Sunday, 12 August 2012

Pharaoh Overlord - Out of Darkness (2011) 88%

NWOFHM #2 : Tiger, space and lasers - 88%

"Hear me roar" a Lannister would say, but this tiger won't warn you, he'll eat you alive!

Pharaoh Overlord released their only true metal album in 2011 and I must say it's a very good one. They usually play some kind of stoner/experimental/psychedelic rock with lots of improvisations and jams but they decided to make a very direct and to the point album with Out of Darkness. Escape the grasp of the tiger on the art of the album and run in their spacey forest, don't forget to dodge the lasers though.

Jussi Lehtisalo (the owner of Ektro Records and member of Circle, Motorspandex, Krypt Axeripper, Arkhamin Kirjasto and many others) is handling the bass, his usual instrument. Along with Jussi Kangas who's on guitar and vocals. On the drums we have Tomi Leppänen, also in Motorspandex. These three are very good musicians, but there's also the presence of guest musicians including Bruce Duff (who's in the Canadian underground icon Thor and used to be in Jester of Destiny, an American heavy metal band of minor or non existent fame). There's also Sam Velde fom Night Horse, a promising hard rock unit from the US. They both do guest vocals on some songs and as I'm not familiar with Pharaoh Overlord's usual vocalist, it's not changing many things for me. I simply can say that all the vocals on this album are fucking top notch. Bruce Duff is supposed to be on track 5, "Transylvanian Afternoon" and these vocals are quite good. We have a fun vocal diversity, very good romantic and proggy vocals on the aforementionned track or a more nasal approach on "No Speed Limit", a speed/heavy metal track with a huge German influence. There's also some sort of a doom and almost grungey vocal approach sometimes, like on "Unseen Eye". Sam Velde's sleaze metal approach is also very enjoyable. He's on the title track and the last track "I am the Light". There's a great vocal variety but it stays in the traditional clean realm, no harsh vocals like in Motorspandex or Arkhamin Kirjasto here. There's some experimental moments though,  like Devastator, the longest track on the album at 9 mins where the name of the song is repeated in loop towards the end, it creates a very psychedelic and hypnotic feel. There's soaring clean vocals worthy of praise.

The music is also quite varied, going in many directions, be it speed metal, psychedelic metal with hints of Judas Priest and progressive rock. There are even some moments reminding me of Manilla Road on some songs. Sometimes more direct with fast paced songs, sometimes they take their time with slower tempo numbers, but one thing is sure, it's always great. The song "No Speed Limit" reminds me of early Voivod but cleaned up, especially these weird vocals. The riffs are cool, heavy and with a NWOBHM influence. But my favorite thing on the record is the atmospheric leads, like this psychedelic break in "Unseen Eye", almost something we could find in an old Genesis album. Some parts are similar to Tony Martin's Sabbath as well. Some very powerish heavy metal with the occasional doom riff. The album starts with a short accoustic introduction before the good title track and it never looks back, the quality is constant and quite high. Out of Darkness is a perfect mix of English heavy metal with obvious old school Iron Maiden influences, some USPM à la Griffin while not forgetting the European roots.

To conclude, it's a very interesting album, it's a wind of fresh air in the stagnant sea of heavy metal. It's old school while bringing cool and new ideas and it's clearly not an emulation of the past, something a band like Cauldron is doing, their music is played with passion though, that's hard to deny. The spectres of classic metal are lurking in there, but they are giving the band the required space for their music to grow, rock and destroy !

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