From the tiny country of Andorra, nestled high in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain, come the 6-piece progressive death metal band, Persefone.
Hailing from a territory more famous for its heavy snow than Heavy Metal, they are a juxtaposition of meat-headed sonic brutality and lush, hypnotic soundscapes. These lads are progressive with a capital ‘P’. Think a moonlit meeting of The Ocean Collective and Enslaved, with a side-salad of Cacophony and instrumentals intricate enough to make Stravinsky salivate.
The band was formed in 2003 and by the following year they had already recorded their first album, Truth Inside the Shades. After supporting the almighty Obituary in 2010 and avant-garde up-and-comers Leprous at the end of 2012, these majestic musos have now issued their 4th studio offering entitled Spiritual Migration.
Released last month through Vicisolum Records and mixed by the renowned Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Heaven Shall Burn, and Destruction), the album weighs in at over 70 minutes long and is not only an essential listen for progressive death metal fans but also an apt pick for anyone who appreciates well-composed, music to scratch-your-beard-by. )
The opening overture of ‘Flying Sea Dragons’ immediately sets an atmosphere of intrigue in a brief tumult of synthesised sounds drones, arpeggiated riffage and Amon Amarth-style battle drumming.
‘Mind As Universe’ follows this up like a sonic smack to the face. The melodies delicately entice and deliberately jar the listener through a contradiction of natural sound samples, rich symphonic orchestral elements ala Dimmu Borgir and whiplashing brutality. Yet none of the transitions feel rough or forced, they are simply punctuation. Think the delicate and masterful intricacy of Opeth with a snatch of Meshuggah-style heaviness. You’ll find no Orange amps here.
‘The Great Reality’ sees clean vocals, clean piano contrasted to growled vocals and articulated orchestral accompaniment followed by a lounge jazz-esque guitar solo, reminiscent of Guthrie Govan‘s Erotic Cakes album.
‘Zazen Meditation’ follows by dipping our toe into a world of experimentation beyond the prog-death prerequisite. Didjeridoos and panpipes are set against a scene of rainforest sounds, birds and distant flowing water, evoking a trance-like state in the listener alluded to by the title. This soundscape is followed by slap back drums akin to orchestral timpani and sumptuous, lilting piano lines.
‘The Majesty Of Gaia’ leaves the listener shred-slapped once again, its unrelenting wall of sound punctuated by a synth motif resembling a Japanese Koto harp. A journey through turbulence into melody, Carlos Lozano Quintanilla and Jordi Gorgues Mateu twin-guitars display a clear Cacophony influence through in the Jason Becker-style neo-classical shred.
This song is keyboardist Miguel Espinoza Ortiz’s clean vocals at their finest, his reoccurring lyric of “I feel the Earth” released like a breath of fresh air, resembling the power of Loic Rossetti (The Ocean Collective) and the dulcimer tones of Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth).
‘Sprititual Migration’ is the album’s smorgasbord, complete with bite-sized musical motifs that are recurrent throughout its entirety. Beginning as the closest to a conventional death metal song as Persefone could possibly get, the first half is a whirlwind of tech-death, featuring two neck-wrenching breakdowns that would satisfy any gurning enthusiast.
This interplay of blistering guitar leads, aggressive drumming and lurking keyboards then drops half-way through the track to reveal a free-form, ambient instrumental section before building ever higher into a wave of intertwining melodies, and breaking into a shred-fest euphoria so beautifully orchestrated it would make Stravinsky blush.
Determined to sustain this high, ‘Returning to the Source’ resembles a conversation between Cacophony-era Jason Becker and a Japanese harp-like Koto. This triumphant riffage is interjected by Amon Amarth battle drumming, and underpinned by a swirling current of lush string arrangements.
Running water then lulls the listener into ‘Outro’. Delicate Debussy piano accented by lilting strings, blah is showing his mastery for one last time. These cascading, swelling melodic lines reach an epic pinnacle before a single sustained open note marks the end of the album, releasing the listener in what feels like a calming exhalation. A fitting end to an album that has for the majority, kept its audience on tenterhooks.
As a lover of all things shred (yes, you too, Yngwie), I am an unashamed muso-appreciator. But while Persefone are unfathomably talented musicians, a fact that is clearly displayed in their music, they have avoided the dark-side and kept a firm grip on taste.
That being said, the album is not perfect. My only being reservation that of Marc Martins Pia’s vocals. Fluctuating between Randy Blythe (Lamb Of God) and Ollie Sykes (Bring Me The Horizon), his lean toward ‘harshing’ as opposed to ‘growling’ was a testing listen at first and an element that I fear could potentially alienate fans of the anti-core persuasion. Regardless, ‘Spiritual Migration’ is respectfully in-keeping with Persefone’s distinct style of neo-classical sensibilities darkened by Death metal, as displayed in their previous releases.
Whether you find yourself sitting in a darkened room with a candle burning or walking down the street fighting your desperate need to headbang in public, be prepared for Persefone’s Spritual Migration to make the next 70 minutes of your life just that little bit more epic. Goosebumps on stand-by.