There are bands that use the “progressive metal” label more as a decoration, while others really dig deep into what the genre can offer. Andorran band PERSEFONE fall squarely into the latter as their music is as intense and turbulent as it gets when you mix melodic death metal with progressive song structures. They have been around since 2001 and have six studio albums under their belt, the last one being “metanoia,” released on February 4th, 2022, through Napalm Records.
The best word to describe this album is “contrast,” both within the songs themselves and within the album’s soundscape. Generally speaking, “metanoia” flows like a mountain river through various landscapes – sometimes it’s more agitated, as powerful drums and sharp guitars piece through giving a sense of uneasy listening, while at other times it feels like the river has settled down into a calm movement as beautiful orchestrations, piano, and/or choirs take over to create a cinematic ambiance. To take the river analogy a bit further, the album feels like a 58-minute track divided into ten sections, as the songs bleed into each other, which in turn gives “metanoia” a sense of continuity from start to finish. The dynamic songwriting and technical prowess PERSEFONE display here may be a bit too much for the casual listener, but it is what gives the album dimension, grandeur, and scope.
First single released, “Merkabah” perfectly encapsulates the dynamics at work throughout the whole album, from the atmospheric opening and occasional serene passages to the heavier parts where flickering guitar riffs add to the intensity of the backing orchestration. The interplay between Miguel Espinosa’s cleans and Marc Martins’ growls mirrors the ebb-and-flow movement of the instrumental side. Pretty much the same interaction is at play on “Aware of Being Watched,” where clean vocals alternate with jazzy instrumental sections while thick drumming collides with furious riffage, creating a wall of sound. The added backing vocals from Merethe Soltvedt (TWO STEPS FROM HELL) give the song depth and texture. Opening track “Metanoia” is a grand and lavish intro, benefiting from the soaring vocals of Einar Solberg (LEPROUS) and setting a cinematic mood to the listening experience, which gives way to “Katabasis” where again clean and growls juxtapose neatly, while the constantly changing guitar riffs mix with some electronic elements. Probably the most dynamic and progressive track is “Architecture of the I,” as it shifts and twists accommodating speedy death metal riffs, sci-fi soundscapes, and quieter moments.
While most of this album feels like technicality for technicality’s sake (which is not necessarily a bad thing in itself), there are some songs that really deliver on their promise. Stand-out instrumental track “Leap of Faith” trades in the aggressive guitars and vocals for a rich orchestral sound accentuated by a pounding drum as it shifts and moves, growing in intensity until it explodes in a powerful and robust sound that is half orchestral haft metal. Opening on piano then moving into synth territory and leaning more into metal but without overwhelming the senses, “Consciousness (Pt.3)” is another instrumental piece that really draws the listener into its ever-changing world. The three-track suite “Anabasis” feels like the central piece of the album. Part 1 is a dreamy and atmospheric track that flows into Part 2, where the perfectly executed ebb-and-flow movement is between not just instrumentals or vocals but also moods. Part 3 brings everything to a serene close with gorgeous ambient sounds, orchestrations, and vocalizing.
Complex in nature and rich in soundscapes with a cinematic aura and incredible fluidity from track to track, “metanoia” is a challenging yet rewarding album to digest. It is going to take a few spins to fully understand and immerse in what PERSEFONE is offering in terms of ambiance, dynamics, and storytelling. While progressive metal is the overarching genre, the album draws from other genres like symphonic metal or even rock, making it a textured sonic experience.
Recommended to fans of such bands as NE OBLIVISCARIS, WINTERSUN, or BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME.
Written by Andrea Crow
01. Metanoia (feat. Einar Solberg)
03. Architecture of the I
04. Leap of Faith
05. Aware of Being Watched (feat. Merethe Soltvedt)
07. Consciousness (Pt.3)
08. Anabasis Pt. 1
09. Anabasis Pt. 2 (feat. Angel Vivaldi, Steffen Kummerer & Merethe Soltvedt)
10. Anabasis Pt. 3
Marc Martins – vocals
Miguel “Moe” Espinosa – keyboards and vocals
Carlos Lozano – guitar
Filipe Baldaia – guitar
Toni Mestre – bass
Sergi ” Bobby” Verdeguer – drums