One of the main principles of early Buddhism was the teaching of anātman, which says that there is no fixed essence, soul or self of a being. Due to the ephemeral nature of the sensory organs, any conscience and distinction of a stable self or ‘I’ from the world around it arising from them is considered illusory and thus leads to avidyatā (unseeingness), which in turn starts the cycle of the pratītyasamutpāda (dependent origination). Much like time itself, the ‘I’ of a being is therefore ever-flowing, ever-changing and inseparably interwoven with the world around it, allowing for principles like karma to function.
Why do I bother you with this excursion? Well, because progressive/melodic death metal band Persefone’s new album Aathma, due out on February 24, will make you feel just that: a deeply rooted, primordial connection to your surroundings and the universe as a whole. It’s a journey to the stars and back, through science and spirituality, all but lifting the listener to a higher plane of existence.
Two short, complementing songs make up the introduction of Aathma, “An Infinitesimal Spark” and “One of Many”. The former features the familiarly distorted voice of none other than the godfather of philosophical and spiritual death metal, one Paul Masvidal (Cynic). This first track relies on atmospheric electronics and keyboards to underpin the spoken word passage, whereas the second sees the introduction of Persefone’s signature heavy, dynamic riffing enter the pre-established fold. Together, they generate a suction effect, drawing the audience further and further into the realms of Aathma. And so, the spectacle begins to unfold before our very eyes.
“Spirals Within Thy Being” opens with lush clean guitars, piano and aspiring keyboard layers, before dropping right into punishing death metal riffs and Marc Martins’ positively vitriolic gutturals. Those elements are soon supplemented by Miguel Espinosa’s brilliantly attuned keyboard playing, both filling the sound gaps in the background and occasionally taking center stage. Lead guitar flourishes and clean vocals (Espinosa sound like a slightly more rough around the edges Christian Älvestam at times) further give the song a distinct melo-death styling.
Shimmering chimes forebode the second coming of Paul Masvidal, this time contributing his trademark effect-heavy clean vocals to the beginning of “Living Waves”. Busy guitars and post-rock influenced drumming lock in with the futuristic keyboards. The song then shortly erupts into a pinch-harmonic-enhanced riff and intense death metal wrath. Additional percussion elements are introduced in order to transition to its mellower, staccato-driven middle portions. Espinosa once again mesmerizes on clean vocals, as does the absolutely stellar guitar solo. Re-introducing its aforementioned heavier parts, “Living Waves” eventually comes to an end.
In tried-and-true prog fashion, the album ends on a concept quadrilogy of songs, simply entitled “Aathma”. These four tracks double down on Aathma’s defining aesthetics, while also bringing in more symphonic elements, especially in the album’s closer, “Aathma Part IV. Many of One”. Out of the bunch, “Aathma Part III. One with the Light” has to be the most diverse. Colossal riffs, dramatic keys, gorgeous lead sections and spectacular vocal performances, both clean and unclean, are thrown into the mix at will, together with pieces of subtle orchestration. It’s a becoming summary before Aathma’s grande finale, nicely rounding off the preceding 54 minutes.
Now, what is left to say about Persefone’s new offering that wouldn’t seem superfluous or exceedingly adulating? Not much, I’m afraid. I could add that the sound and production are pristine, even coming out of my cheap, crappy headphones as a marvelous piece of music. Or how Aathma has a huge replay value, revealing a wealth of new details with every subsequent listen. But to be honest, I’d prefer to let the music speak for itself come February 24. Because it’s just THAT GOOD.
Notable Tracks: “Spirals Within Thy Being”; “No Faced Mindless”; “Aathma Part III. One With The Light”
FFO: Serdce, Cynic, Solution .45