|Review: Pharaoh - Be Gone|
Label: Cruz Del Sur
Year released: 2008
Genre: Power Metal
Review online: January 5, 2009
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
Rated 4.4/5 (88%) (45 Votes)
Pharaoh have been a sterling new force in the metal underground for a few years now, with their sophomore effort The Longest Night being a stirring, kicking and biting Heavy Metal ass kicker with teeth and claws to boot, but I don't think anyone expected what was brewing in the underbelly of the United States for the last two years to surface with such a bang. I don't think anyone could have foreseen the sheer magnitude and weight of what was about to come upon us in 2008. But it did come, a massive and deep-rooted behemoth, owing half of its stunning repertoire of musical accomplishment to Iron Maiden and their voyages in the early 80s, and the other half to a more fine-tuned and artistic style, with the blend between them being one of staggering power. It was titled Be Gone, and it would no doubt take the crown for the 2008 Album of the Year.
This album is just really, really good, there's no other way about it. It doesn't really make any sort of artistic statement, and it doesn't attempt to do anything shocking or revolutionary, it just takes the wide vocabulary of the Heavy Metal genre and bends it a bit with some really stellar melodies and out-of-this-world song construction abilities to make old ideas sound new and fresh again when executed in a new and fresh manner. Just listen to "Buried at Sea," one of the very best songs of 2008, with its watery, ominous theme melody, and tell me you don't fall in love right there. No other Heavy Metal band has done anything this cool in ages, especially with how it runs through the powerful, slamming riffs to the end, where a light humming is overlaid on top of it to create a serene sort of feel, like you're sitting out on the open sea on a wooden log raft, watching the sun go down. Just a really, really stellar song, and it is still only one of the good songs here. The album also packs killer songs like the opening pulsations of "Speak to Me," the cut-throat, fiery stomp "Dark New Life," the majestic, spirited romp of "Red Honor," the awesome, jettisoning ride of "Telepath" and the eerie, shimmering melodies of the closing title track.
Tim Aymar's vocals have morphed into a rough, tuneful sort of howl, and I like the fact that he doesn't really sound like anybody else. Too many vocalists these days just want to take leaves from the Rob Rock school or the Rob Halford school, or hell, even the Rob Lowe school, if I'm going to continue naming Robs, but Tim can hold his own with any of the best in the business with ease. Chris Black and Chris Kerns make up the rhythm section, kicking out a vital and energetic set of drum and bass runs that keep the energy level high at all times, with the drums sticking out as exceptionally catchy and pummeling on the speed romp "No Remains." Guitarist Matt Johnsen is perhaps the biggest surprise here, as the man has always been an extremely proficient and talented guitarist, but here he has upped his intense guitar hero mastery by a few hundred notches, cranking out beautifully intricate and detailed riffs and melodies for a solid 50 minutes straight. "Rats and Rope" and "Red Honor" lead the pack in terms of creative intensity, pounding down on your skull with a blistering, harmonized fury unlike anything else you will hear this year. "Cover Your Eyes and Pray" and the title track feature the more melodic, introspective side of the band, with some slowed down, mid-paced melodies that just seem to glide easily along, searing your eardrums with a profound sense of grace. Stellar, all of it.
I think my favorite thing about this album is how it feels like one of the older Maiden albums, with its swashbuckling, adventurous mood and high-flying melodies that catapult themselves in all directions around the galloping riff work. This is one of those albums that will take you on a journey to fantastic and strange places you've never been before. Picture vast, beautiful wild lands littered with ancient, crumbling temples, tall, towering trees and a reddening sky, and you'll have an idea of what this album evokes. Picture a deep blue sea, stretching out for miles on end, with nothing but the fading light of the heavens to console you, and you'll have an idea of what this album evokes. The band seems to know exactly what they're doing at all times, making every single vocal line, every single chord and every single drum beat count. There is not one wasted moment on this disc. The whole sound is one of immense magnitude and immeasurable power, definitely one that will grow on the listener with time. Be Gone is album of the fucking year, and if you want a soundtrack next time you're playing Indiana Jones and searching the Congo for ancient artifacts in lost temples of gold, I would advise taking this album along.
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