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The Battle of the Axehammer (Live)

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Album Review

Did you ever go to a rock concert only to hear a near-indistinguishable purée pouring out of the speakers? Sure, you did, and on this album, Pharaoh Overlord seem dedicated to bring the experience to your home. Recorded live in Helsinki, The Battle of the Axehammer is as raw as it gets. The bass is so distorted it has a granular sound, the snare drum so compressed it could be an electronic beep, the cymbals so cut off by the wall of guitar that they crackle instead of splash. But somehow, it works out OK. If high fidelity is mandatory to you, forget about this album and turn to Pharaoh Overlord's first two (studio) albums to get your fix of stoner rock. But if you can cope with the aural punishment, this live set can be rewarding. The trio from Finland come back to a more straightforward approach than what was witnessed on their previous release, II. The riffs are square and pounding, the guitars lacing around the repetitive motifs, the electronics adding spacy effects (for what can be heard) without crossing over into experimental textures. The group revisit three cuts from their back catalog and add two new tunes, all in the ten-minute range, all leaving ample room for hypnotic repetition, mind-numbing pounding, and stretched-out jamming. Considering how clear sounding the applause and the audience chatter between tracks are, it seems that the sound quality on this album is actually faithful, not due to a cheap microcassette recording, but to a band driving its amplifiers into the ground. In that case, The Battle of the Axehammer gives the true measure of the band. You can feel the air vibrate around you, you can smell the second-hand smoke, you can experience the power of brutally simple instrumental rock music. Definitely not everyone's mug of beer. ~ François Couture, Rovi

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