Origin: Tunis, Tunisia
Released: 15 September, 2017
Nineteen months ago, M4A offered comment on the debut album released by Tunisian female-fronted metal band Persona. In looking back at that review on Elusive Reflections, it was mildly prophetic in how it was suggested that Persona should be supporting certain European bands on tour; since Persona will be launching its new album, Metamorphosis, live in Europe next week. No less, this performance will be at the FemME (Female Metal Event: dedicated to the influence of women in metal culture) in Eindhoven, Netherlands, where some bands referenced in the previous review had already performed. It feels rather a privilege to be able to give comment on this band’s second independent album release today.
Metamorphosis, not just a figurative insinuation
Metamorphosis, as the title suggests, represents something of an emboldened direction for Persona since it’s 2016 Elusive Reflections. Whilst the new album kicks off with a song which – structurally speaking – bears a resemblance to the first track from the previous album, the very first vocalizations by Jelena Dobric immediately signal the shift which maintains a common thread throughout the album; that the band has grown more Metalesque since its rather ambiguous sound of before.
Whilst Elusive Reflections contained only a tiny smattering of growl-like vocals, Metamorphosis boasts this theme throughout; switching regularly between angry growls to the crystalline cleans and intricately beautiful vocal harmonies we have come to expect.
This shift is not only apparent in the vocals, however. The instrumentation appears to have also opened up to still greater possibilities in mood and pace. If the band was already aurally dynamic before, it is even more so now. Again, the overriding theme of Metal creeping more deeply into its bones is clear. The album overall is generally faster, choppier, livelier, and perhaps a little more complex; all great ingredients to excite our Metal palate. Listening to Metamorphosis, it comes as no surprise that it should suitably be live launched in Europe rather than at home in Tunisia.
A sense of globalization
And herein lays one minor disappointment. Whilst certainly an exciting development after an already excellent start, some of the romance of the band’s fascinating North African identity may have been sacrificed. I’m not suggesting that Persona‘s sound has grown generic or boring; however, it certainly sounds more global. As an African, living in Africa, so much of what I listen to has that “global” stamp to it, which is what makes something “localized” often so exciting. Persona’s Elusive Reflections gave us a peek into the exotic; from the artwork and into the music. Indirectly, it captivated our imaginations to an other-worldliness we’ve never visited; except through music.
Nonetheless, the band should take the “globalized” inference as a strong compliment. Persona is going places! In the grand scheme of things, this is a sacrifice well-made, if indeed there was even any thought behind it at all. And since the artwork of the previous album has been mentioned, I’d like to expand a little on the current one too. Even here, there appears a more globalized sense of being. Whilst I enjoyed the previous one more as something to look at and be lost in thought over, the cover for Metamorphosis ties in nicely with the theme of the album.
Having interviewed Jelena Dobric, she told us about recent changes within her own mind and heart. This brought plenty to bear on the creative process, and the artist has captured it well; with a visual representation of the many states of mind portrayed through facial expressions by the front lady herself; a serene mask of tranquility being the centerpiece. This is an internal battle we all face daily and in the longer term, change (or complete “metamorphosis”) might be our only saving grace… to get through each day alive!
Instrumentation and other elements
As mentioned before, the instrumentation presented by Persona is top class. There appears to be some further development on the orchestration/keyboard/accompaniments front, spicing up the soundscape. A real standout are some of the solos performed by guitarist Melik Melek Khelifa with his creative wizardry. The other components all fall into place seamlessly with well-orchestrated compositions and passages, executed by very able bodied band members.
Owing to a loyal and growing fan base, Persona fulfilled a successful crowd-funding campaign earlier this year. The result is that the band can do an independent release as a hard copy CD for Metamorphosis, and sales go live today at the Persona bandcamp page. The album is also available digitally via all major platforms.