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Arlon - On the Edge CD (album) cover

ON THE EDGE

Arlon

 

Neo-Prog

3.72 | 65 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
3 stars One of the many Polish prog bands popping up since Poland gained its new independence following the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990s, ARLON emerged from the tiny city of Przemyśl which is located in the extreme southeastern part of the nation literally on the border with the Ukraine. I actually had the opportunity to stay in that city for one night passing through when i was traveling in that region. The band that plays a mix of classic progressive rock with a touch of neo-prog has been an industrious act playing numerous rock festivals since its inception in 2009 such as The Festival of Progressive Rock in Gniewkowo, The Cieszanoow Rock Festival, Prog The Night as well as playing at Rock Area on Stage in Katowice which was a one time event that featured a guest appearance from Clive Nolan of Arena and Pendragon fame.

So far in 2024, ARLON has released two albums, this debut ON THE EDGE in 2013 followed by a sophomore album "Mimetic Desires" two years later in 2015. The band lineup has remained consistent since 2012 and includes Paweł Zwirn (drums), Wiesław Rutka (guitar, lyricist), Maciej Napieraj (bass), Jacek Szott (saxophone, keyboards, vocals, composer, lyricist) and Paweł Szykuła (vocals). The band was founded by drummer Pawel Zwirn. The main composer has been Jacek Szott and although emerging from a very far removed enclave in Poland, ARLON recognized the international appeal and unlike some Polish bands delivers all lyrics in the English language. ON THE EDGE is a lengthy album at nearly 58 minutes and features 9 tracks.

ARLON delivers a dreamy type of neo-prog with a blend of jazzy saxophone, soft-spoken vocals and heavy emphasis on atmospheres. The guitars play clean and soft most of the time but the band has adopted the more modern trends of using heavier guitar riffing for contrast. The band recorded their debut at the Studio Underground in nearby Rzeszˇw, a nearby business hub that is surprisingly economically robust and teaming with activity considering it is the largest city in southeastern Poland with a population of nearly 200,000 inhabitants. I also had the pleasure to spend a night there and it was much more vibrant than i could've imagined so an obvious attraction point for Polish bands of that region of Poland. ON THE EDGE easily escaped the narrow focus of its homeland and was received by many nations in Europe, the USA as well as being praised in nations like Egypt and Brazil.

ON THE EDGE is a decent if rather safely played style of neo-prog. It gets the job done but doesn't quite add that extra sauce that makes the band really stand out like bands such as Abraxas and Quidam did right from the very start. Firstly the compositions while nicely played and competently delivered just lack any kind of bite really. The band seems to lack a signature sound at this point while its getting its feet wet in the recording process. Likewise i find lead singer Pawel Szykula's vocal range to be a bit limiting and neo-prog bands really need a strong frontman to animate the musical style but on a positive note the rest of the band is tight and delivers a convincing style of neo-prog however the drums could be perhaps a bit more nuanced. Like most neo-prog, the keys play a major part and ARLON covers that arena quite well. I've been reading that the band really stepped things up with its sophomore release "Mimetic Desires" so i'm curious to find out if that is indeed the case.

Overall a decent slice of second rate neo-prog but doesn't quite deliver with enough passion and bravado to make it a compelling listening experience. Neo-prog can be so magical if done properly and in this case it sounds like a band still finding its way through the long and arduous process of self-discovery. I absolutely love the album cover though, one of the coolest depictions of a triumphant successful ascent to a celestial body lurking overhead above the some sort of ancient fortress. It's surprising the band only has two albums under its belt as it's not apparent that it has disbanded but as things go musicians have other lives to attend to and it's never clear how long hiatuses will last so anything is possible in the wild and unpredictable world we find ourselves in these days. This album is pleasant but does rise much more above that.

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |

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