Review: Pharaoh Overlord ‘6’

Pori, Finland’s Pharaoh Overlord is a side-project of Tomi Leppänen and Jussi Lehtisalo of experimental rock band Circle which started life back in 2000. This latest album is their first on Rocket Recordings, home to Pigs x 7, Gnod, Kooba Tercu and Sex Swing so sees the band in fine company. 6 is the band’s follow-up to 2019’s 5 which was something of a radical departure and a step towards electronica and synth/disco in strong contrast to their earlier stoner/psych roots.

Pharaoh Overlord '6'

The album cover features a menacing and one presumes poisonous snake. Snakes tend to have a hard rock and heavy metal heritage featuring on Motörhead’s Snake Bite Love, Metallica’s Black Album and er, Whitesnake’s Lovehunter. The depiction of the snake on 6 however is something you would be more inclined to find on a John Dwyer related album packed full of his usual brand of psych garage-punk. Moreover, I feel this symbolizes something more intelligent and progressive, as opposed to resorting to daft rock clichés that you may have gotten from those aforementioned bands (Whitesnake in particular).

Album opener Path Eternal is a curious mix of late 70s Italian disco ala Giorgio Moroder  and death metal style vocals, courtesy of ISIS/Sumac/Old Man Gloom member Aaron Turner. The track sounds like it would have belonged on the Midnight Express soundtrack, particularly alongside the ‘Chase’, only the vocals would render this theoretical possibility null and void. The first time you hear them, they can sound a little jarring, however after repeated exposure, the two otherwise conflicting styles start to complement each other very well. Arms Of The Butcher is an interesting track that shares the ethos of Fear Factory’s Fear Is A Mindkiller EP, mixing together industrial and electronic music together with gruff, metal vocals. It should be pointed out of course that the music here is more lightweight and EBM orientated than the aforementioned Fear Factory’s output.

If like me you love the eccentric mix of styles and sounds to be had here… then this is the very album for you…

The beginning of Without Song All Will Perish gave me a bit of a start, the track begins with a few seconds of silence before the harsh vocals suddenly emerge seemingly out of nowhere. The track embraces late 70s Studio 54 decadence, ABBA and Kraftwerk and strangely I could see this track going down well at the local goth club night. Thankfully it would be head and shoulders above the sheer tedium and tunelessness of cybergoth usually played on those nights, I implore anyone to have to listen to an evening’s worth of that stuff and not want to jump off a bridge.

Tomorrow’s Sun has a nice funky futurist sound that belongs on the soundtrack to any number of 80s sci-fi movies with a post-punk darkness that comes right out of the Killing Joke songbook. Blue Light Hum is a slow burner and pretty much in the Neu! Krautrock-damaged vein reminding one of the closing credits to a film. After the euphoria of the action so far, you’re left with a necessary comedown to take you to the finish line. There is a definite sense of finality with this track and it’s an appropriate and effective way to draw the album to a close.

If like me you love the eccentric mix of styles and sounds to be had here (ranging from vintage disco, synthpop, krautrock, post-punk and metal), then this is the very album for you. As with the preceding album, older fans of the band may be scratching their heads at what has been produced, but those possessed with a more open minded disposition will no doubt appreciate what Pharaoh Overlord have on offer.

Label: Rocket Recordings
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp

Scribed by: Reza Mills