It’s always a joy for me whenever I listen to Persefone. The Andorrans have been creating some of the best music I’ve heard for over fifteen years now and as a result I hold the band in very high regard. Spiritual Mitigation was arguably my favourite record of 2013 as it featured everything I loved in metal at the time. Having had the chance to see the guys live and also speak to them back in 2015, they mentioned that the new album was coming but that it was also going to be a bit different. So, let’s see if those words have rung true…
The opening track of the album features none other than Cynic’s Paul Masvidal providing a spoken word section alongside a rather beautiful piano melody courtesy of Miguel. This then expertly leads into “One of Many…” where the rest of the band come in but they don’t dominate the sound. The piano is allowed shine through whilst the rest of the instruments fill out the soundscape until 1:05 mark where the Persefone melodies I know and love come out to play.
“Prison Skin” picks up immediately where the last track left off and the technical juices start flowing. Carlos and Filipe have really stepped up their game since the last record and this is shown not only in their playing skill, but also the melodies they are crafting. The harsh vocals of Marc then come in but they feel less dominating than on the previous album and also much clearer. Whether that’s due to the mixtering (mixing & mastering), courtesy of Jen Borgen, is hard to say. Add into the mix the clean vocals from keyboardist Miguel and you’ve got one sweet tasting track that is one of my favourites on the album.
“Spirals Within Thy Being” opens with a rather nice clean guitar melody alongside the pianos before the distorted technical guitars re-appear to signal a shift in the feel. The melody is still there however, and that’s what sets Persefone apart from a lot of the other prog/technical bands. They don’t let the technical playing run rampant; they weave it into the riffs and combine all the elements to create a well-bodied and sweet-flavoured cocktail of metal. Slowing things down a bit, “Cosmic Walkers” is in a way similar to “Consciousness Pt.1” off the previous album Spiritual Mitigation. With superb flowing keyboard melodies and the excellent drumming from new sticksman Bobby, it makes for a nice interlude from the prog insanity of the previous tracks.
Kicking back up the pace, “No Faced Mindless” draws upon the riffs and ideas explored in some of the earlier tracks but present them in a new and fresh way. Plus, the part where the track goes from a guitar solo into an incredible building section with the keys being the dominant instrument is just perfect. I may or may not have made that part my ringtone…
“Living Waves” reintroduces Paul from Cynic on vocals alongside Mark and it’s essentially a more aggressive version of the opening track. In many ways the track can be considered the “explosion of fury” before the band calms down once more and plays the beautiful “Vacuum”. As with “Cosmic Walkers” it’s an instrumental track and features excellent flowing melodies, this time from the guitars instead of the keyboards.
The speed and technical melodies then return and make their presence be known in the form of “Stillness Is Timeless”. An overwhelming sense of calm appears in the form of Miguel’s almost angelic clean vocals and the whole piece feels that bit less intimidating. With it being the longest track on the album, a lot of various changes happen throughout the track but the general melodies and feeling still remains. Dropping down to just keys and guitars around the midsection, the band show that they are not only excellent musicians but also excellent composers. They almost rival Opeth in the way in which they blend both the “harsh” and “calm” sections.
Now, the behemoth that is so long they had to split into four parts. The title track opens rather calmly with the majority of the sounds from keyboard layers before the rest of the instruments ever so gradually come in. Miguel’s beautiful vocals then appear to cushion the blow from the distorted instruments coming in like a ton of bricks. At points, I was reminded of Haken as the keyboard/synth parts gelled with guitars in a similar way to the way in which they do it.
A suspended guitar note leads us into part two which again opens rather calmly. Again, the keyboardist’s vocals come in to add the little cherry blossoms onto the top of the proggy cake. Part three is when things change as Mark smashes in like a ton of bricks with his harsh vocals. The prog still remains though and the tracks all have little bits and pieces that link them all together. The album then ends upon part four which takes a leaf from the previous album in that it’s primarily piano led. A soothing lead female vocal enters and the album blissfully glides to an end.
It’s difficult to pick a standout track from this album as effectively it can be considered one long piece of music. On the previous Persefone album, there was somewhat of a clear distinction between tracks and everything was somewhat joined. With this album however, it’s almost as if it’s telling you that it wants to be listened to in full. As if it’s one long piece of music that if you just randomly jump into a track, you’ll miss out on what happened before.
One other unique thing about Aathma is its crowdfunded background. I was one of the people to stump up some money for it and I can safely say that it was money well spent. And no, it’s still too early to call album of year. It’s going to be damn close though…
Standout tracks: “Prison Skin”, “Vacuum”, “Stillness Is Timeless”, “Aathma”
Aathma is released on 24th February