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Arena - Pepper's Ghost CD (album) cover





3.66 | 433 ratings

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4 stars Arena is a five piece band, whose sound can be best described as neo-progressive rock, with progressive metal tendencies. their sixth studio album (not counting the various EP's), is again a great album, but not as good as the previous one's. It seems they've got their line-up straightened out, where the first couple of albums the line-up seemed to change with the drop of a hat, this is already the third studio album with the same line-up, so kuddo's to them.

Arena are: Clive Nolan: Keyboards, also known for various side projects, including membership of Pendragon, co-instigator of bands as Casino, Strangers On A Train, Shadowland, Nolan & Wakeman, he's has proven himself over the last 18 years as one of the best keyboard players around (IMO), with a very versatile sound, great solo's and able to create different moods with his keyboards, also the main writer in the band. Mick Pointer: Drums, formerly known as Mick Pointer, drummer of Marillion, and kitchen designer in the ten years between Arena's birth, and his unvolenatry leave from Marillion. Co-founder and co-writer of Arena. John Mitchell: A great guitar player, often reminiscent of David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), certainly in his atmospheric guitar solo's, a fabulous style, and co-writer of the songs. Ian Salmon: A fine bass-player, who also played on the Shadowland albums, great grooves, but also very good on accoustic guitars aswell. Rob Sowden: A good singer who improves on every album. a great voice for the band, and a fun performer. Karl Groom: Not a member of the band, but the producer of the album (alongside Clive Nolan), guitarist of Threshold, he manages to put his mark on this album, and his long term involvement with Clive Nolan (Casino, Shadowland, Strangers On A Train), made me include him on this list.

Are You still reading? How does the music sound is the next part of this review, so bear with me.

Heavy metal, with symphonic overtones, fabulous keyboards, melodic progression of the songs, great vocals. If I have to compare it, Bands that Arena are comparable with, Threshold, Marillion (both Fish and Hogarth era) IQ, and themselves, most notable Immortal?, but less dark in sound, very powerfull deliverance, and a good mixture of up-tempo heavy rock songs and mid-tempo ballads, and an epic Fantatic Opera to finish it off

Congratulations, you have made it till halfway the review, would be a waste to stop reading now, if you know enough, than go on and buy the album, if you're not convinced, read on, it will all be clear in the end.

Bedlam Fayre Carnavalesque opening of the album, soon turning into a full blown heavy rock song. Fabulous ongoing keyboard solo, with heavy drumming, great bass play, and Threshold like heavy guitars (duo-guitar, both rhythm and solo overlapping each other). A very energetic opening of the album, really sets the tone for a heavy experience. Smoke and Mirrors Continues what Smoke started, great heavy rock, with a captivating chorus, really thrilling bass play, and all instruments in great syncopation, it's supposed to be a ballad, but a heavy one it is. The Shattered Room Are we given no rest? The third heavy rock song in line, normally arena gives us some resting points where we can gasp for breath, but not on this rollercoaster ride they don't. If any that's the only real minor point I can find in this album. The intro starts quiet though, so don't complain to hard. The Shattered Room reminds me somewhat of The Butterfly Man on the Immortal? album, dark, heavy, lots of changes, and beautifully excecuted.

The Eyes Of Lara Moon Accoustic guitars starts this song, dark vocals, and fastly it develops into a rocking ballad. Not my favourite song, but still reasonable good. Tantalus Clive starts this song, with piano, some bass and rob singing his lines very emotive and intense. When John and Mick Join in, the song begins to get more intense, and becomes very very good. Great build up, when jou think it starts, there's a small delay, and it picks up again, with great vengeance, and furious anger, and than slows down again, to get more heavy again (did my point, it changes franticly, get across?) great song. Purgatory Road Heavy metal arena style, short rifs, with lots of things happening, impossible to keep track. Great singing, and it drags you right in. flaming power, and an intense sonic experience (just listen to the ending, I'm here to stay...won't fade away. ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh best piece of the album)

Opera Fanatica Operetic vocals start the song, which according to many, including me is the centre piece of the album. Soon the metal kicks in, and we are taken on a fabulous tour through the different elements that make up Arena's sound. Heavy guitars, fast changes, great keyboard solo's that make you scream for more, guitars all around, and everything developing in a naturall manner. dark lyrics. Just fanatic intensity.

Pepper's Ghost is a fantastic album, and I can't praise it enough, yet I will not reward it with more than four stars, for some reasons. 1. No instrumentals 2. too much focussed on heavy rock 3. they've made better albums (Contagion, The Visitor). Still four stars is a good score. I recommend this album to all who liked Immortal? But also to all who enjoy heavy symphonic guitar based progressive music.


DeathRow | 4/5 |


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