Pharaoh The Longest Night

A band containing two well-known metal music critics — both drummer Chris Black and guitarist Matt Johnsen have done their own fanzines as well as write for Metal Maniacs — Pharaoh actually do put their money where their collective mouth is and turn in one of the most inspired efforts of 2006. Fronted by former Control Denied vocalist Tim Aymar, this studio project (they’ve yet to play live) is a bit of an anomaly in today’s current music scene, as they reside in the U.S. and play traditional power metal. While this style is still quite prominent in Europe, there are only a handful of young bands in North America that do it well and Pharaoh are one of the best. With all members well versed in the past 20 years of underground metal, the band have offered up ten well-written, impeccably played new songs that surpass those on their debut album. One of the main reasons for this is the guitar playing of Matt Johnsen. His style has improved immensely since their first album — which was his first studio work — and he has come into his own as a melodic, gifted player that knows when to use flash but never wanders into wankery. Vocalist Aymar seems much more comfortable fronting the band the second time around; he could give Matt Barlow’s work with Iced Earth a run for its money with what he’s done here. I must admit this record is a definite grower. I wasn’t sold on it the first few times through, but these songs are so well-written that the hooks just seep into your consciousness. If you have a soft spot for early Iron Maiden and Helloween, or fellow Americans Jag Panzer, then this comes highly recommended. (Cruz Del Sur)