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Asia - Arena CD (album) cover




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3.32 | 162 ratings

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Symphonic Team
3 stars Not quite arena rock

By the time of the release of Arena the 'new' Asia, led by Geoff Downes and John Payne, was well established. The time when Asia could be regarded as a supergroup was long since passed. This situation probably created a creative freedom for Downes and Payne, allowing them to take Asia in a slightly different direction. Arena is distinctively more lightweight and less hard edged compared to the previous Aria. Ironically, Arena also features possibly the most progressive song the band has ever done in the excellent, nine plus minutes The Day Before The War. Sadly, this great song feels rather out of place on this otherwise mostly rather lightweight Pop album.

The biggest problem I have with this album is that it leaves behind the strong band feeling of Aria. Arena, and even more so the next one Aura, sounds more like a Downes/Payne project with session musicians adden than a real band. In this respect too, The Day Before The War stands out having more the harder edged sound of Aria, but more progressive in structure. The strangest thing about this album is that even the production and mixing sounds different on different songs! The opening Into The Arena somehow sounds like it was tagged on at the beginning of the album after it was finished!

Having this said, Arena is filled with nice, rather accessible songs and is by no means a poor album. If you loved the previous two albums by the group, you will undoubtedly find something to enjoy here too. After all, all the three Payne-era albums were not that dissimilar up to this point, neither in quality nor in musical approach. The very consistent song writing talents of the Downes/Payne leaves no room for any serious criticisms other than perhaps a lack of surprises. In terms Prog content, these albums are rather meagre. Other than the very progressive, The Day Before The War and possibly the Far Eastern influenced U Bring Me Down, the next longest track here, this music will hardly blow the Prog fan away. This music is certainly not very original or inventive, but the band's fans will not be disappointed.

The Roger Dean disciple Rodney Mattews once again provides a very nice cover art. And once again the album's title begins and ends with the letter A. These guys are rather dependable.

Overall, a more than decent album with some excellent moments! For me it is worth having for the superb The Day Before The War alone.

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |


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