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Arena - Pride CD (album) cover





3.64 | 336 ratings

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4 stars With Pride, Arena ends their first era, one of classic Neo Progressive glory. I will probably always hold the two chapters of this era of the band, Songs from the Lion's Cage and Pride, above all else the band has or will release in the future. That is not to say that I don't enjoy their latter records, but these albums just appeal to my ideal vision of Arena, and a good portion of Neo-Prog altogether. These two albums absolutely must be owned in partnership to be fully appreciated, for each one complements the other. Think of them as one long epic tale carried across two albums.

Overall, I'd have to admit that Pride is just slightly weaker than Songs from the Lion's Cage, but each album has certain strengths that the other lacks in varying degrees. The main grievance I had with Songs was that the "Crying for Help" interludes were average to lesser in quality, and basically unnecessary. On Pride, that situation is completely reversed. Every single of these interludes (which are entirely different from those on Songs) are interesting and unique. The first is a woodwind and harp duet, and a beautiful one at that. The second is an acoustic guitar-dominated instrumental that would fit perfectly on Foxtrot or another top-notch Genesis album. The third is an a capella performance by Wrightson which exposes the limits of his voice slightly, but it adds to the flow and atmosphere of the album nonetheless. The fourth is an atmospheric piece that segues perfectly into the epic finale. These four songs are essential to the flow and individual enjoyment of Pride.

Now, Pride has a definite advantage over Songs from the Lion's Cage in regard to the instrumental interludes, but the score is made more even in the main compositions. Whereas Songs from the Lion's Cage was comprised of nearly all stellar material, Pride is sort of a mixed bag. I wouldn't go so far as to call any one song bad, but only two songs reach the excellence that those on Songs achieved. These are "Empire of a Thousand Days" and "Sirens," both of which are epics in every sense of the word, appealing to one's ideas of ancient Greek mythology and military conquest lyrically and providing bombastic music to fully lift up these narratives. "Fool's Gold," the remaining epic-length song on Pride, is not of such quality, but it doesn't add detriment to the flow or feeling of the album. It is enjoyable, but not as memorable nor grandiose and the previously mentioned epics.The opening song, "Welcome to the Cage." and "Medusa" are both in a more standard rock format than everything else on Pride, but as rather complex rock songs, they are very adequate. They both are passable, perhaps quite enjoyable if you are more inclined to accept a lighter form of Neo-Prog as I generally am.

It is a bit of a shame that Arena didn't continue on with the trend they began with Songs from the Lion's Cage and carried on with Pride. I so would want another installment in this series of epic, poetic, and myth-centered music. Since it seems that will never come to be, we'll have to appreciate these two albums alone, as two parts of one overall story. And certainly and epic of a story it is.

stonebeard | 4/5 |


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