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.

Pharaoh – Bury the Light Review

Pharaoh – Bury the Light Review

I’m a fan of Pharaoh, have been since their 2003 debut After the Fire. These Philly fanatics are the present and future of the new retro wave of traditional heavy metal (NRWOTHM) and over their short but solid career, they’ve fused retro ideals with prog and enough thrash sensibility to kick the required ass quotient.

Pharaoh – Ten Years Review

Pharaoh – Ten Years Review

Pharaoh, for those not in the know, are one of the best of the new retro wave of traditional heavy metal (NRWOTHM™) bands out there. Over the course of three releases these Philly phenoms have consistently blended the 80’s style of Iron Maiden and Saxon with modern American metal like Jag Panzer, Iced Earth while adding a smattering of Slough Feg. The results have been catchy, classy, surprisingly heavy and far more modern sounding than what people normally expect from a “retro” act. Their last opus, 2008’s Be Gone was a great album loaded with excellent yet tasteful guitar wankery and memorable vocal hooks and it left me wanting more. While the interminable wait continues for their next full length, Pharaoh has graced the good people with a six song EP entitled Ten Years. Featuring four tracks left over from the Be Gone sessions and two covers, its clearly a stopgap release but its a solid and entertaining one that continues the Pharaoh quality streak.

Argus – Boldly Stride the Doomed Review

Argus – Boldly Stride the Doomed Review

Cruz Del Sur is doing some fine fine work lately. I heartily enjoyed the new release by Twisted Tower Dire and now they serve up the second album by PA’s metallers Argus. After a generally well-received (but widely overlooked) debut in 2009, they’re back to demand attention with Boldly Stride the Doomed (bad ass title). Led by vocalist Brian Balich (Penance), Argus could be described as a semi-doom, epic metal band (if that makes any goddamn sense). Whatever label one ultimately sticks on them, they serve up some high class metal with a lot of balls, testosterone and moxy. Sometimes pure doom, sometimes epic metal, sometimes good old traditional metal, they shift and slither their style but the one constant is quality and that’s the winning ingredient every time.