For a non-musician metal fan like me, progressive metal always has its task cut out for it to hold the proper equilibrium. While the songs should not be watered down pop-crackers, they also better not be overcomplicated exercises in instrumental prowess - dizzying, but pointless. An honest admission – in this balancing act I tend to side more with those who actually write more coherent, even if simpler, songs, than the artists who insist on 15 min convoluted compositions.
In light of the above, Greek newcomers Persona Non Grata had a pretty favorable start in their appeal to me, which they managed not to squander. Combining the origin of some of their musicians in rock music, and adding metal touches combined with some skilled playing – the songs on their Sensory debut Shade in the Light are namely that, songs with preludes, culminations and conclusions, striking the proper mix between pleasant melodies and weighty riffs, the character shifting smoothly between rocking and introspective without unnecessary schizophrenia.
The dynamic duo of guitarist Chris Gatsos and keyboardist John Ioannidis are the brains behind Persona Non Grata and they seem to co-exist organically, each without usurping the major part of musical territory on Shade in the Light. Some of the songs alternate between choppy riffing and fluid leads (Before the Reason, Personal Gratitude), raising the heaviness bar when necessary, most noticeably in the title track and Collision Course, true to the title. Saturating these riffs with atmosphere, throwing in an orchestral arrangement here and there (Before the Reason, Longing) is John Ioannidis with his keys, which in places sound like simple piano (Personal Gratitude). There are interesting finds in both departments, the mid-Eastern sounding string plucks in Personal Gratitude and Joe Dassin melody in Dual Unity.
Persona Non Grata rarely goes bonkers, only the closer Stillness with its jazzy opening sounds like something which could leave Derek Sherinian’s pen, and as a matter of fact, it sounds more convincing when the band plays heartfelt and earnest, almost sensual (Longing). The extended bluesy guitar solo a la Gary Moore feels most at home here. Not ashamed of their feelings being expressed, the band can even go overboard, like on Fives, the song worthy of Eurovision entry with its weeping guitar, hooky keyboard melody, mild culmination in the middle and, most importantly for that TV sham of a show, a sense of drama.
The voice of vocalist Bill Axiotis is what often brings this sensuality aspect to Persona Non Grata sound. Ranging from Ray Alder warm caress to Tom Englund’s harsher edge, Bill is not afraid to send his vocal chords to considerable heights, even if sometimes the power is lacking in the bottom end of the register.
Not opening any new doors, but not pretending to either, Persona Non Grata was a pleasant listen, I am not going to make secret of that. If you can maintain this mindset and take pleasure in Wastefall and lighter moments of recent Circus Maximus, Shade in the Light will occupy enough of your attention for several enjoyable hours.
Killing Songs :
Before the Reason, Dual Unity, Longing, Stillness
|Alex quoted 76 / 100|
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