Pharaoh is the secret weapon of America's metal underground. There are dozens of arcane, unheralded acts spuming beneath the mainstream mantle, waiting to spout and splinter with the tempestuous fury of a thermal spring. I listen to many of them, but I feel different when I listen to Pharaoh. I feel like I'm privy to timeless music that could shape a generation of metalheads if it weren't for impermeable ramparts that govern success and bridle it for bands on the bottom rung. Some of these obstacles are unique to the modern age. Iron Maiden would never amass an ecumenical following in 2012 (or even 2000, for that matter). The music industry is in an advanced state of atrophy, a declension so crippling, that platinum records are rarefied things of wonder.
In consequence, progressive groups on the fringe are hardly ever broached in the pop culture vernacular. This has always been the case to a certain degree, but has America's collective taste for fluff ever been this pronounced? I name-dropped Iron Maiden earlier (yeah, I'm bowling buddies with Bruce, whatever); I honestly believe that Pharaoh is their contemporary obverse. Now, either I have a flair for vaunting gasconade OR this Pennsylvanian four-piece is the real deal. It's actually a little bit of both, but who's keeping score? Bury the Light is the fourth Pharaoh full-length. It's also their fourth badass album (fifth if you count the Ten Years EP and sixth if you count their contribution to the Tribute to Coroner split). I'm sick of parenthetic statements (enough is enough).
2006's The Longest Night remains my favorite Pharaoh outing, but this fucker is a close runner-up. To tell you the truth, my initial reaction to 2008's Be Gone was marginally downcast. I like it when these guys play with off-kilter time signatures and adventurous arrangements, so the traditional leanings of said opus didn't digest properly deep within my finicky gut. Don't get the wrong impression; it was a lethal collation of meaty metal tunes. Still, I was hoping for a more challenging follow-up. Something dense, something jagged, something gently mathematic...by hook and/or by crook, Bury the Light met my demanding expectations. This album is fucking amazing. How do I convey the grandeur therein? I mean, without boring you? It's too late, isn't it?
If you've never heard of Pharaoh, I can't blame you. I can look down on you with factious castigation in my eyes, but I can't blame you. Imagine tossing Iron Maiden, Control Denied and Angel Dust into a blender. Presto! You've got yourself a Pharaoh smoothie that pairs well with...oh, fuck it. It's metal. Ex-Control Denied vocalist Tim Aymar delivers an outstanding performance. I can't believe that he hasn't lost a scintilla of range over the years. To say that guitarist Matt Johnson is criminally underrated would be an affront to his staggering talent. His leads are expressive, his phrasing is highly creative and his riffs are gritty when the song calls for it. He has an ear for melody that simply fucks my soul. Matt, if you're reading this, you fuck my soul. Hard.
Highlights? Christ spread on a cracker. Sample the jittery percussion of "Leave Me Here to Dream," the frenzied assault of "The Wolves," the anthemic chorus of "Castles in the Sky," the sheer enormity of "Year of the Blizzard" and the pained wails of "Cry." Here's an idea; add Bury the Light to your metal library. If you're not sold after reading this review, you might want to hone your powers of inference.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 11:59 PM