Pencarrow are a new prog band from New Zealand. Their debut album “Dawn Simulation” is quite stunning when it comes to the music. There are some incredible, jaw dropping moments on this album on the music side of things. Lead guitarist Tonnie ten Hove is insanely gifted. The solos on this album had me going “WOW” over and over. But on the flip side, ten Hove is also the lead vocalist and unfortunately his voice just is not up to the task.
Pencarrow walk the line between prog metal and prog rock like Haken. There are a few times that they remind me musically of Haken. But where Haken has incorporated some djent and 80s influences, Pencarrow are firmly influenced by 70s prog and 90s prog metal. During the quieter moments of tracks like “Brace Yourself For Impact” and “Becoming,” ten Hove’s voice works OKAY with the music but when things get louder and/or heavier, he really sounds completely wrong for the music.
“Soul Paralytic” is a heavy track and the vocals are more like Andy Tillison of the Tangent…only flatter than even good ol’ Andy! It’s really a shame because the music IS SO DAMN GOOD! On “Mount Street Cemetery,” there is a female vocal which is interesting and a nice change of pace. However, it’s not a case where this guest vocalist would work either since the part is more “waify” sounding. This band needs someone along the lines of Ross Jennings.
Getting back to the positives, you NEED to hear the guitar solos on “Brace Yourself For Impact,” especially the one toward the end. To be clear, ten Hove isn’t shredding. He is so melodic on the guitar, it’s quite amazing. I also love that keyboardist Anthony Rose loves using vintage instruments. It’s what keeps the music sounding so rooted in classic prog. The band’s rhythm section is tight as well which is a must in the prog world.
“Catching Leaves” is the mellow track and it’s not bad, but it doesn’t blow me away either. But because it’s mellower, ten Hove’s voice is better suited for it as well. So perhaps the answer is a second vocalist for the heavier parts/songs. Kudos again to Rose, who absolutely SHINES on this song. “At Last, Omniscience” rounds out the album, starting with lush strings before the band kicks into gear. The soloing on this track is just awesome. Rose has some great moments! Another great song musically, but the vocals just aren’t good enough for the music.
Rating this album is so tricky. Musically, it’s damn near perfect. But the vocals of course bring it down a bit. I think people SHOULD check this one out if you love modern prog with plenty of great playing. Perhaps ten Hove’s vocals will be an acquired taste for some people. Pencarrow are a band to keep an eye on because “Dawn Simulation” has WAY too much potential to be ignored.
1. Brace Yourself For Impact
2. Soul Paralytic
4. Mount Street Cemetery
5. Catching Leaves
6. At Last, Omniscience
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