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Arena - Songs From The Lion's Cage CD (album) cover





3.86 | 392 ratings

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5 stars There is nothing quite like the thrill of discovering a new band which just presses all the right buttons for you. When I came across this album in 1996 I was struck by the sheer melodic power it exuded, and eleven years on its impact is undiminished. Long, carefully structured pieces are interspersed with the quieter 'Crying For Help' tracks - a structure mirrored in 1996's follow-up 'Pride'. Whilst being initially a little irritating, I came to realise that the senses required these musical breathing spaces to prepare for the next course of sonic delights.

In my view the album is worth having for the first two major pieces alone. 'Out of the Wilderness' sets the tone for what is to come with its strong interplay of Keith More's guitar and Clive Nolan's keyboards, culminating in the kind of melodic guitar solo that makes you glad you are alive. But that is surpassed by 'Valley Of The Kings', probably one of my favourite prog tracks. The grandeur and arrogance of the pharaohs is brought to life as the song progresses through initial verses into a glorious passage of layered keyboards, before building slowly into another guitar-driven climax. Through 'Jericho', 'Midas Vision' and the album's longest track 'Solomon', the formula is repeated but the riffs remain original and memorable. Once this music gets its hooks into you, it is hard to shake it off.

Such a debut release is hard to live up to and certainly Pride fell short of the mark. But this remains a five star album for me, and is a must hear for anyone interested in Nolan's other projects eg. Pendragon, Shadowland.

Lazarus | 5/5 |


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