Band – Pharoah
Album – After the Fire
Country of Origin – USA
Genre – Melodic Metal
Release Date – August 24th, 2018
Label – Cruz Del Sur Music
Author – Johnny The Fox
Just for fun, let us peer backwards over the sands of time to the early 2000s, and into the land of the Pharoah. Painstakingly constructed over the barren landscape of the U.S. traditional-metal scene, Pharoah’s debut album served as a beacon of metallic hope. After the Fire, originally released in 2003, marked the first release for Italian label Cruz Del Sur Music — which specializes in traditional U.S. metal such as the now-legendary Slough Feg, Hammers of Misfortune, Twisted Tower Dire, etc. Today, Cruz Del Sur is re-releasing this album on vinyl, and it is a real treat of a trip for us old-school metalheads.
Pharoah formed as a sort of underground American metal supergroup, centered on the pyramid foundation of drummer Chris Black, bassist Chris Kerns, and virtuoso guitarist Matt Johnsen. The addition of über-talented vocalist Tim Aymar — ex singer of Jim Dofka’s Psycho Scream as well as the late Chuck Schuldiner’s Control Denied — rendered the band virtually unstoppable. Musically, they unleashed a seamless sonic smorgasbord of a blend of the best of U.S., British, and continental European metal styles. On After the Fire, it’s as if the Brits (Maiden and Priest) were thrown into a blender with the teutonic (Helloween and Rage), with a skosh of underground U.S. (Manilla Road, early Fates Warning, Iced Earth) flavors.
Fans of brisk, galloping, melodic, and super-harmonious metal will find plenty to enjoy here. Johnsen’s riffs alternate between stuttering gallops, swirling harmonies, and blistering speed picking with precision, while his impressive leads never sacrifice melodic sensibility for technicality. The album also features prominent, dynamic, and fluid basslines, a relative rarity for this brand of metal. But if there’s an MVP for After the Fire, undoubtedly it is Aymar’s vocal performance. Not only does he display a remarkable range, but his powerful and distinctive tone sets him apart from the pack. He sings with both grit and clarity, lending a sense of class to these anthemic and infectious tunes.
If there’s a small caveat, it’s the murky and somewhat low-fi production. But hey, it’s underground U.S. metal, and these fantastic songs sing for themselves. All hail the Pharoah.
Highlights: “Unum/After the Fire,” “Heart of the Enemy,” “Solar Flight,” “Slaves.”
Rating – 4/5