Thursday, March 1, 2012

Pharaoh - Bury the Light

Pharaoh are a power metal group from Philadelphia, who have been together since the late 90s and released their debut album in 2003. Two of their four members are also in the band Dawnbringer. Late last month they released their 4th full-length, "Bury the Light".

Pharaoh's power metal sound on this album is infused with a progressive flavor. It's also not quite as pretty and flowery as a lot of power metal. Instead, there's a little bit of edge here. A big factor in their sound is the vocalist, whose voice has more grit than typical high and clean power metal vocals. He actually reminds me of Tom Englund from Evergrey in several places.

As for the instrumental end of the music, everything is solid and well-executed. The occasional odd tempo shifts are handled very smoothly. The bass is, though not central, actually generally audible in the mix. The drumming is sharp and proficient without cluttering the music with anything excessively fast and complex. The guitar is really the musical highlight. There is a strong and rather annoying tendency amongst power metal guitarists to engage is really gratuitous displays of virtuosity with little or no regard for how their play actually impacts the overall sound of the music. In short: wankery. Here, however, that is not the case. Complex passages are played flawlessly, but the guitar always feels like it has a purpose for what it does beyond mere exhibitionism. Yes, there are fast solos and tricky rhythm passages. Guitarist Matt Johnsen always shows just enough restraint, though, that it feels like he did what the song needed rather than put himself on display.

Admittedly, power metal is not really in my musical wheelhouse. I tend to gravitate toward the more aggressive metal sub-genres, or to indulge my love of fantasy in the Viking/folk realm. That said, I enjoyed this record quite a bit. It didn't blow my mind, but it was very strong. I have nothing but praise for the skill and precision with which the music was executed, and the vocalist was more interesting than those in most power metal bands. There's just something intangible missing that keeps me from feeling like this is a great album. That "it factor" just isn't quite there for whatever reason.

Grade: B+
A very strong and interesting album. I feel like this album is better than my personal reaction to it, so fans of the sub-genre should check it out, because it will probably do more for them than it did for me.

1 comment:

  1. I do enjoy Pharaoh quite a bit. I will be looking for this.