In an interview I conducted with PHARAOH guitarist Matt Johnsen a couple of months ago, I was discussing the fact that I still preferred 2006's "The Longest Night" to new album "Be Gone", though not by a wide margin. It is one of those instances where the follow-up to an album that you adored (it was a top 10 selection for me that year) is difficult to objectively critique because memories of its predecessor keep interfering. I also told Johnsen that considering the denser, more complex, style of "Be Gone", I would not be surprised if after a few more weeks of absorption that I'd find it superior to "The Longest Night". Sure enough, that is exactly what happened, as I now find "Be Gone" to be a slightly better overall release than "The Longest Night", although it is still a close race.Where "Be Gone" differs from "The Longest Night" is, for the most part, in the intricacy of the compositions. By that I don't mean that PHARAOH has become CYNIC, only that the arrangements utilize a wide variety of licks and Johnsen's leads are easily his best yet. These are the kind of solos to which you look forward, as opposed to being mere song breaks; it is what bands like IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST do so well, incorporating melodies in the solos and harmonies so that they became nearly as memorable as the choruses. This is the aspect of "Be Gone" that continues to grow on you with each listen and becomes the album's "X" factor, right down to the siren-esque, multi-layered effect (which doesn't describe it well enough, but will have to do) on the title track. The central melodies have a way of getting better and better as well, so much so that several tracks initially seemed on par with the catchiest material from "The Longest Night", then ultimately surpass it. The two shining examples are "Red Honor" and "Buried at Sea", both heavy metal anthems of the highest order. The latter features a vaguely Celtic folk feel; you'll want to raise your fist and sing along every time you hear it. "Dark New Life" (featuring guest solos from RIOT's Mark Reale and Mark Flyntz) is right there too, as are "Cover Your Eyes and Pray" and "No Remains" (with returning guest guitarist Jim Dofka). Invariably, when I hear this album the following thought keeps slamming against the sides of my skull: "Goddamn, these guys are great songwriters!" The nine-track collection is near perfection; it's as simple as that. Vocalist Tim Aymar puts in his best performance, stretching his gritty, yet soulful, pipes in a way that offers more variety, yet is never overdone. Even the most carefully written vocal can fall flat without a singer that's got the horsepower; not a problem with Aymar. As for the IRON MAIDEN tag that has gone from an appropriate comparison point to a haunting and over-used pain in the ass for the band, some of those elements are still present. But all that really means is that PHARAOH composes its songs as masterfully as MAIDEN does (yeah, no shit). Make no mistake, on "Be Gone" PHARAOH has positioned itself as a classy and traditional heavy metal band that can proudly stand on its own. Facing facts, PHARAOH is without question one of the best heavy metal bands on earth and "Be Gone" stands tall as the act's best work yet and is a good bet to catapult toward the top of many a critic's year-end list. So far, it is my album of the year.
To comment on a BLABBERMOUTH.NET story or review, you must be logged in to an active personal account on Facebook. Once you're logged in, you will be able to comment. User comments or postings do not reflect the viewpoint of BLABBERMOUTH.NET and BLABBERMOUTH.NET does not endorse, or guarantee the accuracy of, any user comment. To report spam or any abusive, obscene, defamatory, racist, homophobic or threatening comments, or anything that may violate any applicable laws, use the "Report to Facebook" and "Mark as spam" links that appear next to the comments themselves. To do so, click the downward arrow on the top-right corner of the Facebook comment (the arrow is invisible until you roll over it) and select the appropriate action. You can also send an e-mail to blabbermouthinbox(@)gmail.com with pertinent details. BLABBERMOUTH.NET reserves the right to "hide" comments that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate and to "ban" users that violate the site's Terms Of Service. Hidden comments will still appear to the user and to the user's Facebook friends. If a new comment is published from a "banned" user or contains a blacklisted word, this comment will automatically have limited visibility (the "banned" user's comments will only be visible to the user and the user's Facebook friends).