Review by Gonzalo Pozo and Brian Masso.
Persefone has, possibly more than any other band in the contemporary prog metal sphere, set itself apart by pairing devastatingly brutal tech death metal with uplifting, inward-looking lyrics that would gain approval from even the most devoted TM practitioners. Hailing from the tiny Catalan-speaking nation of Andorra in Northeast Iberia, this remarkable sextet is set to drop its sixth album – and first with proper North American distribution – on Feb 4th, and holy shit is it a doozie.
As its title suggests, “Metanoia” traces the protagonist’s journey into and out of a psychotic meltdown, beginning with the universal first step out of the shit-zone – admitting that there’s a problem. “I feel void/ I feel absence,” our narrator affirms, crooned by the unmistakable voice of one Einar Solberg, who continues what seems to be turning into a tradition in the Persefone camp (their previous album, “Aathma,” opened with a guest spot by Paul Masvidal of Cynic).
After that heartfelt introspection, hell is suddenly unleashed. “Katabasis” kicks off with a searing riff that wastes zero time bespeaking what awaits. The song’s calm and subtle moments are forcibly but deftly paired with brutality and complexity. This battle between the delicate and the devastating reaches its apex with Marc Martins’ agonizing growl, rewarding us with a captivating track that enriches the record’s dynamism and fluidity, and succinctly portrays the protagonist’s mental anguish to an unnerving degree. Persefone aren’t just telling you how the narrator feels, they are making you feel it yourself.
The delicate half of Persefone’s demeanor might seem to have the advantage as “Architecture of the I” begins. However, the calm is abruptly ripped away once again by ferocity portrayed through blasting beats and insane riffs. So far, the band has displayed their ability to change from a masterclass in instrumental mastery to melancholic and intense atmospheric passages; they drag the listener through a frantic seesaw of sensations with surprising ease. The frenetic pace at this track’s end creates enough friction to threaten to ignite the great globe itself. And that’s precisely how the next piece starts.
Accompanied by flames and embers, an idyllic, somber piano melody welcomes the listener to the remarkable sonic experience that is “Leap of Faith.” For five minutes, this instrumental piece plunges the listener into an introspective journey, quite emotional and intense, demonstrating that Persefone is no longer just playing mind-warping music, but also creating cathartic, extrasensory experiences through their art.
The dynamic changes in structure and approach behave more measuredly in “Aware of Being Watched.” The dynamism is still present, but it’s carefully wrested from the extreme and brutal spectrum, and instead focuses on the more accessible passages with stunning intricacy. The vocals are kept clean throughout the song, illuminating the despondence and countering the riffs that threaten to break the balance. When the musicianship nears its own breaking point, however, it contains itself and thus maintains that balance, however tensely. Persefone is a beast only Persefone can tame, so the brutality reserve waits impatiently to mightily ignite; the tracks that follow are unable to escape that complexity and ferocity for long.
The album’s first single, “Merkabah,” already belongs in the imaginary Persefone’s Greatest Hits compilation. Opening with a hybrid-picked nod to Marillion (who have touched on mysticism a few times in their own right), the song quickly escalates to the hyper-technical maelstrom for which Persefone is known. But as on the rest of the album, we hear a more thoughtful and open form of menace, spotlit by the smooth yet sudden transitions to tranquility and Miguel Espinoza’s soothing lilt.
Sprinkled throughout the latter half of “Metanoia” are numerous callbacks to Persefone’s finest hour (and my personal favorite album of the 2010s), “Spiritual Migration,” both in the form of lyrical shoutouts and quoting some of its more memorable musical passages. These callbacks feature most prominently on “Consciousness Part 3,” which just might be the most engaging instrumental metal track since Dream Theater graced us with “The Dance of Eternity” over two decades ago. Besides its obvious relation to Parts 1 and 2, which both appear on that remarkable 2013 album (and the second of which boasts a dreamily theatric passage of its own), “Consciousness Part 3” whomps us with that distinctive, ass-kicking rhythmic pattern that opens “Spiritual Migration,” leads us through another halcyon segment that unexpectedly quotes Pink Floyd’s “High Hopes,” and concludes with the mesmeric tapping sequence that greeted us on “Flying Sea Dragons.” Appropriately, words cannot do this eleven-minute beast justice, and fans of Floyd, Persefone, and prog metal in general would do themselves a worthy favor by embarking on this journey themselves.
In another nod to its predecessors, “Metanoia” closes with another multi-part centerpiece. “Anabasis Part 1” begins with Espinoza’s gentle ivory-tinkling accompanied by a cello and the sounds of that ever-present fire. The song gradually builds in intensity, with symphonic elements giving even greater depth by the time “Anabasis Part 2” starts.
On the second installment of the Anabasis trilogy, Persefone shows how easily this Andorran band can move in directions that blur any barrier or preconceived notion of mere genre. No matter how dynamic Persefone gets though, the listener finds those two ever-present constants – the complexity and the candor – coming together at the end of “Anabasis Part 2” to deliver a climax that’s as mortifying as it is satisfying. Just wow, y’all. Wow.
The “Metanoia” journey ends as “Aathma” and “Spiritual Migration” did: with a serenity that indicates the narrator has found inner peace. But where Persefone have previously done this with piano, strings, and voice, “Anabasis Part 3” rides us out much like latter-day Anathema would, reassuring us that as long and dark as the inner night may be, the sun does indeed also rise.
Persefone has taken their challenge to the musical limits and creativity to another level, and have produced another album flowing with vitality and rich in depth. With their breathtaking combination of technical complexity with intense and emotive soundscapes, the band again succeeds in creating a fascinating immersive experience. With “Metanoia,” Persefone may have outdone even themselves.
Released by: Napalm Records
Release Date: February 4th, 2021
Genre: Progressive Metal
- Toni Mestre Coy / Bass
- Carlos Lozano Quintanilla / Guitar
- Miguel Espinoza / Keyboards, vocals
- Marc Martins Pia / Vocals
- Sergi Verdeguer / Drums
- Filipe Baldaia / Guitar
“Metanoia” Track listing:
1. Metanoia (Featuring Einar Solberg)
3. Architecture of the I
4. Leap of Faith
5. Aware of Being Watched
7. Consciousness Part III
8. Anabasis Part I
9. Anabasis Part II (Featuring Steffen Kummerer, Angel Vivaldi and Merethe Soltvedt)
10. Anabasis Part III
When a band as badass as this one is on a roll, you get the f**k out of the way. Though “Metanoia” does not pull any new tricks out of the Persefone hat, it illustrates that doing so isn't always necessary to make progress; sometimes all you need to do is take your existing perfection and refine it a bit. “Metanoia” is the sound of repose disrupted, rage restrained, and of fear conquered, and as such encapsulates the essence of the human experience more than any other metal band since Pain of Salvation, bringing with it all the agony and ecstasy of simply being. I'm in awe of this record, and I'll be even more in awe if you aren't.