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Arena - Songs from the Lions Cage CD (album) cover





3.85 | 450 ratings

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4 stars By this review I start my collaboration in ProgArchives...

Well, in my opinion, Arena is the classical kind of so-called Neo-Progressive (sometimes I call it "Neon-Progressive") sub-genre band with modern digital-keyboards-oriented sound, howling guitars, pompous melodies and some definite percent of "wanna-be nature". It's all not saying that I don't like this kind of bands (Arena, Grey Lady Down, Pendragon, The Flower Kings, etc), but thinking seriously I never rate them with glorious and much-more innovative names like Yes, Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator or King Crimson, or even with also very innovative and so unique modern bands like Inquire or After Crying. I simply like those neo-bands for their bright melodies and juicy sound, but I don't wait a lot of intellectual depth or especial thoughtfulness from them - I guess this is the kind of relaxing music for Prog-Listeners...

By this moment I have all the studio albums by Arena except their very latest one (2005), plus a couple of their live-albums. And in every CD I have among even bunches of excellent compositions I found at least two unnecessary filler-tracks, even on their conceptual VISITOR-album. Also Arena never had really strong, sincere and impressive vocalist. But the really outstanding things I admit for Arena are just their ability to create so nice and juicy melodies and brilliant technical skills by Clive Nolan and both guitarist which ever took part in the band's records.

The debut album by Arena was released in the very actual moment for this kind of music where it was very good time for modern Progressive bands - just in the mid-90s many of them have released their most successful records, also many veterans (King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Peter Hammill, Yes) were in good activity again. So Arena has caught this "wind of Progressive fluids"...

The albums named SONGS FROM THE LION'S CAGE (similarly to their next album) is constructed by two sorts of compositions: every second track was the part of "Crying For Help"-serial, and frankly speaking I easily could live without all of them - I honestly consider them as unnecessary and unattractive musical pieces, especially to compare with such brilliant pieces as Valley Of The Kings or Solomon. The mentioned tracks are the longest and the most Progressive (in the full sense of this word) on the album. Valley Of The Kings is my personal favorite track among all the Arena's records: it's consisted of several parts, very moody and groovy, contains simply fairy-beautiful melodies, complex rhythms (great work on drums, Mr. Pointer!) especially the electric- guitar parts - they are pretty amazing (thanks for Keith More)! Solomon also has a brilliant electric-guitar solo in its coda. This composition is also constructed by several parts, is very dramatic, impressive and moody.

Another highlights on the album are the half-ballad Jericho with so gentle and mellow beginning and unexpectedly rocking continuation, plus the opening hard-rocking track Out Of The Wilderness with rather mystically dark atmosphere and gorgeous guitar solo in the end. The lead vocalist John Carlson sings so tragically in places here, pretty close to Fish on the early Marillion's records. (I don't worry to be seemed quite unoriginal admitted that at some places Arena is damn like to mid-80s Marillion as by the sound, as by the melodies, as by the style of performance).

Though I haven't been so impressed by Midas Vision (it seems very standard and uninspiring to myself personally) and, as I've already mentioned, by four parts of Crying For Help, even by the part number 4 with Rothery's guest guitar on it.

Anyway, I suggest this album for all who don't mind Neo-Progressive, but especially for newcomers of this sub-genre, because SONGS FROM THE LION'S CAGE is absolutely not difficult to get in and would be friendly-listenable for those who don't have experience in Progressive at all.

Emperor | 4/5 |


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