Persefone – metanoia


Andorran prog metal favourites, Persefone, are famous for their loyal underground following and exquisite standards of musicianship. Formed in 2001, they have five albums to their name and are now in the big league after inking a deal with Napalm Records. It shows that self-belief and long-term planning can bring success later in life if you persist with what you love and continue to push your ability levels to the maximum. Metanoia is an ambitious record spread over fifty-seven minutes, and it has Dream Theater in its sights.

An LP that starts with a guest collaboration from prog-metal’s most daring vocal gymnast, Einar Solberg (Leprous), is always welcome, yet the title track is short enough to avoid contemplations on the Norwegian’s colossal tenor notes. Persefone are masters of their own destiny on metanoia and need no additional personnel to raise them higher. Listen to the opening shred patterns of ‘Katabasis’ and marvel at the symphonic undercurrent to the crunchy guitars – this music is imperious and liberating at the same time. You might even think Solberg is behind the mic on this one, but lead vocalist, Marc Martins Pia, has a set of pipes that can rival the best in the higher octave range. There’s so much going on here. The guitar interplay between Carlos Lozano Quintanilla and Filipe Baldaia is colourful in its sound but crushing in its delivery. Their polyrhythmic separation from the core drum patterns is just as impressive.

Only a few select bands can achieve the highest level of collective musical wizardry, and Persefone are right up there with Dream Theater and Haken in this regard. The tech death ferocity of ‘Architecture of the I’ is just as notable for its mellifluous lead guitars and weaving bass guitar fills. Those of you that wish one day for Textures to reform will find sanctuary here. We might never get a Phenotype Part II from the Dutch giants, but metanoia can do the job of providing the sequel. ‘Aware of Being Watched’ is even better. Hypnotic drum patterns and piano sprinkles give way to finger-twisting rhythms and crispy palm-muted scale runs. One moment, you think you’re listening to Pain of Salvation. In the next, it could be Interloper. How does drummer, Sergi Verdeguer, accent those spectacular sweep-picking fills with his snare and rack toms? Haken’s last two albums are a good reference point for the brilliance on display here.

Of course, albums that emphasise technical virtuosity over raw emotion and memorable structures often fall foul of self-indulgence. Metanoia avoids this trap. True, the eleven minutes of ‘Consciousness (Pt. 3)’ would be just as effective boiled down to eight, but the sparse synths, sentimental pianos and finger-tapping bass rhythms offer a useful sideshow to the technical guitar work. Those double kick offbeats are incomprehensible in their daring ambition.

Like all good prog metal albums, metanoia understands that the listener needs to pause for breath at regular intervals. Persefone have something for the calmer moments of contemplation, whether it be the synth-led metal of ‘Leap of Faith’ or the celestial keyboard experiments in ‘Anabasis (Pt. 1)’. They also ramp up the intensity in the heavier sections. Harsh vocals and technical thrash rhythms dominate ‘Anabasis (Pt.2)’. You can see why they once supported Obituary on a world tour. Persefone are veterans on the circuit, but they approach their sixth album like debutants straight out of music college.

There’s nothing to complain about here apart from a distinct lake of bass in certain songs and the susceptibility of the guitars to a high-pitch distortion. The latter could be thicker in the mix, but this is a minor gripe. Metanoia is a scintillating piece of prog metal, and one that’s worthy of the Dream Theater/Haken/Between the Buried and Me bracket of excellence.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 04/02/2022

Record Label: Napalm Records

Standout tracks: Katabasis, Aware of being Watched, Merkabah

Suggested Further Listening: Textures – Phenotype (2016), Dream Theater – Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory (1999), Haken – Virus (2020)