Persona – Metamorphosis (Self-Released)

Friday, 15th September 2017
Rating: 9.5/10

Persona put themselves onto the map early in 2016 with their debut Elusive Reflections. A strong album that took the symphonic/progressive template and enriched it with some geographic influences and sprinklings of further diversity. They quickly return with their second offering, which as the title implies, changes the formatting a bit – bringing in even more maturity in songwriting and more sources of influence. If you thought the band was onto something before, Metamorphosis will convince you that this is a band that’s completely ready to break out of the underground.

There are some definite changes with Metamorphosis that you will immediately hear, and they all work in favor of the band. There’s a heightened sense of the theatrical, particularly with their use of keyboards this time. Mind you, there’s still a strong sense of collaboration between the synth and the rest of the material, but it feels like there’s a bit more breathing room for Walid Bessadok to work with. The effect is that the songs have a larger sense of grandeur – particularly tracks like “In Memoriam” and “Prologue – The Initiation.” Also instantly recognizable is the band dipping further into extreme metal waters on occasion. Vocalist Jelena Dobric hits some scathing screams on almost every track here (as opposed to one song on the debut), and it fits well due to the rest of the band veering into the same extreme direction (see parts of “Credence” or “Hellgrind”). Those fearing the band has gone death metal should rest assured though, that the progression in this direction feels natural, and this only adds a new shade of color for the act to indulge in, instead of a complete directional shift. The new dimension that it adds provides some real payoff in the longer tracks (“The Omen of Downfall” and “Neverlight”), which can go into more drastic directions and build into soaring climaxes.

Along with some significant changes to the better, the core of what made Persona intriguing to begin with is still in full-force. Plenty of strong guitar interplay and some rather catchy riffs (“Esurience Guilefulness Omnipotence” and “Invidia” come to mind), as well as some tasteful soloing make up a bulk of the band’s strength. The Arabic/North African and progressive influences still help give them a readily identifiable sound as well. The rhythm isn’t ignored either, with the drums and bass having a strong presence, even more impressive when all but the vocals were recorded and produced by the band itself. Lastly, Jelena’s vocals continue to improve – not just by adding more flavor with extreme vocals but increasing in their overall quality. “The Seeress of Triumph” is in the spotlight here, with Dobric’s unique delivery and approach giving the song some emotional weight yet exuding some power and intensity when required. The extreme/clean vocal acrobatics of “Bête Noire” should easily convince any listener of her range.

Easy to be impressed by a band that takes a huge stylistic leap forward while keeping what works best for them in mind. Even though they started off strong with their debut, they’ve truly metamorphosed into something even more spectacular with this second release. Metamorphosis is a thrilling and dynamic album that any melodic metal fan should enjoy. Persona has what it takes to stand neck and neck with the big names in the genre – it’ll be exciting to see where they take it from here.

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