My perspective on progressive metal in general is one of appreciation and respect. I appreciate the fact that the music must be really difficult to compose and perform; I respect the musicians that can pull it off. I have appreciation and respect for most prog metal bands. There are even a few of them that I actually like. I like Persona Non Grata’s latest release, Quantum Leap.
So how do you compare prog bands? “My solo is longer than yours?” “My improvised piano sonata was more unexpected than your electric flute overture?” I mean all prog bands are good, that’s pretty much their license to operate. By definition, you can’t have a bad prog band. Every prog musician is like a fricken modern day Bach. The point is the biggest struggle for a prog band is differentiation. How does a prog band stand out in a sea of otherwise outrageous talent? Reminds me of the Olympics filled with incredible athletes looking to best each other by milliseconds. The unforgettable ones are not only the top in the field, but there is something distinctive about them that sets them apart other than talent.
Ironically, from the home of the Olympics come prog metal rockers, Persona Non Grata (PNG). In 2003 keyboardist John Ioannidis teamed up with guitarist Chris Gatsos. Original vocalist Bill Axiotis joined and they rounded out the band with studio musicians. Now, what says prog more than a keyboardist mastermind and studio musicians made full-time band members? Just saying.
Okay, their first album released in 2009, Shade in the Light, garnered fair reviews and still holds up well today. For me, at least, it sounds like typical prog metal—overly talented musicians putting out overly orchestrated pieces. Nothing too unusual in the prog scene. Fast forward, or rather quantum leap, to Dec. 2011 and their next full-length offering, Quantum Leap. See how I did that that? Nifty, eh? New to the band are vocalist, Aris Pirris, and bass player, Apostolis Kaltsas. And here’s where the differentiation comes in . . .
Quantum Leap kicks off with a crusher tune, “Imaginative Mind”. The song is like a salvo for the new Persona Non Grata—killer bass intro and a vocal treatment that’s, well, different. The next song, “Lend Me a Hand” is stunning—probably the best song on the cd—and then come the rest and they don’t let up. This is a solid slab of distinctive prog metal. What stands out for me the most with PNG is a vocalist who is anything but forgettable. Upon every listening to Quantum Leap I find myself trying to decide if I hate or love Aris’s style. It sticks in my head and I keep coming back for more.
I’m a marathon runner. I build my daily playlist based on type of run I’ll be up to. Short, intense runs call for Fu Manchu, Clutch, Viking Skull. Long, hard runs (12 plus miles) call for symphonic and progressive—something I can lose myself in. Persona Non Grata has made my long run playlist. They bear deep listening, but still offer enough grit to keep the heart pounding.