Album Title: Metanoia
Label: Napalm Records
Date of Release: 4 February 2022
I desperately wanted to bring this review to fruition much earlier than this but the more I listened to ‘Metanoia’, one of the most highly anticipated metal releases of 2022, the more time I felt I needed in order to formulate my opinions of the album. We’ve all had to wait nearly five years to hear the successor to ‘Aathma’, an album that I awarded a hefty 9.8/10 at the time. It therefore felt right and proper that I allow the music on ‘Metanoia’ to seep into my subconscious, marinate, and reach full impact before placing as much as a finger on my laptop keyboard. I’m getting there; getting closer. But with the release only a couple of days away, it’s now or never, so I chose now.
As fans are acutely aware, ‘Metanoia’ represents the sixth album in the career of Andorra’s finest music export and, such is the quality of their discography, the sextet had a lot to live up to with this new record. If any of you were concerned that perhaps ‘Metanoia’ couldn’t repeat the trick and might fall just a little flat compared to previous material, now is the time to release that worry. And, while you’re at it, maybe partake in a little self-reflection at how you could have been so daft. I may not have been a fully paid-up member of the Persefone fan club until ‘Aathma’ worked its magic, but even I knew that you could never fault the ambition, ability, and quality of the band’s output to this date. ‘Metanoia’ could never be bad, because Persefone are incapable of such a thing. Simple as that, really.
There is so much to love about ‘Metanoia’ that it’s hard to know where to start. Is it with the crushing heaviness of some parts of the music? Is it the beauty to be heard within the quieter moments, or the more overtly melodic passages? Is it the breathtaking technicality of the musicians? Is it the stunning dynamics and sense of drama that the band create by covering such a breadth of musical ground, seemingly effortlessly? Is it the clever reprise of previous endeavours in the shape of ‘Consciousness Pt3’? Is it the production that allows the music to make the biggest impact possible?
Actually, it’s a combination of all of these things and the best way to achieve this is by shining the spotlight on one of the tracks on this record. I have ten to choose from, but I will start with my current favourite, ‘Merkabah’ because, well, why not? It opens with a delicate, minimalist beauty, a clean guitar glistening in the darkness created by quiet keys courtesy of Miguel Espinosa Ortiz. And then, in comes his clean voice, full of emotion to accent a stunning melody. Heavy, chunky guitars come out of nowhere, increasing the drama tenfold, before insistent, crisp drumming from Sergi Verdeguer Moyano emerges. In a flurry of activity, the technical ability of the band is demonstrated effortlessly, continuing as the vocals turn to deep growls from Marc Martins Pia, overlaying djent-like riffs. Everything can be heard with real clarity too, from the lightest of notes, to the heaviest of thundering drums or the dancing bass lines of Toni Mestre Coy. When the quiet, melodic motif returns, I’m reminded strongly of Riverside simply because of the warm melodies, emotion, and attention to every conceivable detail. The virtuosity and dexterity of guitarists Carlos Lozano Quintanilla and Filipe Baldaia is jaw-dropping, whilst I simply adore the way in which the melody is reprised at the end, but accompanied by a heavier, more cinematic soundscape, thus creating the perfect crescendo to end the song. It’s only six minutes out of the overall hour of music, but it’s a stunning microcosm of what Persefone can do.
Returning to the start of the album, and the title track opens things up nicely. Leprous vocalist Einar Solberg makes an unexpected but very welcome guest appearance, atop a dramatic, cinematic composition that falls just shy of two minutes. When it ends, in marches ‘Katabasis’ and I’m literally blown away. The technicality, the textures, the marked juxtaposition between light and shade, the cinematic richness; it all combines to glorious effect, showcasing the progressive tendencies of a band that’s hungry and in no mood to take prisoners.
‘Architecture Of The I’ takes its time to unfurl from humble beginnings, allowing us to take a breath, before we’re hit with more virtuosic guitar playing, arresting rhythmic work, and biting vocal growls. The keys play an important part within the track, allowing the lurching riffs to work their magic with minimal interference, adding just the right amount of depth and richness to the track. And then, in the latter stages, the song opens up to include clean vocals and strong melodies that send shivers down my spine; it’s yet another killer track on an album of killer tracks. But it’s Persefone, so are you really surprised?
We’re then led into ‘Leap Of Faith’ which takes the cinematic drama to a whole new level, with the first three minutes a slow and steady orchestral build up before pounding drums enter, the ominous portent to an explosion of sound, where the orchestration duets confidently and effortlessly with guitar riffs to glorious effect. From there, ‘Aware Of Being Watched’ reintroduces the ethereal vocals of Merethe Soltvedt which fit perfectly the more chilled sections of the song that find themselves cleverly duelling with heavier passages, thus creating an electric ebb and flow that’s captivating. It is also one of the most overtly ‘progressive’ tracks on the album, thanks to extended instrumental sections that explore a plethora of different, competing ideas.
Speaking of captivating, this is a word that could easily be used to describe the eleven-minute ‘Consciousness Pt3’, an instrumental that harkens back to past ventures, sure to delight longer-term fans in the process. Regardless of whether you’re an existing fan or not, there is so much wizardry to get your head around within this track, that it’s a wonderous and challenging listening experience in equal measure. And when it opens up towards the end in magnificently epic fashion, it also makes me think ‘why aren’t more film scores like this?’, as it’s alive with drama, intrigue, and memorable melody. Mind you, it’s quite possible that music this good would overshadow the visuals, so perhaps that’s why.
That leaves the ‘Anabasis’ trio to complete ‘Metanoia’ which it does over the course of fifteen magical minutes. ‘Part 1’ is full-on Craig Armstrong film score territory with bold electronics blending with orchestration, giving me goosebumps when Marc Martins Pia’s delicate vocals come in at the death. ‘Part 2’ is a full-on progressive extreme metal affair but one that opens up into the most stunning of melodic endings, thanks to an emotional lead guitar solo that segues into a crescendo complete with powerful clean vocals, where Pia and Soltvedt duet atop one of the most stunningly rich and inviting soundscapes I’ve heard in a while. It’s entirely appropriate then that ‘Part 3’ is much quieter by contrast, even if it is deeply immersive, emotional, and strangely fragile at the same time.
Wow, wow, and thrice wow. In a year that has already delivered a handful of great albums within various subgenres, Persefone have come along and thrown down the heaviest of gauntlets to the competition. This band have absolutely everything in their armoury, and they bring it all to the battle on ‘Metanoia’; darkness and vulnerability duel against aggression and rage, but both are kept in check by masterful performances from all corners. And the whole thing is then wrapped up in some of the most scintillating and beautiful melodic sensibilities as well as multi-layered cinematic opulence. If your jaw doesn’t hit the floor during you first or second listen, then I’m afraid you might just be dead. If that’s the case, consult your nearest physician or turn up ‘Metanoia’ and listen more carefully. This is a masterpiece, pure and simple.
The Score of Much Metal: 98%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: