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PERSEPHONE'S DREAM

Heavy Prog • United States


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Persephone's Dream picture
Persephone's Dream biography
Formed in Pittsburgh, PA, USA in 1993

Claiming influences like RUSH, GENESIS and OZRIC TENTACLES, Pittsburgh,PA band PERSEPHONE"S DREAM (named after a Greek myth) was formed initially in 1993 by guitarist Rowen POOLE and bassist Christ SIEGEL. The duo drafted an intern named Judilynn NEIDERCORN to sing vocals and recorded the band's first album, 'Evening Mirage', in Rowan's dining room. Although the album was not released until 1997, it gained some radio play and a cut off the record was used on a U.S. soap opera.

In 1998 with NEIDERCORN out of the picture, drummer Ed WIANCKO and singer Karin NICELY joined and the band released their second album 'Moonspell'. This record received world wide acclaim and was known on college radio stations for its longer song explorations and diverse styles: everything from fast, almost punkish songs to moody, hard-edged folk. In an effort to transmute this broad sound to stage, the group added percussionist John TALLENT and keyboardist Kim FINNEY in 2000 to the lineup. The next year the band released their third album, 'Opposition', which attempted to further diversify their sound, making the harder numbers harder and the ethereal songs more so.

To this day, PERSEPHONE'S DREAM continues to work on its stage show, building it up with a larger and more artistic sense of props and lighting. They have opened for artists like D.C. COOPER (of ROYAL HUNT) and The FLOWER KINGS. The material consistently reflects a blend of gothic and fantasy elements, electronic effects and good old fashioned 1970's hard rock, resulting in a mix that recalls classic art rock.

- The Whistler -

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PERSEPHONE'S DREAM discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

PERSEPHONE'S DREAM top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.05 | 3 ratings
Evening Mirage
1997
3.79 | 10 ratings
Moonspell
1999
3.88 | 7 ratings
Opposition
2001
3.32 | 11 ratings
Pyre of Dreams
2007
3.89 | 94 ratings
Pan - An Urban Pastoral
2010
3.07 | 6 ratings
Anomalous Propagation
2019

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PERSEPHONE'S DREAM Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Anomalous Propagation by PERSEPHONE'S DREAM album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.07 | 6 ratings

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Anomalous Propagation
Persephone's Dream Heavy Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars I do not know why it took 9 years for Persephone's Dream to release their sixth album, but it is interesting to see they have looked backwards as well as forwards, re-establishing themselves by going back to their roots in some ways. Guitarist and co-founder Rowen Poole (who also provides synths) may be the only person who played on the previous album but he has welcomed back onboard fellow co-founder and bassist Chris Poole (also synths) alongside singer Heidi Engel who was on 'Pyre of Dreams'. They have been joined by Jim Puskar (drums, percussion) and Laura Martin (pianos, keyboards, synths, vocals) plus what is possibly the most interesting addition, a second guitarist in Jason English (who also provides vocals). This is the first time they have used a twin guitar line-up and definitely sees them looking back into their earlier works. This CD has been released in a digipak with a fold out booklet, and it is interesting to see a manikin on one of the panels, as that alongside the colours being used immediately made me think of 'Opposition' which they released back in 2001.

They deliberately use vocal discord, which can be somewhat unsettling until one gets used to it ' given there are harmonies placed against it, and it is something which was experimented with on the previous album I am sure it is seen as a point of difference. When she needs to Heidi is perfectly on key, and I have yet to get fed up of Heidi pleading with the producer not to delete her vocals and make her do it again during opening song 'Red Light Syndrome' and being told it will not be fixed in the mix: the fact we are told it also 'needs more cowbell' makes me smile. With two guitarists there is room for some rather complex interplay as the guys move into far heavier territory than in recent years and keyboards not nearly as dominant although there is some nice underlying piano. This is an album which is going to really split opinion, as there will be some who really enjoy it and others who feel it is an opportunity missed. Me, I am much more to the former than the latter, as they move far more into 90's neo-prog with some interesting songs and approach.

 Pan - An Urban Pastoral by PERSEPHONE'S DREAM album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.89 | 94 ratings

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Pan - An Urban Pastoral
Persephone's Dream Heavy Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars 2010 saw the band back with their fifth studio album, alongside yet more significant line-up changes. Guitarist and co- founder Rowen Poole, plus percussionist John Tallent were back, alongside keyboard player James Waugaman (who also provides vocals) who had debuted on the last album, as had drummer Scot Harvey who last time had played on just one track but this time was a full-time member of the band. The line-up was completed by new singer Ashley Peer and new bassist Roman Propenko. It is interesting to compare the number of reviews for this album on PA as opposed to the others, due in no small part I am sure by now being signed to a label who would send out promos (although strangely I didn't get this although I was working with PRR at the time), plus also very much due to the change in the band's approach.

This time around we have a full-blown concept album, containing nineteen songs which generally run into each other, so it feels like one continual piece of music. As well as sound effects there has been quite a shift in the musical direction, with Rowen letting James come far more to the fore, the result being something which musically is far more symphonic and less heavy than previously, with instruments such as glockenspiel being used effectively, along with clarinet. There are far more lengthy instrumental passages and less concentration on the vocals, and while James has a theatrical style to his voice the real presence here is Ashley with a wonderfully controlled soprano, and her choral entrance to the piece is simply beautiful.

This is an album which demands both careful and repeated listening as it is only with time that one really gets the complexity and breadth of styles within this. There are some wonderfully dated synth leads while Rowen's guitar can often be found underpinning the overall sound, rarely allowing himself the luxury of throwing out some power chords or lead licks. It sounds as if this is destined for the stage as opposed to "just" an album, and I am sure I am missing some things by not having that visual element. It is a very different release to the previous album, in so many ways, and I find it quite hard to compare the two as musically they have headed in quite a different direction. There is also a much bigger focus on male lead vocals, something they had started on the previous album, yet to me their music felt better suited to a female lead. I would have liked to have heard more from both Rowen and Ashley, combined with being able to actually see them perform this. This is a considerable undertaking, but personally I would have preferred to have seen a more logical continuation from the last album as opposed to something which is so far removed.

 Pyre of Dreams by PERSEPHONE'S DREAM album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.32 | 11 ratings

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Pyre of Dreams
Persephone's Dream Heavy Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars Having released their second and third album relatively quickly, it would be some six years until Persephone's Dream came back with their fourth. Here is a band whose personnel was very much in flux as Karin Nicely had departed, as had keyboard player Kim Finney while drummer Ed Wiancko only played on one song and co-founder and bassist Chris Siegle only played on four. This left just guitarist and co-founder Rowen Poole, along with percussionist John Tallent, as full members of the band from the previous album. The songs are listed as being written over a five-year period and given the way certain band members only play on certain songs, I am sure this was a long drawn out recording process. However, Poole was determined to press on and for this album he had three strong singers in band members Colleen Gray and Heidi Engel and guest DC Cooper (who is probably best known for his time with Royal Hunt).

Although this may been recorded with more than a dozen musicians and singers, this is a far more powerful album than one might expect, feeling very much as a band album as opposed to any sort of project, and listening to this reminded me just why I enjoyed their previous two albums so much. The artist I found myself thinking of with this album was Lana Lane, but if she was in a band where all the music was being written by the guitarist as opposed to the keyboard player. Musically there is a huge difference between this and the debut, released ten years earlier, with this hitting every mark which was missing on the debut. The additional percussion adds a significant difference on tracks such as "Mist", which also benefits from some great lead vocals combined with wonderful harmonies. All these guys can really sing and combined with strong arrangements the result is a guitar-led symphonic prog album which is still relevant and really enjoyable all these years later. There will be some who may be put off by the Arthurian concept in the middle, but I have no issue with it whatsoever. Again, a self-release with a good booklet containing all the lyrics, this is a really good starting place for progheads to discover Persephone's Dream.

 Evening Mirage by PERSEPHONE'S DREAM album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.05 | 3 ratings

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Evening Mirage
Persephone's Dream Heavy Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

3 stars At some point in 2019 I heard that Persephone's Dream had signed to MRR and was going to be releasing a new album for the first time in nine years. My ears pricked up at that, as I recalled reviewing two of their albums some time ago, and a quick check of TPU Vol 2 showed that was back in 2002 when I reviewed their second and third albums. I had never heard their debut, or any of their later releases, so I was determined to change that, so here we go. The debut was released back in 1997 when the band were actually a duo of Rowen Poole (6, 7 and 12 string electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, voices) and Chris Siegle (5 string bass, drums, percussion, keyboards and voices), along with Judilynn Niedercorn (vocals) who is not listed as a member of the band, so I presume this was a session gig. Rowen and Chris are still with the band today, although Chris wasn't involved with the band for a spell. This is the only album with Niedercorn, as she was replaced by Karin Nicely before the next album, 'Moonspell', and I can't say I am too surprised as it is the vocals which are definitely the weakest part on this album. When someone is singing in a more delicate manner, then there needs to be total control and power throughout, and while there were some great female singers in the prog world in the 90's, they were less prevalent than they are now, and while Debbie Chapman (Legend) and Tracy Hitchings (Quasar, Landmarq etc) immediately spring to mind both of those musicians had far more control. It is quite frustrating as there are times when Niedercorn's vocals are spot on, but others they are just not quite right.

Rush is an obvious influence on the music on the album, and while there are some keyboards these are few and far between, with the focus normally on the voice or the guitar (alongside some delicious bass). The album doesn't feel well connected at times, but that probably isn't surprising as this process took a few years to complete. For a self- release, the booklet is substantial, and as well as including artwork and all lyrics it also states when the lyrics were written, when the music was recorded, and when the vocals were recorded. When it is just Rowen and Chris it feels far more together, with the two of them obviously connected very deeply, as the instrumental "Press Zero For Assistance" demonstrates.

This does have the feeling of a project as opposed to a band, and of musicians working their way towards what they wanted to achieve. It was from this that they brought in Karin Nicely (vocals) and drummer for Ed Wiancko for 1999's 'Moonspell" before further adding keyboard player Kim Finney and percussionist John Tallent for 2001's 'Opposition'. For those who already know the band then tis was the starting point for their journey more than 20 years ago, but not the best starting place for people just discovering the band.

 Anomalous Propagation by PERSEPHONE'S DREAM album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.07 | 6 ratings

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Anomalous Propagation
Persephone's Dream Heavy Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

2 stars In 1993, a guitarist named Rowen Poole and a bassist named Chris Siegel found a vocalist by the name of Judilynn Neidercorn got together and created an album called "Evening Mirage" under the moniker of "Persephone's Dream". In 1998, some changes were made and Karin Nicely became vocalist and drummer Ed Wiancko joined the band. The music started becoming longer and a bit more complex, and in order to take the show on the road, they added John Tallent on percussion and Kim Finney on keyboards in 2000.

In October of 2019, the band is still going strong as they released their 6th album "Anomalous Propagation" 9 years after their previous release. To say that the band came out of their hiatus relatively unscathed would be an understatement as the band lineup is completely changed from those earlier days, except for the original duo that founded the band. The current line-up consists of Rowen and Chris on their original instruments and adding in synths to both of their contributions, but beyond that, everyone else has changed. Heidi Engel is now on vocals, Jim Puskar on drums and percussion, Jason English on guitars and vocals, and Laura Martin on pianos and keys along with vocals. The band has definitely gone through a lot of personnel in their time. "Anomalous Propagation" consists of 11 tracks and has a robust run-time of just over 74 minutes.

"Red Light Syndrome" (8:10) (with lyrics by Heidi) starts it all off with a complex, sometimes soft, sometimes heavy track. The verses tend to be deceptively simple while the chorus is more complicated with heavy progressive sounds. Some of the vocals seem to be a bit off as far as tone, and I don't think that is intentional, at least it doesn't seem to be. Granted, the instrumental parts don't necessarily follow the vocal melody, so it is obviously difficult to sing on key, but the vocalist's delivery isn't really that appealing. The music itself is excellent, though, with some great guitar and keyboard work, and a level of complexity. There is some band banter in the middle of the track as the band resets for a very interesting turn of style as the singing turns into a layered, almost operatic style and the music intensifies quite well. This change is a turn for the better, for sure, as things get more interesting, but before the end, it returns to its questionable state felt mostly in the vocals. At the end, Heidi says "Nine more songs to go." Hopefully they are better, at least from her end.

"Surveillance" (5:50) has an Alan Parsons/Pink Floyd feel to it and the vocals starts out as spoken word, and then regular singing follows. Again, things seem to be a bit off between the instrumentals and vocals. The music is a bit lighter here, and I would rather hear the vocalist do the spoken sections. Also, again, the music is in a better league than the vocals. It's really too bad that things don't seem to mesh up between the two, because the music itself is quite good. Unfortunately, things don't change as the album goes on. The stirring and catchy intro to "Desponia's Dagger (10:45) starts off promising with a nice "Rush"-like bass line, but now it seems like the entire band is off. It is more noticeable as the intro tries to catch the solid groove, but now it all sounds off-beat. Also, you can hear some great ideas here, but the music needs a high level of tightness in the band to really be good, and it just doesn't get there. It comes across quite messy.

Going through the album, you keep hoping that things will get better, because the great ideas keep trying to shine through and the progressive level is there, but it is very distracting that everything just doesn't seem to come together very well. It ends up sounding very disjointed and out of sync. The first part of the album just seemed to be an issue with the vocals being out of synch, but after a few listens, you notice that things are also a bit off there too. It's really too bad that this issue wasn't worked out, because it could have been a decent album with the excellent ideas that are here, but that all comes to naught when it is all put together. In the end, it all just becomes very difficult to listen to.

 Opposition by PERSEPHONE'S DREAM album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.88 | 7 ratings

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Opposition
Persephone's Dream Heavy Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars 'Opposition' came out in 2001 and the band had grown to a musical six-piece with the inclusion of Kim Finney on keyboards and John Tallent on percussion. It is interesting in the booklet to see that Jonathan Fleischman (lighting and stage show design) and Audre (artwork and web design) are all credited as band members. I must mention the booklet design, as it is one of the finest you will see, with great artwork accompanying each set of lyrics. The booklet has also been printed on a different quality paper to normal so that it is not glossy which gives it a tactile sensation reminiscent of old album covers.

Musically the band has decided to move into a darker and heavier sphere, with Karin's distinctive vocals rising over the top. While some songs tend to fit a bit more neatly into the neo- prog mould (although not completely by any stretch of the imagination), there are plenty of other influences such as Ozric Tentacles that clearly come through. Of the two I felt that in many ways this was the more complete album, one that makes more sense when listened to in it's entirety, but in some ways some of the sheer experimentalism and therefore 'difference' of the previous album are missing.

Originally appeared in Feedback #70, Oct 02

 Moonspell by PERSEPHONE'S DREAM album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.79 | 10 ratings

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Moonspell
Persephone's Dream Heavy Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars Persephone's Dream are a female fronted progressive rock band hailing from America, and 'Moonspell' was their first album as a four-piece when Rowen Poole (guitars/keys) and Chris Siegle (bass/keyboards) were joined by Karin Nicely (vocals) and Ed Wiancko (drums). When I initially started playing the album I was taken not only by how strong the vocals and instrumentation were, but also on the care that had gone into the production and the atmospheric spoken introduction to the opening number, "Millennium Moon". I soon had the band's musical direction worked out, that they were a modern version of Renaissance, or did I?

By the time I had finished playing the album all the way through for the first time I found that not only was I impressed but also quite confused. There are just so many different strands being brought together, both lyrically and musically. Take "Learning Curve" for example. It is starts off gentle with plenty of acoustic guitar and folk influences, but the percussion on the first verse is quite at odds to the music and when the lyrics are listened to the realisation dawns that the song is dealing with the subject of date rape. As the songs progresses the electric guitar becomes much more important and the mood changes throughout the piece. Some of the songs are quite strange in their approach with "Earth Dreams" the longest on the album at over 12 minutes. It is quite a surreal instrumental, which has more than a hint of New Age, okay it is full blown New Age and in many ways is quite at odds with the rest of the album.

But overall did enjoy the album? A resounding "Yes". This is a prog band that is truly trying to be that, bringing together styles and music in a way quite dissimilar to others in the genre.

Originally appeared in Feedback #70, Oct 02

 Pan - An Urban Pastoral by PERSEPHONE'S DREAM album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.89 | 94 ratings

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Pan - An Urban Pastoral
Persephone's Dream Heavy Prog

Review by CCVP
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Impressive is the word

Persephone's Dream is an american progressive rock band which I have my first contact a couple of years ago when they were kind enough to spare an album of their to me for the purpose of reviewing it.

The band presents us, with their album Pan: An Urban Pastoral, some quite pleasant progressive rock symphony about the Ancient World's mythology, more specifically Greek mythology, dealing about Pan's endeavors and the dealings he is in on both pastoral and urban life. The theme of the album, however interesting it might look, pales when compared to the music and its beautiful melodies presented by the band, the real front-runners of this piece.

Without any previous knowledge of this band and with absolutely no source of information to retrieve anything from, I was skeptical about their ability to deliver, but fortunately I was wrong. The album manages to smoothly evolve from start to finish, without any somersaults or bumpy occasions, and work every musical idea well enough to make them stretch out a complete "sentence", but for the right amount of time so that it does not get tiresome; they also make a very decent usage of the multiple vocalists they have, balancing them throughout the album and stirring even more variety into their musical melting pot.

As far as the instruments go, it is important to point out that the focus is shared between the guitars and the keyboards, with the bass, the drums and the percussion, in spite of being very important for the end result, only have a secondary place in the scheme of things here; they don't actually get overshadowed, but they do not stand in the forefront either, they are just there, complementing the lines, filling the layers and making the music, the band, sound whole, complete, good, filling the bases for the harmony to be built upon.

The songs develop into eachother, one becoming the other as they progress, what is absolutely necessary in an album that tries to encompass a story in a single piece; developing a musical theme or idea from a song eventually leads to the main or opening theme for the next song ans so forth. Another point that give the impression that the whole album is one single piece is the recurring themes: from time to time themes are introduced and reintroduced, giving the impression that everything is connected and is only one piece that just happen to be divided divided for whatever reason.

The production and mixing aren't special, but do their job very well, portraying the instruments and the voices clearly and without letting anybody be hidden by the others, for the most part. The male vocals, however, are an exception; I feel that they sound as a buzz, as if they were being singed by a kazoo, in a gross exaggeration, and correcting that would be great, even though it does not threat the experience.

Rating and final thoughts

Pan: An Urban Pastoral is, from start to finish, a pleasant and coherent piece of progressive rock in a way that few can be. It feels complete, finished, having everything from start to finish well assembled and organized, without any noticeable gaps. I feel, in spite of all that, that Pan still lacks the amazement factor of a true musical masterpiece, even though that is the only piece that I feel it lacks, as it has everything else needed. For that reason, the best rating in my judgement would be four stars. If the band ever manages to improve what they have here, then I believe we would truly have something very special on our hands.

 Pan - An Urban Pastoral by PERSEPHONE'S DREAM album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.89 | 94 ratings

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Pan - An Urban Pastoral
Persephone's Dream Heavy Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

5 stars Persephone's Dream have made an offering of melody and dense music, poured out onto a labyrinthine canvas of artistic beauty.

Persephone's Dream have provided an astounding triumph of symphonic heavenly headphone bliss. "Pan: an Urban Pastoral" is an astonishing achievement in progressive excellence. The album is a tour de force of passion and power. There are many variations in style but undisputed prog time sigs and structures throughout. Some tracks sound very accessible and at other times are totally dissonant or off kilter. The musicianship is virtuoso with many instruments played to perfection.

The concept is heavy and deeply grounded in solid mythological roots. The story of Pan, the labyrinth, the divinations of goddesses, Daphnis, Icarus, Selene and Erato are all encompassed in the sprawling storyline by Kelly Fletcher, given a modern twist. The CD booklet delves into the storyline in detail following the traditional tale of the protagonist youth who encounters nature in all its splendour, from the initial discovery of the leaf, meadows, the sky, and birdsong, the perpetual soundtrack of nature's lifeforce. This is dismissed as an hallucination, and then the concrete and mortar returns reminding him of the reality that nature had been stamped out by the hand of man. The pollution and squalor of the modern crowded city is deplorable to the youth, and he questions why this has happened; why has the violation of nature occurred. His questions lead him to his ultimate destiny. The disenchanted youth wanders in thought and kicks over a pot plant only to see a glowing leaf pulsing with an inner light, to the musical rhythmic patterns and he seems to merge to another time when the meadows were green and everpresent. He encounters the clawed Maenads, who sing to him of his destined lover waiting in the forest. He is to meet the Lord Pan, a horned faun of immeasurable influence on nature. The youth is transported into another forest where he meets mythical creatures, and Pan is there and sings to the youth, causing him to believe in the dream that his heart's desire will come to fruition. With a snap of the fingers Pan transports the youth back to the city. The nature god is surrounded by the massive buildings and crowds, and he instructs the maenads to tell the tale of his past youth, and each ones takes their turn to recount a piece of Pan's story.

To reimagine the storyline, the tracks on the album merge together, at times seamlessly, and the whole is actually greater than the sum of its parts. This album is best heard as one entire listen rather than fragments and pieces separated. The singing is excellent from the aggressive vocals of Jim Wauguman, the Urban Youth, to the soft tones of Ashley Peere, the voice of the Maenads, it never ceases to make this reviewer spellbound by its entrancing magic. There is a real sense of timelessness and the music tends to generate images of grand meadows, beautiful goddesses and darkened forests. The drumming of Scot Harvey is amazing, very solid percussion that focusses at times on triplets and fills and yet keeps a steady metrical pattern so that the songs hang together. Rowen Poole is a terrific guitarist and there are goosebump moments where the guitar chimes in with the violining technique or Gilmour-esque flourishes. Roman Prokopenko is an accomplished bassist and he keeps the rhythms pulsating in each track, at times with very complex basslines. John (J T) Tallent is brimming over with talent (he probably gets that all the time!) and he is great on tom toms, enhancing the tribalistic mystical soundscape. Jim Waugaman is a revelation on keyboards, with some innovative keyboard motifs, repetitive pulses mixed with intricate whirls and dervishes on moog, mellotron and organ. The synths are powerful and drive the album along with an uplifting majestic symphonic atmosphere.

There is also a modern injection of effects, notably the busy traffic of cars on an anonymous highway. There are enchanting sounds of birds whistling signifying happiness, there are a myriad of spoken voices that seem to represent the urgency of a new beginning, and there are rather ethereal effects that may represent tribal and jungle environments. The main drawcard is the music and overall structure, and there are moments where the musicians have a chance to shine in many instrumentals, all of which are well executed. The lengths of tracks varies dramatically, there are interludes, preludes, reprises, transitions and spoken pieces; 8 tracks all of which are less than 2 minutes long. There are some moderate length songs, and these are juxtaposed with lengthy tracks, 4 that clock from 7 to 11 minutes in length. After listening to the album a few times there are certain moments that simply shine like blazing fire and become familiar and joyous to the listener. When Ashley begins to sing the chorus of The Tears of Selene, it is one of the most uplifting moments in prog for this reviewer; a truly spine tingling track, and the quintessential highlight on the album. The whole thing should be heard in its entirety as one long album. However, a track by track analysis of the music may help to clarify why I believe this to be a prog masterpiece.

Prelude begins the concept and in effect follows on from the last song on the album, like a musical cycle, with a vintage scratchy effect; sounding like the stylus on vinyl crackling in the groove. The music is a solo flute sound, like a classical dirge.

This leads seamlessly to a quirky and unnerving montage of voices speaking in many languages, repeating phrases about Pan. Invocation is supposed to be voices of earth with the dramatis personae of Babel-esque tongues including French, Hindi, Cantonese and Indonesian.

This intros the wonderful 7 and a half minute instrumental, Pan's Labyrinth where the album really takes off. It begins with high pitched pan pipe sounds using a moog synthesizer. The keyboards are a dominant force, complimented by guitars and steady drums. There are some odd metrical figures and symphonic pastoral shades that are blended with furious triggerfinger keyboard shapes, Wakeman style. Hammond and mellotron attacks are augmented by sporadic drumming and a fusion of heavy prog riffs. It is a simply wonderful piece of music.

Those Who Remember begins with heavy traffic sounds, perhaps showing how nature has been overwhelmed by the concrete jungle of modernity. The track takes on a beauty of its own with Ashley's vocals that are high soprano and emotionally charged. The sweet presence of the keyboards is a dynamic sound. The song sounds like Mostly Autumn's style, nature, peace, the environment and the praise of creation at the forefront of the concept.

Chaossong chimes along with waterfalls flowing and birds twittering their peace song. The instrumental sounds like nature has found a voice and is crying out for freedom. The music surges along with peaceful bell tones and birdsong, an intro to the excellent following track.

"The world is dying, leaving me awake, aware, regretful for my life"; the vocals are given a powerful plea to awaken the sleeping ignorant humanity that destroyed the lush green forests for human greed and modernisation. Mid way through Sidewalk Soliloquy the time sig changes to a quicker tempo with some mystical female choral voices, beautifully harmonised representing the tale of the Maenads, the impending doom of natural creative forces fighting against the cemented sidewalks and massive manmade constructions suffocating the environment.

The next few tracks merge into another to create one long piece seamlessly fused together and it is difficult to tell where one ends and another begins. Denouement of a God is a song with a powerful beat and Jim's strong vocals as the Youth comes to grips with how nature has been destroyed. Le Defile Satyrique launches with an effect of rain cascading down with a drum pounding instrumental that works as a nice transition into Maenads, Melody and Meter. This song has a few time sigs that shift and change and the dynamic vocal of Jim; "make an offering of melody and sacrifice meter, don't pray to me, only come dance with me." Ubi Sunt has a wonderful melody and aggressive pleading vocals; "where are the woods, where are the herds, and the shepherd boys", as the protagonist surveys the carnage of modern life that has replaced the forests and green foliage with brick and mortar.

One of the best tracks is The Seduction of Daphnis that reprises parts of previous songs, and trades off between beauty and darkness, of tension and release, switching time signatures at will and using a variance of instruments to provide cadence and cascade. Ashley's vocals are more improvised and discordant to the music. Jim has some of his best vocals here; "make an offering of soul and body" and "run with me down to the willows, and lie down by my side." Ashley continues the feel of a magical dreamscape, and there is a heavenly harp sound. I love that lyric; "Come I'll sing to you the chaos song" by Jim and Ashley. The track has a surge of foreboding atmospherics with an emphasis on atonal music, minimalist piano at times, and blasts of Hammond and percussion.

The quirky weird and humoresque Nectar of the Gods is a playful carnival sound with some truly unique keyboards. The strange theatrical vocals of Ashley and bird whistles provide an early Genesis Gabriel like style. The drunken lyrics are as weird as it gets; "quick tipped, her glass to be, the first to drink, to drink insanity." Then after this vaudeville approach, it gets serious with a change in style. The low drone makes the atmosphere darken along with Ashley's ghostly Celtic vocals, which may remind one of Enya; the effect is ethereal and haunting; "sobriety cannot be saved, for madness is divine".

This merges into Youth's Denial where the drone widens into broader brushstrokes of spacey nuances. Then a prog riff on Hammond resounds with a very Roger Waters-like vocal from Jim; "only a vision of folly and flight, I've dreamed late in the night, of the city." The melody on this song is highly infectious and began to haunt me long after the album was over. A definitive highlight on this album.

The Temptation of Icarus is a much heavier song with a driving keyboard and guitar riff that ascends and descends constantly. Jim is forceful on vocals; "you don't know the night has fallen, you tempt my soul to fly, too high." The time sig changes into a brilliant instrumental with spacey effects and a grand guitar riff. The bassline is mesmerising on this, but the way those keyboards interact with the guitars is incredible.

Selene Rising returns to familiar melodies heard before, and then slows into a majestic climax with intricate keyboard and guitar. I am totally hypnotised by that wondrous sound the band generates. The time sigs change dramatically to the next motif that gets faster and faster till we move into the ingenious next track.

Undoubtedly my favourite track on the album, The Tears of Selene has an acoustic rhythm and subtle keyboards that are multi layered. The Heather Findlay style vocals of Ashley are enchanting with a mesmeric beauty. Her high operatic vocals are simply beauty personified. The lyrics themselves are inspired; "rhyme and reason, morning sun, through the blinds, cutting skin, spinning colours inside out, mental treason, onward through, the night it goes into dawn." The song builds gradually and the music rises to a crescendo before the chorus. I get chills when the chorus comes in with "Selene, Selene, midnight dream, eternal lover, Selene, Selene, crashing waves through the walls of time, and distant days." The piano is a virtuoso triumph and the way guitars violin over the surface is dreamy, a genuine moment of transfixing reverie. The track continues to build with the orchestrated symphonic swathes of keyboard. Then there are staccato blasts of sound and the acoustic flourishes begin again. Ashley's sweet voice returns, "long forgotten summer days, we were there side by side, trapped in a rhapsody of sound, on a lonely distant wind, you called me." Once again the song takes on that spine tingling flavour when the chorus pounds out. At the end of the song I know I have heard a masterpiece song. Can it get better, or will the album transcend into mediocrity or run out of steam as so many concept albums are prone to do. I needn't have worried. The album actually continues to provide innovation and heart pounding prog rock.

Erato's Pulse is the longest song clocking 11 minutes, and is driven with very strong prog time sigs and instrumentation. Once again Ashley's vocals are exquisite, and the form of the song takes many detours and surprises with shifts in mood. The keyboard domination is complimented with chimes, huge bass motifs and an astounding hypnotic rhythm. The keyboards and bass drum act as a pulse keeping a rhythmic signature while we hear noises like jungle animals, tribal tom toms, cymbals and retro synth strings. The music locks into this pulse for a time and sounds spacey as Ashley sings; "they hide now in shadow, they whisper now in darkness, they lead with a vision, and mould the dreams from within." The music motorvates along fluidly with organic guitar swells and imaginative basslines. When the band take off in full flight like this they are irresistible. The track turns quite dark towards the end, with dissonant piano stabs, and a chilling finale, finally completed by a loud gong and jungle atmospherics of crickets chirping, the swamp sounds of sticky heat and mosquito infested foliage. The track is a definitive highlight and one to savour for those who like prog to be intricate and replete with variations in style.

Silhouette ends the album on a powerful note, the lyrics spelling out the denouement of all that has come before; "the smoke rises into the pregnant air, across the dark skyline, dense music pours onto the crowded streets across the damp bricks." The retro sound is generated with very solid keyboards motifs, almost the 80s synth sound in effect. The melody is quite accessible and those shimmering Hammond flourishes are excellent. Jim's keyboard solos are a feature as always, especially the spacey synths over the bassline and guitar chord shapes. The spoken words come forth to continue the story; "passion and pleasure chase each other into the night across the humid city," and the song changes again with a strong drum beat and some ancient languages. It finishes with crickets chirping, and then the same effect we will hear in the beginning, the scratchy vinyl sound of an ancient classical piece and then the effect of a record stuck in its groove thus signifying, as the lyrics tell us earlier, that the journey has "come full circle"; an endless cycle in the true mythological tradition.

So at the end of the album, I was completely blown away by the surprising attention to detail in the music and storyline. This is a magnum opus for the band, and takes huge risks in terms of extensive instrumental sections, bombastic lyrics and strong time signature changes. Therefore this could have been a disaster with all the risks it takes; it is bold and daring and dominated by a non-compromised environmentalist storyline. The music draws on many progressive influences from Genesis to Pink Floyd, King Crimson to Porcupine Tree, with touches of Mostly Autumn and Yes, and yet retains a balance and freshness to the approach of the material that is distinctly Persephone's Dream. The album somehow holds together thanks to Kelly Fletcher's storyline and the overall musical soundscape. It may take a few listens to be completely immersed in the sound, but the way the music disseminates across every song, creating a whole conceptual framework, works so well due to the passion put into the project. There is a great deal of love and desire injected into the music, and the imagery conjures up apparitions and spectres of the mythical past. The music beckons one to listen, and weaves its spell around the listener with tranquillity and finesse. On every listen I find myself drawn into the dense layers of light and dark, and I can draw from the concepts a different experience, and can enjoy the moments of familiarity as a specific melody begins. The album takes one on an alluring journey that will resonate uniquely with each listener according to their experience. This masterpiece has the ability to grow on the listener like osmosis, and I never tire of the structures and forms of the sheer inventive prog music created. One of the best albums of 2010!

 Pan - An Urban Pastoral by PERSEPHONE'S DREAM album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.89 | 94 ratings

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Pan - An Urban Pastoral
Persephone's Dream Heavy Prog

Review by Epignosis
Special Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

4 stars Pan: An Urban Pastoral is a winding but leisurely journey that gradually increases in both intensity and number of engaging musical themes. For a band classified as heavy prog, this album is decidedly symphonic, relying especially on fluid keyboards and agile instrumental passages. I won't pretend to grasp the convoluted prologue in the CD's booklet (which irritatingly alternates between present and past-tense verbs)- suffice it to say it crafts a juxtaposition of an impassioned satyr deity from the wilderness with an unnamed modern youth, of the city, one who is bored and desensitized. Overall, the album is a tremendous achievement, one I have enjoyed visiting. The two highlights of the album are the numinous keyboards of Jim Waugaman and the striking vocal performances of Ashley Peer, whose inflection makes me think of Linn Berggren of Ace of Base. The glaring flaw of the album is the middle section, particularly the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth tracks, which, although containing some good ideas, are very choppy compositions. The final trio of tracks are undeniably the highlight- emotionally everything the album builds toward, and what I look forward to each time I enjoy Pan: An Urban Pastoral.

"Prelude" A vintage-sounding instrumental opens the album.

"Invocation" Many people speak in a variety of languages.

"Pan's Labyrinth" The moment I heard the whistling synthesizer lines fluttering over heavy rock accents, I knew I would be in for a treat. The bulk of the track takes the form of upbeat, jazzy keyboard-led rock. I particularly love the sounds of the bass and drums, both of them light and airy, not stifled by effects or too much volume.

"Those Who Remember" The sounds of the crowded city fill the beginning of this track, which fade away, leaving the song of birds, quiet music, and a stunning, hypnotic female vocal in its wake.

"Chaosong" This is a beautiful musical theme.

"Sidewalk Soliloquy" Contrasting the handsome feminine vocals from before, a harsh male's singing grates over a clean background from the band.

"Chaosong Reprise" The theme of "Choassong" returns with a fuller ensemble.

"Denouement of a God" Continuing with the rhythm of "Chaossong," this adds raspy vocals.

"Le Defile Satyrique" Light percussion fills this brief interlude.

"Maenads, Melody and Meter" As the intensity builds, Peer's strong vocal becomes slightly shrouded in spellbinding effects, offering a more regal performance.

"Ubi Sunt" Here is another short song featuring harsh vocals. The music remains light, depending on drums and piano.

"The Seduction of Daphnis" The vocal melody doesn't flow with the erratic, powerful rhythm, even though it shares those characteristics. The music sits in contrast with that imperial voice's reappearance over light piano.

"Nectar of the Gods" The album suddenly changes texture, becoming something quirkier and frankly, a trifle harebrained.

"Youth's Denial" The music returns to more solidly symphonic turf, relying on piano, organ, and jarring vocals.

"The Temptation of Icarus" A heavier bit of music, this features exquisite drumming.

"Selene Rising" The prelude to one of the best songs on the album uses various rhythms and tempos in a short span of time; in terms of tone, it reminds me very much of Styx.

"The Tears of Selene" At last, the most enchanting segment of this album takes off: Mystical tones, acoustic guitar, and Peer's commanding voice make for a superior symphonic song, complete with a memorable and captivating refrain. The delicate bass and piano interplay throughout the middle is superb, reminiscent of Renaissance.

"Erato's Pulse" Peer's nearly a cappella voice builds mightily, culminating in a majestic synthesizer passage. The almost exotic melodies and unusual cadence, followed by mystical music, create a captivating experience. The instrumental midsection is a lengthy passage with Eastern influences.

"Silhouette" The closer opens with a pleasing groove alongside shimmering keyboard tones. While the song is repetitive, it in no way becomes wearisome.

Thanks to atavachron for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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