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Persephone's Dream - Pan: An Urban Pastoral CD (album) cover

PAN: AN URBAN PASTORAL

Persephone's Dream

 

Heavy Prog

3.98 | 78 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Pan: An Urban Pastoral' - Persephone's Dream (7/10)

From the opening crackle of the album's haunting 'Prelude' onwards, there's an overwhelming sense that US act Persephone's Dream's 5th album 'Pan' is, if anything, wildly ambitious. While the formula of concept albums and rock operas is all very familiar in the progressive rock world, there are few that are so complex and require such intent and repeated listening to understand and appreciate. Such is both the blessing and curse of the curiously titled 'Pan: An Urban Pastoral.' While certainly a challenging listen in parts, the album- much like a labyrinth- is filled with structural subtleties and details that make the majority of the listen refreshing even after multiple listens. Sadly however, Persephone's Dream do appear to get a bit too immersed in their own ambition here, which leads to some unnecessary faults and flaws that might have been easily improved upon with a little moderation. Despite a few flaws and a somewhat weaker second half however, these US proggers have crafted a pretty impressive album, and 'Pan: An Urban Pastoral' stands as being one of the more rewarding albums I've had the pleasure of hearing in 2010.

Dedicating the album to such figures as composer Claude Debussy and filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro (director of the acclaimed 'El Labyrinto Del Fauno'), it's clear where Persephone's Dream found their muses for the making of this album. 'Pan' essentially flows as a narrative fairy tale, at times playing through like an ethereal lullaby, and at other times taking things in a more rocking, almost theatrical direction that's a bit more typical of progressive rock. As with many albums of similar direction, 'Pan' is not a collection of songs, but moreso a running suite of music, using multiple recurring themes and motifs throughout the piece, intended to give a sense of cohesion. While this does do it's part, there is the feeling (especially towards the second half of the album) that the album could have really kept up a better pace, had the album not kept going back so much to other themes, and instead opted to make new beautiful moments to keep the album driven along. Up until the last three songs, the vast majority of the album takes the shape of many short suite-sections that flow beautifully and seamlessly together, and each throw in something interesting and unique, despite their brevity. While there is still a continuing sense of musicality during the three final tracks, the fact that the three of them are so long and draw out their ideas (much like a typical prog rock track!) feels like an unwelcome change, after having been exposed to the constant flow of ideas throughout the first half of the album.

In terms of production and packaging, there is nothing to complain about here. There is some absolutely gorgeous artwork and photography in the booklet, and a fitting album cover that reflects the storyline well. It's true that 'Pan' is indeed a concept album, and while the plot can be difficult to decipher through lyrics alone, Persephone's Dream have kindly written a 'short story' adaptation, introducing the reader and listener to the world of somewhat derivative fantasy, which essentially entails a young man being whisked away from his grey existence to a beautiful realm of nature, ruled by a faun. The storyline feels all- too much like 'El Labyrinto Del Fauno' to me- which can't be any small coincidence considering which director the band dedicated the album to- but it is a perfect foundation for their music, which beautifully reflects the fairy-tale nature of the concept.

On top of some absolutely gorgeous musical ideas scattered throughout the album like gems in a maze, Persephone's Dream boasts also boasts a fair deal of talent in their delivery. Possibly my highlight of the album is the section in which vocals are introduced; 'Those Who Remember.' I remember being blown away on my first listen of the album by the beautiful sound and harmonies of the female vocalist. Most of the vocal work here is excellent and very effective, and the instrumentation is quite pleasant, albeit not incredibly technical.

'Pan: An Urban Pastoral' was an album I was truly unsure whether I liked or not on first listen. It seemed a bit too ambitious for it's own good, and suffered from a weaker second half. While my stance on both of those issues hasn't faltered since the first listen, the great moments on 'Pan' have since gone on to overcome the album's weaker elements. A very good fifth effort from Persephone's Dream!

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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