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Petrus Castrus - Ascenção E Queda CD (album) cover


Petrus Castrus


Symphonic Prog

4.16 | 44 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review Nº 202

"Ascensão E Queda" is the second and last studio album of Petrus Castrus and was released in 1978. The line up on the album is Pedro Castro, José Castro and Urbano Oliveira. The album had also the participation of Nuno Rodrigues, Helena Águas, Rui Serrão and Fernando Girão, as guest musicians.

Formed in 1971, Petrus Castrus was led by brothers Pedro Castro and José Castro. They recruited Júlio Pereira, Rui Reis and João Seixas and began to practice music near to the symphonic progressive rock vein. They released their debut album entitled "Mestre", which now is considered one of the best Portuguese prog albums of all time. The album consists of songs with poems of Bocage, Alexandre O'Neill, Ary dos Santos, Fernando Pessoa and Sophia de Mello Breyner Anderson. The fact that they recorded these poets cost them the confiscation of the album for three months by the infamous Commission of Censorship. Shortly after recording the album, in 1974, the band suspended their activity. In 1976 the band returned the activities with a new LP titled "Ascensão E Queda", this time as a trio, released in 1978.

Since the revolution of 1974 that finished with the Censorship, the air smelled of freedom. It was a moment of glory for all singers and songwriters, especially for those who had been banned from air-waves, recording studios and live stages. So, it was in this context that the brothers composed a conceptual album, much in vogue among their Anglo-Saxon counterparts at the time, dealing with the contradictions, the irony and irrationality of the games of power, and the ephemeral quality of ideologies. However, for the new powers at the time, on what the majority's feelings, owners of a newly conquered, unshakable faith in the utopia of freedom and popular power, this felt like a blasphemy. The LP edition was of course allowed, but it was never given any promotion and the "enlightened" music critics at the time demolished it completely. Probably, they considered it a "Reactionary Work". The attitude of social satire, always associated with the band and assumed by them, had nothing to do with the musical proposals that arose in the post-revolution, in which one tried to say at once through the so-called intervention music. In reality, it happened to the album the same has happened with "Onde, Quando, Como, Porquê Cantamos Pessoas Vivas" of Quarteto 1111.

"Ascensão E Queda" has a magnificent allegory. This album's audition is read like a movie soundtrack, with its six tracks sub-divided into several themes each, filled with unpredictable changes. It has an underlying symphonic progressive rock vibe fed by José Castro with his arsenal of analog keyboards, electric piano and ARP's plus harpsichord and acoustic piano. But it's also a tasteful hodge-podge brimming with ideas, a bit in a Gentle Giant's spirit. It comes to my mind "The Power And The Glory" mainly because the concept, though not in style, and which may can require some repeated listening, since it has the attributes of a continuous grower in us. Although, not obligatory, a minimal understanding of the language may help very well, since the lyrics are also in Portuguese, as on "Mestre".

Musically, the synthesizer's sound effects and sounds of seagulls and sea waves may embellish simple piano and vocal themes, mellotron washes back complex textures of multilayered vocal lines in Renaissance's ambiences. Petrus Castrus enlisted the services of Helena Águas, at the time the best rock vocalist in Portugal, capable of a Annie Haslam like style, for mermaid like calls on foggy nights of dramatic minor chords sequences. Rock and jazzy groves with tasty guitar work, harpsichord driven Baroque passages backed by shimmering 12-strings acoustics, folksy acoustic guitar driven parts, and martial bass & piano themes shaken by Urbano Oliveira powerful drum rolls or brisk funky inflected grooves backing a web of miscellaneous vocal melodies. Nuno Rodrigues, one of the founding members of another of the best Portuguese progressive bands, Banda Do Casaco, and Fernando Girão also guest on some tracks as vocalist, contribute to make of this oeuvre a parallel exquisite and vocal heavy experience, in the style of a true rock opera.

Conclusion: "Ascenção E Queda" is a very beautiful album of the Portuguese prog with its very own atmosphere that provides for a good and a varied entertainment. It can be placed somewhere between Italian and British prog but with a special flavor that makes it as original and strong as any Brazilian, Argentinean or Scandinavian 70's landmark albums in the genre. Petrus Castrus' second album is not a jaw dropping, hyper complex progressive music but rather a more subdued effort, where the focus is on melody and album conception. So, this album became an excellent Portuguese progressive rock album with a very distinctive and unique sound. Unfortunately, the band still has recorded two more singles and has given some live concerts, but suddenly disappeared. Although "Ascensão E Queda" was a commercial failure and was devastated by the critic of the time, today this album is sought, mainly by the collectors of progressive rock music. It has been object of a reissue by a South Korean record label. Luckily, it seems they weren't forgotten.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |


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