Blistering.com: In the unlikely event of a live show, would you be forced to bring in another guitar player? Johnsen: I wouldn't say it’s unlikely, as we do hope to rehearse and play out in 2006. And yes, I will definitely bring in a second guitarist. There are very few moments in Pharaoh songs where there are only two different guitar parts, so I would even love to bring in a third guitarist, but for the sake of simplicity and tradition, I’m sure we'll just stick with two.
Blistering.com: I can think of maybe four or five standout tracks on the album. What stands out for you, and why? Johnsen: "Sunrise" is remarkable for its complexity and length. I'm proud that even though it's over eight minutes long, it doesn't feel long or epic. And of course, it’s got that great Chris Poland solo. [Poland is a guest on the record.] "Endlessly" is remarkable for Tim's searingly personal lyrics and passionate delivery. And "Up The Gates" is special to me, because it’s the only song I wrote by myself, and I happen to think it’s the catchiest song on the album.
Blistering.com: Pharaoh is going to fall under the traditional metal banner, possibly even the power metal banner as well. Do such connotations concern you? Johnsen: No, not at all. I originally envisioned Pharaoh as a power metal band, though drummer Chris Black always thought of us as traditional, because when we started in 1997, I was very seriously into power metal, particularly the great second-wave entries of the early to mid-'90s. We all listen to a lot of different kinds of metal, though, and when it all comes together, I think the style we arrive at is just pure heavy metal without any of the modifiers, although that primal style in itself is becoming rather old-fashioned, so traditional is just as well. What I really want to avoid is falling into the retro trap. I don't want to sound like some jaded old-timer pining for the good old days. I still think metal is a living, evolving beast, and I would like Pharaoh to be considered a contemporary act and not some nostalgic revival.
Blistering.com: Is metal in a better spot now in '06, or are we well beyond our glory days? Johnsen: Better? I don't know. Metal has had quite a few standout years. I think we're really at a crossroads where it will be determined if metal can live on as a vital art or if it's doomed to ride out its remaining years rehashing the good old days. The question really is, Is metal the new jazz? I guess we'll see. It's not dead yet, anyway.
Blistering.com: The power/progressive metal scene is getting a little sterile these days. Are there any bands that you think are worth getting into? Johnsen: I totally agree, but there are definitely still some good bands out there. I really like Heed, the new group of former Lost Horizon castoffs. Nocturnal Rites’ new one ["The Grand Illusion"] is great, as is Morgana Lefay's. And while their future is a little uncertain without Urban Breed, I think Tad Moroses’ recent releases have been really classy. Evergrey remains a fantastic band in the prog/power genre, but for pure progressive metal in the classic vein, there's not much of note these days. The problem is that if anyone tries anything that's actually progressive, they're not likely to be admitted into the progressive metal scene. It’s stupid and shameful, and exactly like prog rock in the '70s. All those haggard Dream Theater enthusiasts can shove it for all I care. Progressive metal will move on without a "Metropolis Part III."
Blistering.com: Will it take another three years to do a Pharaoh album? Johnsen: I’d say no, but I can't really claim to be a credible source. Our goal is to finish writing the next album in 2006, so maybe we'll actually be able to release something new in 2007. Like I said before, though, it takes me a long time to work out my songs, and I’m not willing to rush that. If it takes another three years, at least you can be sure the next album will be great.
Blistering.com: Finally, am I alone in my view that "Temple Of Hate" is the best Angra song? Johnsen: You may not be alone, but you're definitely wrong. That's not even the best song on "Temple Of Shadows"! In fact, it’s one of the worst, because [singer/guitarist] Kai [Hansen of Gamma Ray] sounds so bad! [Singer] Edu [Falaschi] [is] not exactly in the best form on that whole disc, but I'd rather listen to his pitchy caterwauling than Kai's any day. The best song on "Temple Of Shadows" is "Shadow Hunter," followed very closely by "Wings Of Destination," whereon [singer] Hansi [Kursch of Blind Guardian] shows how a guest spot should be done. The best Angra song is "Nothing To Say" but "Silence And Distance" puts up a good fight. Since this is no doubt a hotly debated topic, I will provide a handy list of Angra's 10 best songs. This list may be used to settle bar bets and other such disputes:
1. "Nothing To Say" 2. "Silence And Distance" 3. "Carry On" 4. "Shadow Hunter" 5. "Freedom Call" 6. "Carolina IV" 7. "Evil Warning" 8. "Wings Of Destination" 9. "Acid Rain" (the CD-single version, with the robot vocals in the chorus.) 10. "Queen Of The Night" (the version on the Japanese release of "Holy Land," not the cheesed-out orchestral remix on "Freedom Call," and certainly not the original demo version.)