Unlike its flightier and fun-time older sibling that goes by the name of rock and roll, progressive rock has always had something to say. Sadly, much of what it had to say was the product of reading too many Tolkien novels. Thankfully, Pentral, have a much more focused message running through their music, one that is powerful and poignant, relevant and contemporary and which doesn’t feature, rings, dragons or dark lords.
Hailing from northern Brazil, it should come as little surprise to learn that this tasteful debut album, What Lies Ahead of Us, concerns itself with the destruction of the Amazon, something that is literally happening on their doorstep. A string of well-received singles, Aiming For The Sun, All My Wounds and Silent Trees have led us this far, but now, with the full scale and scope of an album to uses as a creative canvas, the band get to show us what they can really do.
And what they can do is pretty impressive. Bridging the gap between technical metal and progressive rock, think Rush rather than Yes, they wander between sonic weight and deft creativity, gentle tones and heavy textures, and do so expertly. Letters From Nowhere is a great example of the type of sonic statement that they make, rising up from fragile folk sounds, through chugging rock riffs to hard-hitting metallic symphonics, able to move between brutality and beauty, grace and groove, delicacy and drive effortlessly.
Of course, it’s a concept album, once a term that came with lots of loaded meaning, but in the hands of Pentral becoming something made anew for the modern age. It drives home, not only the destruction of the rainforest but the obliteration of the lives of those who make their home there, not to mention the overall effect on the planet as a whole.
It is a masterful debut release, one that works on a musical level, filled with solid and virtuosic playing, but it also works as a timely warning of how our actions are irrevocably changing the only planet that we have ever called home.
Progressive rock is back on the menu and this time it has an axe to grind. So to speak!