He who must not be named ere the twilight hour, The Shogun of Sorrow, The Angry Metal Arbiter himself recently bestowed on us brief mortals a missive of momentous proportions. In it, he explained that his natural response to absorbing music is an intellectual one, cerebrally stimulated instead of emotionally. I couldn’t be more diametrically opposed. I can heartily appreciate the often overwhelming, dexterous intelligence that engineers so much of this music we love – but it remains so that I better connect via the feeling it elicits from my rusted ferrous heart. As long is it’s stirring in some way, I can happily enjoy minimalism in all its prolonged glory. Prog metal’s best kept secret, the Andorran Persefone strike the perfect balance between both worlds, forging infinitely technical, highly progressive yet innately poignant extreme metal. I’ve been a fan since 2009’s Shin-Ken and almost equally adored follow up Spiritual Migration. Now, with the help of some sterling guest appearances, Aathma arrives to once again set the bar impossibly high.

Cherry picking the best parts of acts as diverse as Symphony X, Opeth, Arcturus and even Pain of Salvation, whilst focusing them through an unmistakably melodeath filter, Persefone manages to be impressive from pretty much all angles. Aathma (the soul) begins with dual instrumentals “An Infinitesimal Spark” and “One of Many…,” which bleeds into the first traditional song, “Prison Skin.” Busy furores, ever-changing time signatures and grandiose keys combine with distinctly Gothenburg inspired cyclical riffing to make up the body of the track and album. It manages to utilize the band’s myriad musical principles in one: high technicality, distinct melody, Carlos Lozano’s blazing scale solos and the double vocal attack of lead vocalist Marc Martins, whose voice has plateaued at a less belligerent but more versatile rasp, and the increasingly powerful cleans of keyboardist Miguel Espinosa.

The appropriately named “Spirals Within Thy Being” twists and contorts through various time signatures, alternating between moments of furious tech-death riffing and Espinos’s stunning piano. The presence of odd syncopated rhythms that were introduced on Spiritual Migration, has, this time around, been handled with a mercifully minimalist Djentle touch, striking the balance between jagged chugs and traditionally explosive riffs. Paul Masvidal of the legendary Cynic puts in an appearance, notably on the elegiac “Living Waves,” supplying signature robo-vocals and lead guitar. The song represents Aathma at its most fluid, extolling the virtues of a transcendent existence, presupposing Masvidal’s spiritual philosophy and taking clear cues from Cynic themselves, who are surely great inspirations for Persefone. Emotional and plaintive in its technical proficiency, the mid-paced song offers an oddly bittersweet glimpse beyond the mirror at what could have been, had Masvidal and Reinert continued down the path they paved with Focus. Either way, it’s a clear album highlight.

Clocking in at just over an hour, Aathma makes for a demanding listen. The busy and convoluted nature of the music coupled with the run time lays down something of a gauntlet upon first inspection, and I’ll admit that it took me a while to truly penetrate the material, which is somewhat denser than its predecessor. But, as with all good prog, the album reveals more of its nature upon multiple plays, and after a gestation period, shows itself to be increasingly multi-faceted. Making full use of Jens Bogren’s crystalline mix, even the four instrumental interludes are syntactically placed throughout the record, grammatically punctuating the narrative until the album reaches its zenith in the “Aathma” suite – a 20 minute epic dissected into 4 parts that encapsulates the spiritual concept of the album. Worthy of particular mention are parts III – full of foreboding palm mutes and ever changing landscapes, juxtaposing uplifting vocal passages with blast beat heaviness and emotive leads – and part VI, a perfect piano piece featuring the velveteen vocals of Merethe Soltvedt for a brief and resolutely beautiful conclusion.

Persefone are, I suspect, a band instinctively incapable of the bare minimum, and in Aathma have further fortified their already considerable discography. Possessed of emotional resonance and preternatural ability, here is an album to challenge the casual listener, an album to abide by and an album which will almost certainly make umpteen end-of-year lists. Having already spent considerable time with the record, I still find something new upon each and every listen and, although gestalt by nature and dense in its complexity, Aathma is also uninhibitedly musical. Given the time it deserves, this is an album of potentially cosmic proportions.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: ViciSolum Productions
Websites: persefone1.bandcamp.com | www.persefone.com | facebook.com/persefoneband
Releases Worldwide: February 24th, 2017

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  • Eli Valcik

    Not bad but prog isn’t really my thing, I’ll just wait until Solstafir’s new album drops.

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      New single left a bit to be desired but still got my hopes up.

      • Eli Valcik

        Yeah, but even Otta had a less then good song. Im fairly sure that the whole album will be great, I mean these guys did get a 5/5 last time.

        • Otta did not have any less than good songs. Thanks for your time.

          • Eli Valcik

            I got you dude, I fucking love Otta, pre-ordered the new album on vinyl too. Just saying that maybe 1 of the songs on the album was not perfect.

    • Thatguy

      Prog’s not my thing either, but I always give these guys a listen.

  • mtlman1990

    Love it. When the vocals come in during Aathma Part I, it reminds me of Riverside.

  • AndySynn

    Really enjoyed this one, but it just doesn’t feel as cohesive as Spiritual Migration to me.

    • Ferrous Beuller

      I can probably get on board with that. It’s no Shin-Ken, but it’s definitely no Ken Masters either.

  • Huck N’ Roll

    Glad you liked it as much as I did, Ferrous! This was my favourite February album.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Bro, do you even sphere?

    This album is great, maybe not quite 4.0 but close enough. Spiritual Migration was much better.

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      Suffers from a pretty bad case of BTBAM-itis as far as structure and pacing goes.

      • Meriyas

        They didn’t go full blown schizophrenic BTBAM though, so it’s still manageable.

    • mtlman1990

      I agree with the Spiritual Migration part. I think the 4.0 is deserved though just based on how well its executed. The mix is sounds great too.

      • Jester Head

        Yeah Spiritual Migration is definitely better, but Aathma still a great album

    • sir_c

      At first I was with you, as Spiritual is an excellent album.
      But I have given this one a couple of spins and I admire it for its own merits. Like mtlman1990 stated below, it’s executed pretty damn well.

  • Zach Ward

    I’ve always thought of them as a lesser Version of scar symmetry. Didn’t like Spiritual Migration at all, but this album is certainly winning me over. Great Review my sir… A+

    • Exitium

      That’s exactly what I thought about them the first time I heard them too.

    • Jon Schiefer

      I had never considered the Scar Symmetry influence until you mentioned it. Scar Symmetry use to be one of my favorite bands when Christian Älvestam was still lead vocalist. The past few albums have dipped in quality, but are still excellent melodic/proggy death metal albums.

  • Great album, grows stronger as the album goes. Probably as good as Spiritual Migration imo.

  • Schmitzel

    Awesome review FB! I swear this site gets more poetic each day (an I’ve been around since the pre-Kronos era).
    I actually picked this up as a new release recommendation, and it has since moved to my ” wtf?! why haven’t you been listening to this band” list. Still working my way through it but it’s damn worth it.
    The aforementioned list also has a recent addition in the form of Daylight Dies, so it’s been a strange and expensive week so far…

    • [not a Dr]

      I thought time was a concept introduced by Kronos…

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Well, Steel Druhm said Time is a human construct… So it was likely invented by Kronos The Reviewer when he joined AMG.

    • Kronos

      I really chased out the good writers when I arrived.
      RIP Noctus, Jordan Campbell and HMG

      • Schmitzel

        I will forever credit Noctus for pointing me to The Ocean’s Pelagial album, which was my record of the year in 2013 (coincidentally so was AMG’s heh). At least we get to hear his records nowadays.

        Edit: I had an internal debate whether or not to feed your ego, but thanks to your reviews I restarted listening to obscure brutal death metal. And the reason I quit in the first place was that I gave up trying to sort out the bullshit generic bands from the rest. But in Anno-Kronos 4 (or something), I know that your stamp is golden

        • Reese Burns

          Wait, Noctus is putting out records?

          • Yep, he’s the man behind Ethereal Shroud.

          • Schmitzel

            Hey Steel, why do I need to wait for my comments to be approved? Did I upset Sentynel?

          • I don’t think so. You aren’t on our naughty list. Not sure what the issue is unless you added a link. Links bounce you into the moderation queue.

          • Schmitzel

            I think it came either form disqus (got automatically logged off) or because I linked the AMG article on Ethereal Shroud for Reese. Cheers!

          • Reese Burns

            Ah, linking articles will put you on the waiting list, but I appreciate it!

          • herrschobel

            there is a naughty list ? good lord…i have to be more careful getting angry over philosophical puns in the future !

          • Oh yes, and we check it often. It’s like a Metal No Fly List.

          • [not a Dr]

            Ah. The not-fun kind of naughty.

          • [not a Dr]

            Try to be philosophical about those.

          • herrschobel

            i am usually very epicurean about those matters….not when it comes down to Marx. highly sensitive and explosive Topic!

          • Reese Burns

            Huh, I rather enjoyed ‘Falling Ash, small world.

          • Noctus is a bit too talented in the music department to be writing reviews me thinks.

          • And what’s Doc Fisting? Chopped liver??

  • Heldarc

    Am I really the only one who just loves Core the most?

    • Meriyas

      Core is a brilliant album, one of my all time favourites. So you’re definitely not alone.

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      Core > every other Persefone release + most prog releases in general.

    • Aguy

      Persefone’s later releases undoubtedly stepped up the technicality, but Core had _magic_.

    • Froomp

      I don’t believe you are. Core is amazing and is still my favorite out of all that they’ve done so far.

  • Reese Burns

    I agree with you, not just just about the album, but about the way you enjoy music. I’ll listen to anything as long as it strikes a (power)chord with me, it doesn’t have to be technically brilliant or even complicated so long as it has impact when I listen to it. More often than not, the difference between a good album and a great album isn’t the amount of solos or impressive riffs, but the amount of times I had to skip back a few seconds to hear a part again because it hit me just right.

  • Meriyas

    I’ve been waiting for this review. I backed them on Verkami when they first announced this new album and have been looking forward to it ever since. On first listen to this album I was surprised at how it was far less “heavy” than their previous albums. The piano pieces strewn through the album are absolutely beautiful and give the whole album this uplifting energy that I also got with Spiritual Migration.

    In my opinion Aathma is the best album released so far this year and I personally find it hard to fault. Spirals Within Thy Being is a phenomenal song among a sea of very good songs. It’s a 4.5 for me.

  • Serjien

    I was eagerly waiting for this review! Great album and great review!

  • Wonderful release. And, another great job with the cover art. Is it just me, or has the artwork so far this year been, for the most part, pretty stellar?

    I also hear some Black Crown Initiate in there as well. They seemed to have grown quite a bit since the last release in terms of balancing the heavy/soft bits and incorporating more clean vocals to excellent effect. Definitely ROTM material in my book.

    • GardensTale

      It’s the year of the orbs.

      • [not a Dr]

        Is that man-bun considered to be sphericaloid?

    • Excentric_13073

      in 2017 we’ll Make Spheres Great Again.

    • Apple Tree

      i feel like saying “i hear some black crown initiate”, with no slight to them, i loved the wreckage of stars and their debut ep, is just like saying “i hear some opeth in there”

  • herrschobel

    ahhhhh…wonderfully written review…a pleasure to read…i won´t even listen to the record now…maybe i go to Andorra for some hiking tough….lovely country

  • Sacrifist

    I stumbled across this band recently, via a targeted Facebook ad, of all things. After a few years of stagnation, I’ve been finding all sorts of new bands that I really, really enjoy, and this band is among the best of them.

  • O Tempora! O Morons!..

    Record of the month for me and, unless miracles happen, a strong entry for record of the year..
    Has a few unfortunate moments and a side of cheese but wouldn’t skip a single song.
    Nice review :)

  • mush

    I need my inhaler. I have bad aathma.

    • A Feed From Cloud Mountain

      I’m glad someone said it.

  • robpal

    I feel like it’s a step down compared to Spiritual Migration, which had this “Dream Theater on steroids” energy I loved. Aathma is different, I feel like Persefone wanted to explore more proggy side of their music. The riffing is more complex, definitely requires time to digest. However the execution is absolutely stellar and they knew what they’re doing during these 4 years. And I always appreciate bands who are willing to take risks and experiment with their style.

    Awesome review, btw.
    February has been full of good releases this year.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    That “Djentle touch” phrase Ferrous… you should get a patent for it. I bet many a Djent band would be willing to pay yo to use as an album title or even a band name.

  • sir_c

    Nice review and a very solid album. Have to see how much this one is a keeper compared to its predecessors, but so far I’m pretty happy with what I heard.
    Lot of excitement this week, cos I also read that Shylmagoghnar is working on a new album.

  • strychnin

    What the hell is this Andorran Metal?

  • A Feed From Cloud Mountain

    Living Waves is mind-fucking me hard and I love it. Had it on repeat on and off for the last few days now, easily my favorite Persefone song now, and probably in my top 5 overall.

  • Pedro Morini Mietto

    I like this more than Spiritual Migration. Can’t figure out why though…

  • The Howling Wolf

    I liked Marc’s drumming better than Sergi’s.