There have been surprisingly few notable electronic releases this year. I’ve really liked only a handful, so I was eager to jump into the new Pharaoh Overlord album when I saw the promo arrive. The new album is called “6” and releases on November 27th through Rocket Recordings.
Pharaoh Overlord comes to us from Finland. The band is officially made up of Tomi Leppänen and Jussi Lehtisalo right now, but longtime friend Aaron Turner provides vocals on this album. In fact, according to the bio in their promo kit, Aaron was originally only meant to be on a couple tracks, but he loved the sound so much that he wrote lyrics for the entire album and is featured on every track.
The band, for the last couple albums, has been carving their own niche in electronic music. With a rock vibe and catchy rhythms, the band is more in the vein of Kraftwerk than, say, Tangerine Dream. Their songs feel like songs, not atmospheric soundscapes. Yet, the band has their own sound. That sound is one of bold electronic loops, effervescent melodies floating in a thick soup of fervor, and layers upon layers of grand ideas. Many times, those ideas are wild contrasts, pitting fleeting beauty up against raw textures. This is achieved primarily through Aaron’s “corrosive” harsh vox that help define the album as a whole. In the midst of reeling and grooving rhythms, his bark manages to make my neck hairs stand on end.
My basic thought on this record is this: “6” is an album that you will either love or hate. If you like harsh vocals and electronica, you may have never heard the two combined, and that may feel novel and fresh. That’s how it feels to me. But if you hate harsh vocals, you might not “get” this album at all; and, in fact, you might switch it off within minutes. Pharaoh Overlord, I suspect, knows this full well.
The album has only five tracks, yet clocks in at 40 minutes in length. The shortest track on the album is over five minutes, so each song is allowed time to breath and evolve. The band released “Path Eternal” and “Without Song All Will Perish” as singles, and I think those are great choices. The former is the opener, and we are immediately immersed in its stunning world of spiky fluidity. I absolutely love “Path Eternal”, especially the second half where the melodies and layers begin to take hold. “Without Song All Will Perish” is a bit more cinematic and somber, having a steady rhythm that is brilliant in its fixed drive.
The other three tracks are wonderful, too. “Arms of the Butcher” has balls, to say the least, feeling somewhat wary, stark, and foreboding. I love the quirky keys throughout. “Tomorrow’s Sun” has an energetic beat from the start, but it steps up even more in the second half with some sweet keys and plenty of space. The album closer, “Blue Light Hum”, is the “epic” of sorts. Its 14-minute runtime is full of hazy auras, subtle background melodies, and rising feelings of unrest. It is a fantastic piece to end the album on an abstract note.
“6” is a great album, one that I feel will reap even more benefits as I explore it further. Pharaoh Overlord have something unique and vibrant happening here, something that might feel scary to some people, yet brilliant and fresh to others. I, for one, think the ravaged, battered tone they have achieved sounds perfectly glorious up against their smooth electronic trappings. I’m looking forward to seeing this project evolve.
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