Deep Music Criticism #21 – Pharaoh – The Wolves

A recent discovery is the Philadelphia-based Power Metal band Pharoah. I stumbled onto them on Rhapsody last week. I am so enthused about them, I’ve been blabbing to everyone I know who likes:

  • Iron Maiden
  • Judas Priest
  • Rush
  • Black Sabbath
  • Metallica (early, good)
  • Slayer
  • Dream Theater

Their music is such a distinctive blend of these different kinds of heavy and progressive rock, with a touch of un-ironic paraphrasing of old classics by these bands.

Three things make me squeal when I hear this song, in descending order:

3. Harmony

Every song on this album features a ripoff of Iron Maiden’s signature gimmick: harmonized lead guitar lines. Dave Murray and Adrian Smith invented the guitar “soli” (plural of “solo”) in metal. The two guys in Pharoah do it exactly like Murray and Smith – legato 3rds and 6ths – only much faster. The Wolves features a colossal mess of guitar soli + full-kit drum rolls in the long intro. They’ve taken the Maiden signature to another level.

Harmony twists and unexpected turns also come out in the chord progressions of The Wolves, especially in the “turnaround” sections between verse stanzas and also after each chorus. I’ve said it before: harmony is what makes a song compelling or bland. It doesn’t take much to pump out the chord progression to a song, but you need a little something unusual or else you’re in blandsville.

2. Groove

Old fashioned double-time thrash starts this song out, which is an energizing type of groove in itself, as far as metal goes. But the real rhythmic genius of The Wolves – the thing that induces immediate and uncontrollable head-banging and growls – is the rolling, stream-train-like groove of each verse. Its such a simple beat pattern, but it’s at just the right tempo, with just the right mix of on-beat and off-beat rhythmic accents in both guitar and drums.

3. Voice

Very unusual to single out a vocal performance as “the thing” that makes a metal song great. But this guy Tim Aymar is absolutely astounding. Not even Bruce Dickinson or Rob Halford cause the kind of fear, dead and death wishing I feel when listening to The Wolves. He has such a perfect raspy tone, coupled with ability to over-enunciate for dramatic effect, topped off with the most outrageous counter-tenor range. It’s a voice tailor made for operatic villain roles. This is one voice I wish I had