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Persona Non Grata: Shade In the Light

From the land of Greece comes progressive metal band Persona Non Grata and their debut for Sensory Records, titled Shade In the Light. From the opening keyboard melodies and ensuing massive power chords of "Before the Reason", you know right off the bat what type of ride you are going to be in store for here, so the best thing to do is fasten your seat belt and enjoy the journey. Lead singer Bill Axiotis instantly draws comparisons to Queensryche belter Geoff Tate and Fates Warning/Redemption vocalist Ray Alder, as he soars over the top of these 10 tracks with his powerful, high pitched wail. The band has been around since 2003, taking a few years to solidify their line-up and begin the writing & recording process which would end up being Shade In the Light. Along with Axiotis, the band is comprised of founding members John Ioannidis (keyboards) & Chris Gatsos (guitars), Chris Vogiatzis (bass), and Akis Gavalas (drums). Together these guys have created a powerful album here, and one that should appeal to just about any progressive metal fan.

One thing you quickly notice when making your way through this CD, is that the band doesn't try to bludgeon you with endless, flashy chops, so instead of taking the Dream Theater route, comparisons are closer to the aforementioned Queensryche, Fates Warning, Vanden Plas, Threshold, and Circus Maximus, as Persona Non Grata focus on strong melodies and dramatic arrangements rather than showing off their soloing ability. Not that there's not plenty of instrumental pizzaz here, just check out Gatsos' tasty guitar solos and Ioannidis' stunning piano,organ, and syth work on "Dual Unity" and "Single Unity" for proof of their skills. However, it's their ability to crank out heavy, catchy, progressive metal numbers with plenty of symphonic and crunchy elements, and most importantly memorable melodies, that really works for this band. Tracks like "Collision Course", the power ballad "Fives", and the complex title track, are all songs that stick in your head long after the CD has stopped playing. As precise as the instrumentation is here, it's the vocals of Axiotis that really steals the show, his poignant, powerful pipes on the passionate "Longing" is just breathtaking, as he reaches heights that Geoff Tate used to achieve many moons ago but couldn't dream of going to these days. His varied attack on the proggy "Personal Gratitude" blends in perfectly with the layered sounds from the band, as they inject heavy riffs, sitar, walls of keyboards, female backing vocals, and intricate rhythms into the fray. If it's virtuoso playing you want, there's plenty of that on the closing number "Stillness", a intricate yet symphonic piece with plenty of wild guitar/keyboard/bass/drum interplay, Axiotis playing the ring leader with his majestic, soaring vocals.

Shade In the Light is one of those CD's that doesn't quite make a huge impact on first listen, but slowly uncovers many treasures with each passing listen. Rather than try and impress the listener with quick thrills and lots of flash, Persona Non Grata have crafted a moody, textured, and multi-layered gem here with their debut that forces the listener to really pay attention to divulge all of its rewards. Fans of the darker and certainly melodic end of the progressive metal spectrum would be well advised to check this out.

Track Listing
01. Before The Reason
02. Dual Unity
03. Single Unity
04. Collision Course
05. Fives
06. Shade In The Light
07. Longing
08. Empty Shadows
09. Personal Gratitude
10. Stillness

Added: May 1st 2009
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 3251
Language: english

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Persona Non Grata: Shade In the Light
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-05-01 06:47:48
My Score:

According to their website and label, Persona Non Grata are a Greek band playing Progressive Metal in the style of Vanden Plas, Circus Maximus, and Poverty's No Crime, which alludes to them being a very melodic band favouring more compact songs to the lengthier, complex numbers.

However, now that I've been playing this album for months, I feel the only apt comparison is Poverty's No Crime in that Persona Non Grata, too, pens songs that differ very slightly from each other, mostly staying in their comfort zone. There is a fair amount of crunch, which is introduced right off the bat with the opening song "Before the Reason." Dense synth textures are replaced by gargantuan bass lines and crunchy guitar riffs whilst melodic vocals lend themselves to both smooth, crystalline deliveries as well as throatier voicings, but there is not a single track here that has been composed with a different mindset.

Vocalist Bill Axiotis' singing is most comparable to the likes of Geoff Tate circa Promised Land, and Ray Alder, but during the more gruff passages he recalls Tom Englund from Evergrey. On "Dual Unity," among the standout cuts on the album, the slow, dramatic singing atop a moving piano line is dead-on Englund, but as the band picks up tempo and throws heavier riffs into the mix, with the bass guitar highlighting the whole arrangement, Axiotis is also reminiscent of Ray Alder. Without question, his most daring performance is on the title track, where he delves into almost deathy growls to contrast his more operatic singing. However, it does sound like he is stretching out of his range, which may turn some fans off. Otherwise, this is easily the most progressive tune on the album, with uber-heavy machine-gun riffery and weird synth extrapolations.

The lead guitar playing proves fresh and exciting on first listen, but as one delves deeper into the album, it is impossible to ignore that each and every tune possesses the same kind of soloing -- it almost feels like they broke a long ten-minute solo into pieces and injected the compositions with those segments. He certainly has great instrumental ability, as exposed on "Personal Gratitude," the other noteworthy tune which utilises some sitar playing and distant female vocals. However, in terms of keyboards, John Ioannidis' opening melody is total Pain of Salvation worship during their Remedy Lane sessions.

In between these tunes are the power ballads "Longing" and "Fives" as well as the somewhat effect-laden "Empty Shadows" whose guitar melody is the most memorable thing on the whole disc. Unfortunately they fully exploit this melody, first with oversaturated fretwork and then with vocal lines that are entirely based on it. Needless to say, it somewhat loses its initial impact.

By no means is this a disappointing album given Wastefall and Fragile Vastness', two other Greek prog bands, debut albums weren't groundbreaking either. With continued work, particularly in the songwriting department, and a producer who may refine the vocals a bit, they could leave a bigger imprint on the scene with the second album. Its shortcomings notwithstanding, it's a shame a 2009 prog release has gone so unnoticed so far.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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