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Persona Non Grata - "Shade in the Light" (CD)

Persona Non Grata - "Shade in the Light" CD cover image

"Shade in the Light" track listing:

1. Before the Reason
2. Dual Unity
3. Single Unity
4. Collision Course
5. Five
6. Shade in the Light
7. Longing
8. Empty Shadows
9. Personal Gratitude
10. Stillness

Reviewed by on March 25, 2011

"Persona Non Grata’s sound is already so well-defined that the record feels like it should be some band’s fifth album, instead of a debut album."

Though the band’s name translates to "an unwelcome person," listeners with discerning prog metal ears will find this to be a very welcome offering. Like a well-paced movie that flows from scene to scene, this album flows from song to song naturally and is treated with true delicacy in parts. Metal is quite often a game of everything-hard-all-the-time, and usually even the softer parts are still loud. Persona Non Grata decided to do things differently with "Shade in the Light."

Guitar nerds, prepare yourselves. Chris Gatsos brings a lot of skills to the table, both metal and non-metal, and also brings a tastefulness with him. With John Ioannidis on keyboards, the keyboard parts seem to dance around the guitar parts, filling in the gaps rather than competing for attention. Only at certain points do they join up to fight, like in the title track and "Empty Shadows," where they will solo with each other or do battle in a solo. Chris Vogiatzis’s bass complements the album by being subtly technical.

One low point of the album is the drums. It’s not that Akis Gavalas doesn’t play well – he's quite good. It's also not that they clash with the rest of the instruments – they fit the sound. What’s wrong is that they still sound relatively fake or replaced with samples from a sample program, even though a real drummer is playing. There isn’t enough of a "live" feel to the drums, which leaves them feeling a bit cold. Luckily, there aren’t many low points. The vocals of Bill Axiotis are definitely a strong point on this album. Axiotis brings a voice comparable to metal great Bruce Dickinson, with even more high range and a more dramatic vibrato.

The band makes the best efforts on songs like "Empty Shadows," "Shade in the Light," "Longing" and "Dual Unity." There’s a definite early "Awake"-era Dream Theater feel to some of the material, though there is a considerable amount of different keyboard patches used to make the Dream Theater comparison valid only at certain times. At times, a B3 organ will unfurl itself slowly, like on "Single Unity." From front to back, attention is paid to every instrument part on the album.

The overall feel of the album is warm, full of memorable melodies and counterpointing soft parts. The songs have real life to them. They’re born and develop with sweeping momentum shifts, shine, and then die in style. That all being said, for a debut album, it’s the equivalent of giving birth to a twenty-year-old. Persona Non Grata’s sound is already so well-defined that the record feels like it should be some band’s fifth album, instead of a debut album.

Highs: Very well-defined sound for a debut album. It’s well-paced and not too rigid or technical for a prog album. It also has soulful virtuosic guitar solos.

Lows: Drum mix and the pitch on some of the vocals.

Bottom line: A phantasmagoria of a prog record.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)