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Arena - Breakfast in Biarritz CD (album) cover





3.77 | 91 ratings

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3 stars This was - together with Immortal? - my first encounter to ARENA, in 2001. Immortal? was their latest studio album at the time; many songs here are from that one, and with the constant changes of their vocalists, what else can one expect. Rob Sowden continues the typical Fish-like style of Arena vocals: loads of theatrality. (MARILLION is clearly their main influence right from the start, not only because of the former Marillion drummer Mick Pointer.) Sowden frankly takes dramatics a bit too far, as if he's underlining each word. Not that it would't fit just perfectly to excitingly dramatic songs like 'The Butterfly Man' or 'The Hanging Tree'.

A good introductory 2CD this was also for the hour documentary, which I viewed from my laptop. Four details about the members remain in my memory: 1) Sowden begged for "more, more!" challenges with his funny tall hat on, 2) the modest bassist Ian Salmon answered "bollocks" when guitarist John Mitchell praised his abilities on acoustic guitar, and 3) the keyboardist-composer Clive Nolan - known for many other projects too - stated that he doesn't have a life outside music; yeah, he and Pointer with their long hair also look like that, ha ha. And 4) Nolan said about tricky and complex music such as Zappa, that it looks good on paper but for him it's not good music, which I felt sympathy for.

Recently I have heard ARENA's debut which I enjoy even more than this, and now I wonder how little, and badly chosen, this includes songs from it. But maybe it's because this was already their second live release. To sum up: ARENA may feel quite adolescent in their adventurous drama, but it delivers some excellent, accessible and melodic Neo Prog, all that one can expect from the genre. And they have variety too, from hour epics to elegant instrumentals. I'm not qualified to say how well this package represents the albums between debut and Immortal? (some reviewers say that not very well), but for me it was a nice introduction.

Matti | 3/5 |


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