2013 was a memorable year for me, especially when it comes to metal music, and I’m still wondering how an unknown band walking on this earth under the banner of Persefone managed to slip under my radar for so many years. Actually they have been around since the early 2000s, and as one of few bands, they succeeded making biography interesting again for my old worn-out metal brain. Yes, that’s right…hailing from Andorra, they forever put the microstate in Southwestern Europe on the map of progressive metal with their fourth and highly acclaimed release Spiritual Migration – the predecessor to Aathma, which was released almost 4 years ago.
With Spiritual Migration Persefone caught my eyes attention, since I love art in all shapes and sizes, and that’s why the progressive death metal outfit from Andorra have a special place close to my metal heart. Their amazing artwork, crafted by the skilled Travis Smith, is like always mesmerizing beautiful and since the release of Spiritual Migration in 2013 I have been a big fan of theirs. The legendary producer Jacob Hansen. coming from my home-country Denmark, “introduced” me to the band on his social media account and I had no other choice than to check them out. The video for the title track got my eyes and ears peeled with its complexity, technicality, heavy riffs, melodies, haunting keyboard sound-layers and mix of harsh deep vocals, brutal screams and clean vocal performance. I was totally sold out and bought everything available in their catalog. So as you may have guessed, the release of Aathma has been a long journey for me, but was it worth the wait…
Almost right after the release of Spiritual Migration drummer Marc Mas left the party and it was not an easy task to find his replacement, who could fill out the old drummers big shoes. Even worse news was announced last year with the departure of Jordi Gorgues, who did play a big leading role in the sextet with his ability to play extremely tight and complex rhythm parts with his wingman Carlos Lozano. So with two replacements on board, Sergi Verdeguer on drums and newcomer Filipe Baldaia on guitar, in the rhythm department, Persefone will try to guide our mind, body and soul through their wondrous musical universe of Aathma.
The first thing that hits me after the first spin is the production and mixing of the album. I’ll be honest I love almost everything my countryman Jacob Hansen touches with his magical fingers and Spiritual Migration was no exception to that rule. He did a brilliant work and one of the reasons why that album received so much praise in the metal community. My second favorite producer of all time is Jens Bogren, who was brought on board this time around and does not need any further introduction either. This guy is truly a talented record producer, mixer, and recording engineer, and whoever coined the phrase “You can’t polish a turd” was dead wrong. Jens can polish a turd, and the end result can still be quite enjoyable. He is a true magician. With the latest Pain of Salvation release I was really impressed of his work and so I was really looking forward to this album.
Aathma is definitely a downgrade in terms of aggressiveness compared to its predecessor and I’m really missing the powerful/bombastic sound created with the hands of Jacob Hansen on Spiritual Migration. Also the vocals in the mix are just too far in the background for my liking – and simply does not do Marc and Miguel any justice in their singing department. Marc’s high screams and death growls are one of the best performances out there today, but I feel he sounds a bit week on this album simply due to the mixing and because of the less focus on the aggressive vocal delivery. Same with Miguel his clean singing is powerful and reminded me of Christian Älvestam (ex-Scar Symmetry, Solution .45) especially on Spiritual Migration, but with this album it’s a different story though – I’m simply missing better control of his voice even though he is provided more room on this album to expand/develop his singing. And then the jumping forth and back between the melodic passages and aggressive technical playing styles are not always as tight as seen in the past – maybe this is the result of replacing two important positions in the rhythm department?
So I still gave the whole thing a perfect rating of 10. Why? Well, you need to give this album multiple runs to let it grow on you and I’ll promise it will open up world of wonders. The sextet is still finding new ground and as a group they really outshine each individual performances by supporting/complimenting each other perfectly in each of their roles. Marc and Miguel kicks some serious ass and its admirable how they manage to seamlessly merging both the clean vocal lines with the growls/screams – the songs ‘Prison Skin’ and ‘One with the Light’ are perfect examples of that. In the shredding department we find Carlos with his newly assigned wingman Filipe – what a team. Their guitar combo attack are driven by precise complex harmonics and crunchy based riffs and are one of the main-attractions on this album. Their masterful control of their weapons are simply outstanding and becomes world-class, when mixed with an powerful underlying rhythm section provided by the furious and technical drumming delivered by Sergi and the low-pitched bassline by Tony.
The biggest difference between this album and the previous release is the use of keyboards layers done by Miguel. The highly influenced sci-fi keyboards layerings play more of role than shredding and aggressiveness did on Spiritual Migration, and the melodies are perfectly executed by the fingers of Miguel. It seems though to become the dominant factor here, which surely not always for my liking.
Let’s summarize it. I didn’t really like it in the beginning, but weeks later this is nothing less than phenomenal. This release has it short comings and there is still room for improvement too wish for compared to its predecessor Spiritual Migration, but as a complete package I personally find it a masterpiece and this spiritual journey is one not to miss out on. Highlights on the album counts ‘Spirals Within Thy Being’, ‘No Faced Mindless’, ‘Stillness is Timeless’ and the suite/title track ‘Aathma.’ The title track alone is worth buying this album. It’s almost perfect in my book, and definitely a candidate to become best Album of the Year. So be warned prog metal bands, you better arm yourself – there is a new sheriff in town.
- An Infinitesimal Spark
- One of Many…
- Prison Skin
- Spirals Within Thy Being
- Cosmic Walkers
- No Faced Mindless
- Living Waves (feat. Paul Masvidal)
- Stillness is Timeless
- Universal Oneness
- Spiritual Bliss
- One with the Light
- …Many of one
Marc Martins: Vocals
Carlos Lozano: Guitars
Miguel Espinosa: Keyboards, vocals
Tony Mestre: Bass
Sergi Verdeguer: Drums
Filipe Baldaia: Guitars
Playing time: 63:48
Release date: February 24th, 2017
Label: Vicisolum Productions
Website: Official Persefone Website