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Arena - Contagion CD (album) cover





4.16 | 601 ratings

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4 stars Although this album is more straightforward than any previous ARENA output and its longest track is barely 5:34 minutes, all the progressive elements we've come to expect and love from the band are here: rising crescendos, heart-wrenching melodies, wonderful harmonies and a top-notch production. From the raucous, throbbing opener "Witch Hunt" to the dramatic grand finale "Ascension", chills run up and down your spine. "Painted Man' reminds me a lot of 'The Butterfly Man"; "Spectre at the Feast" with its ominous vocals gives me the impression the Cheshire Cat is right behind my back, grinning maliciously. The 3 instrumentals, interspersed through out the album, provide a welcome respite between the highly charged vocal tracks: on "This Way Madness Lies" you'll hear some incredible guitar play; "On the Box" again features some machine-gun guitar riffs - how on earth do you do this, Mr. Mitchell!?! - plus a great solo from half way down to the end; finally, "Riding the Tide", a whirling keybord number in 7/8, is a perfect follow-up to the vocal track "The City of Lanterns" - gosh, ARENA sure know how to pick their vocalists, don't they.

Speaking of vocalists, what a fine one ROB SOWDEN turned out to be; his delivery, at times, is simply orgasmic (cf. "The Skin Game"); I hear echoes of FREDDY MERCURY on "Bitter Harvest" and "Mea Culpa". This larger-than-life CD has to be one of the hardest prog albums I own. Although it does have a shorter shelf life than "The Visitor", I highly recommend it to anyone who's into melodious muscle-prog. Fans of IQ and particularly PENDRAGON will love it.

Hibou | 4/5 |


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