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Arena - Immortal? CD (album) cover

IMMORTAL?

Arena

 

Neo-Prog

3.92 | 334 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Arena's first album of the millennium is in my opinion their strongest effort to date from what I have heard from them. There's a nice balance of guitar and keyboards, making more a more neo progressive metal type experience. On this album they decided to go with a non conceptual approach, their last record The Visitor being a rollicking conceptual piece that in the end came off successfully. Also worth mentioning is that Paul Wrightson and John Jowitt were both replaced on this record by Rob Sowden and Ian Salmon. This lineup has remained unchanged until today. Anyway, the songs on this album are a bit longer than The Visitor, with one piece reaching 9 minutes and the near 20 minute piece Moviedrome. In my opinion, this is Arena at the peak of their abilities and the peak of their creativity (at least from what I heard from the group at least).

The album opens with the strong piece Chosen. It begins with percussion that is strangely reminicent of Pink Floyd's Learning to Fly, but in the end it is a significantly heavier piece, with a great chord progression and some nice vocals from Sowden. It opens the album with a bang and the album doesn't really lose that overall atmosphere. Waiting for the Flood begins as an acoustic piece with sprawling arpeggios from Mitchell and a nice underlying bass line from Salmon. The piece doesn't ever get truly heavy, and the gentle acoustic feel is very well conceived and the lush keyboards from Nolan only help create a more soothing atmosphere. The Butterfly Man is one of the longer pieces on the album, clocking in at just about nine minutes. It begins with forboding keyboards from Nolan, who also provides an anxious mellotron performance underneath. Soon, the entire band kicks in with some precise drumming from Pointer and a soaring guitar solo from Mitchell. The piece has a nice sense of flow and progression, as the piece flows from melodic to somber, to rough and agressive in a rather well conceived manner.

Ghost in the Firewall begins with a droning bass beat complimented by a killer drum performance from Pointer, which while simplistic gets the job done very well. The piece is probably the weakest song on the album, with no real sense of evolution or any true invention, but still it isn't a terrible song in the end. Climbing the Net has a majestic feel with a nice Tony Banks esque synth line from Nolan and some precise rhythmic work from Salmon and Pointer. Although it isn't a particularly strong piece, I appreciate the guitar work, which ranges from soaring to very ethereal will well timed volume swells. Moviedrome is the showpiece of the album and will go down in history as one of the great Neo Prog epics. The piece goes through many different emotions and atmospheres, and the links between the varying emotions and the musicianship on this piece is just stunning. From the desolate, ambient intro, to the droning synthesizers around the seventh minute, to the hectic 5/4 sections towards the end (which yield a magnificent Mitchell solo). In the end, a fantastic way to almost bring the album to a close. Friday's Dream is the real closer of the album. It brings the album to an end with a nice acoustic feeling, but in my opinion Moviedrome should have officially ended the album, as it ended on such an epic note.

In the end, this is the best Arena album I've heard yet. It's not a masterpiece, but I really love the magnificently crafted songs and the excellent overall quality and musicianship. Fans of Neo Progressive rock in the vein of IQ, Marillion, and Pendragon won't go wrong with this album and fans of Progressive Metal might enjoy the album's heavier moments. As for me, I think this is an excellent album and it gets a high recommendation from me. 4.5/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 4/5 |

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