Pharaoh

Ancient Empire – Priest of Stygia Review

Ancient Empire – Priest of Stygia Review

Ancient Empire have been banging out classic, trve heavy metal albums since 2014, yet they’ve landed scandalously little exposure from AMG. I intended to cover their 2016 Other World outing but time got the best of me. We gave a TYMHM to 2017s The Tower, but whiffed on their 2019 follow-up. I will not let this string of injustices continue! This week sees the release of their sixth album Priest of Stygia, and the state of the Empire is strong. Rocking a vintage US power metal sound that can be described as Judicator meets Diviner and Visigoth, these old school warriors deliver ballsy, slightly epical traditional metal with a no-nonsense approach that’s refreshing and direct.” Snake Whacking Day.

Pharaoh – The Powers That Be Review

Pharaoh – The Powers That Be Review

“For a time it seemed Philly-based Pharaoh would be the vanguard of a new wave of gritty American traditional/power metal. Albums like The Longest Night and 2012s Bury the Light bristled with burly riffs and rough-hewn vocals, accentuated by super slick musicality and proggy elements. After nearly nine years without a release, the band’s forward momentum is a thing of the distant past, but that doesn’t mean they can’t drop another barn burning dose of heavy metal thunder with fifth album The Powers That Be.” Curse of the Pharaoh!

Aktor – Placebo Review

Aktor – Placebo Review

“Chris Black (AKA Professor Black) has been a living wellspring for great metal over the past decade, crafting great music with DawnbringerHigh Spirits and Pharaoh. Somewhat overlooked in his mighty repertoire is his Aktor project, which until recently only had one release to its credit, 2015s Paranoia. It was a rocking affair heavily influenced by 70s acts like Thin Lizzy and Blue Oyster Cult and it was a fun, breezy listening experience with plenty of hooks. Placebo is the outfit’s second release and keeps the basic formula intact while adding an ass-ton of crazy synth and keyboard work, making for a somewhat loony soundscape.” It’s time for your medicine, Mr. Black.

Witherfall – Nocturnes and Requiems Review

Witherfall – Nocturnes and Requiems Review

“When you spend a lot of time sorting through an overloaded promo bin, sometimes it becomes hard to see the dark forest from the evil trees. You look for the big releases, separate out the worst of the unsolicited junk, try to find things to appease the overly finicky tastes of our diva fancypants drama club review crew – it’s a real grind. And sometimes as you grind along, you spot an unheralded dark-horse that you just have to hear. That’s how Witherfall came into my life.” Tales of romance in the promo bin.

Aktor – Paranoia Review

Aktor – Paranoia Review

“I’m getting rather tired of raving about Chris Black and his many musical endeavors (Pharaoh, Dawnbringer, High Spirits, etc.). Not because they don’t deserve the praise, mind you. I’m just reaching the point where I feel and sound like a shameless fanboy, and Steel Druhm doesn’t like that. Not. One. Bit. Apparently, Mr. Black cares little for my critical dilemmas, as he’s now released another winning musical project where he’s joined by Jussi Lehtisalo and Tomi Leppanen of the strange Finnish act Circle.” Black + Circle = Spin this black circle!

Aska – Fire Eater Review

Aska – Fire Eater Review

“There aren’t many modern bands that pull off that vintage 80s American metal style without sounding contrived or cheesy or both. Aska is an unheralded, mega-obscure band that can count themselves among the few with that magic touch. Though in existence since 1994, they’ve only managed to release six albums, and Fire Eater is the long-awaited (by thirty of us) follow-up to 2007s Absolute Power. Apart from the glaring lack or productivity, they’ve had long-running issues with the consistency of their material. While they were capable of penning some real old school scorchers, they also had a tendency to drop a few stinkers per album that would leave me shaking my head. Still, when they nail their brand of traditional metal, it rings loud and trve across the land.” If Steel Druhm doesn’t get to review retro metal every few weeks he gets all bent out of shape. Maybe the old timey charm of Aska will get him back to his usual grouchy self.

Steel Assassin – WWII: Metal of Honor Review

Steel Assassin – WWII: Metal of Honor Review

Steel Assassin is a mighty obscure act by anyone’s reckoning. They were knocking around all throughout the 80s and 90s but could never get a proper album released. Then, quite out of the blue, they released War of the Eight Saints in 2007 and totally blew me away with their ballsy, aggressive take on American power metal and NWOBHM. It was one of the best albums of that year, but didn’t bring them as much attention as it deserved.