, you're wondering? Ahhhh, yes, the old Pharaoh lurks these halls as well, friends, so fret not. All the players are of course in peak musical condition, and the silvery guitars, warm textures and impassioned vocals are understandably spotlighted once again. Matt Johnsen must really suck at Guitar Hero, because in the real world, and particularly on this record, he proves himself a sheer melodic guitar marvel. Each song on Be Gone flashes multiple moments of some of the most nimble soloing I've heard in quite some time. And by hell, if I were amongst a troop of war-ready metalheads, I'd need little more than Tim Aymar's raucous, embattling vocal delivery to howl me into avid combat-frenzy.
Most importantly, there's enough exaltatious Pharaoh catchiness on Be Gone to stick each and every one of these tunes in your head for days. But the true gems of this endeavor -- the ones most likely to set adamantium roots and become an essential part of your day -- are surely "No Remains", "Red Honor" (this album's "By The Night Sky"), "Rats and Rope" (one of the most scorching cuts the band's ever written) and the emotive "Cover Your Eyes and Pray": all tunes destined for some sort of "Best of" comp. in the distant future.
It is my sincere hope that Pharaoh eventually become a paradigm by which future bands are measured. And with three quality releases now under their belt, they're well on their way to doing just that. Fans who have this record on pre-order can rest easy; your money is definitely well spent. Just give the new elements a little time to settle in, and I'm quite sure you'll be very pleased with the results. Be Gone is a great follow-up to the stellar Longest Night, and it certainly paints a very bright future for this exemplary band. Great stuff.
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Bury the Light
The Longest Night
After the Fire