PERSEFONE - Aathma
Bands from Luxembourg often complain how hard it is to start your career from such a small country. Imagine you lived in six times smaller Andorra, wedged between your big neighbours France and Spain, in the middle of the Pyrenees mountain range. And yet this small principality has to show off one of the hottest metal bands which is currently active.
Founded in 2001, it took Persefone some years to gain international attention, but at the very latest with their ultra-ambitious second album Core, which featured three tracks of each over twenty minutes, in 2006, there was no doubt that they are something truly gigantic, even though coming from a tiny country. In intervals of three to four years, more albums followed, making Aathma their meanwhile fifth opus. To put it simply, Persefone play progressive death metal, but of course there is so much more to it than that. Cynicís Pauk Masvidal guests on guitar and vocals on two tracks, and his influence is quite noticeable with Persefone, although the Andorrans sound far fresher than Cynic have for a very long time. Another comparison might be Between The Buried And Me, although again the Europeans have a more muscular approach to their music, making it sound more death metal than their American counterparts.
What is unusual about Aathma, a Hindu expression for the inner self, not the confused with asthma, is that the hour long album comes with two intros. An Infinitesimal Spark is an atmospheric entry into the album performed mostly on keyboards and piano, before the second intro One Of Many... adds the electric bass and guitars to show in what direction the album will follow. The first regular track, Prison Skin, continues in the atmospheric vein from the intros but it doesnít take long to develop into a mind-crushing progressive metal song as if Dream Theater decided to have growl vocals in their music, although Persefone also have room for melodic vocals which actually alternate quite often with the more brutal ones. This track even features an orchestral part that manages to show true grandeur instead of mere pathos. The following Spirals Within Thy Being, feels even a little more progressive with even more complex rhythms, and yet Persefone are not like many djent bands that are complicated only for artís sake, but always work hard to keep a healthy balance between heady prog metal and accessible songwriting.
The albumís second half is taken up by two long tracks. Stillness Is Timeless makes it to nearly ten minutes, and the title track, which takes up four tracks on the CD, even to a little over twenty minutes. Itís at those majestic lengths where Persefone show that they may only come geographically from a small place, but their minds are truly universe spanning.
The only minor complaint I have is the esoteric feeling concept, but it actually works well with the atmospheric music. But apart from that, Aathma is one of the greatest metal albums I have heard in a very long time. It manages to sound progressive and aggressive at the same time, and should therefore appeal to your more mature prog metal fan that likes Dream Theater, Fates Warning,... but also to the younger generations who grew up on melodic death metal, provided they are not deterred by the very daunting nature of the music. It really is already one of my highlights of this still young year.