Pale Mannequin are a Polish progressive rock band from Warsaw, who started out as a solo project of guitarist and vocalist Tomasz Izdebski in 2016. However, as the process of writing for the debut album progressed, Tomasz joined forces with Jakub Lukowski on drums, Dariusz Goc on bass and Grzegorz Mazur on guitar and vocals, and they shared their broad musical influences and inspirations to produce the well-received Patterns of Parallel album in 2019, which looked at the idea of predestination in our patterns and habits.
Whilst their influences recognisably include Riverside, Porcupine Tree, Katatonia and Opeth, their style of progressive metal is much more melancholic, contemplative and varied. The band blends more traditional progressive rock sounds along with post-rock and art-rock elements and they are open to experimentation around these generic styles.
Colours of Continuity is a more collective effort than the debut, according to Tomasz, and whilst it leans towards heavier and more energetic compositions on occasions, it continues the more thoughtful approach to their music and their lyrics. As they state: “Rarely can we understand and interpret things without a good perspective. Colours of Continuity is an album inspired by how things in life lead to one another, as well as our restless efforts to categorise them and our surrounding reality.”
The album starts with The Sleeper, with atmospheric sounds preceding a mid-tempo bass and drum rhythm, languid vocals and instrumentation building up with bursts of guitar and controlled power before an elegant end with chiming guitar notes. Inkblot maintains the melancholic feel but has more melodic guitar themes over the plaintive vocals, with clean guitar soloing over a canter of rhythmic chords. There is nice use of vocal harmonies and a touch of synthesiser in the mid-section tempo change. Already the influence of Riverside and Porcupine Tree can be heard, but these are well-constructed songs that the band have stamped their own identity onto. “We reflect each other’s hopes and fears, bound by those walls that we learned to love.”
Scattered starts quietly, with a haunting soundscape before a slow, measured tempo takes over. Acoustic guitar and effects entwine with some dreamy, but nicely measured electric guitar soloing, as the power builds towards the end. The band call the title a metaphor for (dis)continuity in our lives. Most Favourite Trap is the band at their most accessible and commercial. It has almost an ‘indie/art-rock’ feel as the song flows and dreamily dances over us, and once again there are well-pitched, soaring guitar lines lifting up the sound where necessary. At times, the vocals have a Jadis-like pulsed pattern to them and the subtle use of keyboards and harmonised vocals, as the pace temporarily slows, keep everything moving forward smoothly. The accompanying video has Napoleonic-period socialites dancing as the lyrics take us beyond the rigid constraints of polite society: “Well, there are times when I try to run away. But you keep on giving me more and more. When I’m down you kindly provide me with a smile. Then my head gets blurry. I no longer see a way out. You’re my most favourite trap.”
Inertia is more powerful, a three-part track with darker guitar riffs, more urgent drumming and strong bass lines. There is a hint of a In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida vibe at times, to my ears at least, and the vocals are at their most Steven Wilson-like – but it all works rather well. Maniac’s Mind is less immediate, but trots along dreamily and serenely, providing a refreshing contrast in tempo and style.
Colours of Continuity is not only the longest track, but the heaviest as well – despite it starting quietly and contemplatively. Soaring guitars over an epic, stately beat follow and they take us through several changes in style and pace. Dark and frantic guitar work then brings it close to the progressive metal of Opeth. The brief few lines of unclean vocals (not my favourite aspect of metal) actually integrate well into the musical darkness. Clean vocals above strummed power chords then give way to the narrated thoughts of Richard Dawkins on ‘the discontinuous mind’ – in keeping with the overall theme of the album – before the epic ends with a ringing guitar motif.
The final track, In Mono, is basically an instrumental, beginning with reverse tape effects of musical and vocal themes (in true Twin Peaks style) but settles into smooth, reverb guitar-based instrumentation and repeated patterns over synths creating a hypnotic soundscape, before a final few lines of spoken narration: “Yesterday’s worries now paint our reality. We try to erase them, so far we can’t succeed. It is a warning to who is following our path. We thought this may come, yet did not truly believe it.” One last blast of post-rock returns us to the haunting, reverse tape effects – reprising some earlier themes – bringing us back full circle on our journey.
Colours of Continuity is an album well worth investigating. On one level the band’s influences – especially Riverside and Porcupine Tree – are clear to see and do provide the prospective listener with a convenient point of reference. However, the more you listen, the more you realise that they have undoubtedly stamped their own identify on the music and they run through many different styles across the progressive spectrum. In keeping with the album’s title, there is linkage between the tracks, which grows stronger with repeated plays. Labelling them as progressive metal is too simplistic. This is not music sticking to the expectations of a particular genre. There is light and shade which all followers of prog rock can enjoy.
As the band have stated themselves – the pale mannequin can be dressed in many different styles of clothes.
Reviewer: David Edwards