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Arena - Songs from the Lion's Cage CD (album) cover





3.85 | 432 ratings

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3 stars Unlike many, Songs from the Lion's Cage was my first Arena album. After a friend strongly recommended me The Visitor and made me listen to a few parts, I went to the store and intended to buy it. I although had to settle for Songs from the Lion's Cage since this was the only Arena album in stock at that moment. Well, it turned out that the epic final track Solomon singlehandedly addicted me to this band. Good thing!

In retrospect now, when compared to later Arena material, this album looks a notch below and yet, remains very enjoyable. Its style was still not fully matured and the sound mixing was not as flawless as Arena's subsequent works. Also, Arena has become unique and highly regarded, in my opinion, in part because of its ability to sublimely blend prog metal with melodic neo-prog, whilst this album was essentially neo-prog with a slightly heavier twist. Still, it remains an excellent hour of pure progressive songwriting with moments that will stand the test of time (notably, of course, the epic Solomon).

Obviously, the album's best parts are the longer pieces; the shorter Crying for Help series unfortunately break the album's flow more than anything else. Not that they're bad, but they add nothing really special save perhaps for guest Steve Rothery's guitar solo on Crying for Help IV.

Out of the Wilderness is as good an opener as anyone can ask. Complex, interesting time signature, several movements, and energetic. Then the compositions Valley of the Kings and Jericho, as well as Midas Vision, have become classics for good reason and showed Arena's great potential. They actually require little time to grow. Even though they do not feel as coherent as the further Arena works, they do somehow have their something special. And they're just the tip of the iceberg.

Did I talk about Solomon? A full 14 minutes of joy and entertainment for the ears. Starting with gentle xylophone notes which almost sound like a nursery rhyme, and ending with one of the most powerful musical segments that I know of (starting with "Take the child - it's yours, was the only thing she could have said..."), this song is an essential. Each band member shines therein, from Carson's vocals to Lord's guitar at the end, as well as, of course, Clive Nolan's booming keyboards. A real showstopper.

As an epic, Solomon would be bested only very seldomly; one such instance being Arena's next epic, the grandiose Sirens.

An excellent album which was a good early sign of what was to come with this addictive band, whose sound would quickly evolve into something of its own.

SentimentalMercenary | 3/5 |


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