'Petra' was written, produced, and performed by multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Anthony LaMarca, guitarist in 'The War On Drugs'.
It is his second solo album after 2018's 'Reconciliation' where he was accompanied by his brother Angelo (guitar) and wife Megan (cello). That record was gentle and reflective but its follow up, with the same line up, is even more restrained and introspective, and for a good reason.
While making Reconciliation, LaMarca started to feel intense back pain. This was diagnosed as Multiple Myeloma, a form of blood cancer affecting the bone marrow. He immediately started targeted intravenous therapy for two hours a week. This treatment initially brought the disease into remission but sadly it flared up again in the middle of making 'Petra'.
LaMarca has stated that he had no intention of being dramatic or tragic but simply wanted to tell "the truth of what was happening in my life while I was recording these songs.” Much of it was made from a hospital room and if you watch the unadorned video for the single, Purifier, you get a vivid insight into the pain and boredom involved in the treatment.
The arrangements are understated and melodious but a squally dissonance of feedback and noise occasionally intrudes to disturb the overall prettiness of the tunes; a musical reminder of the shadows lurking behind the calmness and beauty.
The physical, and mental, strain of the disease is perhaps most movingly expressed in the album's centrepiece - When I Think Of You - where he sings : "I can't think straight anymore [......] I want to be boring again".
Petra is named after the LaMarcas’ beloved German Shepherd who is pictured in a series of snapshots in the snow for the cover art. The word has also been worked into the acronym for the self explanatory title of the closing track – Peace's Eternal Truth Renews All.
The artist's raw honesty, humility and helplessness combines to make this a powerful and profoundly moving album.