Encased in gold, resting in deep, underground structures marked by towering monoliths of brick, sand and mortar, Pharaohs are the true icon of luxurious lordship. Ruling with a strict, iron fist, Pharaohs lived mercilessly and died glamorously, letting their amassed wealth speak volumes for a life of oppression and aggression. Born from the ashes of hard-hitters Above This, Pharaoh opt to trade in the former’s raw, gritty and over-the-top style of heaviness for a more refined, fluid and dynamic experience—providing the same punishing breakdowns with a more aesthetic and engaging frame. With their self-titled album’s intense combination of creative, catchy choruses and bone-busting breakdowns, Pharaoh rise from Above This’ status of pointlessly heavy peasantry to overlords of oppressive, immersive metalcore that truly does their name justice.
It’s hard to hear Pharaoh and not draw an instant comparison to Above This—however, where with some bands who have undergone such drastic renovations this might be a negative, for Pharaoh, it is nothing but positive. Pharaoh’s self-titled album is crisp and catchy where it needs to be and gruesomely gritty everywhere else. “Neophyte,” the album’s lead single, showcases this brilliantly: opening with jarring spine-shattering instrumentation yet dotted with serene moments of musical clarity, “Neophyte” is an archetype for the awesome dynamic Pharaoh bring to life throughout the album. Some tracks—like the album’s closer, “Fight”—are nothing but lessons in lurid, aggressive heaviness. Pummeling percussion serves as a baseline for ultra-low chugs that hit the listener’s ear like they’re coated in sandpaper. “Pyramids” is another track that exemplifies this—with kick-drum hits that sound more like machine gun bursts than percussion, and entrancing electronic elements that draw the listener in only to snap their spine. It’s moments like the bass-drop heavy, booming breakdown that serves as the climax to “Pyramids” that draw the most direct comparison to (an admittedly refined and improved) Above This, where moments like the calming interlude to “Neophyte” or the closing portion of “Lor Quaid” that see Pharaoh breaking new and intriguing instrumental ground.
Where Pharaoh smoothly toggle between pure, clean soundscapes and punishingly heavy moments of misanthropic musicianship, they do the same vocally. A majority of Pharaoh is defined by a perfectly gruff-and-gritty shout that is both intelligible and intelligently used—flowing beautifully alongside the energetic and driving instrumentation. Tracks like the immaculately performed “Pyramids,” as well as “Shallow Owl” and “Corrupt” favor Pharaoh’s hearty, harsh vocals and, as such, are some of the album’s strongest tracks. However, where Pharaoh deviate from their abrasive, aggressive vocal elements are where they seem to slip from a strong, confident stride into a swaggering limp. “Neophyte” and it’s calm instrumental interlude is accompanied with clean singing that—while brief—still seems to hit the ear the wrong way, falling flat rather than soaring alongside its electronic backdrop. The climax to “Lor Quaid” sees Pharaoh encountering the same stumble, using an odd, out-of-place yell to build up to the track’s skin-shredding breakdown. Other portions of the album feature bouncy, energetic and entertaining hip-hop influences manifesting themselves in the manner of raw, minimalist trap beats and lyrics that boast a no-care attitude, giving the listener a break from the rampaging heaviness and a glimpse into what Pharaoh are all about.
Aside from the occasional misstep with out-of-place or underwhelming vocal delivery, Pharaoh deliver a rollicking, raunchy album with nothing to prove and not a care in the world. Every track on Pharaoh has something to love—whether it’s the eerie electronics in the introduction to “Closure Exposure” that sounds like a Pokemon dungeon theme or “Pyramids” no-holds-barred heaviness. Even the less-than-a-minute-long “Haunted” is a blistering lesson in aggression, featuring a degenerating breakdown as heavy as any other the listener will find on the album. While Pharaoh might not be renovating a genre or breaking ground with a new style of music, they are a renovation of their past efforts and influences—combining the catchy electronic elements of Honour Crest with the earth-trembling bass drops and prolapse-inducing heaviness of Above This, Pharaoh are nothing but fun, intense energy, and their debut full-length album is picture-perfect proof.
If you’ve been missing out on maliciously heavy musicianship, or in a defecit of dizzying drops and brutalizing breakdowns, you owe it to yourself to give Pharaoh a listen. Catchy, crushing and cunning from start-to-finish, Pharaoh’s debut album might not shock the world, but it will certainly shock the listener, forcing them to bow at the feet of the new rulers of raunchy, rampaging metalcore.
For Fans Of: Honour Crest, Above This, Pledge This!
By: Connor Welsh