Pyre of Dreams
In the Greek pantheon, Persephone (whose name means “light destroyer”) is the beautiful goddess of the underworld, abducted by Hades and forced to live in darkness one-third of the year as the sun fades and the plants perish in the cold of winter. If a CGI-laden action movie were realized from this tale and marketed to today’s crowds — a la Troy or Beowulf — I’d imagine the musical soundtrack to be full of glistening keyboards, angelic voices and crunchy guitars.
Who better, then, to listen to upon the celebration of the winter solstice than the regional band Persephone’s Dream? This expansive group, going strong for quite a while on the foundation of guitarist Rowen Poole and percussionist John Tallent, has marched steadily over the past few years from the more traditional ’70s-era progressive rock to a hybrid sound that stands at the crossroads of goth, metal and newer heavy genres. The band could also provide the background tunes to your next Dungeons & Dragons tournament, with its penchant for shadows, dragons and swords. (The band’s “Temple In Time” suite is based on Arthurian legend, and sung from the perspective of both the King and the Lady of the Lake.)
On Pyre of Dreams, its fourth album in ten years, Persephone’s Dream could attract the younger followers of Faith & the Muse, Lacuna Coil, The Gathering and even Evanescence (“Nightfall” makes for a good Amy Lee-style radio single), much as the band retains the loyalty of middle-aged Dream Theater and Queensryche minions.
Every time Persephone’s Dream plays a show, it’s a huge production taking days to set up on an arena-sized stage. And even a cursory listen proves the band spent that much care and attention on this album, as well. The production is lush, layered and impeccable, assisted by Royal Hunt/Silent Force’s frontman DC Cooper. The band employs two distinct female singers — operatic belter Heidi Engel and etherealist Colleen Gray — equally adept at helping the mythology-based lyrics (mostly penned by Poole) take their flights of fancy.
But prog-rock fans should be warned: Don’t look for the uplifting, sunny vibe of Yes or the admittedly Christian Flower Kings. Although I’m sure those groups hold some influence over Persephone’s Dream, the band’s main emphasis lies in the twilit nether regions of pagan myth and magic, as well as Poole’s continuing interest in astrophysics (especially on the songs “Android Dreams” and “Alien Embassy”).
Experiencing this band is really like burying your nose in a 600-page science-fiction or fantasy epic. You begin to identify with the characters and immerse yourself in the alternate universe of the story, and when it finally concludes, you feel rudely awakened back to mundane reality. It’s like being whacked on the side of the head by Excalibur. So save this album for your next bout of extremely lucid dreaming.