One of my favorite albums from 2013 was the debut from a certain Polish band called Arlon. Obviously, there is a crowded market of Polish progressive bands, seemingly all influenced by dark rock. On their debut, Arlon kept a little closer to the basic “progski” sound, but here, on their new album “Mimetic Desires”, I feel that Arlon has carved out their own style and sound.
Their debut, “On the Edge”, was a grand album of crescendos, emotional guitars, and jazzy portions. “Mimetic Desires”, however, seems to have more purpose and a greater variety of styles. Indeed, it makes a greater philosophical statement for sure, speaking to the human condition and our tendency to be herded and to be content with that. In fact, it points out the fact that we often have desire to be herded and to be the same as everyone else. The evocative cover art says it all, too, with the crowds struggling and fighting to reach the top of the pile, perhaps for handouts. The band obviously has a lot on their minds.
The band consists of Wojciech Mandzyn on vocals, Wiesław Rutka on guitar, Maciej Napieraj on bass, Jacek Szott on saxophone and keyboards, and Paweł Zwirn on drums. The core players have returned, as Wieslaw’s guitars are emotional and Gilmourish with a bit of an edge sometimes, Maciej’s bass is dark and throbbing, Pawel’s drums are on point and very forceful sometimes, and Jacek’s keys and sax really give the album a satisfying, classy feeling. “Mimetic Desires” is a different album, though, featuring tracks like “Quest for the Promised Land”, a slower, more cerebral song that is founded upon orchestral ideas and choirs. The opener “Tenebrae” is more like their debut album, but gives hints of the new sounds with some rather “scary” choirs. There is definitely more edge to everything this time around, as the first album was rather mellow overall.
I find that Jacek is front and center this time, and he gets to utilize his sax more often and in more of a foundational fashion, too. Wieslaw is extremely busy throughout the album with solos and heavier licks. Maciej and Pawel, too, lay down the miry bass and drums that provide so much character, yet are a bit more technical this time. The album, then, comes across as simultaneously heavier and also spacier and even a bit gothic, with longer songs and grander instrumentals. The albums abounds with delightful tracks like “The Wounded World”, “The Odd Theatre”, or the more bombastic “Mimetic Desires”. The album closes gently and thoughtful, pining about the fact that “Nothing Changes”. It’s a bit depressing, but that’s par for the course with bands from Poland, apparently.
If there’s one thing I hope to see improved next time around, it is the vocals, unfortunately. Wojciech is a fine replacement for Pawel Szykula off the first album, and, honestly, they sound very much alike. However, I find Wojciech’s accent to be more of a problem, and it seems that he struggles in a few parts to spit out the pronunciations. Sometimes, it seems to rob him of his emotional capabilities, too. So, while he can sing very well, I think the English thing is a bit trying for him. Obviously, this can get better and it doesn’t really bother me at all, but I know that it can definitely bother other listeners.
In the end, though, “Mimetic Desires” is a worthy follow-up to “On the Edge”, full of space, personality, great sax, emotional keys and guitars, and a pertinent message. If that’s not worth your money, I don’t know what is.