Review : PERSEFONE – "Shin-Ken"

Release Date: 2010Feb03 (EU)
Label: Kolony Records
Rating: 4/5

For those of you did not participate in your elementary school geo-bee: where is Andorra? The answer that most people I’ve heard give to this question is usually “what is Andorra?” Don’t feel bad if that’s what ran through your mind. It’s a country the size of New York City situated in the Pyrenees mountain range between France and Spain. The population is only about 85,000, but 6 of those people have formed a pretty kick-ass progressive melodic death metal band they call Persefone. The funny thing is that these guys sing in English and base their songs on Japanese war stories. Andorran metal in English about Japan. Confusing? Yeah…

All joking aside, Persefone manage to go up against all odds to create very interesting sound that works like no other. I don’t mean “against all odds” in that they have some story of oppression or poverty, I simply mean that the styles they choose to meld together are some of the stalest in the metal genre today. The bands I would most liken them to would be Dream Theater, Avenged Sevenfold, and The Black Dahlia Murder. Now, if that doesn’t sound like hell in a round, thin, piece of metal, then I don’t really know what is (I suppose Toby Keith and Kenny G collaborating would be worse, but that’s the only thing I can think of). This album is the best example of “don’t judge a book by its cover” that I’ve ever seen.

What Persefone does is take Dream Theater‘s use of keyboards and progressive elements, Avenged Sevenfold‘s melodic hard rock-meets-metalcore ability, and The Black Dahlia Murder‘s razor-sharp ferocity and make an entire sound based on it. Once again, this looks horrendous on paper, but they execute it so well that I’m even close to putting this up as a best of 2010 nomination.

Just about every guitar solo on this album sounds nearly identical to something Synyster Gates (A7X) would do. It can actually get a little scary at times. The one song that breaks this mold is “The Wind Book”, which begins with a simple clean guitar solo that evokes David Gilmour’s (Pink Floyd) noodling on “Shine on Crazy Diamond” like I’ve never heard before. Every nuance of Gilmour’s style, from the flow of the notes to the buttery bends, is nailed with crazy accuracy. This song then drifts into “Purity”, one of several ballads on the album that work wonderfully––another ingredient they probably picked up from DT.

Despite the strength of their sound, however, the album does have one gaping weakness: the length. At 61 minutes, they go way over the amount of time a record like this should take up. Music of this sort just cannot suspend interest for over an hour. 45 minutes is a good spot, but even that is stretching it a bit. If it were my choice, I would have boiled it down to about 40 or the high 30s. It’s unfortunate, because the songs all cascade into each other, making this a hard album to listen to when fractured into pieces.

The whole does have its shortcomings, but each part is certainly worthy of your attention. Clear production and polished sound are enough to keep me listening to this one for a while. Who knows; maybe Andorra is the next paradise for metal. I suppose we’ll see!

Try 2, 5, 8, 10, 11

01. The Ground Book (Intro)
02. Fall to Rise
03. Death Before Dishonour
04. The Water Book
05. The Endless Path
06. The Wind Book
07. Purity
08. Rage Stained Blade
09. The Fire Book
10. Kusanagi
11. Shin-Ken Part 1
12. Shin-Ken Part 2
13. The Void Book
14. Japanese Poem


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