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Arena - Immortal? CD (album) cover





3.93 | 499 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars Neo-proggers ARENA entered the timeline of the millennial change releasing their fourth album IMMORTAL? and sees the edition of yet another lineup change with their third lead vocalist Rob Sowden replacing Paul Wrightson and taking the role of musical story teller and frontman. Also we get a changing of the guard on bass duties with Ian Salmon taking over for John Jowitt. While Sowden's vocal abilities don't strike me as having as wide of a vocal range as his two predecessors he does manage to get the job done and despite being put off by his addition to the band upon first listen, i have comfortably settled into the fact that they really don't dissuade from the musical experience at hand.

As far as the music itself, despite the addition of a new vocalist and bassist, this is 90s ARENA all the way with strong ties to the Marillion neo-prog sound of the 80s replete with keyboards on atmospheric steroids, melodic guitar solos and that galloping baseline that gives neo-prog its own special bouncy flavor in the greater prog universe. John Mitchell continues to ramp up the distorted power chords ratcheting the band ever closer to the more hard rock oriented sound of future albums and the music is as catchy and melodically drenched in melancholy as any of the best neo-prog releases out there. Mitchell's solos and acoustic contributions are also tasty attributes to the overall scheme of things.

Like most ARENA albums, this one is endowed with excellent lyrical content loosely based on the concept of the human perception that the obsession for technology is a panacea for taking the place of aspects in life that keep the body and soul in balance with the greater worldl environment with an album cover that reminds me of the same theme like on Roger Waters' "Amused To Death." The vocals are delivered with the usual flair and gusto that ARENA vocalists are known for and even though Sowden isn't top dog for my favorite vocalists he does fit well into this style of music that requires the frontman to accentuate the rhythms, melodies and themes that demand such bravado. Mick Pointer's drumming has improved although never flashy or out of the context of the music.

As always, despite being a tad derivative of previous neo-prog releases, ARENA doesn't disappoint with strong, well-crafted tracks that are constructed of highly melodic developments accentuated by all the icings on the cake such as the pompous bombast of Clive Nolan's keyboard runs, suave piano rolls and synthethesized atmospheres drenched with mellotron and choral samples. I initially liked IMMORTAL? less than many of the other ARENA albums surrounding it but i have to admit that the tunes are downright catchy enough to hook me and reel me in so successfully that i have surrendered to their charm. Still not my favorite ARENA album and the 90s approach to songwriting is definitely in need of an upgrade soon but this last vestige of that era is a very decent one with IMMORTAL? ranking high amongst its contemporary neo-prog rivals.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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