Sometimes I have mixed feelings about an album that I’ve been anticipating quite intensely. Maybe it’s the hype and impossible expectations, and other times I can articulate exactly why I feel how I do. Persefone is back, and we’ve been waiting since 2017’s Aathma. Their new album is called Metanoia, and it releases on February 4th through their new label, Napalm Records.
Persefone is an awesome band from the tiny country of Andorra. They have such a high level of not only musicality, but also intelligence. The lineup on this album includes Carlos Lozano Quintanilla and Filipe Baldaia on guitars, Miguel Espinosa Ortiz on keys and vocals, Sergi Verdeguer Moyano on drums, Toni Mestre Coy on bass, and Marc Martins Pia on vocals. Guests include Einar Solberg, Angel Vivaldi, Steffen Kummerer, and Merethe Soltvedt.
This review is mostly going to be a stream of consciousness style piece. Here’s the thing: Persefone is a band that offers a highly spiritual, ethereal, and almost celestial style of progressive death metal. The beauty of their sound is in the contrast between impactful, highly melodic orchestral and synth passages and the brutal, harsh, guttural death metal aspects. I’m specifically a fan of their instrumental tracks, which tend to be intensely melodic and psychic.
I’m also a huge fan of their lyrical abilities. Metanoia continues this strength with encouraging metaphysical writing that seems to feed something deep within me. They write with confidence, not resorting to cheese or easy rhymes, but offer truly good lyrics and poetry for our minds.
That said, I just don’t find that I’m enjoying Metanoia as much as I expected. Aathma was and still remains the band’s masterpiece with its giant vocal hooks, piercing and spacey melodies, and riveting title suite. Even though it has been months since I’ve heard that album in full, I can still sing several of the songs: I can still recall so many memorable moments and tunes.
And that is where I feel Metanoia fails somewhat. Even after listening to this album a dozen times, I can’t remember much about it, other than the fact that I can’t remember anything. The clean vocals have rich tone, but I can’t remember a single memorable chorus. The harsh vox are almost an annoyance here without rich choruses to counteract them, so much of the album feels like you are being yelled at without any payoff. The guitars are powerful and brutal, but most of the riffs and grooves end before they even truly begin. It seems like every time a truly promising rhythm begins, the band shifts to another idea, and this happens again and again and again for the sake of technicality, I assume.
This is an album of a million ideas, but none that develop into something spectacular. The songs tend to start-stop, start-stop a thousand times, and the musicianship is certainly impressive, but the ear for making a good song just isn’t there, unlike on Aathma.
What’s ironic about this is the fact that this record probably has more in the way of melodic moments than the previous album did. The opening title intro, “Leap of Faith”, and “Consciousness, Part 3” are all purely melodic and cinematic in tone. The opener features the phenomenal vocals of Einar from Leprous, and that is a real treat. The latter two are completely instrumental with bits of piano and orchestration really making them beautiful. “Leap of Faith” is probably the best track on the record with its mounting, mysterious tone that does really deliver in a way that few other songs on this album do. “Consciousness, Part 3” is a meaningful experience in its own right, leaning into the metal a little more, but focusing primarily on the divinity at the core of the band’s sound.
Songs like “Katabasis”, “Architecture of the I”, and “Merkabah” feature such broad swathes of aggressive harsh vox and stutter-starting riffs that I never reach any true enjoyment on them. I would probably like them live a lot more, I imagine, but in the studio recording I just keep wishing for them to follow through on the promises they make at lightning speed over and over again.
One highlight of the album is the three-track suite “Anabasis”. While it doesn’t hold a candle to the title suite in Aathma, this is certainly a beautiful and gracious song, and I appreciate the structure. We get to hear vocals from Steffen and Merethe, and these are a huge highlight for the album. I especially love when Merethe filters in here (and also on “Aware of Being Watched”) because she provides such an important contrast and musicality to the experience.
Hopefully, the band can forgive me. Persefone is a band that is set up for greatness right now. They have the art and the brand, they have the label, and they even have the musical concept and the amazing lyrics. They have delivered on all this in the past, and I know they will again. I just don’t think Metanoia is it. As it stands, hardcore fans will probably like this album, and they are welcome to it. But I don’t think this is the break-through the label was trying to construct.
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