Persephone's Dream - Moonspell

Year of Release: 1999
Label: self-released/Pup In A Cup Productions
Catalog Number: PD25155-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 65:47:00

Just when you think you have Persephone's Dream pegged as an often ethereal rock band, they throw you a curve by including an ambient, world music piece. And then throw you another curve with some punchier rock pieces. In other words, Persephone's Dream's Moonspell is an eclectic mix of styles that works.

Moonspell is the band's 1999 debut, and it is a stunning one. "Millennium Moon" has shades of Enya, Mary Black, and other Celtic/Irish themed artists, though here Karin Nicely's vocals are higher than the latter and less effects-laden as the former. Maybe Capercaille is a closer comparison overall. Rowen Poole (guitars), Ed Wiancko (drums, percussion), and Chris Siegle (bass, keyboards) round out the sound (each provide backing vocals as well). "Euphoria" works on two levels - one, languid vocals from Nicely, and two, pulsing percussion from Wiancko and bass from Siegle. These two extremes create a dynamic that is like, well, like contained euphoria. Sedate on the outside, agitated on the inside.

"Learning Curve" is one of the highlights of this album, where over a driving rock rhythm, Nicely's vocals soar (here I thought of Terri Nunn). It puts a beautiful sheen on an ugly subject, as it tackles in an honest manner the subject of date rape. That isn't to say that glorifies anything, certainly it's quite the opposite. But the sound of the piece, the presentation, is wonderful with a chorus that is instantly memorable. And then when you look at the lyrics, you realize that the subject matter is dark. Not gritty or detailed mind you -- if were visualized, it'd be played in soft focus, lots of shadows -- violence implied rather than shown. It taps into a concern (to understate it) that I know many women have of the nice guy they're dating suddenly turning ugly. What don't you know until it's too late? What hints do you overlook...

"Alternate Reality" gives us the metallic rock that we see more of later on Opposition -- the swirl of grinding guitars, throbbing bass, pounding drums catch you up and carry you along.

"Earth Dreams" is the ambient piece, a la Steve Roach. Drums and percussion take the point here, Wiancko playing bongos mainly, acoustic and unembellished. Their natural sound and acoustics provides all the texture and contrast necessary. A shaker and some percussive accents do join in two minutes or so later, though, adding not detracting from the piece. At eight minutes in, rattling bones and shimmering symbols evoke both serenity and the sense that something will soon shake up this paradise. This moves in a section that seems ritualistic, repeated rhythms evoke both African and Native American dances. This leads us to the very dark, heavy "Electronic Exotic." Poole's deep, grinding guitar and Nicely's sultry delivery give us a very sexy track. Wiancko's electronic percussion thunders, marching this track forward. Though this last element also made me think of Phil Collins (and of the drum sound in "In The Air Tonight" only bulked up). A modem dials in and we're connected ... rather than phone sex, per se, we've got modem sex. Yeh, this track struts, preens ... if you play nice, even whips you a little. The Internet has become a much bigger presence in music -- how many albums in the last few years were ""? And Rush had their "love over the Internet" track on Test For Echo ("Virtuality"), Ian Anderson remarked upon a similar thing with Jethro Tull's "Dot.Com." (on J-Tull Dot Com) ... well, somehow this seems the more likely scenario. As much as I like "Dot.Com," I see it becoming quaint in a few years. Admittedly the sound of modem dialing in here might become antiquated as more and more folks get cable or DSL. And in terms of this song, will give a new meaning to the term "quickie." I'm simplifying this, of course.

It's funny, in a way, that I mention Rush, because the heavy opening to "Full Moon" reminds me very much of Rush -- dark and dense, the only lightness brought about by Poole's guitar (with lyrical, Petrucci overtones during the verses) and Nicely's Merchant like vocals. It is maybe a little too dense, though the ending is moody and sparse with voices and percussion only.

The band gets into a danceable groove with "Altar Of Desire," where the track contrasts between grinding, dark passages and light and airy passages. There is a cool energy at work here; Poole cutting huge swaths of sound with his slightly distorted guitar. A similar feel is given to "Worry Beads."

The band comes full circle with "Doorways" which is a lighter track in the manner of those that opened the album. Here Nicely sounds the most like Natalie Merchant, so much so that if this were played to an unknowing audience, one might think it actually was. Hmm...maybe that's the entr´ into major radio airplay?

Anyway, if you haven't guessed by now, I really like this. It is a stunning debut, and if there isn't a buzz about this band, there certainly should be. Seek out both this and their latest, Opposition.

The band is scheduled for the inaugural Philadelphia Underground Music and Culture Festival on June 1, 2002, put on by the also appearing Philly band The Red Masque, as well as at Interfest over the September 6 -7, 2002 weekend.

Millennium Moon (4:55) / Evident Dreams (5:07) / Perigee (0:42) / Euphoria (6:23) / Learning Curve (4:49) / Alternate Reality (4:06) / Earth Dreams (12:26) / Electronic Exotic (6:17) / Full Moon (4:37) / Apogee (1:45) / Altar Of Desire (5:30) / Worry Beads (4:39) / Doorways (4:31)

Rowan Poole - 6, 7 and 12 string guitars, keyboards, backing vocals, lyrics
Ed Wiancko - acoustic and electronic drums, percussion, backing vocals
Chris Siegle - 5 string bass, keyboards, backing vocals
Karin Nicely - vocals and lyrics

Evening Mirage (1997)
Moonspell (1999)
Opposition (2001)
Pyre Of Dreams (2007)
Pan: An Urban Pastoral (2010)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: April 7th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 918
Language: english


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