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Arena - Pride CD (album) cover





3.64 | 336 ratings

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4 stars Review Nš 278

Arena was formed in 1994 by Mick Pointer, the former drummer of Marillion, and Clive Nolan, the former keyboardist of Pendragon. Their debut studo album, "Songs From The Lions Cage" released in 1995, was a very strong neo-prog debut album with some aggressive playing that brought comparisons to Fish-era Marillion and contained some lengthy tracks with long guitar and moog solos. Their next and second studio album "Pride" released in 1996, which built upon the sound the band had begun on their first album and saw them develop away from some of the Marillion's influences.

So, "Pride" is the second studio album of Arena and was released in 1996. It's the first Arena's album to feature vocalist Paul Wrightson and bassist John Jowitt. Paul Wrightson replaced their founder vocalist John Carson and John Jowitt replaced their founder bassist Cliff Orsi. Curiously, both two new band's members, Paul Wrightson and John Jowitt quit the band after the release of their next studio album "The Visitor", but John Jowitt returned to the group in 2011. It's also the last album to feature their founder guitarist Keith More which was replaced by John Mitchell on their next album. So, the line up of the album is Paul Wrightson (vocals), Keith More (backing vocals and guitars), Clive Nolan (backing vocals and keyboards), John Jowitt (backing vocals and bass) and Mick Pointer (backing vocals and drums).

As with "Songs From The Lion's Cage", "Pride" has also nine tracks and all the songs were written by Clive Nolan and Mick Pointer. The first track "Welcome To The Cage?" is an excellent pompous and very catchy rock song with great vocal performance by their new vocalist Paul Wrightson. It has also a great and very fast keyboard work excellently well backed supported also by great guitar and bass works. This is an excellent powerful opener for the album. The second track "Crying For Help V" is a very nice and beautiful song in the same vein of their "Crying For Help" songs of their previous studio album. This is an excellent instrumental song with beautiful keyboards and flute performances that reminds us the medieval times. The third track "Empire Of A Thousand Days" is also a nice and good song. However, it sounds to me a less appellative and a less catch song than the opener of the album. It's an epic song, one of the epics of the album, with very good lyrics and nice guitar and bass works. It represents also a great musical moment on the album. The fourth track "Crying For Help VI" is another instrumental track in the same vein of "Crying For Help V", and it has a very typical Genesis feel. It follows a similar classicist medieval music style, but this time, instead of keyboards and flute we have the song shared between acoustic guitar and keyboards. The fifth track "Medusa" represents one of the two highlights of the album. The other is "Sirens". It follows the same steps of the opening song, being a more standard rock song. It became a classic neo-prog song and one of the songs most played live by the group. The sixth track "Crying For Help VII" is a very simple song only performed with vocals. It's a nice a Capella song very beautifully performed by Paul Wrightson. The seventh track "Fool's Gold" is the second epic song of the album. It's another nice bombastic song with explosive choral work. It states a similar scheme of "Empire Of A Thousand Days" and like it, it's also a less appellative and less catchy track, than the long songs on "Songs From The Lion's Cage", despite being also a very good track. The eighth track "Crying For Help VIII" is a strange and dark song very calm and beautiful, with a kind of a celestial appeal, which serves perfectly as an introduction for their closing musical number. The ninth and last track "Sirens" is the third epic song on the album and represents, without any doubt, the great highlight of the album and it's also one of best tracks ever made by Arena. This is, in reality, a great epic perfect song that alternates calm and romantic musical ambiances with mysterious and bombastic parts. It's a very complex musical number, the longest of all the tracks, featuring many tempo changes and with a very strong finale. This is a great closing track for this album.

Conclusion: "Pride" is the name of the second studio album of Arena, but it could also have been called "Songs From The Lion's Cage, Part II". In reality, "Pride" has the same musical structure of "Songs From The Lion's Cage", with also nine tracks, five long and most complex progressive tracks alternated with four short and less complex tracks. Even the short tracks are still called "Crying For Help" and continue with the same sequence number of the first album. Despite "Pride" be also a great album, it hasn't the same quality level of their debut. While, on "Songs From The Lion's Cage" all the lengthy songs are great, on "Pride" the lengthy songs are less great. "Welcome To The Cage?", "Medusa" and especially "Sirens" are the real highlights of this album. And, the division between the long and most progressive songs and the short and less complex songs persists, and I continue thinking that it wasn't the best option. While I hear both albums, sometimes I feel that if we put the best material of both albums on only a single album, we probably have a masterpiece. Anyway, Arena had already put all in the right place on their debut live album "Welcome To The Stage".

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |


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