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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Pharaoh

The Longest Night

Review by Gary Hill

In some ways this disc is simply awesome. Frankly, if you take any one song here and listen to it by itself, you'll find that the group's version of classic heavy metal is powerful and invigorating. The trouble with this album, though, is that the group tends to sound pretty monolithic after you sit through half of it. They really could have stood to mix it up more than they did. Yes, there are variations within tracks, but throwing one or two ballads on this one would really help it out. Why do you think most of the metal discs from the mid '70's had at least one ballad? Because without something to break up the monotony even the most tasty metal (and this stuff is tasty) starts to sound the same after a time. I'd recommend this album if you like classic metal, but I'd say that it might be one you want to listen to five or so songs at a time rather than sitting through at once. It also could be good to listen in its entirety if you are busy doing something else. Frankly, these guys really do rock, it's just that there isn't enough variety. Maybe that's why the disc is called The Longest Night - because it can be monotonous.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Sunrise
Imagine, if you will, early 1970's Uriah Heep. Take away the keyboards and throw in a lot more metal crunch. You would come pretty close to the idea of this killer metal jam. I can't imagine a much better track to open up the disc. This one has a classic metal texture, but also a heavy dosage of just plain classic 1970's rock. It also has a pretty awesome instrumental segment.
I Am The Hammer
This one screams in with more quick paced fury. It has a texture that calls to mind classic Dio and Iron Maiden. These guys just continue to fire on all thrusters here. The twin guitar attack here is stellar.
In The Violet Fire
They slow it down for the beginning of the introduction, but still pack enough crunch in to please the most avid metal head. Then it screams back out as it carries onward. They move it through this extended intro with these varying segments, then drop it way back to a ballad like structure that reminds me just a bit of mid-period Rush. After a verse like this, though, the song rises back upward with an epic metal approach. Then it moves between these styles becoming more powerful as it carries on. This one is more progressive metal oriented than the two numbers that preceded it, feeling a bit like Fates Warning and others of that ilk. The quality and strength of the album, though, is not let up on at all with this potent piece. A short acoustic segment ends the track.
By The Night Sky
A bluesy hard rock sound starts this, but it quickly shifts to a galloping metal stomp. They drop it way back to a ballad segment, that again reminds me of classic Uriah Heep, to move through the first verse. Then rather than stomping straight back up they work through these themes in an instrumental progression for a time. Then they power it out from there with the same musical concepts remaining. The second verse is in metal screaming mode. This gets very tasty as it moves onward with both the classic rock and heavy metal stylings remaining strong. This one is one of my favorites on the disc, and the twin guitar attack is part of the charm here. I also especially like the segment where they slow it back down a bit. It's packed with emotion and power. I hear Dio and Rainbow in this, but given a heavy dose of steroids. The melodic, yet crunchy galloping outro is pure metal heaven.
Endlessly
This is a darker sounding and more pure metal textured cut. It's a solid rocker, but just a bit generic. It suffers more than anything from the high quality of the material that preceded it.
The Longest Night
A mysterious sounding ballad mode begins this and carries it for a time as the introduction. Then it pounds out with something that really feels a lot like early Rush. As this segment of the intro concludes the cut turns into more of an epic metal jam. This one is stronger than the track that came before it. By this point, though, everything is starting to feel a bit too similar. Still, this is a rather emotional number and has its charms. They do put in a few interesting segments, including dropping it back to mellower, more melodic material. The outro, with its Iron Maiden like textures is another redeeming factor.
Fighting
The meaty classic riff that makes up this track would have been really strong had it come earlier, or with a bit of a change up before it. As it is this is an anthemic metal number that just doesn't stand out all that well. They do include an intriguing instrumental break, but it's just that by this point it's all blending together.
Like A Ghost
This one feels like it might be different with the atmospheric introduction. As the song proper pounds in, though, it's more of the same. Still, this one has enough meat on its bones to help it rise from what is rapidly becoming a monolithic sea of sameness.
Up The Gates
More powerful metal, the only problem here is that this concept is beginning to wear thin, and this one doesn't really stand out. While they throw some mellower material in to break it up a little, it's just not enough.
Never Run
Why change it up when you've gotten this far on one sound? Apparently that's the idea here. I will say, though, that the fast paced Maidenesque romp with its neo-classical leanings is one of the stronger cuts on the disc. If they had thrown a couple ballads onto this album to break things up you'd probably be going crazy with this one, as it really does scream. By this point, though, the general sameness keeps this prog metal instrumental from standing out as much as it should.
 
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