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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The Pride enters the Arena

I bought this album after I had heard Arena's subsequent albums "The visitor" and "Immortal?" Almost inevitably, it is not quite up to the standard of these albums, which were a natural development of the band's music. That said, I suspect if I had heard this album before those, I would have considered it innovative and inspired.

There are some great tracks. "Medusa", "Fool's gold" and "Sirens" all more than hint at what was to come, and stand up well in their own right. The neo-prog sound, Clive Nolan's complex layers of keyboards, and (although John Mitchell had yet to arrive), the fine guitar work are all already there. The song structures are often complex with regular changes of time and atmosphere.

The album includes further "Crying for help" interludes, which were later grouped together on "The cry" EP.

If there is a slight weakness, it is in the song writing. For me the songs are generally not as strong as those which came later. It's all relative though, and this is a very good album.

Report this review (#953)
Posted Thursday, February 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars ARENA have certainly received a lot of attention since their inception and deserve all of this exposure. Fans of IQ and MARILLION will certainly appreciate this band. ARENA deliver some exceptionally strong neo-prog moments and build some very strong songs which never get too synthy or neo-proggy for my liking. The vocals are very strong and although they seem to be searching at times they land in the right place for me. The pattented keyboard work of Cive NOLAN is unmistakeable and very strong..
Report this review (#955)
Posted Saturday, March 13, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Here is strong second ARENA album with quite an eerie feel to it. "Welcome to the Cage" opens the CD with a fast tempo, some bombastic arrangements and a heartfelt delivery by vocalist Paul Wrightson - a perfect opener on concert nights. The album also contains some slow, delicate instrumentals such as the recurring "Crying for Help" theme, but mostly showcases ARENA at their most dramatic: the multi-layered "Empire of a Thousand Days", the simple but catchy "Medusa", the zany "Fool's Gold" whose flavour reminds me a bit of "Jericho" and last but not least, the almost 14-minute epic "Sirens". The whole thing is very convincing, the vocals gripping and the music, as usual, magnificent.
Report this review (#957)
Posted Saturday, April 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's the best ArenA album for me. Paul Wrightson voice is fantastic, and album is well made so even mr Pointer sounds good:) On this album we have the best Arena hit song - Medusa realy fantastic song withgreat lyrics. Sirens and Empire Of Thousand Days are great too, especialy final part of Empire when Paul starts to sing : "Let the mek lie down, for the shall not inherit the Earth for me" . Final of Sirens is very glorious too. I very like keyboards too, they make an atmosphere similar to early '80 Marillion. This music is nothing new but it is very fine played and composed. You can only close your eyes and listen. Then you will feel power of this sound.Satisfaction guaranteed
Report this review (#958)
Posted Sunday, May 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This was my introduction to Arena, just another chance encounter in the local music store, atracted by the typical 80's/90's progressive covers, and recognising the names Nolan and Pointer from resp. Pendragon and Marillion (two of my favourite bands at the time). I listened the album at the store, and it only took me 30 seconds to recognise the style as the kind of music I like, heavy and symphonic like the early work of Marillion so i bought the album and became a big fan of Arena's music.

The music on this album is a continuation of the style and format Arena used for their great debut album 'Songs from the lions cage' (which i bought shortly after this album) heavy bombastic symphonic rock songs separated by quieter musical interludes (The crying for help songs).

The Crying for help songs are nice, but don't stand well when judged on their own merit, but within the confines of the album I enjoy the soft instrumental breaks, the songs range from soft accoustic guitar parts, a piano part, an accapella piece (great voice from Paul Wrightson, always make me smile, bordering on cringe level, but great nontheless) and a synthesised piece which i don't really like, being the last part of the Crying for Help series.

The album starts with the rocker "Welcome To The Cage" which always reminds me of Market Square Heroes from Marillion, with hints of Camel's Aristillus and even Queens We Will Rock You (you have to want to hear it very badly else you won't hear the last reference) very fast heavy keyboards, great guitars and bass and a great voice that takes the song to great heights. after the accoustic guitar based "Crying" track we get the first of three long songs "Empire of a thousand days" which again echoes the roots of neo-prog with a Marillionesque sound, though heavier than Marillion ever played, great lyrics and compelling guitar and Bass. A great song.

"Medusa" is one of my least favourite tracks, very nice and even good on occasion, I like to hear it once in a while, but not up to par with the rest of the material. Fool's Gold is another heavy rocker, in the same vein as Empire, Out Of The Wilderness (from the previous album) and again early Marillion tracks very heavy and bombastic, with very good bass guitar lines, and fabulously sung.

Like the previous album Pride closes with an Epic Song, the lyrics tell the story of a ship at sea caught in a hurricane, and the lyrics and music are in perfect sinc. very heavy parts, and suddenly the boat floats in the eye of the storm, the music displaying that calmth perfectly only to reach full force again as the ship get's caught in the storm again and eventually crashes in the rocks. very fabulous song listen to it yourself if you get the chance.

This is one of the great albums of neo-progressive rock and a must for all who like the neo-sound. Highly recommended, and I can't reward it with less than 5 stars.

Report this review (#963)
Posted Wednesday, November 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars This record is a bit better than the debut album. It still sounds derivative but it seems than the band is beginning to succeed in making its own sound. The band has at this time another singer, Paul Wrightson, who has a more distinct voice than the original lead singer. His performance is good although his voice doesn't work well with the quiet songs nor the quiet segments of certain songs, "Medusa" for example. Standout tracks are "Empire of a Thousand Days" and "Sirens". Arena in my opinion isn't a very adventurous band for it delivers derivative yet very strong and very well done neo-prog material, so it might appeal to the average progressive listener after all.
Report this review (#965)
Posted Wednesday, January 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The second album by Arena is constructed by the same type as the previous one: the tracks nos 2, 4, 6 and 8 are the continuing story of the same old "Crying For Help"-parts, but other 5 compositions are independent musical pieces. And once again I would be glad in case there are no one of those "Cryings For Help", really! That part where the new vocalist Paul Wrightson sings without any instrument is simply annoying - this track is performed so trivially and unsincere in addition with absolutely banal melody, that I don't want anything except to finish with the track as soon as it possible! I believe it'd be wise decision by Arena's participants not to release two albums in 1995 and 1996, but to create the only one without all of those "Crying"-parts... Though I'm really glad that other five tracks are very good.

The 1st track Welcome To The Cage is the real opener - it's powerful, pompous, very catchy, with so memorable refrain. Very useful introduction for the album! Another influentive track with very memorable melody is Medusa - mid-tempo rocker characterizing by many hooks of guitar and keyboards. I think both songs are potential hits - they even could hit the British or US chats in case of serious show-business promotional work...

But the real highlights of the album are the other three tracks unmentioned to the moment. They are longer and closer to real "Progressive trademarks". Empire Of Thousand Days is my mostly favorite here - it's slightly psychedelic, rather groundbreaking, with pulsing keyboard-guitar sound, characterized by "crystally-cold" mood and sound. Another two compositions - Fool's Gold and Sirens - are produced in more dramatic vein, with depressively sad melodies and the lyrics about "what a disappointment is this world".

I think that the both early albums by Arena are of the same level of quality - slightly less than 4 stars but much better than 3 ones. Once again I recommend this record for those who are new in Progressive and for the fans of Neo-Progressive ("early Marillion-esque" sound) at all.

Report this review (#967)
Posted Thursday, February 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars Slightly more interesting than their overrated debut. Some more things are happening, though without the necessary musical edge. Paul Wrightson is an improvement over John Carson, yet sounds in the same derivative vein as Fish. Again, the Crying For Help concept does not work due to a lack of dramatic credibility. Don't expect anything adventurous from this neoprog powerhorses.
Report this review (#966)
Posted Sunday, February 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars After Arena's exceptional debut album, I had high hopes for this one. I was very disappointed. This album lacks the creativity, melodies, emotion, and overall impact of their debut. I have since listened to all of Arena's albums, and Pride is still my least favorite. Try Contagion or The Visitor instead.
Report this review (#968)
Posted Monday, March 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Better than everything Néo-prog has to offer.

When it comes to fusion of hard rock and prog, we use the term Néo-progressive rock. A new generation, as if progressive rock went new-wave. Plastic Yamaha keyboards in front, this sort of music will irritate deeply the listener looking for a challenge or new horizons. This is familiar ground, the emphasis is of course on the bling-bling, the catchyness of the songs. The ones who entertains the most AND bores the less wins. Unfortunetly, Marillion became a role model in this musical section, making the market invaded with clones of the Scottish sensation.

Could Arena be one of them?

Yes and no. At first, Arena really targetted on improving the concept developped by Marillion. They did actually, pretty well indeed. They ALWAYS had quality product, there is basically no weak Arena album. No jokes dudes. Nolan and Pointer, later joined by Mitchell, fueled on past experiences (Marillion, Pendragon, Shadowland) and go out the best of their talents to create the mighty machine that is Arena. Later with the Visitor album, Arena gained in originality...

Anyway, there is more good than bad in Pride. The bad would be Wrighton's voice, a nasty rip-off of Fish's vocals. And this is such a good cloning! Anyway, beyond this, the writing go higher in complexity and enjoyment. I mean, they don't abuse of their super catchy choruses so the songs stays fresh!

One last thing, in my amazement I must say that Clive Nolan SHOULD compose soundtracks for video games because, dude, he has amazing talent with the keys to create simple, touching and incredibly catchy little interludes (crying for help suite). Games like Final Fantasy and other Role Playing Games should ring a ding ding at Nolan's place!!

Rock on England.

Report this review (#36010)
Posted Friday, June 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This second album of Arena is good, but not like the previous one. This time the idea along the tracks of the album is related to mythology, specially greek. Basically, the band continues the sound of "Songs of the Lions Cage" but if I have to say something, I must tell the sound is some heavier, rocker. Sounds like a mixture between Marillion and Rush, but this is just an image to reflex the idea. The Pink Floyd influences, however, are still present. For this album, Arena changed the singer (a problem of all the career of the band), but he sounds similar to Fish one more time (irony: Pointer left Marillion because of discussions with Fish). Even when the album has not got the excellence of the first one, two of the best songs of Arena are here: "Medusa" and "Sirens". The second of them is the last one among the tracks and one more time it is a perfect close for the album, a 13 minutes duration epic. The rest of the songs "Crying for Help" are here (V, VI, VII y VIII) and one more time just one of them has got words.
Report this review (#51053)
Posted Monday, October 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's quite difficult to review this record. It contains great songs, wonderful instrumental themes played by Nolan - and I don't know why it can't fully amuse me. It can be a matter of sound - it's to rough for neo-prog, I think the budget of recording was not to high. Paul Wrightson's voice doesn't fit Arena also. It is to "Fishy". Wrightson could have found his original style. I waver if Ishould give three or four stars - let it be four. Pride is a solid entertainer.
Report this review (#71582)
Posted Friday, March 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#90194)
Posted Monday, September 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I just love listening to the album once in a while... Great vocals, great instrumental, great songs. Crying for help VII is the gem for me, when I first heard it I played it again and again. It just hit a certain nerve for me and it still does, of course the other songs are excellent aswell. I can't name anything negative about it, not even a small thing that I don't like about the record and overall the album is great, I like the album very much. Listening to Pride persueded me to listen Arena more often.
Report this review (#96684)
Posted Wednesday, November 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Arena's second album Pride is a cotinuation from the debut 'songs from the lions cage' album. Like the former it has five songs linked by crying for help parts V to VIII. Among them is the masterpiece Medusa one of the genre's greatest ever tracks. The Marillionesque sound which was apparent on a couple of songs on the 1st album is now gone. Perhaps this is down to a personel change (Paul Wrightson now on vocals and John Jowitt bass).

Clive and Mick have written another class record with this one but I feel it is missing that overall quality to gain a five star. But still everyone should own it.

Report this review (#100244)
Posted Friday, November 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. ARENA continue on the same path as their debut "Songs From The Lion's Cage". Although the new vocalist makes this album feel less like a lost MARILLION record.

"Welcome To The Cage" is an uptempo song with lots of keys and guitars. I really like Paul Wrightson's vocals. "Crying For Help V" is a continuation of the first four "Crying For Help" songs from "Songs From the Lion's Cage". It's a beautiful instrumental with light keys and flute. "Empire Of A Thousand Days" features mellotron courtesy of Clive Nolan, and some soaring guitar at the 7 minute mark, the song is better from here on.

"Crying For Help VI" is another instrumental with a GENESIS feel to it. "Medusa" is a good song with mellotron and wailing guitars throughout. "Crying For Help VII" is a lament with vocals only. This song and "Fool's Gold" are pretty average in my opinion. "Crying For Help VIII" features dark and ominous synths with female opera style vocals. "Sirens" is the best song in my opinion, it's fantastic ! There is a Gilmour-like guitar melody that comes and goes, as the mellotron waves roll. Then we get riffs in the form of the guitar and drums, with a keyboard melody over the top of it.

ARENA's second record doesn't stack up to what was to come, but I still recommend this, it's quite good.

Report this review (#100292)
Posted Saturday, November 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This was my first Arena album, and therefore retains a certain standing with me that may not be the general view. Although the songwriting is still formative, it's still good and shows the promise that was to come to fruition on later discs. A fine neo-prog style, ending with a fantastic epic in Sirens. Clive Nolan's keyboard textures to the fore throughout the album, good performances all round. Medusa & Empire of a Thousand Days also deserve mention as fine examples of late 90's English Prog style.
Report this review (#111028)
Posted Thursday, February 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Worthy follow-up to their wonderful debut album!

Funny thing is that the opening track on Pride is "Welcome to the Cage". I would have rather expected this track to be on their debut album Songs From The Lion's Cage , but hey. maybe it was meant to be that way!

Why would I say this? Well, it looks like maybe Songs From The Lion's Cage and Pride should have been only one (double disc) album. Why? The answer is quite simple: On Songs From The Lion's Cage we have the tracks Crying For Help I through IV and on Pride we find the tracks Crying For Help V through VIII.

The fist thing we notice is on Pride lead singer Paul Wrightson took over from John Carson. Not really too much noticeable, since John Carson's voice also really fit ARENA, but I personally find Paul Wrightson's singing even better! He still is my favourite ARENA vocalist.

The second thing we notice is that Pride is quite a bit heavier that its predecessor. With the lack of the slower and spaceyer tracks one could say that there is less variation on Pride , but it certainly doesn't feel that way. Pride is a very strong album with top notch musicians and Paul proves to be a great singer. My favourite tracks of this album would probably be Medusa and the over 13 minute epic Sirens.

Conclusion; a "must have" for any ARENA fan and a "should have" for anyone who likes MARILLION, PENDRAGON and/or IQ.

Report this review (#111874)
Posted Monday, February 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars You'll have to be very careful with this album. If you do not pay attention, you might think you are listening to their first one : "Songs From The Lion's Cage".

Arena develops further the "Crying For Help" concept. Some of these interludes were nice on their debut album, but I do not feel useful to repeat the concept once again. Maybe they should have produced a double album at once. The album opens on "Welcome to the Cage...". Is this another album ? Actually this track is a very good one. Full of rhythm, somewhat poppy. A good opener by all means.

Now, as far as the "Cryings" are concerned : "V" is my preferred one. A subtle piano oriented interlude. Very peaceful my friend. "VI", sounds medieval at start, then again a nice acoustic part makes it more bearable. "VII" is absolutely boring. Wringston singing a cappella all the way through. Maybe good for a scout camp. "VIII" is a monotone and spacey number. A nice choir will raise the level of this part. The second best "Crying" here.

Three long numbers will perpetrate the tradition. Arena will be known for his nice long piece of music. But on this one no such thing as "Out Of The Wilderness" nor "Solomon", unfortunately.

On this album, we'll have to live with some rather heavy numbers like "Empire of a Thousand Days" which almost starts as "Run Like Hell" (Floyd). Vocal parts will add some variety. A very good guitar break towards the end and the vocal parts make this track probably one of the best ones of the album.

"Fool's Gold" shows a lot of similarities with "The Knife". A strong and powerful rock number. It won't be as violent as "The Knife" throughout its lenght, but it is a good song as well. Great guitar work (almost symphonic).

The only outstanding piece of music is, IMO, the closing number "Sirens". Complex number, featuring lots of tempo changes. Nice keys and great rhythmic section. Finally a great number (the longest one). At times, it sounds almost as "The Apocalypse" from "Supper's Ready". Great musicianship and almost bombastic from start to finish. A great Arena track with a strong finale.

I was a bit disappointed to listen to this album after their first and very encouraging one. "Pride" is IMO, just a repetition of their debut effort. Fortunately there will be a song like "Sirens" to save this album from being rather average. Three stars.

Report this review (#120006)
Posted Friday, April 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars In just one year-time Arena had to face the departure of bassist Cliff Orsi and excellent singer John Carson along with the procedure of making a new album.To fill the holes the band hired Paul Wrightson behind the microphone and experienced bassist John Jowitt from IQ and Jadis.The new line-up recorded and released ''Pride'' in 2004 on the longtime Arena following label Verglas.

With so many things and changes going on in such a short time,it would be a miracle for the band to return with another masterpiece.But again ''Pride'' stands well among other great neo prog releases.The sound now is slightly heavier,while Wrightson's voice is more strong and aggressive than Carson's,yet very suitable to the new sound.Five normal tracks are connected with four bridges,entitled ''''Crying for help'',which are very soft compared to other tracks,having almost a pastoral symphonic sound.The overall style remains in the neo/symphonic field with grandiose keyboards by Nolan,good guitar solos by More,changing moods and haunting atmospheres.However the album lacks in coherence,''Medusa'' is an all-time classic neo prog hymn,followed by the totally flat and uninteresting a capella bridge ''Crying for Help VII''.These dead flows make the album less attractive compared to the masterful ''Songs from the lions cage''.

Despite its light disadvantages,many bands would be really proud of even reaching the atmosphere of ''Pride'' and so the album comes strongly recommended to every neo/symphonic buff...3.5 stars

Report this review (#146578)
Posted Tuesday, October 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars At the beginning of this bands existence I was already a fan, so after their debut I was anxious for their successor. When it was there and I gave it a few listens I have to say it gave me a feeling of Deja Vu and that wasn't just because of the (poor) Cry tracks. This was actually a copy of their debut just with some difference in the songs.

I mean Solomon was very comparable to Sirens. The successors of Vally of the Kings and Out of the Wilderness are Fool's Gold and Empire of a thousand days. And even the shorter songs are clear replacements. And I will be silent about the Cry (see my review on that album). Arena must have thought: why change a winning concept ? In fact I didn't really mind because I liked their debut so what could be wrong with a second one of the same sort ? It's just not very original and creative.

Sirens is one this one my favourite track. It even has the same build up as Solomon, also with a great instrumental passage in the middle. I can't get enough of this type of songs. The other two longer ones are again very good. It's just the shorter ones that are less and the Cry tracks are even worse than on their debut.

So instead of 4 stars I have to limit it to 3 stars this time (3.25).

Report this review (#148507)
Posted Friday, November 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Sophomore jinx ?

The follow-up to the acclaimed Songs From The Lion's Cage (which I reviewed earlier).

This album is "introducing" new singer Paul Wrightson and bassist John Jowitt and it's a smart move from Pointer and Nolan.

Unfortunately, the music is less inspired than before, particularly the Crying For Help moments that I can barely stand here (except for the first one). It seems that the band was struggling at the time they were working on this album.

For fans of Arena, it's still good, but I think this the weakest of their studio albums at this time.

My conclusion will be the same (a little cheating from me, heh heh..) I would say that it's certainly not Arena's best album so it's not essential, if you are short on time or money you can skip this one and go for the higher rated albums. If you fell in love with Arena (like me) and want all their albums, you won't go wrong with this one. If you are close-minded (rightfully or not) or hating neo-prog, this album won't change your mind.

Rating : 3 stars (good but non-essential) but leaning towards 2 stars.

Report this review (#150374)
Posted Monday, November 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Without any doubt, this is a sequel to Songs from the lion's cage, almost like an upgrade of it. The two new band members fit in nicely, Wrightson doing fine work especially. When this album is at its best, there is little traditional Neo prog that can compete. Sirens is as good a mini-epic as you will hear, and Empire of a thousand days is fantastically atmospheric. Weak points include Medusa and Crying for help VII, but overall, this is well worth your time.
Report this review (#152994)
Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
The Crow
3 stars My least favourite Arena album... But with a pair of memorable moments!

The style of the album clearly follows the previous and excellent Songs from the Lion's Cage... Some long and epic tracks, are mixed up with shorter ones and the Crying for Help interludes. So if you have heard the first Arena album, this second one is not really different. Maybe the most important difference is the addition of the vocalist Paul Wrightson... But his voice sounds not so well like in the later The Visitor. Maybe that's strange, but I miss the original singer John Carson in Pride. Wrightson has more personality and his voice is powerful, but I really liked the Carson's work in Songs..., so being Pride very similar in style and sound, I think this songs would have been better with his voice. But Wrightson makes a good performance anyway, like in the very vocal oriented Medusa, and the a capella track Crying for Help VII.

The new bassist, John Jowitt (who also plays in IQ...), makes also a good work... So, where is my problem with this album? Just the songwriting. The songs are not so brilliant like in the previous work... Only Sirens is really in the same level. The rest is not so catchy, and the vocal melodies are not so epic like in Songs form the Lion's Cage. And the Crying for Help thing is a bit boring here... Specially the silly ambiental song Crying for Help VIII.

But like I said before, the album is far from being bad... Clive Nolan makes a pretty enjoyable work, as usual, and Keith More is also a competent guitarist, making again a variated and deep work... You have only to hear the bluesy guitar solo in the beginning of Sirens. So I think every Arena's fan, and neo- prog lover, will find enough worthy moments in Pride.

Best tracks: Welcome to the Cage (very apropiated opening: catchy, fast, with very nice keyboard melodies and an outstanding guitar solo), Medusa (I specially like the verses...), Crying for Help VII (curious a capella track...) and of course, Sirens (the best track of the album... And the only long ones wich is really remarkable)

Conclusion: not as good as Songs from the Lions's Cage... But still enjoyable. I miss the John Carson's voice, because I think his voice is better for this kind of songs, and I find the long tracks a bit boring, with the exception of the great Sirens. Nevertheless, this is a very good album, wich every Arena's fan should hear. But if you are not into the career of this great band, I recommend you to start with another album, because Pride is their weakest efforth in my opinion.

My rating: ***1/2

Report this review (#173095)
Posted Thursday, June 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Any of Arena's first three albums is the right way to get started with the band, especially the first two: "Pride" was my introduction to Arena, the first album with Paul Wrigthson as lead singer and John Jowitt as bassist. So, the first song I ever heard of Arena featured the best singer the band ever had and a solid rhythm section secured by the presence of the ever functional and powerful John Jowitt. 'Welcome to the Cage' is a catchy song that somehow rings distant bells to Marillion's 'Market Square Heroes' and Pendragon's 'Higher Circles', which shouldn't be considered an offense given the backgrounds from which Arena's main men come from. The melodic lines flow energetically and captivatingly through the track's obviously catchy intention. A more elaborate set of arrangements and moods can be traced in 'Empire of a Thousand Days', regarding the standards of musical ambition and variation usually set for long prog songs. This mini-epic reinforces the idea of the band having met a solid rhythmic basis and the perfect vocalist for the tales of grandeur, drama and passion delivered in the lyrics. Stuck between the two is one of Nolan's most beautiful compositions ever, 'Crying for Help V' (I think I prefer the titles appeared on "The Cry", but well, that's another story): this multi-keyboard exercise on Baroque-like classicism is a beauty of melody and harmony, maybe collaterally verging on the new-age trend, but essentially symphonic in a Wakeman-meets-Bardens sort of way. 'Crying for Help VI' follows a similar classicist vein, only this time the limelight is shared between the acoustic guitar arpeggios and the keyboard chord progressions - the air of patent sophistication never gets out of hand, thanks to a well-calculated constraint exercised during the piece's development. 'Medusa' is the next song, a prog semi-ballad with slight AOR-ish touches (a-la Turner-era Rainbow): the simplistic yet effective guitar main lines find a perfect complement in the more complex solo that emerges in the middle, while Wrightson powerfully sings this tale of self-inflicted doom. After the a-capella version of 'Crying for Help VII' (I think I prefer the pastoral rendition that appeared on "The Cry") comes one of the two definitive highlights, 'Fool's Gold'. This epic states a similar scheme to that of track 3, but the melodic drive feels more inspired and the overall energy is more properly developed. The eerie, subtle sinister moods of 'Crying for Help VIII' (listening to it in the dark makes you think of sirens as what they really are, killers with fishy bodies and scary bright eyes) serve as a convenient preparation for the closing track, the other highlight, 'Sirens': this has to be one of the Top 5 Arena songs, a marvelous epic that alternates romantic ambiences, mysterious nuances and bombastic moods with polished fluidity, building a sense of unity through the ongoing shifts. This is the kind of climatic creativity that the neo movement always aspired to, and this Arena track from the 90s exemplifies it perfectly. What a finale for this great album! I'm aware that the band's debut album usually surpasses this one in polls undertaken by Arena fans, but I think that this album is the best of their pre-"The Visitor" era. As much respect as a I keep for Nolan, Pointer and co, my favorite Arena age is the one that starts with this album and ends with "The Visitor". 3.75 stars for this one.
Report this review (#182418)
Posted Sunday, September 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Songs From The Lions Cage part II

Pride is Arena's second album and it is another great album that pretty much follows the formula of the debut. Again we have five proper songs plus four further Crying For Help interlude pieces, three of which are instrumentals. The biggest changes are not in the musical direction of the band but in the line up. Vocalist Paul Wrightson joins the band here replacing the previous singer John Carson. Also on bass is there a change with John Jowitt taking over those duties. The early days of Arena was a turbulent time with many line up changes. Not until the Immortal? album would the band have a stable line up. It is simply remarkable that they could make such amazing music in the midst of all that turbulence!

There are some truly impressive and moving vocal moments on this album. I think that Paul Wrightson is a more distinctive vocalist than John Carson (great though he was on Songs From The Lions Cage) and with his arrival, Arena took a small step towards the excellence they would achieve with their next studio album, the even more brilliant The Visitor.

The songs here sound like a crossover between Marillion and Iron Maiden with a touch of Queen and Asia as well as the seed of what would become Arena's own fully "mature" sound on later albums. But they really manage to capture the best aspects of the bands that influenced them and make their very own thing of it. Still, I think that Pride is slightly less original than Songs From The Lions Cage and it also has a somewhat "thinner" (but also cleaner) sound compared to the debut.

The further proper songs, Empire Of A Thousand Days, Medusa, Fool's Gold and Sirens are all great songs. Almost up to par with the songs from Songs From The Lions Cage, but not quite as good as the very best ones like Solomon or Jericho. The overall quality of Pride is not that far behind its predecessor. However, Pride lacks a real ballad like the previous album's beautiful Crying For Help IV. This makes Pride a bit less varied and a bit more straightforward. Pride was thus easier to get into compared to Songs From The Lions Cage and I initially liked this one a bit more than the debut, but unlike most Arena albums, this one hasn't grown that much on me since I first got into it. It could perhaps be argued that this album constituted a small step back for the band, it was at least not a significant step forward for the band. However, they manage to create yet another very good album here.

The Crying For Help pieces continue here in the same vein as on the debut album and the first one here (which it the fifth overall continuing for the debut) is a nice folky/medieval piece with flute like keyboards. The second piece, Crying For Help VI has the same kind of feeling but this time based on harpsichord like keyboards. These pieces would perhaps not stand up very well as stand-alones but they should not be judged as such. Crying For Help VII, on the other hand, is an a cappella piece that possibly is the highlight of the whole album! At first I did not like it, but now I find it very captivating and convincing. It has since become a live favourite (but not performed a cappella live). The last, Crying For Help VIII, is the least good of the four; it runs for more than five minutes and it could be characterised as New Age, almost nothing interesting happens in the piece. This particular instrumental mostly feel like transportation. The instrumentals generally are not as well integrated into the overall set as on future albums like The Visitor and Contagion where the instrumentals form part of a more continuous piece of music, but here the instrumentals fill another function.

While listening to Pride I sometimes feel that had they taken the best material from this album and put it on Songs From The Lions Cage or perhaps made a single album out of the best material used on these two first albums (perhaps with the same line up that later did The Visitor), it would most probably have been an even better album than any of the two as they now stand. The live album Welcome To The Stage is as close as we will come to that fantasy. However, as they stand, both Songs From The Lions Cage and Pride are great albums in the very consistent Arena catalogue.

Pride is certainly very recommended, but perhaps not the ideal starting point despite several excellent songs and moments. For people who already owns, and enjoys, other albums by Arena, Pride is an excellent addition.

Report this review (#224415)
Posted Saturday, July 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Fabulous! We find here a tres big album of progressive Rock in this year of 1996 needs to say that it is a rare foodstuff keyboards dx9 are formidable, has Marillion. Pride is an album of néo progressive energetic and soft has the time, the true progressive Rock, certain titles(securities) are of pure masterpiece. Crying for help V is the most soft title which I heard(understood), a miracle. So much the sensation of hoes to be and of depth is powerful in this album so much the technique and mucisiens is brilliant. A pure masterpiece of the rock néo progressive, which we considered lost never has everything, the miracle can reappear whenever and everything never has. Thank you for that.
Report this review (#227300)
Posted Friday, July 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
4 stars I had a hard time with this album, since I bought it right after I had fell in love with Arena when I heard their brilliant The Visitor CD. There´s the problem when you start by an artist´s masterpiece: their previous effords usually sound inferior. It took a long, long time to finally appreciate Pride for its own right. Even their astonishing debut Songs From The Lion´s Cage did not get my full atention at the time either, for the same reason. Anyway, they both are excellent works, even if different from their latter and more personal sound.

Pride was the follower of the band´s debut, an year before. Although the first to feature singer Paul Wrightson and bassist John Jowitt (IQ, Jadis) it kind of disappointed fans because the songs were basicly more of the same and the songwriting this time was not so strong. Which doesn´t mean they were not very good. In fact, the album includes what is generally considered to be their best epic ever, the 13+ minutes opus Sirens. That track alone is worth the price of the CD, but since it was put last in the tracklist, not too many people notice at the time how strong and powerful this song was (and a hint of things to come). Besides, there were another excellent stuff here like Empire Of The Thousand Days and Medusa. The playing is also terrific: Clive Nolan´s stunning ´wall´ of keyboards sounds never fails to impress, Keith More´s guitar is highly emotional and melodic, Jowitt is one of prog´s best bass players and Wrightson proves why he is considered Arena´s best remembered vocalist (even though he sings too much like Fish for his own good).

The problem here seems to be that the songs are not as exceptional as they were on Songs... and the sequence of the tracks could be changed for a better flow of the tunes. Besides, the Cry For Help interludes don´t work so well on Pride as they did on their debut. I guess those small problems contributed a lot for the misplacing of the otherwise excellent set of songs.

In the end I found Pride to be better than I initially thought it was. The `Marillion syndrome´ is again present (it was excusable since Arena did include one ex member of that band and by the fact that Marillion itself resembled nothing of their former glory by that time). But they were already showing they were firmly heading towards their very unique sound and personality. It may not be as remarkable as their previous one, nor a masterpiece of prog music as its follow up, but it was still a strong collection of fine songs. final rating: a little more than 3.5 stars.

A must have to any neo prog fan, and recommended to anyone who likes fine, melodic symphonic prog music.

Report this review (#397841)
Posted Friday, February 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
4 stars No help needed.

Pride is the second outing by top tier neo-prog band Arena. For me, this is a tremendous step up from their debut. The song writing, the playing, the atmosphere...more or less everything is enhanced on Pride. The structure of the album is similar to Songs From The Lion's Cage, with two short songs, two fairly long songs, and one epic, with four fairly short "interludes" every other song. (As an aside, I assume this is some sort of sequel or continuation of their debut, but if there is a connecting theme [aside from the Crying For Help songs] I can't detect it.)

The main aspect of this CD is that it is a neo-prog record, through and through. Perhaps a bit more harder edged than the respective bands from the 80's, but not really adding much new to the mix of neo-prog. But, for me, that is no problem at all, as this is a very successful album. The songs have great flow, with strong melodies, and a more than competent instrumental prowess (although it never gets into self indulgence instrumentally). And that is the greatest flaw I find to this album. Most of the main songs have a fairly similar feel and tempo. Medusa and Welcome To The Cage especially seem to fall in this trap. I honestly believe you could switch the music backing for each and the songs would still work. Even the two nine minute songs are fairly similar, even though their length does seem to give them a more standoutish quality (especially Fool's Gold). Sirens does tend to break the mold a bit, adding more of a Floydian feel, in the middle bit especially. However, the Crying For Help songs do tend to break the monotony, taking away the traditional song structures, using a more ambient/floating style that lets the music dictate where the songs go. Thus, the track order certainly plays a role in keeping the listeners interest (for better or worse).

Having said all that, I still don't find this a huge flaw, mostly because the music is still quite enjoyable and engaging. Welcome To The Cage and Fool's Gold are probably my favorites, for piling on the bombast and explosive choruses. Special mention must be maid for Crying For Help VII, a wonderful a capella performance by Paul Wrightson. His voice gets quite emotional, full of that helpless/worried edge/tremble that makes this song stand out amongst the interludes. Mostly though, this album works more as a whole than as individual tracks, which counts as a strong positive in my book.

All in all, this is a damn good neo-prog album, but only that. Pride certainly doesn't set the prog world on fire for it's originality or boundary pushing. What you have here is 55 minutes of excellent mid 90's hard edged neo-prog. No overt complexity or instrumental wankery, just solid song writing and some enjoyable hooks amidst the sea of keyboards and guitar leads. If you are a fan of neo-prog or the stylistic side of prog-rock (perhaps with a slight penchant for hard rock/rock-pop) you should find plenty to enjoy here. If you need more forward looking, challenging music, you probably won't. Still though, a solid 4 star album in my book. Not Arena's best, but quite nice. Recommended.

Report this review (#479086)
Posted Friday, July 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars The second album from Arena and an introduction of some of their best songs. Their very impressive debut album got the scene's attention. This, their follow up did not diminish their reputation.

Arena's music is a mix of old classic symphonic prog, commercial pop/rock and neo prog. A perfect combination for their time. Their sound is based the classic British keyboards & guitars sound. Nothing really new and exciting there.

The songs though is great. Pride is a battle cruiser of strong songs. From Welcome To The Cage via the best song here, Medusa, to the Crying For Help songs. There are both short songs here and some long epics. Some of the stuff here are a bit cringe worthy though. But I survive that too.

In short; this is a great neo-prog album which really cement Arena's position as one of my alltime favorite neo-prog bands.

4 stars

Report this review (#524691)
Posted Friday, September 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Arena's followup to Songs From the Lion's Cage is the perfect counterpart to that album - and not just because of the continuing Crying for Help theme or the recurring motifs from the ancient world. With new vocalist Paul Wrightson on fine form and IQ's John Jowitt joining on bass, the band show no sign of slowing down in the face of these lineup changes - indeed, Mick Pointer's drumming shows several signs of improvement. The band's sound also diversifies a little, with more influences from heavier traditions of prog creeping in, which helps the dark and foreboding sound of the compositions. These improvements and changes don't quite elevate Pride into the heavens, but they do make sure Arena continue to be an intriguing band worthy of listeners' attention.
Report this review (#626024)
Posted Saturday, February 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars I've really struggled to write this review. It's almost impossible to say anything about this album, other than to point the reader squarely back in the direction of whatever I've said about 'songs from the lions cage'.

This really is disc 2 of that album, as opposed to a wholly separate entity. The first track references the former album's title ' naming itself 'welcome to the cage', and, indeed, the enumeration of the interspersed 'crying for help' tracks continues where they left off on 'songs'', starting at number 5.

Musically, this is still a strong album, and compliments well what has been laid down on 'songs''. In particular, the track "Fools Gold" captivates the listener, with its diversity and intelligence. This album still feels very Marillion-esque, albeit more a kind of concentrating inward collapsing of both eras of Marillion ' there are shades of both Fish and Hogarth here.

There's not a lot else, though. And that's really the problem. A few tracks in, I'm left thinking that I should put 'Clutching at Straws' on, rather than yearning to hear more from Arena. They have placed themselves in a competition they cannot hope to win ' especially when one bears in mind that this album and its predecessor were released at a time when Marillion were at the top of their game, presenting our ears with 'Brave'.

In addition, one can't help but feel that, when one combines this with 'Songs from the lion's cage', it feels a little longer than necessary - A feeling not helped by the album closer, Sirens, which at times meanders in such a way as to make one suspect its inclusion was related to some arbitrary need for a song of epic length.

Given its close ties with 'Songs'', I feel the only sensible thing to do is to rate it identically to that album. Again, it manages to be 'Good, but not essential' whilst sadly putting itself in direct competition with some truly essential albums.


Report this review (#800597)
Posted Sunday, August 5, 2012 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
3 stars After their beautiful debut release which put ARENA on the map as worthy successors of Marillion's unique neo-prog sound from the 80s, the band went through a few changes with the loss of both a bassist and a lead singer. Out was Paul Wrightson and in was John Jowitt, who played in Ark, IQ, Jadis and Frost. Vocalist John Carson was also out and Paul Wrightson stepped in as the second vocalist of ARENA's ever changing lineup. The result of these changes gives their second album PRIDE an overall harder edged feel that has a much different sound than the debut album that really could have passed as an 80s Marillion album if you didn't know any better.

From the very first track "Welcome To The Cage" it is clear that the guitar riffs are been sped up, the vocals are more aggressive and the style has a more rough and round the edges approach. We also get a continuation of the "Crying For Help" tracks that alternate between the main tracks. The first one "V" is a nice little melody that reminds me of a lullaby and the rest serve as mood enhancers to properly transition the main tracks, although on this album it feels more forced as they don't always successfully fit in. The rest are all instrumental as well ranging from arpeggiated guitar numbers with a classical Bach type feel "VI" to one that's a cappella "VII" and one that's a great deal ambient with a choir and operatic diva belting out wordless vocals "VIII".

"Empire Of A Thousand Days" and "Fool's Gold" are two of the longer tracks both reaching just over the nine and a half minute mark. The former is a nice classic neo-prog track that incorporates all the expected moody synths, guitar textures and layers of emotional response triggers that makes a really good neo-prog song. The track "Fool's Gold" is another rocker with hyperactive keyboards, borderline prog metal riffing and a bass line that reminds of the classic Marillion sound. A decent high energy performance on this one. "Sirens" is the longest track just under fourteen minutes. This track also takes us on a journey through different moods and emotional soundscapes. IMHO kind of long and doesn't go as many places as i would like.

Overall i'm not as enthralled by this second ARENA release. While there are plenty of beautiful tracks, the consistency isn't as good as what preceded and not even close to what follows. The turbulence of the circumstances in the lineup changes seems to have affected the album as a whole. It sounds to me like the "Crying For Help" tracks fit more with the debut and the others take on the new harder rocking avenue the band was taking. To me they don't flow together as smoothly as they should. Although i really love albums that contrast sounds, such is not the case in the realm of neo-prog where i find a consistency between the tracks to be mandatory in making a cohesive album. This is probably one of my least favorite ARENA album (still haven't heard the last two) but even so there is plenty of good music on this album even if it's not their absolute best. 3.5 rounded down

Report this review (#1360738)
Posted Monday, February 2, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 stars for sure

The second album of this famous neo prog band was issued in 1996 named simply Pride. With a new vocalist Paul Wrightson and a new bassist the well known abong proggers John Jowitt from Jadis and IQ fame Arena did another worthy album in this zone, continuing the same level left on previous album, thier first baby. The musicianship is as expected solid all throughout the album, with some really nice parts. The music is solid rooted in IQ-Marillion style but with with their own twists and turns added in the mix. Pieces like opening Welcome to the cage, one of the tunes played in almost every gig since then, Empire Of A Thousand Day or Medusa show maturity in song writting and aswell confirmed once again that Arena has something to say in this scene , confirming the high level of this band gained in few years. So, to this point, Pride is regarded as one of their best, only The Visitor and few more are in front of this release so far. 3.5 stars, their next one is even better and definatly their mahgnum opus and one of the better neo prog albums ever written The visitor.

Report this review (#1569482)
Posted Monday, May 23, 2016 | Review Permalink

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