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Review: 'Pharaoh Overlord'

-  Label: 'Rocket Recordings'
-  Genre: 'Rock' -  Release Date: '27th November 2020'

Our Rating:
Cool synths drape glacial over bubbling sequenced bass and insistent mechanised drums on Pharaoh Overlord’s sixth album (as the title alludes). Core duo Tomi Leppänen and Jussi Lehtisalo are joined by Aaron Turner of Sumac/Old Man Gloom, a longtime collaborator, on vocals. The liner notes point us in the direction of ‘the melodies and textures of Kraftwerk yet also the cinematic austerity of EBM and the effervescent pulse of classic Italo-pop’, but more than anything, it’s steeped in the sounds of the late 80s and early 90s and would have been entirely at home on Wax Trax!

The heavy growl contrasts with the music, which is probably most simply described as poppy electro with an industrial edge. It’s perhaps most reminiscent of Ministry around the time of ‘Twitch’ and Lead not Gold’s sole offering, and if there’s a certain levity, even flimsiness to the synthy backings, it’s not necessarily a criticism in itself: let’s face it, ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ wasn’t exactly hard-hitting sonically, especially in hindsight, but its impact was immense.

Admittedly, ‘6’ doesn’t pack quite the emotional intensity of ‘PHM’, but the contrast between the instrumentation and the vocals certainly is striking, with Turner’s gnarly throat work being commonplace in a metal context, but not so much in an electro setting. Instrumentally, ‘Tomorrow’s Sun’ has the easy bounce of early Depeche Mode, but with the guttural snarl of Fields of the Nephilim, and it’s a somewhat strange blend, and, propelled by a pumping drum machine, it becomes quite the thumping, gothy beast before the end. The 14-minute finale, the colossal ‘Blue Light Hum’ is expansive, spacious, monotonously bleak as broad droning synths sweep and occasionally stab against a metronomic drum pattern, Turner occasionally barking a string of blackened lyrical offerings into the glacial abyss.

‘6’ presents an interesting hybrid, at once clinical and messy, cold yet feverish in its fury, poppy but brutally harsh. The contrasts are the sound of conflict, of turmoil, making ‘6’ an album out of step and out of time and yet so perfectly 2020.

  author: Christopher Nosnibor

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