Pharaoh Overlord – Zero (2018) REVIEW

Circle-birthed space rock-spawned heavy psych/stoner rocking side-gig Pharaoh Overlord underwent a surgical exodus from their previous space-faring jams around 2010 as their quest for the unexpected lead them towards noise rock harshness on ‘Horn’. In fact the perfect primer for their latest full-length ‘Zero’ is the duo of ‘Horn’ and live jammed ‘Överhörn’ as it not only opens with a cover of Spacemen 3‘s “Revolution” which we’d already heard on ‘Horn’, albeit a massively different take on the song. In fact the readily self-referential nature of Pharaoh Overlord on ‘Zero’ seems to be riffing on those previous composite jams that came from ‘Horn’ and ‘Överhörn’ with revisited guitar themes, song-titles and a closely related tracklist. ‘Zero’ irreverently invokes their synthesizer heavy record ‘Circle’ in aesthetic and sheen but with the thrust of krautrock skipping the pace along.

Krautrock, the original post-rock, a syncopated, halfway-danceable medium was certainly helped along by the contributions of German progressive/experimental rock band Faust. Longtime collaborator and occasional performer/producer Hans-Joachim Irmler happens to not only be a founding member, and chief organist, of Faust but he also lends a bold shock of synth and keyboard wizardry to Pharaoh Overlord‘s already accomplished lushness. The pacing of ‘Zero’ is surely thanks to the kraut-iest influences of this otherwise spaced-out avant-gargled rock record. Gargled? Yes, that’s Antti Boman of Demilich fame lending his incredible inhaled baritone burp-storm to this kraut-space/stoner jam and it’ll either be a hurdle or a thrill for the listener. Boman‘s performance is outrageous in it’s tone and spellbinding in it’s power as he takes Pharaoh Overlord‘s sound to excitingly absurd and darkly prohibitive places. His echoing roars are pure alien torpor coughed from a psilocybin induced coma and it trounces every single 70’s prog/psych influenced old school death metal band that’d hinted at the combination over the last decade.

If you’d ever walked through a busy arcade in the late 80’s wearing a walkman while blasting Hot Butter‘s “Popcorn” on LSD as Satan himself belched wall-rippling incantations around you and could never recreate that feeling again: Try listening to ‘Zero’. I so admire the restless creativity that has pushed both Circle and Pharaoh Overlord forward through decades of experimentation and even though it would be very easy to overlook the song-writing collective behind ‘Zero’ and just focus on Boman and Irmler‘s contribution ‘Zero’ still has the unique stamp of these long-jamming Finnish experimental psych rock villains.

Induction is the only true hurdle and it’ll immediately boil down to your thoughts on Boman‘s gargling. Their treatment of “Revolution” is an introduction that is bound to be a hard pill to swallow if you’ve never gotten high off the stuff before. If you’ve ever dabbled in bands like Can, Faust or Neu! and wondered how those themes of repetition, ease, and texture could apply in modernist acid-drenched psych rock this still wouldn’t be something you’d expect thanks to the Boman burp. I think Irmler and the rest of Pharaoh Overlord gel so incredibly well on this recording within inspired retro-futurist soundscapes that the atmospheric vocals only serve to highlight a nerd-like alien niche for folks who’d almost have to be card carrying freaks to ‘get’ it.


Artist Pharaoh Overlord
Type Album
Released April 27, 2018
BUY/PREVIEW on Ektro Records Site Follow Pharaoh Overlord on Facebook
Experimental Rock
Psychedelic Rock 

In a lot of high places. 4.25/5.0

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