Persephone's Dream

Picture of Persephone's Dream

Moonspell

Persephone's Dream - Moonspell ©1999 Pup In A Cup Productions
1. Millenium Moon
2. Evident Dreams
3. Perigee
4. Euphoria
5. Learning Curve
6. Alternate Reality
7. Earth Dreams
8. Electronic Exotic
9. Full Moon
10. Apogee
11. Altar Of Desire
12. Worry Beads
13. Doorways

Preconceptions can be a dangerous thing when trying to check out a new band, expecting one thing and ending up with something else entirely. When I first approached this album by Pittsburgh's Persephone's Dream, I was expecting a symphonic progrock band, maybe something ala early Genesis fronted by a female singer. Thus my first reaction to this album was far from positive, but as is often the case with these types of introductions to a band, a second and third listen quickly helped me see this album in its own light, without any misconception dragging it down. But what do Persephone's Dream play? Well, since I'm pretending to be a reviewer, I'll pigeonhole them, aye? Ahh, neoprog, I suppose. There's definitely progrock characteristics coming through at times, but generally filtered through both pop and AOR stylistics, even some heavy metal guitar tones.

Generally the songs are almost entirely focused upon the vocals of Karin Nicely, who has a quite nice midrange voice. None of that overdone operatic jolliness that is so popular nowadays, but a more down to earth voice. The problem with Persephone's Dream's approach to songwriting is that the vocal melodies tend to carry the entire songs. Sure, there's a cool bassriff in "Evident Dreams", a generally nifty brooding mood to "Electronic Exotic", etc. But in the end those tend to take the backseat here to let Nicely hold the listeners full attention. The downside to this approach being that when you get to a song where you don't really like the vocal melody much, it can quickly get dull. There's not any song on this album that I feel really tries to swallow my soul and they just generally pass on by without much impact at all. One big surprise is the way the chorus to "Electronic Exotic" reminds me of both the stomping beats Clutch sometimes use and my old Commodore 64 games. It works really well too, being my absolute favorite moment of the album.

The production of the album is fairly nice. All the instruments stand well with themselves, with the vocals naturally sitting a bit more upfront than everything else. For some reason everything seems drenched in reverb though. I'm not sure if these guys are fans of early 80s music or what the deal is, as both Phil Collins and Marillion comes to mind at times. Persephone's Dream also at times share some musical similarities with the latter.

This album is a competent effort and even though the songs tend to have a lot of layers and are fun to try to pick the various influences out of, I frankly get a bit bored. The mood the band seems to want to find never really clinches with me, and since the songs don't usually vary that much in approach, it just wheezes by. The one big standout in that regard being the twelve minute "Earth Dreams", a mainly percussion-driven track that gives a nice break in the middle of the album. Unfortunately after having listened to it a couple of times, I find myself skipping it now. I can imagine it being a more effective piece standing by itself, rather than when it suddenly pops up in the middle of a more rock oriented album as this. But they do deserve credits for trying something different.

If you are quite fond of fairly inoffensive melodic rock music, this might well be worth your visit, but I'm afraid this band might end up suffering from falling between the cracks. Not quite light enough for those into the lighter end of the spectrum, but not rocking enough for those more fond of that sort of thing. Well-played, fairly well-written, even a bit original, as I can't think of any band that this really sounds like. In the end, however, I find it to be an unfulfilling album.

Review by Řystein H-O

Review date: 02/2002

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Opposition

Persephone's Dream - Opposition ©2001 Pup In A Cup Productions
1. Bevel
2. Kindred Soil
3. Puppetmaster
4. Endymion
5. Hyperspace Minefield
6. Dreamcatcher / Static
7. TV Talk Show
8. 10th Moon
9. Agent Of Chaos
10. Far Side Of Eden
11. Stormchaser
12. Serene Sea

A couple of years can do wonders sometimes. Since the release of Moonspell, Persephone's Dream have added a permanent keyboard player, Kim Finney, and a percussionist, John Tallent. And more importantly, they've really improved the quality of their songs.

While I wasn't too fond of Moonspell, I've found myself listening to this CD quite a bit. It's still that poppy approach to progrock, but most of these songs are really nicely crafted. Surprisingly, the opening track "Bevel" might be one of my least favorite tracks on the album, so when I first put this on, I wasn't very pleasantly surprised. But as soon as "Kindred Soil" starts up, things take a definite upturn. Vocalist Karen Nicely really lives up to her surname on this album. Unlike bands like ELP, Yes, Henry Cow etc., you probably won't listen to this and go "Holy crap, that is the most insane stuff I've ever heard"; Persephone's Dream tend to rather throw in all kinds of cool little chords without making a big deal out of it.

As on Moonspell, the vocal melodies tend to be the focus, but since they're generally a lot stronger here, this never really becomes a bad thing. And there's no ten-minute percussion fests either, despite the new percussionist. The songs are fairly diverse - no huge surprises - but enough to really give them all their own personality, like the hard rock approach in Puppetmaster", the great ballad "Endymion", and the groovy "TV Talk Show". There's still not much in the way of solos and the general wankiness that people often think of when they hear the word "prog", and yes, it does get AORish at times. But these guys are talented enough to pull it off.

I've found myself spinning this quite a bit lately and would certainly recommend people to check this album out, even if they, like me, weren't too excited by Moonspell. I'd drop some band names to compare these guys too, but I can't think of anyone quite like them. But this is definitely closer to someone like Flower Kings or White Willow than Doctor Nerve and U Totem. It'll be interesting to see if Persephone's Dream will keep growing as much as they've done since Moonspell. If they do, we might expect a real monster next time out.

Review by Řystein H-O

Review date: 03/2002

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