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Arena - Pride CD (album) cover

PRIDE

Arena

 

Neo-Prog

3.68 | 235 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Any of Arena's first three albums is the right way to get started with the band, especially the first two: "Pride" was my introduction to Arena, the first album with Paul Wrigthson as lead singer and John Jowitt as bassist. So, the first song I ever heard of Arena featured the best singer the band ever had and a solid rhythm section secured by the presence of the ever functional and powerful John Jowitt. 'Welcome to the Cage' is a catchy song that somehow rings distant bells to Marillion's 'Market Square Heroes' and Pendragon's 'Higher Circles', which shouldn't be considered an offense given the backgrounds from which Arena's main men come from. The melodic lines flow energetically and captivatingly through the track's obviously catchy intention. A more elaborate set of arrangements and moods can be traced in 'Empire of a Thousand Days', regarding the standards of musical ambition and variation usually set for long prog songs. This mini-epic reinforces the idea of the band having met a solid rhythmic basis and the perfect vocalist for the tales of grandeur, drama and passion delivered in the lyrics. Stuck between the two is one of Nolan's most beautiful compositions ever, 'Crying for Help V' (I think I prefer the titles appeared on "The Cry", but well, that's another story): this multi-keyboard exercise on Baroque-like classicism is a beauty of melody and harmony, maybe collaterally verging on the new-age trend, but essentially symphonic in a Wakeman-meets-Bardens sort of way. 'Crying for Help VI' follows a similar classicist vein, only this time the limelight is shared between the acoustic guitar arpeggios and the keyboard chord progressions - the air of patent sophistication never gets out of hand, thanks to a well-calculated constraint exercised during the piece's development. 'Medusa' is the next song, a prog semi-ballad with slight AOR-ish touches (a-la Turner-era Rainbow): the simplistic yet effective guitar main lines find a perfect complement in the more complex solo that emerges in the middle, while Wrightson powerfully sings this tale of self-inflicted doom. After the a-capella version of 'Crying for Help VII' (I think I prefer the pastoral rendition that appeared on "The Cry") comes one of the two definitive highlights, 'Fool's Gold'. This epic states a similar scheme to that of track 3, but the melodic drive feels more inspired and the overall energy is more properly developed. The eerie, subtle sinister moods of 'Crying for Help VIII' (listening to it in the dark makes you think of sirens as what they really are, killers with fishy bodies and scary bright eyes) serve as a convenient preparation for the closing track, the other highlight, 'Sirens': this has to be one of the Top 5 Arena songs, a marvelous epic that alternates romantic ambiences, mysterious nuances and bombastic moods with polished fluidity, building a sense of unity through the ongoing shifts. This is the kind of climatic creativity that the neo movement always aspired to, and this Arena track from the 90s exemplifies it perfectly. What a finale for this great album! I'm aware that the band's debut album usually surpasses this one in polls undertaken by Arena fans, but I think that this album is the best of their pre-"The Visitor" era. As much respect as a I keep for Nolan, Pointer and co, my favorite Arena age is the one that starts with this album and ends with "The Visitor". 3.75 stars for this one.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |

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