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Arena - Pride CD (album) cover





3.64 | 316 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars Songs From The Lions Cage part II

Pride is Arena's second album and it is another great album that pretty much follows the formula of the debut. Again we have five proper songs plus four further Crying For Help interlude pieces, three of which are instrumentals. The biggest changes are not in the musical direction of the band but in the line up. Vocalist Paul Wrightson joins the band here replacing the previous singer John Carson. Also on bass is there a change with John Jowitt taking over those duties. The early days of Arena was a turbulent time with many line up changes. Not until the Immortal? album would the band have a stable line up. It is simply remarkable that they could make such amazing music in the midst of all that turbulence!

There are some truly impressive and moving vocal moments on this album. I think that Paul Wrightson is a more distinctive vocalist than John Carson (great though he was on Songs From The Lions Cage) and with his arrival, Arena took a small step towards the excellence they would achieve with their next studio album, the even more brilliant The Visitor.

The songs here sound like a crossover between Marillion and Iron Maiden with a touch of Queen and Asia as well as the seed of what would become Arena's own fully "mature" sound on later albums. But they really manage to capture the best aspects of the bands that influenced them and make their very own thing of it. Still, I think that Pride is slightly less original than Songs From The Lions Cage and it also has a somewhat "thinner" (but also cleaner) sound compared to the debut.

The further proper songs, Empire Of A Thousand Days, Medusa, Fool's Gold and Sirens are all great songs. Almost up to par with the songs from Songs From The Lions Cage, but not quite as good as the very best ones like Solomon or Jericho. The overall quality of Pride is not that far behind its predecessor. However, Pride lacks a real ballad like the previous album's beautiful Crying For Help IV. This makes Pride a bit less varied and a bit more straightforward. Pride was thus easier to get into compared to Songs From The Lions Cage and I initially liked this one a bit more than the debut, but unlike most Arena albums, this one hasn't grown that much on me since I first got into it. It could perhaps be argued that this album constituted a small step back for the band, it was at least not a significant step forward for the band. However, they manage to create yet another very good album here.

The Crying For Help pieces continue here in the same vein as on the debut album and the first one here (which it the fifth overall continuing for the debut) is a nice folky/medieval piece with flute like keyboards. The second piece, Crying For Help VI has the same kind of feeling but this time based on harpsichord like keyboards. These pieces would perhaps not stand up very well as stand-alones but they should not be judged as such. Crying For Help VII, on the other hand, is an a cappella piece that possibly is the highlight of the whole album! At first I did not like it, but now I find it very captivating and convincing. It has since become a live favourite (but not performed a cappella live). The last, Crying For Help VIII, is the least good of the four; it runs for more than five minutes and it could be characterised as New Age, almost nothing interesting happens in the piece. This particular instrumental mostly feel like transportation. The instrumentals generally are not as well integrated into the overall set as on future albums like The Visitor and Contagion where the instrumentals form part of a more continuous piece of music, but here the instrumentals fill another function.

While listening to Pride I sometimes feel that had they taken the best material from this album and put it on Songs From The Lions Cage or perhaps made a single album out of the best material used on these two first albums (perhaps with the same line up that later did The Visitor), it would most probably have been an even better album than any of the two as they now stand. The live album Welcome To The Stage is as close as we will come to that fantasy. However, as they stand, both Songs From The Lions Cage and Pride are great albums in the very consistent Arena catalogue.

Pride is certainly very recommended, but perhaps not the ideal starting point despite several excellent songs and moments. For people who already owns, and enjoys, other albums by Arena, Pride is an excellent addition.

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |


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