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It’s not been an easy ride for us fans of older power metal ( yeah, I don’t mean mid-90s Stratovarius albums here); looking for new albums we’ll actually play more than once becomes increasingly difficult - band X sounds too much like Judas Priest, band Y doesn’t sound enough like Judas Priest or maybe they sound like the wrong era of Judas Priest. Whilst some folks are trying too hard to recapture the old sound and some bands are very much focused on that dreaded “moving the sub-genre forward”… which is all fine and well, but it’s not going to move you like the third Fates Warning album did (and, by now, you already own three copies of that). So you can see it’s a very tricky business trying to find the easy road (or any road at all!) when it comes to newer music. But damn, if something - or someone, even - is promising you that Pharaoh’s Be Gone sounds like Crimson Glory but with all sorts of modern twists you’ll hesitantly listen because you need to name more than three albums for your “best of 2008” list (2 of which were probably reissues), and if you don’t care for it too much, you will be saying that you’ll dig up Midnight’s not-so-recently deceased corpse, and tell it what a horrible travesty has just happened to your ears in some bizarre ‘poor Horick’-esque moment.
Um yeah, so that leaves us with the album at hand; problematic for several reasons - it’s a modern power metal that, thankfully, remembers its own homeland had a glorious history in metal before those swine Helloween swooped in with poppy hooks and the ability to appeal to people who don’t like serious metal. In all honestly, though, Be Gone is much better on paper than in practice; it’s hitting some of the right notes but when it does they’re not quite as satisfying as they could be. Tim Aymar, formerly of that Death side-project I’m never going to check out actually surprised me - he’s got a strong and unique voice, but yet I’m not a fan: again, he can hit the right notes but he’s never quite making me feel them, even if his delivery is somewhat spirited. I don’t get carried away in the music like I should, and some dirty, secreted thought in my head suggests the same of him. That aforementioned phrase proves to be a bite-size summary of the album, nice enough, sure, but only “somewhat” passionate… a little too self-conscious of the task at hand to my ears.
*Of course, I understand people falling head-over-heels for this album, what with its riffs that are in-your-face melodic whilst also being quite punchy and its clever metaphorical lyrics that are very obviously clever… and metaphoric.*
Who knows, maybe I am being cynical - maybe, just maybe - when album’s fairly dull but sets itself out as more-interesting-than-standard it should be praised to the heavens. After all, if I spent all day listening to Rhapsody I’m sure this would be a very appealing prospect. It’s got actual riffs and continues on - not one - but several traits and tropes you’ll have heard on USPM albums, because - shock horror - this is a USPM album!
Well, if songs that are perhaps a little more obvious than they should be aren’t helping the cause then Be Gone’s ticklish production job certainly is. Maybe I shouldn’t ask too much of bands, but it would be nice if I could listen to a modern power metal album wherein they didn’t forsake any heaviness the riffs might have carried in their ruthless pursuit of clarity for the sake of letting you know how cleverly written and above-average their guitar playing is.
Overall, the general appeal of this album seems to be that it’s not Euro-power (which is fair enough as only homosexuals from Finland and Italy actually enjoy modern Euro-power) and that it’s quite new. Honestly, I’m not surprised that this album has its fair share of fans but, then again, I wouldn’t be stunned if a few of them couldn’t remember what the emotional climax of ‘Buried At Sea’ sounds like in a few years time, or, in 2010, even!