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Arena - Immortal? CD (album) cover





3.94 | 483 ratings

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3 stars After releasing a true milestone within the Neo Prog fields, members of Arena focused a little bit on side projects, like John Mitchell playing with the Rock band The Urbane and Clive Nolan moving on with a collaboration with Oliver Wakeman and the album ''Jabberwocky''.In 1999 comes another shocking departure, Paul Wrightson, the excellent singer on the previous albums, quit and he was replaced by the unknown Rob Sowden.Wrightson would appear several years later as the singer of the Hard Rock/light Prog/AOR band Blind Ego.A few months later John Jowitt also leaves to rejoin Jadis and he is replaced by Janison Edge's/Shadowland's bassist Ian Salmon.By the end of the year the new formation started working on a brand fresh release, which was launched in April 2000 under the title ''Immortal?''.

The prog audience was starving to listen how the new singer would sound like, but Arena had a few more surprises to offer as proven by the new album. Sowden had a more emphatic and less sensitive voice than his precursor and apparently these new characteristics had also an impact on Arena's style, which shifted towards heavier and more bombastic territories with John Mitchel's guitar sounding as edgy as ever and the keyboard parts obtaining a pompous, symphonic atmosphere.Of course this is no Heavy Prog by any means, because the band still retains the fundamental principles of British Neo Prog, which are the strong display of melodic lines, the smooth keyboard interludes, the clean and deeply lyrical moments and, yes, the evident references to the GENESIS/MARILLION atmospheres, albeit masked in a modern face.The crystalline production and the powerful guitar parts along with the tons of dramatic arrangements within the compositions are the reasons why Arena sound extremely epic in ''Immortal?'' with Soweden being the most theatrical-sounding of all the band's vocalists, a fact that would be also prooved on stage.The tracks are really cool with heavy rhythms, beautiful solos, dreamy but also majestic keyboard themes and an even more contemporary sound, which now included a bit of sampled beats and slight use of electronics with the 20-min. ''Moviedrome'' being the absolute pinnacle of the album.On the other hand Arena are human beings and to my ears the line-up changes have affected part of their unmet inspiration.The music is still great, but the album lacks the pair of killer pieces, which were offered with generosity in ''The visitor''.

Yet another very solid Arena album, showing the band adding fresh elements in the music, such as the electronic beats, the heavier stylings and the more theatrical singing.Not close to the absolute masterpierce called ''The visitor'', but with a similar atmosphere, despite the new sounds, and pretty tight pieces.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

apps79 | 3/5 |


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