The wait is over! Long-running American metallers PHARAOH will return with their first studio album in nine years, “The Powers That Be”. It will be released on June 18th 2021 via Cruz Del Sur Music.
PHARAOH – featuring vocalist Tim Aymar, guitarist Matt Johnsen, bassist Chris Kerns and drummer Chris Black – started work on “The Powers That Be” as early as 2013 with hopes of following up 2012’s “Bury The Light” quickly. Johnsen drove to Chicago to work with Black and formed the rough sketches of what eventually would become “Ride Us To Hell”, “Lost In The Waves” and “Dying Sun”. However, real-life and other priorities took hold.
“I’d say the real push to get this done started in 2018 or so when Chris started tracking his drums,” says Johnsen. “He did a couple of tunes at a time, so it took a while to finish them all. And then I had to record all the guitars, and I procrastinated that task for the better part of 2019. But I eventually got to work and I finished everything in early 2020. When Tim came to sing, it felt like we were on a roll and would be done quickly, but then of course the pandemic happened…”
“The Powers That Be” marked a change in the way PHARAOH recorded. Instead of tracking at MCR Studios in Virginia with longtime producer Matt Crooks, Black recorded drums on his own. Johnsen tracked everything else at his home studio, with Crooks re-amping all the guitars and bass. Being that the members of PHARAOH are spread out across the United States, finding time to get together has always been difficult. The global pandemic only amplified the situation.
“The first vocal session was completed a week or so before the lockdown happened,” says Johnsen. “We waited for months to even consider starting up again, but we really had no choice, so Tim would ride the train out east and live here for a week at a time, and eventually, we got it all done. All things considered, the pandemic didn’t make the process harder, because, for us, the process is always hard.”
Guest appearances include longtime friend and frequent collaborator Jim Dofka (DOFKA) and a new face to PHARAOH, VOIVOD’s Daniel Mongrain. “I was listening to the latest VOIVOD live album and I thought to ask Daniel, whom I’ve loved since he was in MARTYR,” says Johnsen. “He was beyond awesome, and from the first contact to the delivered solo was less than a week. In the meantime, we had a lot of great talks about music and bands, and we both turned the other onto some new music to check out. And, of course, the solo is a wild thing of genius, so I couldn’t be more pleased.”
Most of the lyrics for “The Powers That Be” were written during the 2020 pandemic and election cycle. According to Johnsen, “The Powers That Be” album title is a response to “Bury The Light”.
“On ‘Bury the Light’, the conceit was that ‘the light’ was a bad thing, something that wells up and demands release but only leads to suffering. I think of it as something like selfish energy, the overexercise of the ID. We tried to bury it, but what we got was the ultimate release of the most destructive selfishness this country has seen in centuries, the world-crushing cupidity of Donald Trump and this half-witted cult. So, I think of ‘The Powers That Be’ as those forces that stifle creativity and decency, from the plague of white supremacy to the ravening predation of capitalism. The fount of our misery is not below us…it is above.”