Persona - Elusive Reflections (2016)

Dizzy Gillespie had his 'Night In Tunisia' more than 70 years ago; it has since become a jazz standard. But outside of that classic tune, the knowledge of Tunisian music and it's global impact, heavy or otherwise, is a dark spot for many. The year 2016 will change that, for the better, thanks to two rising stars of global metal. Myrath will release their fourth studio album, Legacy, later this week, cementing their place in the progressive power metal hierarchy. But, perhaps just as importantly, Persona will make their presence known for the first time. Their debut album, Elusive Reflections, is likely to attract some of the same misguided criticism as many other female fronted bands, mostly coming from those who'd never actually heard one. One pass through the ten tracks contained herein, and many skeptics will be rendered silent. This is an album that can help to define a genre, instead of the genre clouding the album.

There is always an uphill climb when presenting this type of album to a cynical public; they expect dainty, delicate pieces of music where the female voice at the head of the mix is positioned as such for her look as much as her talent. The assumption is that until she proves her worth to me that she is somehow unable to represent the metal vocalist properly. That is neither an issue nor a liability here; gone are the days of the fragile, submissive female lead. Frontwoman Jelena Dobric is the essence of strength, commanding each passage with a confidence and bluster that any metal vocalist would hope to possess. Her part on He Kills Me More alone is worth the price of admission. But making it even more spectacular is the band's refusal to dumb things down, a practice all too common in female fronted metal. Instead, they've embraced the limitless potential their sound brings, and removed the preconceived boundaries. The guitars carry the sharpened edges, the solos are tight and cohesive, and there is no discernible weakness to be found.

And though it's impact may be understated here, the subtle keyboard and symphonic touches that run through the album like bits of string are exceedingly appreciated. They're unlike what you'd expect going into the album, often times receding into the background for support, rather than standing front and center as the star of any one track. But their presence is as important as any other single element found on the record, often serving as the collective glue that binds the pieces together in their layered form, much in the same way that you'd use spot welds to hold together your growing metal frame.

Perhaps that is what creates such a stirring atmospheric around the entirety of the album. There are no throwaway tracks, let alone a traditional ballad to slow the pace of the record. Blinded, the song that first brought attention to the band in 2015, is as crisp and concise a track as you'll find in modern metal. Holding up the backdrop is a battery of percussion, only strengthened by the presence of bass and keys. It's as if the band are building up that iron throne, piece by shiny piece, and each passing guitar riff is another slab of polished metal being added to the heap. Whether it's the hair swinging thrash in Forgotten, or smooth vocal acrobatics of Torn, Persona avoid the predictability trap that's become a plague of the music industry.

While they aren't reinventing the wheel, Persona are delivering their craft in a way that is equal parts unapologetic and bombastic. And, frankly, why should they cater to the stereotypes that have long stood over the genre like a dark cloud? Now, more than ever, is the time to leave your preconceived notions of gender inequality and superiority at the door. This is music of strength, of conviction, and of power, and it should be handled as such. By the time the last track has come and gone, it won't matter who's holding the mic or where they're from. What matters is what you've heard, contained and compressed into megabytes and kilobytes. The year is still young, but to this very moment, Elusive Reflections stands as the best female fronted metal album of 2016, if not the strongest release overall. And, quite frankly, anyone coming for that throne is going to have a battle ahead.


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