reviews of The Longest Night
Lamentations of the Flame Princess have posted three fantastic reviews of The Longest Night! They're quite spectacular, and all three are too long to reprint here, so here are the links:
review by Andreas Schiffmann
review by Dave Burns
review by James Edward Raggi IV
"I had a feeling PHARAOH's follow-up to its 2003 debut, 'After the Fire', would be a true-blue, quality slab of traditional/power metal with contagious melodies, pounding rhythms, and killer guitar work, but 'The Longest Night' far exceeded even those expectations. 'The Longest Night' would more accurately be described as one of the year's best heavy metal albums.
"I wouldn't necessarily refer to 'The Longest Night' as a power metal album, as the genre descriptor can often imply something along the lines of STRATOVARIUS or HAMMERFALL. Rather, traditional or classic heavy metal with a bit of prog and a power metal melodic sensibility might be a better way of describing it. If anything, the muscular gallop, some of the vocal patterns, and a good bit of Matt Johnsen's axe swinging often bring to mind the work of vintage IRON MAIDEN. Songs such as 'Like a Ghost' in particular can be quite MAIDEN-eque. Chris Kerns' impelling bass runs are somewhat reminiscent of Steve Harris' playing, while the gutsy and soaring vocals of Tim Aymar (CONTROL DENIED, PSYCHO SCREAM) possess the command presence of a Bruce Dickinson and convey the steeliness and grit of Ronnie James Dio's more aggressive material.
"Like all the great metal bands of our time, PHARAOH masterfully blends virtuosity, hard-as-iron toughness, and pure melody. 'Endlessly' and most notably 'In the Violet Fire' (quickly becoming my favorite) are two examples. Both induce that all-important heavy metal adrenaline rush, thanks to the stout and exciting rhythm section of Kerns and drummer Chris Black, not to mention Johnsen's knack for creating husky riffs and leads that are scorching and memorable at once. At the same time, once the choruses hit, they are not soon forgotten. The tunes are catchy and powerful, yet not so over-the-top as to be excessive or just plain cheesy.
"Technically speaking, the arrangements are involved, yet never boring. Eight-minute tracks 'Sunrise' (featuring guest guitarist Chris Poland) and 'By the Night Sky' are the album's more epic tracks, yet the running time is something that goes virtually unnoticed because the compositions are so finely crafted. On the other end of the spectrum, next to a fist-pumping three-minute knockout called 'I Am the Hammer', the album's shortest song is its last, a three-and-a-half minute up-tempo instrumental called 'Never Run' that ends the album on a high note.
"The point is that every song has its place and every note its purpose. On 'The Longest Night', PHARAOH proudly waves the flag of heavy metal, at the same time proving that good songwriting and superb musicianship are not mutually exclusive." 9/10 Scott Alisoglu
"From the first note it is obvious where Pharaoh's allegiances and influences lie. Iron Maiden. Yes! But a lot more progressive and experimental while retaining the heaviness. And no keyboards! Has anyone ever imagined a progressive band without keys? I like that. Sometimes prog bands forget themselves and inundate us with keys and lose their punch. Bonus points for Pharaoh in that respect.
"I definitely have my days, because the first time I listened to The Longest Night I took it out midway through the album. I did the same with a bunch of other CD's. Imagine my pleasant surprise on my second listen. At least I was quick to realize my mistake.
"Solid opener in Sunrise. As corny as it sounds, certain songs have this uplifting quality to them, and despite the cloudy skies today, it all feels brighter and sunnier because of it. It gets better from there. Each of the songs is where it belongs in the song order, each builds up on the rest, each has something memorable about it. I like such albums. There is nothing worse than disjoint song order. To Pharaoh's credit the album has continuity - a somewhat rare occurrence these days.
"Tim Aymar's voice is powerful in a Dio way. Here is that Dio reference... Can I ever review 5 CD's without mentioning Dio? May Aymar have a prolific and successful career, as well! I would love to listen to him time and again. Yes, it is one of those voices.
"Yes, I've touched on the power influences. What about the progressive ones? Hmmm... There is definitely lots of progressive stuff going on, but I have not yet pinpointed specifics. Wow... Have we stumbled upon originality? Most definitely! Yet another positive about Pharaoh and The Longest Night. In the Violet Fire is one of the more progressive songs. It has the characteristic progressive rhythm and melody changes, while still retaining power and punch.
"Maybe because I am on a Running Wild kick these past few days, but many of the guitar parts are reminiscent of Running Wild. Especially the opening riff on By the Night Sky. I am loving that. Rolfhas always had a knack for melody and the Pharaoh guys do, as well. Overall The Longest Night is a highly listenable album that I spin time and again. It may be time to look up their debut.
"On a lighthearted note... The tees on band members in back cover photo - WASP, Slayer, Thin Lizzy, and VoiVod - show good taste. I like these guys! Do check out the mp3's available on Pharaoh's website! If you like classic, power, and slightly progressive metal, I guarantee that you will like Pharaoh.
"Per the enclosed promo materials, the band's goal is to prove that Metal is alive and well. Per this reviewer's opinion Pharaoh has succeeded in this goal." 9/10 Anna Naydenova
"In 2003, PHARAOH issued their debut album 'After The Fire', which I thought was good but not outstanding by any means. In fact, the output drowned in the flood of releases. Now the follow-up arrived, and I have to say that I am completely excited. 'The Longest Night' is a real improvements in all fields. From the godly Fournier cover to the great production and the slightly complex, yet always very harmonic killer tunes.
"Of course, they are based on the excellent voice of Tim Aymar (Ex-CONTROL DENIED, PSYCHO SCREAM), who is hardly weaker than one Harry Conklin of JAG PANZER. Also, you could describe the PHARAOH's music as US Metal in the vein of STEEL PROPHET/JAG PANZER with strong NWoBHM leanigs. They always pay attention to melody and power, but they also play somewhat progressively. Personally I think the somewhat clumsy opener 'Sunrise' is out of place, as it demands a little more patience than the remaining material does and wrong-foots you. The following storming neck-breaker 'I Am The Hammer' already is extraordinary straight stuff. Next up are my personal highlights: the varied 'In The Violet Fire' and 'By The Night Sky', a long track in the vein of MAIDEN, very epic and majestic, with godly riffing and fine vocal passages.
"I'll spare myself any more check out tips, for the album offers nothing but highlights and it just has to excite any fan of unadulterated Metal. In a time where faceless Metalcore acts are basically spat at you, this album is just perfect! It brings back original Metal the way it once was and should still be today: Full of grace, burning passion, a maximum of guitar power and neat screams!" 9.5/10 Ralf Henn
"Pharaoh made themselves known with their debut album 'After the Fire' in 2003, which was moderately successful. They have returned with their sophomore release, entitled The Longest Night, and they are sure to make a name for themselves with this one, cementing into place the skill and power that the band first tested with their debut.
"The Longest Night is a bit of Iron Maiden meets Manowar, classic 'True' metal with a dash of progressive flavor. Personally I do not care much for the label of 'True Metal', as it makes all other forms of metal sound false, but if you're familiar with the style then that's all that matters for the point of this review. It's classic Maiden styled riffs, a pounding and aggressive rhythm section reminiscent of Manowar with naught a drop of keyboard to dilute the potent brew. Pharaoh consists of some top notch, yet relatively unknown musicians. The guitars of Matt Johnsoen are heavy, crunchy bits of metal goodness, classic in style, but modern in fluidity and finesse. The backbone of the beast, rhythm section consisting of Chris Kerns pounding deep voiced hymns to the gods on bass and Chris Black slamming away on the skins like a zealot in the midst of religious frenzy. And then there's vocalist Tim Aymar (formerly of Control Denied and Psycho Scream). This man has a voice on him, let me tell you. Hands down, this guys voice was made for this type of music. Like a Bruce Dickinson-Eric Adams hybrid, he wails, he raves, he croons. It's as if he was born for this type of work. And perhaps he was.
"My only criticism here would be directed at the production. The guitars sound great, but the drums are just a bit flat and the vocals are somewhat turned down in the mix. The voice is exceptional and powerful but it seems we're not treated to quite all we could be if only the vocals were a bit more enhanced. Even so the album ends up sounding powerful and majestic.
"Fans of Manowar, Iron Maiden, Brainstorm, Nostradameus, Slough Feg and their ilk will find The Longest Night not nearly long enough to appease their hungry ears.
"Bottom Line: This is classic metal. This is awesome. This is Pharaoh. Long may they rule." Farron Watson
"'The Longest Night' is the sophomore release from Pharaoh. The band has gotten hyped on the message boards that I lurk, but this is the first I've heard by them. Formed in 1997 by drummer Chris Black, bassist Chris Derns and guitarist Matt Johnsen (also a scribe for 'Metal Maniacs'), the group eventually landed Control Denied screamer Tim Aymar to do the vocals and they rolled out their debut, 'After the Fire', back in 2003. Much praise arose and thus high expectations were burned into my brain. Three or so years later, I'm off to critique their latest.
"So were my expectations met? Absolutely. Matt is a great guitarist who cranks out powerful 'American power metal' riffs, Iron Maiden-styled harmonies, nice acoustic interludes and blistering, melodic solos. My kinda shiznit. I really like Aymar's voice, too. Dude utilizes different aspects of his instrument very well; whether he's belting it out, screeching or softly singing, he has an impressive power and range. Tim is not your average European power metal eunuch, he's got a gruff mid-range that hits you right in the chest.
"There are ten tracks (one fun, galloping instrumental to close things out) that span 53 minutes. Song arrangements combine straight forward riffs with interesting, often mellow bridges that give Pharoah more in common with latter day Maiden than the Brits' early era. Production and mix are solid, though I'm not keen on the bass drum sound. My small bitch aside, Pharaoh is well worth seeking out for fans of 'darker' traditional and/or power metal. I'm happy to report that some bands do meet great expectations, and Pharoah is one of those groups." D. Berger
"Fresh blood transfusion into the senescent body of traditional metal has helped to reanimate the old dog after all. Sounds feigned? Not in the case of the young Chicago-based four-piece Pharaoh. Either take it with a grain of salt and stop reading it right off the bat or accept on faith what your humble servant is going to submit below. These guys did manage to enkindle a sparkle of interest among metal fans all over the world with their debut After the War and they will safely stir up the flames with The Longest Night, a piece of sheer metal recently hammered out upon the anvil bone of the promising Italian forge Cruz Del Sur. This album took almost 3 long years to see the light, but I guarantee the suspense will be recompensed hundredfold, to say the least.
"What are the three most invincible weapons for any band choosing traditional heavy metal as a reference point? One is, no doubt, its singularity, two is strong instrumental rigging and the last but not the least is a powerful vox able to be in command of the entire process. All of the three are available here in full. Sumptuous melodies and exuberant riffery, masterly musicianship from each member combining both technical and song-writing talents and one of the most prominent voices which can be without a twinge of remorse ranked among the elite. Vocalist Tim Aymar, an owner of extraordinary chords (Control Denied, Psycho Scream), doesn't need a special presentation for a seasoned metalhead. For those unaware, take the power of Dio, add some frog-in-the-throat notes typical of Nazareth's Dan McCafferty, jumble them together and you'll get a rough equivalent of the final product. What else does a band need in the arsenal to conquer its Everest!
"I remember reading lots of reviews for their debut where all the critics with a single heart dubbed Pharaoh as a band mainly influenced by Maiden. There is undeniably a grain of truth in it, but only due to the numerous guitar harmonies employed by Matt Johnsen, this wizard of the six strings. Matt is a thinking guitarist and knows well that blind imitation alone is not an acceptable way to win the contemporary audience. Thus, he tries to take up his duties really inventively applying in his style tons of peculiar ingrains in the form of diverse riffing, interesting complex soloing and differently tuned plugged guitars. With regard to the rhythm section, the band can boast of the two perfect musicians, Chris Black and Chris Kerns on bass and drums respectively. This couple is a noteworthy example of the case when the bassist and drummer are really full members of the band participating in a song-writing process.
"Song-wise, The Longest Night is head and shoulders superior to the band's debut, which, in its turn, possesses a very solid set of songs itself. The composition structure, featuring some of the pieces clocking in at around the eight-minute mark, is placed in a much better light this time as well. Most of the tracks are provided not only with excellent drive and melodies but with resourceful playing endeavors from all involved. So, the opener Sunrise has a very unusual piece of drumming in the middle and heaps of guitar and bass hooks here and there. I Am The Hammer is a fast-paced bit based on absolutely infectious propeller riffing and compact chorus parts. By The Night Sky, a song written by Chris Kerns alone, is dominated by a galloping riff, beautiful solo guitars and the larger-than-life chorus. Fighting slays you right on the spot with its belligerent spirits and terrific melodies penetrating into the innermost of your heart. As hard as I tried to find any defects or rough edges on this record I found none. There are just no weak moments. All of the songs are sheer masterpieces. Yesterday my favorite was In The Violet Fire with its jack-hammer riffing and fantastic guitar fingering I have yet to hear from someone. Today it is Like A Ghost with tons of blazing insets far and wide. Tomorrow it will be the hell knows what else. This entire work will dash your metal stereotypes into shards with its catapults and arrows and this is not a joke.
"To summarize, this is an absolute contender number one for year 2006 among heavy metal releases yet to see the light. One thing is as certain as hell. With The Longest Night Pharaoh have already immortalized themselves as the band to reckon with and unless they loosen their iron grip they will be catapulted into the premier league of the genre as soon as the next album. That is just a matter of time." 5+/5 Ivan the Bludgeon
"After the 2003 'After the Fire' debut this 'The Longest Night' is Pharaoh's second album. 'After the Fire' received much positive feedback, mainly because of the star part of singer Tim Aymar, who is well known for the awesome vocals on Chuck Schuldiner's Control Denied album 'The Fragile Art of Exinstince'. Together with great musicians, in the person of guitarist Matt Johnsen, drummer Chris Black and bass-player Kris Kern, the ranks are filled and Pharaoh is back with an impact!
"Tim Aymar is one of the best heavy metal singers nowadays and he was very eager to prove this another time on this record. Though, I think that his best performance still is on 'The Fragile Art of Existence', but that's of course due to the fact that his talent got pulled to an extraordinary level by the geniality and charisma of good old Chuck. Nevertheless, Tim's voice sometimes sounds like a rougher mix of Dio, Dickinson and Tate and those are quite respectable names to be mentioned with, isn't it? He's capable of singing in clean high-pitched regions, but also in a more rougher way of expression and not to forget the sensitive feeling parts. But a great singer is nowhere without a very strong backbone and this what completes Pharaoh's music, because musically it's been awesomely put together as well. All songs breathe their own atmosphere that dwells between traditional heavy metal, progressive and power metal. The songs contain great musicianship with flashing solos, up-tempo trashy riffs, clean breakdowns, ballad-like elements, rememberable refrains, to go short; all ingredients that an excellent heavy/power metal album needs! The eight minutes songs 'Sunrise' (with guest appearance by Chris Poland from Ohm and ex-Megadeth) and 'By the Night Sky' (beginning with a melancholic quiet opening that reminds a bit of Anathema's 'Fragile Dreams') are perfect examples of the song-writing skills of this band. Together with a fine production and nice artwork, this album is finished, no adds needed.
"Pharaoh has just delivered another hell of an album that needs to be listened and enjoyed! Do yourself a favour if you're into heavy/power metal and just check it out! Hopefully we will be able to hear and see them live somewhere this year. Strangely enough I haven't seen their name (yet?) on one of this year's festival billings!" Tim Pijnenburg
"Pharaoh are a power/heavy metal band from the U.S.A. When I say power metal, I don't mean Dragonforce. Think more on the lines of classic heavy metal. Think a more technical Iron Maiden with some progressive elements thrown in. That should give you a good idea of what to expect. The music is very melodic and very involved. The vocalist, Tim Aymar (Control Denied), gives a very Dio influenced performance. What more could a fan of heavy metal ask for? The answer is, not much. If you are a fan of melodic heavy metal, you will really find a lot on here you will enjoy. It is nothing that hasn't been done countless times by other metal bands, but they do it well, so I give them credit. If you are looking for a groundbreaking metal act this won't convince you, but if you are looking for a more modern look at classic heavy metal you should have a lot here to rock to." Jake Rosenberg
"When I first heard Pharaoh's debut release AFTER THE FIRE, my attention was caught with a vengeance. It's a very rare thing to have a perfect album like Motorhead's ACE OF SPADES, Black Sabbath's SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH or Deep Purple's MACHINE HEAD, still, even more rare to have one as a first offering. ep, Pharaoh set the bar pretty high for themselves ñ that said, I was like a kid at Christmastime and salivating like a tater-head waiting to pop their new disk THE LONGEST NIGHT into the player. Man, I wasn't disappointed when I did. THE LONGEST NIGHT is an ass whippin' endeavor for sure Ö I wouldn't say that it's better than the first, But then again, who knows? With a few more listens, it just might be it's equal. While having all of the same great characteristics as their first CD, this follow-up is a much more matured sounding album with a bit more emphasis on dynamics, but fear not, Matt Johnsen's guitar work still rips and Tim Aymar's (ex-Contol Denied, Psycho Scream) iron-lunged vocals are still some of the greatest ever to grace a CDÖ they still sound like a hotrod version of POWERSLAVE-era Iron Maiden! What else can be said? It's bands like this that keep metal alive and Pharaoh is one of the greatest power metal bands ever. Go but their damn albumÖ buy it twice and give one to a friend!!!" 4.5/5 Mr. Sunshine
"This American band made their entrance in 2003 with the album 'After The Fire'. Three years after the release of that album the band finally releases its second album 'The Longest Night'. Why it took the band three years to come with a follower is unknown to me, but after hearing this album I can conclude that it was worth waiting for.
"For the ones who don't know this band, Pharaoh is a quartet with Tim Aymar on vocals, who is of course known from his fantastic performance with Chuck Schuldiner's heavy metal project Control Denied. This band plays traditional heavy metal in the vein of Iron Maiden and which is of great quality. Pharaoh has two rather strong aspects. The first one is of course Tim Aymar whose powerful vocals see to many enjoyable moments. What a performance. Also his way of singing leaves no point of criticism. His style reminds me a bit of Bruce Dickinson but also of the grandmaster Dio. In short: powerful, emotional en very convincing. The second strong aspect is guitarist Matt Johnsen who leaves a great impression on this album. Also the rhythm machine Chris Black and Chris Kerns is very powerful and precise. Listen to songs like 'Sunrise', Endlessly', the sublime 'By The Nightsky' and the utterly powerful up-tempo tune 'Fighting' and you'll know what I mean. This album knows little weak moments and is highly recommendable to the ones who enjoy bands like Iron Maiden, Dio, but also a band like Iced Earth. The beautiful artwork of Jean-Pascal Fournier (who is also responsible for Immortal's 'At The Heart Of Winter') makes the picture complete." 85/100 Nima
"One of the very first classic records (they were still called records then) I cut my metal baby teeth on was Iron Maiden's 'Somewhere In Time', which still remains my all-time favorite album by them. In the years that have followed since then, traditional metal has fallen by the wayside in favor of whatever the newest trend may be, with only a few bands like Nevermore, Symphorce, Slough Feg, and a handful of notable others sticking to the path of ambitious, rambunctious flat-out heavy metal glory.
"A relatively recent addition to this short and powerful list, are drummer Chris Black, guitarist Matt Johnsen, vocalist Tim Aymar, and bassist Chris Kerns, the four men who collaborate to form the entity known as Pharaoh. Now, I know I've thrown out a couple really high scores lately (actually, get used to it, because there's more on the way), but in this case, you'd have to be truly deaf not to recognize the grace and magnificence of 'The Longest Night' if you're any sort of fan of traditional, thrash, or power metal that lacks any cheese, or bubblegum filler.
"Far from being a rehash of past epics from the 80's, 'The Longest Night' has the potential to be a modern classic in the making. I tried to be critical of this album, really I did. I wanted to find fault with the larger-than-life chorus of magnificent opening number 'Sunrise'. If I could have found any fault with the eloquent introspection of the beautifully sung 'In The Violet Fire', then it would be done. If there was a crack in the stainless armor of the brave metal anthem 'Fighting', I'd point it out with a flashlight and magnifying glass, but there's no flaw to be found there. This is pure metal, all metal, and nothing but metal.
"Matt Johnsen has a very clever talent of arranging layered, astute riffs on top of each other in a mercurial, consummate fashion. There's a lot of fleeting, delicate detail added to each and every passage, with a mingling of equal parts technique, personality, flash, and substance. It's an unbeatable combination, and a meticulously executed one as well. The Kerns/Black bass and drum team also play a noticeably vital role in the success of steady, calculated tunes like 'Endlessly', and show unrelenting power during the pummeling gallop of 'I Am The Hammer'. By the way, as far as song titles go, that particular one just fucking spits metal like so much molten phlegm, befitting the firestorm of refined, lethal musical dynamics the song undertakes. Jackassery isn't suffered lightly on this exercise, for this is metal with visible intent, and uncompromising vision, and there is no place here for weakness.
"This brings me to the brightest gem in this crown of class act metallic righteousness, vocalist extraordinaire, Tim Aymar. It would be very easy to sit back and compare him to such stalwarts as Halford, Tate, Dane, and Wayne because of Tim's unique and instantly identifiable voice, but I think he deserves a little better than a lazy match-up alongside people far too many reviewers use for comparison to begin with. People need to start comparing other great newer vocalists to Tim Aymar, because this man does not fuck around whatsoever. His high notes? Don't play this album too loudly around fine crystal, that's all I have to say, because the bridge and chorus to 'Endlessly' would surely destroy your collection.
"With a pitch-perfect, midranged tenor that dominates from beginning to end, Aymar shows just why Chuck Schuldiner thought so highly of his talent and ability to perform with a commanding presence as frontman for Chuck's Control Denied project. The range and scope of the many multi-textured vocal harmonies is breathtaking on the somber/explosive 'By The Night Sky', and the smokin' chorus of the simply fantastic 'Like A Ghost', a song I've been driving my roommates positively crazy with my repeatedly hitting the replay button. This is one of those songs you use a weapon against those who doubt the talent, dignity, and superlative songwriting ability that no-bullshit metal at it's finest has to offer. Sublime.
"I would suggest right now as you're reading this, to go over to the Cruz Del Sur website, and sample all the helpings of 'The Longest Night' that they have up for legitimate investigation. The production could have been tweaked ever-so-slightly just to give the riff extravaganza more breathing room, but otherwise, the sonics are outstanding, especially when played through a really rock-solid system. The songwriting is so varied, and well-tailored to suit the different moods and demeanor of each individual song, telling each chapter with disparate, riveting anecdotes. This really is a stunning piece of work, and an album I've literally had to force myself to take out of the CD player in order to review other things. This has already cemented a place in my year-end list, and I cannot recommend it enough to traditional metal enthusiasts. Pharaoh rules, and it's simple as that. Buy, or pose forever." 9/10 Dekompoze
UNRESTRAINED! #30, USA
"For fans of American heavy metal look no further than Pharaoh to lead us all to metal's holy land in 2006. The Pennsylvania-based four-piece have just released their sophomore effort on Cruz Del Sur, titled The Longest Night, a full-on glorious journey of energy, passion and metal. With a nod to the older days of American heavy metal (think vintage Jag Panzer, Iced Earth), as well as showcasing a fresh approach that allows the band to not come across as stagnant/rehashed, The Longest Night is the perfect pairing of singer Tim Aymar's (Control Denied) vocals and the incredible guitar work of Matt Johnsen, a master guitarist who brings real emotional strength to each note. Along with a killer rhythm section (consisting of drummer Chris Black and bassist Chris Kerns) the band takes charge here, a much tighter and focused outfit than on 2003's debut After The Fire. Plus the songs have their own identity and are much more memorable. Standout tracks include crushing opener 'Sunrise,' 'I Am the Hammer,' and the stunning 'By The Night Sky.' What a great song! The power of metal is alive and well within The Longest Night and metal fans will feel this right from their first encounter with it. This is indeed a superb album that I'll be championing all year round!" 9/10 Adrian Bromley
"Power metal is a raging beast sometimes when the band gets it right and I have a great CD by a band that knows how to do it! Pharaoh has launched their sophomore CD entitled The Longest Night and it is bombastic by any standards set for metal. Right off hand I have to say for you Iron Maiden fiends that there is definitely a Maiden influence here and if you feel lost by what they have done on their past CDs, let this act take up where they left off. The progressions are intense and massive as played by the amazing guitar player Matt Johnsen, his skill is beyond that of what I have heard lately (Besides the Sensory releases) and that should take them far. Tim Aymar has an amazing range and his vox can be very dirty and aggressive as well. I like that the vocals compliment the music as it can be a rarity sometimes to make the two meld together perfectly and only the best bands can do it. This band needs to tour the states and get a ground swell happening, as this is what America needs. This is aggressive power metal at its best with out being to overblown or over the top." 9/10 Jeffrey Easton
"With the luxury of years and years of metal knowledge under their belts (two members of this band have done time in some major metal publications), Pennsylvania's Pharaoh had better know how to make an album that eludes criticism. Luckily for them and for us, The Longest Night is as complete and thorough of a classic metal album you'll hear this year, escaping any form of criticism at all.
"Rooted in the textured, melodically capable sound of mid-80's metal (think Maiden, Savatage, some Dio, and Metal Church), Pharaoh's deep and involved sound is guided by the guitar playing of Matt Johnsen. Johnsen's melodic sensibilities are what dominate this thing; no movements are killed by bad note choices and most, if not all his solos and harmonies are memorable in some way.
"Vocalist Tim Aymar (ex-Control Denied) uses the rough edge of his voice throughout most of The Longest Night, resulting in gritty, potent chorus sections in 'I Am The Hammer' and 'Fighting'. When Aymar does reach for the rafters, as in some moments of 'Like A Ghost' and 'Sunrise', the man takes over the mix and shows the true power of his voice. No wonder why Schuldiner liked him so much.
"'In The Violet Fire' and 'Like A Ghost', take the cake here on an album without a bad song on it. Both display urgent, surging power chords from Johnsen (especially Like A Ghost') in addition to Aymar's boastful and raucous vocal choices.
"Pharaoh is the real deal, devoid of the annoying shtick and gas-station worker persona of Three Inches Of Blood or the innate dorkiness of many of its power metal contemporaries. However, tagging this as true power metal is misleading, for what Pharaoh does would probably confuse and bewilder a lot of those in the power metal scene. Really, this album is that good." David E. Gehlke
"One of the most underrated (hell, it was probably THE MOST underrated) metal albums of 2003 was the debut release from Pennsylvania's 'Pharaoh'. 'After The Fire' arrived without much fanfare via the small Italian label 'Cruz Del Sur Music' and then proceeded to spend the best part of six months permanently stuck in my cd player. Two reasons: One - the bands nod to the traditional old school metal ethics of Maiden and Iced Earth and Two - vocalist Tim Aymar! A thousand lashes punishment if you haven't a clue about this guy - he of Chuck Schuldiner's 'Control Denied' (RIP). Aymar is simply one of the most amazing metal vocalists in the game. If his profile wasn't already established, then one listen to 'The Longest Night' will confirm it once and for all. You want to talk about albums of the year so early in the piece? This will take some beating.
"'After the Fire' was a fine, fine album. It hinted of better things to come, particularly with Aymar joining the band on a permanent basis after laying down vocals in a 'session singer' capacity. With the release of 'The Longest Night' it is clear that 'Pharaoh' have become a much tighter, more cohesive unit and one that is intent on providing the metal world with a fresh take on the traditional metal sound.
"There are highlights abound on 'TLN', however if I was forced to choose a song that systematically highlights the power and musical genius of this band it is 'By The Night Sky'. An eight minute epic that has it all - vaguely familiar with its Maiden-esque galloping bass line, this track quickly envelops the listener with its massive chorus (led by Aymar's simply earth shattering vocals) and stunning melodic phrasing. As good as Aymar is (and folks, let me just state again, this guy is GOOD!!) 'Pharaoh' would only be a shell of its current form without the talents of guitarist Matt Johnsen - where did this guy learn his chops? Seriously, the melodic lead work that Matt has laid down on this disc is nothing short of jaw dropping. There are lead breaks all over this disc - it is a guitarist's wet dream as far as that is concerned. What's more impressive, Johnsen never drifts off into self indulgent fret-wankery - every riff and every lead is constructed to complement each other and the overall song structure. Incredibly conceived, impassioned and emotively powerful 'The Longest Night' simply entrances the listener from its opening notes.
"Perhaps the single greatest aspect about Pharaoh is that they capture the essence of powerful, traditional melodic heavy metal. 'TLN' is rooted in the traditional sound of Maiden and early Iced Earth, has more than a nod towards the early 80's American Power Metal style of Crimson Glory and Vicious Rumors and simply gallops along with an intensity and energy that many other bands could only dream of achieving. Not a dud track on it as far as I am concerned. Essential for fans of pure, no bullshit, melodic heavy metal. This band MUST be discovered!!" 9.5/10 Krozza
"My problem with today's traditional metal is that the majority of it has little to do with the music I fell in love with more than twenty years ago; instead coming off like tired, diluted versions of what was, at the time, the only music that mattered. But when a band breaks from the pack with an outstanding traditional metal album, it connects me right back to what I loved about metal in the first place. That's where Pharaoh comes in, and with The Longest Night, the band has gifted fans with the best traditional metal album I've heard in a long time, proving that they are capable and loyal keepers of the flame. This, my friends, is how American-made metal should sound.
"The Longest Night is the second effort from Pennsylvania's Pharaoh, and based on the mp3's on the band's site, since their first album the band has become more focused and lethal. This album simply bleeds metalñageless, trend-proof metal that's entrenched in tradition but presented with a contemporary flair. The band has some obvious Iron Maiden leanings, but in general, you'll hear bits of just about everything good in the mid to late 80's, and it's delivered with energy and class. You'll remember the massive voice of frontman Tim Aymar from his Control Denied days, and as you'd expect, he comes up huge here. But you might be surprised at just how well he uses his range, giving most of the material a powerful mid-range grittiness, and making judicious use of his soaring, higher registered delivery. Aymar alone is enough to grab your attention, but Pharaoh's secret weapon is guitarist Matt Johnsen, who strings together an unrelenting flow of headbangable riffs, persistent hooks, and dizzying leads. Johnsen is the most effective kind of player, constructing guitar lines that dazzle and punch but always serve the structure of the material. As a collective, the band has a sublime melodic sensibility, creating a textured blitz by weaving undeniable hooks around a foundation that has a gutsy, fist pumping heaviness that's well anchored by the rhythm section of Chris Black and Chris Kerns. No over the top melodic histrionics here; no twinkling shininess; no cheese--No shit.
"Ex-Megadeth (it's a growing group) axe-man Chris Poland contributes a solo to the potent eight minute album opener, 'Sunrise', a statement of intent that creates a high benchmark. But the album contains no substantive dip. The band flexes some muscle on 'I Am the Hammer,'and 'Fighting', dealing out some rapid fire Iced Earth gone Iron Maiden riffing. Songs like 'In the Violet Fire' highlight the band's ability to skillfully blend clean guitar lines and slower tempos with sweeping, intense choruses and looming heavy transitions. The album flows incredibly well, and even at nearly an hour long and with two 8+ minute songs, The Longest Night feels like anything but long. This is an album that's easy to listen to from front to back without getting the least bit antsy. The band closes the affair with the album's only instrumental track, 'Never Run', which teems with an energetic, 'Flash of the Blade' vibe.
"The Longest Night reminds us(and hopefully other bands) that today's traditional metal doesn't have to be second rate, or cliche ridden fluff, bereft of creative passion. Pharaoh has joined a small circle of bands that get it right, and continue to live the tradition. Just great metal, existing outside of sub-genres, trends, and pretense. This thing smokes from start to finishñVery highly recommended." Matt Mooring
"As metal writers themselves, the duo of drummer Chris Black (aka Chris Maycock, 'The Professor' of Word Of Mouth/Metal Maniacs notoriety) and guitarist Matt Johnsen (Feast Or Famine and likewise Metal Maniacs scribe) have quite the reputation for no holds barred commentary in their critiques through the years. Unfettered by publicity laden bravado, these gentlemen have firm notions for where metal has been plus where it currently resides - aiming to add their log to the traditional fire with Pharaoh. I'm of the opinion that the follow up album in a group's discography tends to be a little bit of a letdown due to the simple convention that you have a whole lifetime to come up with material for your initial first impression but merely a year or so to usually deliver the goods again. Fortunately for Pharaoh 'The Longest Night' obliterates that norm, as the quartet steps up their game plan a few notches while gaining a much warmer production tone that sets a high standard in the current American metal movement. Pharaoh assuredly look to their overseas brethren for musical and lyrical inspiration- be it English (Matt's twin lead nods, Chris Black's triplet snare patterns, Tim Aymar's epic voice) or otherwise (detect a chainsaw like Coroner buzz in 'I Am The Hammer' or Rage like chord progressions throughout 'In A Violet Fire'). 'By The Night Sky' opens with a ringing guitar harmony that would make all Thin Lizzy freaks salivate with a special nod of headbanging approval to bassist Chris Kerns who delivers some understated bottom end to this 8 minute epic that would be in my opinion the biggest highlight of the album. It's as if each song was sifted through the sands of time for weeks and weeks on end, making sure that every dynamic or little twist was put to the test, all for the benefit of the strongest song in the end. Producer Matt Crooks along with Pharaoh should beam with joy at the final product as 'The Longest Night' flows seamlessly from first note to last fading harmony. 'After The Fire' may have been highly Maiden inspired, but 'The Longest Night' easily obliterates anything the Eddie troops have put together since 'Piece Of Mind'. Pharaoh prove that America can still produce well crafted metal without pandering to the lowest common denominator. Such a shame that this remains a studio project as I would be willing to travel a long way to see this material performed in a live setting- maybe the buzz will begin to explode Pharaoh into rehearsal mode for future US or European festival gigs. Top 5 Album without question for 2006 and possibly of the current decade twofold." Matt Coe