As wind-swept autumn hits its stride and with the icy fingers of winter waiting in the wings, it’s important to have a record to listen to that suits the seasons. A record that matches the bleakness of the winter months; captures the oppressive darkness that leaks in to your life once the nights start to draw in and the sun doesn’t rise until well into a new day. In the shape of Pharaoh‘s new LP Negative Everything, I’ve found mine. Hopefully I’m about to introduce you to yours.
I first heard an early mix of Negative Everything way back in the summer of 2013, not long after Pharaoh had finished recording. While the tracks themselves were pretty held back in terms of volume (I think the copy I heard was from before Will Putney mastered them and made them sound as fucking gigantic as they do now), it was clear even then that Pharaoh had struck gold. After the release of two EPs (both also on A389 Records), Negative Everything sees them spread their wings and make full use of an increased running time; filling every inch of its 45 minute span with the sort of deeply oppressive music that threatens to drown you.
While comfortably categorized as a doom band, Pharaoh drag multiple genres into their maelstrom: the lumbering riffs of a sludge band (witness the excellent groove that plays out at the end of final track ‘Drag’); the occasional traces of speed befitting grimy, garage punk; the glacier-paced, towering song structures of post-metal; an inventive, depressing use of sparse lead guitar. ‘Spared’ takes a pinch from all of the above and the result is a monster of a song. Rich Bukowski’s vocals are a desperate, reverb-soaked howl backed by driving, crusted guitars with it all culminating in a hypnotic swirl of lead guitar that loops like a snake, coiling and twisting. It’s a track that is a bleak as they come. The message that it seems to dictate: everything is fucked and hope is pointless.
It’s a mantra further compounded in the astonishing ‘Holy Mother’, a track that sees them add a further twist to their sound with the use of looping, programmed drums pounding out a grim rhythm behind down-tuned, descending guitars. Bukowski’s lyrics here are as subtle as a brick: “It’s not the quality of the living, it’s the price that you’re paying, what do you get for your back breaking never ending suffering?” He doesn’t give an answer. Because there isn’t one.
Negative Everything is a devastating listen. It’s without a doubt the finest thing that Pharaoh has ever recorded, delivering the sort of scope that their EPs always hinted at and providing the perfect soundtrack to existing in a world that can often be unbearably unforgiving.
Available to order from A389 Records here