Pendragon has been following their own path and forging their own brand of English neo-progressive rock for better than thirty years. Founder and principal Nick Barrett introduced some modern themes in the most successful Pure from 2008. Uncharacteristic to their DIY ethic, Pendragon has since signed with a label Snapper/Madfish music, for greater visibility. So what does the follow up, Passion, have in store for us?
Expect a crossroads of traditional prog and those aforementioned modern elements. They latter is easily identifiable on the opener and title cut, Passion, with heavy rock feel and gruff vocals over a thick synth layer. Feeding Frenzy has a similar modern heavy feel yet moves like a less progish melodic rocker. The shortest number with the longest title, It's Just a Matter of Not Getting Caught, is like a thick and heavy Pink Floyd washed through Anathema.
Yet Pendragon develops more traditional prog in the two longest pieces, Empathy and This Green and Pleasant Land. To the former, beginning with that modern heavy feel, it quickly develops into atmospheric and ethereal song with layers of synths and a soaring guitar solo. This Green and Pleasant land is but more perplexing. It starts mostly with vocals over synths, but then moves to a guitar-oriented, Floydish, composition. The two merge, and with the catchy chorus, cause the piece to soar. Then about eight and half minutes in it turns into an almost rowdy melodic prog rocker, only to end with some very weird ... what? In between these two motifs is Skara Brae which squarely blurs both. It can be heavy and chunky early on, only offer sublime moments from the vocals and guitar, later followed by the most expansive, and quirky, keyboard work on the album.
Mostly, Passion is robust, creative, and entertaining. However, it languishes during the aforementioned It's Just a Matter of Not Getting Caught, which seems more like a segue or afterthought. And then there's Your Black Heart, a curious and minimalist arrangement, mostly vocals and piano until the closing (very good) melancholy guitar solo. Both are interesting, with Your Black Heart being more persuasive and uplifting.
Nevertheless, Passion is intriguing, complicated, and entertaining. Those who were persuaded by Pendragon's talent and creativity on Pure will likely be pleased with Passion; it's more of the same, but not.