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Arena Songs from the Lions Cage album cover
3.84 | 487 ratings | 42 reviews | 27% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1995

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Out of the Wilderness (8:02)
2. Crying for Help I (1:22)
3. Valley of the Kings (10:10)
4. Crying for Help II (3:08)
5. Jericho (6:50)
6. Crying for Help III (4:24)
7. Midas Vision (4:36)
8. Crying for Help IV (5:05)
9. Solomon (14:37)

Total Time 58:14

Line-up / Musicians

- John Carson / lead & backing vocals
- Keith More / guitars
- Clive Nolan / keyboards, backing vocals, engineer
- Cliff Orsi / bass, backing vocals
- Mick Pointer / drums

- Steve Rothery / guitar (8)
- Tracy Hitchings / backing vocals
- Tosh McMann / backing vocals
- Martin Albering / backing vocals
- Marc Van Dongen / backing vocals

Releases information

Artwork: John Gosler

CD Verglas Music ‎- VGCD001 (1995, Europe)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to NotAProghead for the last updates
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ARENA Songs from the Lions Cage ratings distribution

(487 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(27%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(46%)
Good, but non-essential (19%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

ARENA Songs from the Lions Cage reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Greger
4 stars What we have here are a future classic album in the progressive and symphonic genre. It has classical tracks such as "Out Of The Wilderness", "Valley Of The Kings" and the epic masterpiece "Solomon". Steve Rothery of MARILLION is doing a guest appearance on guitar on "Crying for Help IV". - ARENA was formed by the former MARILLION drummer Mick Pointer, who's also responsible for all of the song writing together with the keyboard player Clive Nolan (PENDRAGON, SHADOWLAND etc.). Keith More is doing a great job on his guitars. This album is very reminiscent to the FISH-era MARILLION albums but there's also reminiscences to both GENESIS and YES. - The music, the album cover, the musicianship and the production is top notch and there isn't really anything to complain about. If you liked the FISH-era MARILLION there's no doubt that you'll love this album as well. Recommended!
Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is another neo progressive album in the MARILLION and PENDRAGON style. Many parts here (guitar solos, drums and keyboards) really sound like MARILLION in the FISH-era. (end of "Out of the Wilderness", "Valley of the Kings", "Jericho" ...)

"Crying For Help I" is a beautiful acoustic guitar track a la Steve HACKETT. "Crying For Help II" is a very symphonic track having a classical genre. (harpsichord-like) "Crying For Help III" is a floating new age track a la ENYA. "Midas Vision" has a GILMOUR-esque guitar solo that can be compared to "Time" on "Dark Side of the Moon".

Clive Nolan's moog solos a la MARILLION are very melodic and catchy. As a composer, he still shows us here that he can produce miscellaneous amazing sounds and patterns. Everything is never bland, rather catchy and addictive. Lead vocals are very emotive, reminding the singer FISH (MARILLION).

The best song IMO is "Crying For Help IV": it is a Roger WATERS' "Amused to "Death's" Miracle-esque jewel: listen to this floating organ + echoed piano notes; attend the song progression and the emotion from the lead vocals!! This is really OUTSTANDING!! This song ends with an excellent melodic MARILLION-esque guitar solo. We have bits of quintessence: on the last track "Solomon", at 8:00 and 10:00!! Just listen to that incredible bass!! Unbelievable!! The guitars, drums and keyboards complete those quintessential bits. WOAH!

Review by Hibou
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars ARENA makes a type of prog that grabs you by the throat. Call it muscle prog, hard prog, it's altogether a powerhouse of keyboards, scorching guitars, bass and drums that hit you in the right places, dramatic vocals and catchy melodious musical passages bearing the purest Clive Nolan signature. This is simple prog, however: with no frills or fancy guitar noodling ā la FLOWER KINGS, for example. "Jericho", with its slow build-up to an anthemic finale, is a fine example of the style the band would go on to perfect on their subsequent albums. Other notable tunes are the opening track "Out of the Wilderness", "Valley of the Kings", "Solomon" and the devestatingly beautiful slow number "Crying for Help IV" (which will be slightly modified on the E.P. "The Cry") - my favourite twilight song as I like to call it. Although a far cry from "The Visitor", "Songs from the Lion's Cage" is a stunning debut album and as such is sure to go down in the annals of prog history.
Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I was happy the first time I got a cassette version of the band which was formed by ex marillion's drummer Mick Pointer and Pendragon's key member Clive Nolan. This album is another piece of what so called "neo progressive" music that really fit my musical taste. I love Mick Pointer not because of his drumming capability, but his involvement with Marillion, my favorite band. Nevertheless, this debut album of Arena is excellent. "Out of The Wilderness" is a track with heavy keyboard playing and some guitar, up-beat tempo. This is a typical nice track to be played after you wake up in the morning. Powerful. This album has a series of "Crying for Help" piece that is continued in their second album "Pride" as well. You must try "Crying for Help II" (track 4) which represents a heart breaking piece with deep touch on classical music. This track is a very nice instrumental music. Once it's done, the more energetic piece of music flows naturally to next track "Jericho" which then became their favorite live track. For those of you who like Hackett style of guitar playing, you will definitely enjoy "Crying for Help IV" where Steve Rothery of Marillion contributes on guitar part. This track also reminds me to "Chelsea Monday" from marillion's Script for A Jester's Tear. "Solomon" is a brilliant decision by the band to put this track as a closing to the album.
Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars A roaring debut, with the wisdom of Solomon

Arena's first album borrows more from the band members' previous affiliations and influences than later albums did. There's less of the band's own "identity" which would be stamped so definitively on later albums such as "The visitor" and "Contagion". It's still an excellent album though, with many fine (neo) prog rock moments.

The opening track, "Out of the wilderness" has an early Marillion feel, with "Fugazi" like marching themes, and various time changes. "Valley of the kings" continues the Marillion sound, perhaps with hints of Gabriel era Genesis. There's some fine synthesiser from Clive Nolan, who moves to organ for the excellent "Jericho", a track which once again has an infectious marching rhythm.

The closing track, "Solomon" is often cited as the band's finest track. It is certainly still a live favourite, and at over 14 minutes, a well structured prog rock masterpiece. For those who like their prog to include synthesiser and guitar solos, time changes, a story line, fine vocals, and a majestic ending, "Solomon" meets the bill on all fronts.

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

An excellent first effort from the band which demonstrated their vast potential, more than fulfilled on later albums. Essential for "Solomon" alone, but don't let that blind you to the quality of the other tracks.

Review by Menswear
5 stars Arena? Guarenteed every time.

Even 10 years after the launching of Songs from the Lions Cage, the sound's fantastically bombastic. Powerful prog done with experience and a keen sense of melody.

Fans of complex and pushed-forward progressive, this is not for you. Arena never really invented a genre, instead they improved a formula popularized by Marillion by pumping up the VU meter on the producer's mixing console. Bigger sound and harder edge, néo-prog needed that intensively. The néo-prog genre tends to be more sappy, melancolic and generally more on the softer side. While Pendragon, Marillion, IQ, Illuvatar and other such are betting on harmony, softeness and many times marshmallow-lame-afternoon-soap- opera, Arena is standing on the edge of mental anxiety and questionning. This gives the lyrics a dramatic sense but on the darker side of life. On paper this could sound rather negative or depressive, but with the music it takes a real sense.

With the Visitor album, this album is at the top of the shelf. Why? The melodies are so keyboard-catchy and the songs are longer with some of the best they made. Give a listen to Solomon, Valley of the Kings and the Crying for Help suite. The melodies are simply carved for life in your head. Nolan and Pointer are really proving themselves to be a killer team as time goes by, but the icing is that it's been like that since the beginning!

If you're aiming for Arena be sure to know what you want. Don't expect complexity or stratospheric performances and long solos. This is not a performance band. The songs are done with energy and professionalism BUT the main goal of Arena is to entertain with good melodies. If you want catchy stuff with punch, passion and more attitude, you got it.

Despite being a Fish era inspired by Marillion record, this album stands for one of the best of the 90's. Arena really tooked an old recipe and shot some grandeur steroids in it's veins. This was supposed to be a one-time experience!

This records stands as a standard in the 90's renaissance of the genre. If you see it, don't think by the cover that it's another obscure band, this one's for real.

Review by erik neuteboom
2 stars No doubt about the qualities of the members (including guest musician Steve Rothery) but this prog lacks any emotion and sounds so derivative! Of course the compositions sound dynamic featuring lots of catchy melodies and exciting keyboard soli but after 10 minutes I'm longing for some warm acoustic guitar or moving flute-Mellotron, what a bombastic prog wall paper!
Review by Prog-jester
3 stars ARENA's debut is also one of their best attempt, along with follow-up "Pride" and the most recent, ambitious "Pepper's Ghost". Ex-MARILLION's Pointer turns to be a better drummer he was thought, Nolan shines in his composer's talent, other guys are doing their best as well. Supergroup's name makes it clear: we're having an arena prog here! Pompous, a bit hair-metal and loud, but isn't it the new word in the world of Neo-Prog introverts? Songs and epics ("Solomon" is obviously the main gem of the whole debut) are interrupted with short instrumental interludes, and this is a good scheme to keep listeners attentive. Strongly recommended to all Neo-Prog aficionados!
Review by The Crow
4 stars Itīs not a perfect masterpice...But almost!!!

This fisrt Arena was wonderful! The only two members remaining now of this release are the keyboardist Clive Nolan and the ex-Marillion drummer Mick Pointer, but the feeling, the great compositions and good lyrics of all the later Arenaīs albums are here yet. Even the Keith More guitar sounds a little similar to the Jon Mitchellīs one...

Maybe the singer John Carson is very similar to Fish sometimes, but it doesnīt matter, because he sang with a lot of feeling, and the most important fact, he sang great songs! I really like the work of every member of the group in this album, but itīs not a problem for me, because I like the members of the other albums too!!!

The only weak point I find in this album are two songs: Crying for Help III (a little bit repetitive...) and Midas Vision (not bad at all, bot doesnīt reach the great level of all the other songs of the album...)

Best songs: Out of The Wilderness (marvellous final choirs!), Valley of the Kings (very complete song with an epic ending!), Jericho (the perfect neo-progressive song, and the best of the album in my opinion), Crying for Help IV (just very beautiful, with a superb Steve Rotheryīs guitar solo...) and Solomon (another epic, grandilocuent song, with a impressive instrumental section in the middle!).

Conclusion: A MUST FOR NEO-PROGRESSIVE FANS!!! In my opinion, very better than other bands like IQ or Pendragon...

My rating: ****1/2

Review by Guillermo
3 stars I listened to this album for the first time in 1997. I don`t have it in my collection. I listened to it because one of my brothers has it. It was given to him as a gift by a German friend who my brother met when he lived and worked in Germany for one year. I was curious to listen to this album as I read a sticker in the CD cover which says "Former Marillion`s drummer Mick Pointer`s New Band" or something like that.The CD looks more like an independent release, I mean, like an album released by the band with their own economic resources and not by a major record label, but maybe I`m wrong. Anyway, this band has their supporters and fans, and I also support the idea of "creative freedom" for bands.

This album has some interesting things, a good recording and mixing, good musicians and some good songs, but I couldn`t be very much interested in buying their new albums. The atmospheres are somewhat "dark", both in music and in lyrics. The band is obviously very influenced by other Progressive Rock bands and by Marillion`s music too, IMO. Maybe some of the Neo-Progressive bands have to work harder than old Progressive Rock bands to have an own identity. Maybe this was the case in my interest with Arena`s albums.

I didn`t like Mick Pointer`s drums playing in MARILLION`s first album, "Script for a Jester`s Tear". I think that at that time the band had good reasons for the change of drummer, but when I listened to this Arena`s first album I was impressed in how good Mick Pointer was playing the drums. He improved a lot in his playing since he left Marillion, and his playing is one of the more positive things in this album. The keyboard player, Clive Nolan, is also very good.

Review by NJprogfan
3 stars Attention Marillion fans! The long lost album made right before Fish left the band has been found! Okay, all jokes aside, the first Arena album does host a lead singer greatly influenced by Fish which makes this album all the more queer. Suffice it to say, if not for Clive Nolan's fantastic keyboards, (the best in the Neoprog field?) this album for me would have gone into the 'to be sold' pile toot sweet. Now, I'm not knocking Neo like a load of prog fans do. I happen to really, really like IQ and early Marillion, but with all the riffery that goes on in this album it's too close to cheesy metal for my tastes. If I want metal, I'll listen to bands that don't have the cheese factor. Yeah, you know what I mean. I can just picture Spinal Tap and all the 80's hair bands playing this sort of thing with keyboards. Makes me cringe! What sets this particular album apart is the nice instrumental breaks between songs. Kinda gives you a breather from all the bombast. Standouts for me are 'Valley of The Kings' and 'Solomon'. Both songs have excellent interplay between Nolan's cascade of keyboards and just a smidgen of cliche guitar work via Keith More. Otherwise, it's wankery and I don't like it. A solid 3 star affair for me and probably 4 or more for huge fans of Neo. Okay Fish, you can stop using John Carson as an alias ;-p.
Review by evenless
4 stars A great debut album!

Since I got to know ARENA through this site The Visitor , Immortal? and Contagion were the first albums I purchased, because they had the best ratings. After having listened to those albums many times I started really liking this band and decided to buy the rest of their studio albums.

Songs From The Lion's Cage was a very pleasant surprise. The first thing I noticed between The Visitor and Immortal? was that ARENA had replaced their lead singer. And I must admit I was initially impressed more by the voice of Paul Wrightson than by the voice of Rob Sowden. However: I must cut Rob Sowden some slack, since he has proven to be a very talented singer who fits well to ARENA's music. What I didn't know was that ARENA had yet another lead vocalist on their debut album called John Carson. His voice is quite similar to Paul's and even reminds me of Fish. And we have Mick Pointer (ex-Marillion) playing the drums, so that ARENA's debut album even sounds quite a bit Marillionesque might be more than a coincidence.

What I like especially about Songs From The Lion's Cage is the variety in songs. Some songs are merely instrumental and very "spacey" (e.g. Crying For Help III ) and this stands in great contrast with the heavier edged ones. (e.g. Solomon )

Conclusion: All and all Songs From The Lion's Cage is a debut to be proud of and was already an indication of what was yet to come.

A solid 4 stars well deserved!

Review by ZowieZiggy
4 stars Arena is one of my preferred Neo-prog band. On this album, all songs are composed by Mick Pointer (ex-Marillion) and Clive Nolan (a great songwriter and a keyboard player I like very much). Rothery will even be featured on the guitar on a small piece in this album (but what a solo!). Clive and Mick are ther cement of this very good band (studio or live - I've seen them once in our prog Mecca in Belgium : Spirit Of 66 - thanks Francis). They are still in the line-up as I write this review.

The album structure is a bit strange : some long numbers interrupted by the "Crying For Help" theme.

The opener is a brilliant number. It is a complex song with an extraordinary intro : Floydian background, Crimson hypnotic guitar riff. Very promising, indeed. This is a typical Arena song. Very strong and powerful. Carson sounds at times as Fish when he tries to match his so delicate and subtle voice. This is probably the number during which the Marillion filiation is the more obvious (especially in the wonderful final section).

The first "Crying For Help" is an acoustic guitar interlude that reminds me of "Mood For A Day" (Yes) or "Horizons" (Genesis).

"Valley Of The King" is not as good as the opener, but still features a great Nolan on the keyboards. He is really amazing. The tortured vocals, are rather Gabriel oriented. A good song but a bit of additional "grandeur" would have been welcomed. The number lacks a bit in personality. An orgy of keyboards is not always sufficient to make a great song.

"Crying II" : sounds as a medieval madrigal. One could easily imagine the picturesque scene of the some noble ladies listening to a group of troubadour during the the middle ages. Very light music (like Tull at times).

The start of "Jericho" is extremely melodic. Carson sounding as ... Carson who is pretty good by the way. This is a very nice and quiet song which evolves to a similar sound (around half of it) as in "Eleven Earl Of Mar". The finale is truely bombastic and sounds finally as Arena. They should keep on like that, really.

"Crying III" : sounds 100% like Land's End. Same ocean-like -oriented music. Only perturbated at the end by a telephone ring, then a joke : "This is the problem line, we're not in right now, so please leave a message". Nice break to relax.

It fades into "Midas Vision", which is a catchy and poppier song. On the heavier edge of the band. The guitar break is fully Gilmouresque. This is another good song from this rather encouraging debut.

"Crying IV" : is a very mellowish and melancholic track for most of its part. It truely sounds miserable for about three minutes. And then, we'll have this fantastic guitar solo from Mr. Steve Rothery himself. Really brilliant. Again, David is around the corner.

The best track of the album is : "Solomon". Arena will be used to produced a brilliant closing numbers.

The first guitar break is made of pure Floydian sounds (Gilmour era). Fortunately is sounds as Arena during the vocal sections. It is rather grandiose and bombastic during the long and powerful finale. This will be a trademark of the band for other epics to come. This long piece of music (almost fifteen minutes) is extremely pleasant and varied. By no means boring for a second. Two-third of it are really personal and defines the Arena style.

This first album indicates that they had not yet made a choice about their future sound. They hesitate between Marillion, Floyd and Genesis which is fine with me since those are ones of my most beloved bands. This first album, still is very good; Arena will need some time to develop their genre. They will have a long career (still in progress) which I will be delighted to comment all the way through.

Four stars for these very good debut.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars I feel that "Songs From The Lion's Cage" their debut record, and the follow up "Pride" are good albums just not too essential if you know what I mean.Their excellent albums start with "The Visitor" in my opinion. ARENA was formed by the former MARILLION drummer Mick Pointer, and the former PENDRAGON keyboardest Clive Nolan.The band thanks (in the liner notes) PALLAS for the use of thier mellotron, Fudge Smith, Peter Gee, Nick Barrett and Karl Groom. Tracy Hitchings would add backup vocals to this album. I would also mention that the "Classic Rock Society" voted this as the best album for 1995.

"Out of the Wilderness" opens with mellotron as guitars and synths trade off solos. I can't get over how much the singer John Carson sounds like Fish ! The keys and drumming are outstanding. Some excellent soaring guitar as well. "Crying for Help I" consists of Hackett like acoustic guitar melodies. "Valley Of The Kings" is dominated by synths and drums in the intro. Some aggressive guitar follows as the vocals come in. The keys swirl about and the mellotron is fantastic ! Theatrical vocals follow. "Crying for Help II" features light keys as flute melodies join in. "Jericho" has some sad lyrics and church organ. The drumming is crisp, and we get waves of mellotron 5 minutes in. The song does becomes a positive uptempo number. "Crying for Help III" has some good piano with synth washes that create a haunting soundscape.

"Midas Vision" has a nice heavy intro as passionate Fish-like vocals come in. Scorching guitar solos come and go. "Crying for Help IV" features piano and vocals until Steve Rothery adds a beautiful guitar solo (to end the song) that lasts over a minute ! "Solomon" is the epic at almost 15 minutes in length. It mentions the bands name as well as the title of this album. I'm sure this is still a significant song for the band. It opens with keys and vocals as a heavy guitar melody comes in. The mellotron 3 minutes in amazing. There is a cool vocal melody 7 minutes in as the song becomes more uptempo.This all sounds so good, and then 11 minutes in the pace slows back down.

So this is where it all began for ARENA, and perhaps that is reason enough to check out this good record. 3.5 stars.

Review by Flucktrot
3 stars Another album that places its best material in the front song and final song. Coincidence? I think not. Either way, this album is a prog sandwich with fresh, delicious bread and on-the-verge-stale meat and veggies. Not to say that any material is bad--it's just that if it was a bit better, the whole could be something special to have and to hold forever. Hence, this is good music, but no masterpiece. Here are the highlights:

Out of the Wilderness. A very mysterious opening that morphs into a funky time led by a cool keyboard groove. This song will certainly keep your attention. It's kind of weird, but in a good way. Near the end, this song takes a nice turn into a major key with positive emotional finish. I had very high hopes for the album after the opener...unfortunately a bit too high.

Crying for Help (parts I, II, III, and IV). These "songs" may have been short brainchilds of various bandmembers or merely intended as filller. Either way, they are neither wilder entertaining nor unlistenable. We have the acoustic guitar, harpsichord/flute duet, keyboard ambience, and emotional vocal piece, respectively. The Rothery solo in the latter piece is nice, yet not spectacular.

Valley of the Kings. This is one of those prog epics where the band has the talent, motivation, and creativity to make it work, but it just doesn't quite add up. Not to say that this is a bad song by any means--it just doesn't quite hold together for me. It's probably that Carson is a bit off on the vocals (though I can't pinpoint why). Nice keyboard arrangements and fills by Nolan though.

Jericho. Evidence that Arena at this point were quite creative (dare I say progressive?), but can't quite pull it all together. Enjoyable yet not quite entirely memorable or captivating.

Solomon. This song is worth the price of admission alone. Great mellow intro, followed by a restrained guitar/keyboard instrumental that is quite well-done. Then the band FINALLY decides to kick up the tempo a bit, and boy do they ever! Where I felt restraint and hesitation earlier, I feel fun and energy here. Great interplay of bandmembers throughout, and after this section, the song moves into a delightful refrain and simple but beautiful riff to end the album. Also, this is the only song on the album where I "buy" the Carson's vocal contributions.

All in all, I'm glad I bought this for Solomon, and to a lesser extent, Out of the Wilderness, though there is no material on this album that I would consider to be grating or annoying. Certainly this album holds promise for the future!

Review by progrules
4 stars In the mid nineties we called this a sensation (both band as album). We already had Marillion for quite some time, this was said to be a clone but a very welcome one. I personally always thought Arena had the edge over Marillion but that has also to do with the change of vocalist in Marillion. So this was their debut and though this is not my favourite band ever I have always kept a soft spot for Arena. I am a big fan of Clive Nolan and he is dominant in the band so that's one of the reasons. I also love the recent guitarist of Arena (John Mitchell) but their first, Keith More, was hardly any less as we can hear on this debut.

The song that stands out for me is the great epic Solomon. This song starts really fairylike with some sweet tones followed by balladlike singing by John Carson, then gets a little rougher with coming up guitars in slow style, this goes on for several minutes until in the middle of the song an instrumental part starts which is legendary to me. The actual reason I'm so fond of this track. The instrumental part lasts almost 4 minutes and makes me go into raptures. It still does after more than 10 years so it's a lasting thing. Ultimately the vocal part comes again like in the beginning and the song ends with a very nice grand finale. Superb !!

Other very good tracks are Out of the Wilderness and Valley of the Kings as well as the live-cracker Jericho. Alas there is a big downside on this album and that's the "Cry-tracks" that get worse and worse, go on even on their next album (Pride) and get even worse there. These tracks are a waste of space and diminish the album, I have to say. That doesn't go that far that I will take away a four star rating for this album because the rest is too good for that. So 4 it is.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars 4.5 stars actually...

Now,that is what I call ''the definition of a prog genre''...ARENA were formed in the 90's by some already very experienced members to deliver us qualitive neo/symphonic progressive rock...The most experienced of all was of course Clive Nolan,a master of keyboards and synths,already member of PENDRAGON,ex- member od SHADOWLAND and session member of various neo prog-related projects...Behind the drum kit we find Mick Pointer,ex-member of early MARILLION,another great musician...Guest appeareances by Steve Rothery and Tracy Hitchings just sweep the questions of how this band sounds like...

First album for ARENA and this is something special...You can find all the ingredients that make a neo progressive band firstly ''progressive'' and then popular among the prog lovers...The sound of the band is exactly what you expect from a neo prog band in the 90's,slightly better production than in the 80's,a little bit heavier guitat sound,a little bit upgraded and ''digitalized'' keyboard sound...Keith More knows very well how to use his guitar...Great melodies,great riffs,thrilling solos where they should be added...Not much to say for Clive Nolan...Grandiose keyboard playing,very symphonic at times,just raises up the whole atmosphere to another level...and what about Jon Carson?Well,sometimes he sings in the traditional english accented pop/prog way and some other ones he adapts the heavy scottish accent of Fish,transforming from song to song,excellent performer by my opinion...

The tracks?...All are amazing...''Out of the wilderness'' is the ''Forgotten suns'' of ARENA with its emotional ending melody...''Jericho'' is the best track that JADIS didn't ever managed to compose...The ''Crying for help'' series?It's where the band shows its symphonic influences...smooth tracks raging from nice acoustic guitars to mellow piano themes...and of course ''Solomon''...the epic that closes the album with its changing themes and moods that you will never realize when 14 minutes just passed...Stunning...

This is one of the debut's that every band is dreaming of...Easily I could give this album a pure 5 star rating but I will shorten it to 4.5 for two reasons:1)Enemy of the ''excellent'' is the ''best''...2)The ''best'' would be born some years later with ''The visitor''...Highly recommended and so close to a masterpiece of progressive rock!...

Review by friso
3 stars Arena - Songs from the Lion Cage (1995)

The debut of Arena, main act of modern neo-progressive rock, has some great moments, but makes a dull impression on me overall. The individuel members are skilled; prog vedette Clive Nolan on keys and Keith More on guitars are the main attraction here. To bad Keith More's replacement during later albums, John Mitchell, is still way better.

The sound of Arena on the debut is that of beginning neo-progressive band; many theatrical/sentimental vocals, some heavy instrumentation with loads of reverb and delays and seas of synths. The recording is a bit dull, but the sound quality ain't the main problem here. The key equipment of Nolan isn't optimal and his over-use of bombastic arrangements does not help at all. Some of his compositions are however quite brilliant, namelijk the opening track Out of the Wilderness, Midas Vision and stage favorite Soloman are strong tracks. The latter of these three is one of the best Arena epics to date. With its thirteen minutes of great song-writing and an amazing long, melodic solo's section just before the end it can be called one of the best of the neo-prog genre. I must admit that I do prefer most of the live versions, because of the better guitars by Mitchell and better vocals by Sowden.

On other tracks this early stage Arena has some in-effective song-writing, making songs like Valley Of The Kings and most of the Crying for Help parts a bit boring. Crying for Help IV does have some catchy parts, I must admit, but the acoustic guitar version of this track (found on The Cry) is more impressive.

Conclusion. A good beginning for what yet has to become one of my favorite (and few) modern prog bands I like to listen to. The opening and ending track are very good, but Solomon can also be found on all the live recordings of the band. I think Arena can get away with a small three star rating here. Recommended only to fans of the band and enthousiasts of the neo- prog genre.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars I can understand the impact this album might have had at the prog comunity in the mid 90īs, specially to Marillion fans. While the original Marillion was sinking fast in their alternative/pop new sound, here comes ex Marillion drummer Mick Pointer, when everybody thought he had retired from the music business, with a new project with Pendragonīs keyboards player that sounded a lot like Marillion in the good old times of vocalist Fish. OOHHHHH, how I wish I found out about this CD at the time!!! Ok, it was highly derivative, but also highly wonderful! It was like having olī Marillion back into life! Well, almost. In some aspects it was even better than the real thing.

After a few spins it was clear that no matter how much the band sounded like Marillion, it already had some personality and a big potential, specially at the songwriting department. Nolan and Pointer came up with some real classy stuff that are played even today live by the band (the stunning epics Salomon and Jericho). The duo surrounded themselves with other fine musicians, featuring Keith More on guitar, Cliff Orsi on bass and John Carson on vocals. This line up didnīt last long, but the results were great anyway. So much Arena would soon surpass any other of Nolanīs several side projects, including his former solo band Shadowland, in all aspects.

The production is good, while the tracklist is a killer, with no fillers nor weak songs to found anywhere. Even the short Crying For Help series of vignettes linking the main tunes is very interesting and work better than expected. Certainly it is no surprise that Nolanīs trademark majestic, elegant keyboards are all over the place, but Moreīs fluid, melodic guitar solos (obviously influenced by Pink Floydīs David Gilmour) is also quite proeminent too. Pointer is another one to show he is a far better musician than I thought. Carsonīs voice sounds uncanny like Fish sometimes, but he (Carson) has a wider range. Not very surprisingly Marillionīs guitarrist and leader steve Rothery makes a guest appearance on Crying For Help IV.

Personally, Iīd like to give this record a 5 star rating, but since Arena did evolve into something totally of their own around the time of their third album, the magnificent The Visitor, I think it would be fair to say that, as good as it is, Songs From The Lionīs Cage, is a notch or two below their best because of the obvious Marillion overtones here. Still is an exceptional record: the powerful performances and the brilliant songwriting make it close to an essential masterpiece. So I guess 4.5 stars is more fitting for PA. This is a must have for any neo prog fan and is highly recommended to any prog lover in general.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Having taken a decade away from the music business, Mick Pointer would return to the drummer's stool with Arena, alongside his erstwhile co-founder and business partner in Verglas Music, Clive Nolan. The album an impressive neo-prog piece which establishes itself as a darker and more complex affair than some of Nolan's other side-projects such as Shadowland, with decent vocals from John Carson and excellent guitar playing by Keith More (plus a guest appearance from Pointer's fellow Marillion co-founder Steve Rothery), and the inclusion of the subdued Crying for Help instrumentals between the major songs weaves a common thread through the album and lends it a fair amount of cohesiveness.

As for Mick's drumming? To be honest, it still isn't stellar - but as on Script For a Jester's Tear, Pointer proves able to set a rhythm and create a context in which the rest of the band's magic can unfold - and when you combine this with his very capable songwriting contributions, that's more than enough.

Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars In my opinion ARENA carried the torch of Fish era Marillion when they arrived on the scene in 1995. Hogarth era Marillion just lost me big time as it sounds like a hollow version of what came before. I know others love his vocals and their light delicate sound but i personally want some rock in my neo-prog and that's EXACTLY what ARENA deliver on their debut album SONGS FROM THE LIONS CAGE. Just as Marillion took on the late 70s Genesis sound and ruled the 80s with that new symphonic prog renamed neo-prog, once Fish departed, it left a vacuum in the market for that very successful formula. Two neo-prog veterans took notice and decided that niche needed to be revisited.

Those two veterans, of course, were keyboardist Clive Nolan and Mick Pointer. Nolan who ambitiously has fronted Pendragon since 1986, Shadowland since 1992 and ARENA since 1995 simultaneously is an ambitious one having created some of the best offerings the neo- prog sub has to offer. Mick Pointer, on the other hand, was the original drummer for Marillion playing only on the first EP "Market Square Heroes" and the first LP "Script For A Jester's Tear" and pretty much stayed out of the musical world since. This connection is evident as much of this album sounds very much like 80s Marillion but to write it off as a mere clone would be erroneous since there is so much more to offer.

This is a profound album that sounds like it was done by true professionals in the field. All musicians are outstanding but it is Nolan's Wakeman-esque keyboard wizardry interacting with the outstanding guitar acrobatics of Keith More that really give this album an electrifying energy. The only ARENA album to feature John Carson on vocals shows him display a full command of every tender passage and then able to rock out at the drop of a hat. I particularly love his vocal phrasings and he is one of my favorite voices in this particular type of prog. The lyrics are beautifully poetic with traumatic life experiences such as the loss of love which are metaphorically represented by such images of historical horrors such as the album title alludes to.

This album has it all. It really excels at clever songwriting and delivers every single passage in a perfect way. The longer tracks cleverly alternate with the mostly instrumental "Crying For Help" interludes which embellish the atmospheric mood building to great success. The cream of this fine album comes with the finale "Solomon," a sprawling fourteen minute plus prog gem that displays all the goods in one track with lightning fast keyboard runs playing with virtuoso guitars and highly developed soft spoken melodies trading off with hard rocking segments.

I really love this debut album by ARENA. I get a 5 star enjoyment level out of this one but i just can't rate it that high because it is a bit too similar in sound with 80s Marillion at times and even though it is perfectly done i just can't bring myself to rate it higher. It is a super strong 4 stars though.

Review by VianaProghead
4 stars Review Nš 277

Arena is a British progressive rock band that belongs to the neo-prog sub-genre. 1995 is the year it all began. The band was founded by Clive Nolan, the keyboardist of Pendragon and Shadowland, and Mick Pointer, the original drummer of Marillion, who appeared only on Marillion's debut EP 'Market Square Heroes' and on their debut studio album 'Script For A Jester's Tear'. The first album of Arena, 'Songs From The Lions Cage' was very well received and a new progressive rock legend has been born. The music is vibrant and fresh, and the album contains instant classic tracks.

So, 'Songs From The Lion's Cage' is the debut studio album of Arena and was released in 1995. This is the only Arena's album to feature the vocalist John Carson and the bassist Cliff Orsi. So, the line up of the album is John Carson (vocals), Keith More (guitars), Clive Nolan (keyboards), Cliff Orsi (bass) and Mick Pointer (drums). The album has also the participation of Steve Rothery, the guitarist of Marillion, who did a guest appearance on track 'Crying For Help IV'.

'Songs From The Lion's Cage' has nine tracks. All songs were written by Clive Nolan and Mick Pointer. The first track 'Out Of The Wilderness' is a great song and an excellent opener for the album. It's clearly a song in the vein of the earlier Marillion's studio albums. This is really a very powerful song with a very strange, mystical and dark musical atmosphere, with heavy keyboard playing and great guitar work especially with the beautiful guitar solo in the end. The second track 'Crying For Help I' is a very short instrumental track only performed by the the acoustic guitar. It's a very simple song, very nice, beautiful and pleasant to here, composed in the same vein of Steve Hackett's acoustic guitar compositions. The third track 'Valley Of The Kings' is the first epic song on the album that continues in the same vein of the earlier Marillion. Curiously, it's also a song that reminds me, only in a little bit in the beginning, Rush in the time of 'Hemispheres'. This is a wonderful track full of an amazing and pompous keyboard work and excellent guitar performance. It reminds us completely the grandeur and the magnificence of the pharaohs. The fourth track 'Crying For Help II' is another very simple song, nice, beautiful and pleasant to hear. This time it was composed for keyboards and sounds as a medieval madrigal. It's a typical classical symphonic song that sounds beautifully as it was performed by a harpsichord. It's a song that personally moves with me very much, because I always loved the harpsichord sound. The fifth track 'Jericho' is another excellent track. It's a song with a very quiet introduction and that ends epically. This is what would be the typical Arena bombastic future sound. This is a typical neo-progressive song, one of the best on the album, which keeps the quality of the album at a very high level, indeed. The sixth track 'Crying For Help III' is also a very good and interesting track. It's another simple, calm and beautiful track with a surprising end with a telephone ringing and a recorded message. This is a very nice and relaxing new age track and a truly break on the album. It represents also a perfect passage to the next song. The seventh track 'Midas Vision' returns to the typical sound of the most of the album. This is a catchy song, very nice and pleasant to hear and represents another excellent song on the album. It deserves a special mention the guitar work. It sounds very close to the Floydian sound because it has David Gilmour's style. The eighth track 'Crying For Help IV' is almost a mellow and melancholic track very beautiful and pleasant to hear. This is the track that has the participation of Steve Rothery on lead guitar. In reality, he performed a real truly and amazing guitar solo on the track. Those who like Steve Rothery guitar style enjoy very much this track, for sure. The ninth and last track 'Solomon' is often considered as one of their finest tracks. This is a very well structured song with a storyline, many time changes, majestic keyboard work and great guitar work. It's the second epic song on the album. It represents also the highlight of the album and it was a perfect decision of the group to close this great album. With this song Arena made one their best songs and one of their most brilliant closing numbers in their career.

Conclusion: 'Songs From The Lion's Cage' is, without any doubt, a great debut album and represents one of the best and most important albums made by one of the best prog rock bands of our times. It's very melodic and has great performances by all band's members, particularly, the individual performance of Clive Nolan is completely astonishing and shows us why he is considered one of the best modern keyboardists. It deserves also special mention, the performance of Keith More on guitars. His guitar performance and the arrangements are very interesting and they sound, many times, very close to Steve Rothery, Steve Hackett and David Gilmour styles. So, 'Songs From The Lion's Cage' is almost a perfect album. But, I'm not sure if the division of the album between the big and most prog songs and the short and less complex songs was a very good choice. I'm not saying that the global quality of the album was highly decreased. Still, I suspect that this option took some damaged to the final musical consistency of the all album.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Review by A Crimson Mellotron
3 stars Melodic prog rockers Arena kickstarted their very respectful career with 1995's 'Songs from the Lions' Cage'; The band led by monolithic figures of the neo-progressive rock scene Mick Pointer and Clive Nolan, the former being the ex-Marillion drummer playing on the band's early 80s debut album, and the latter being the keyboard player for Pendragon, another very successful and recognizable act in the genre, is presenting a collection of nine songs with various lengths, that are entirely bathed in that very prominent 80s neo-prog aesthetic, one that is specifically particular for British bands, and is hardly mistaken once heard. This, of course, should come as no surprise given the backgrounds of the band's main creative forces, the aforementioned duo of Pointer and Nolan, who are entirely responsible for conceiving and writing this 1995 release.

And 'Songs from the Lions' Cage' is a quite good album, it works fairly well as a continuous listening experience, it presents some captivating musical passages, but it does unfortunately for the most part, sound immensely outdated. The reason for this is most likely the fact that the 80s neo-prog aesthetic has been transferred to the mid-90s, a place where other musical discoveries and interests had been taking place, even in the realm of progressive rock, where two main domains seem to have taken shape - the one in which bands revisit their passion for the classic 70s symphonic sound, and the one where bands blend their love for prog with their excitement for heavy music, thus giving a rise in popularity for progressive metal. Somewhere in-between we ought to find neo-prog, but a more modern take on it, one that is more easily transferable to the boundaryless 21st century.

So, as much as this first release by Arena is a pastiche for a very particular age in the development of progressive music, it is also a nice collection of songs, some of which really hit the spot. Opening track 'Out of the Wilderness' is playful and fun, some of that early Marillion approach to writing gradually-built-up rockers could be appreciated; Even some of the vocal delivery seems to reminisce strongly Fish's here and there. 'Valley of the Kings' and 'Jericho' are fine but not necessarily very exciting; 'Midas Vision' is one of the better examples off this album, this one is more memorable and has a tighter grip on the listener, something that is lacking throughout most of the album. The 'Crying for Help' suite, sprinkled all over the record is also working quite well, especially these last two segments, III and IV. And finally, there is the 14-minute epic 'Solomon', a little too self-indulgent in its execution, this song seems to be a bit overshadowed by the hardly justifiable length, rather than the clarity and lavishness of some of the musical passages.

'Songs from the Lions' Cage' rightly serves as a point of initiation for Arena's journey, quite a pleasant one, but also quite far away from being a point of arrival, as other albums later on would take this role - it is also worth mentioning that neither the vocalist, nor the bassist stayed around for the band's sophomore release, while the guitar player made it no further than the second album, which has to be just another proof that this was not quite what the band was all about.

Latest members reviews

5 stars The very first album of an excellent band, one of my favorite bands. I discovered ARENA with The Visitor, but when I listened to SONGS FROM THE LION CAGE I confirmed my enjoyment for this band. Mick Pointer (former Marillion) joined Clive Nolan in the quest of a side project to Pendragon, and ... (read more)

Report this review (#1018436) | Posted by Memo_anathemo | Tuesday, August 13, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Arena plays theatrical, synth-laden neo-prog with a harder edge. Later on, they would become more metallic with a prominent guitar. At the point of their first album, they are derivative - mainly of Genesis-Marillion school (Arena's drummer was briefly in Marillion in the beginning, but this ... (read more)

Report this review (#998568) | Posted by Progrussia | Sunday, July 14, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Arena's first record "Songs from the Lions Cage" from 1995 is a sometimes powerful album. The sound is dramatic and dark and proves inspiration from Marillion and Genesis. Though I am not very impressed. What I liked was the skillful guitar and piano playing, the vocalist John Carson who almos ... (read more)

Report this review (#973658) | Posted by DrömmarenAdrian | Saturday, June 8, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Really, this album is to be considered part one of a pair, with the follow-up 'pride' acting as a sequel. The structure of both such that the sequence of songs alternates between a standalone song and a short-to-medium length piece entitled with an enumerated variant of 'cry for help', usually instr ... (read more)

Report this review (#528899) | Posted by stranded_starfish | Wednesday, September 21, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars An excellent debut album. Arena hit the scene like a piece of rock with this album. Established by an ex Marillion member and it shows. Arena is in that area or even perhaps a lot more symphonic than neo prog. Arena does not really add anything new to me. Neither does this album. Tonnes of k ... (read more)

Report this review (#517499) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Thursday, September 8, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars If you are looking for neoprog gems, this one it is, unless for me. After the first two Marillion albums, and some great things in the great prog bands in the 80's and 90`s (Genesis, Pink Floyd, Yes, Camel, etc.), Arena appears with a true progressive rock masterpiece. Everything is here: Supe ... (read more)

Report this review (#369821) | Posted by genbanks | Saturday, January 1, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This record is amongst those who assured me prog rock was really coming back to life in the mid 1990's. Of course, in the late 1980's and the former 1990's, neo prog groups still had tried to make prog rock rise again. But something was missing in the music of IQ, Pendragon and even Marillion : i ... (read more)

Report this review (#274847) | Posted by Kjarks | Sunday, March 28, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Unlike many, Songs from the Lion's Cage was my first Arena album. After a friend strongly recommended me The Visitor and made me listen to a few parts, I went to the store and intended to buy it. I although had to settle for Songs from the Lion's Cage since this was the only Arena album in sto ... (read more)

Report this review (#236481) | Posted by SentimentalMercenary | Wednesday, September 2, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Arena's debut is somewhat controversial here. I think it's amazing. What you have is a set of more powerful, epic songs, with the usual neo-prog characteristics, sandwiching some more atmospheric tracks (Crying For Help I through IV). This mix is an excellent way of forming an album. It's a maste ... (read more)

Report this review (#191836) | Posted by Staker | Thursday, December 4, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars A very solid debut for Arena, neo-prog at its best. I think everything has been said already (and better than I could) in the other reviews so I will just add a few words to describe my feelings towards this album. But a little background is needed to understand better my review. I'm relativ ... (read more)

Report this review (#150370) | Posted by rakam | Monday, November 12, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars There is nothing quite like the thrill of discovering a new band which just presses all the right buttons for you. When I came across this album in 1996 I was struck by the sheer melodic power it exuded, and eleven years on its impact is undiminished. Long, carefully structured pieces are inte ... (read more)

Report this review (#108275) | Posted by Lazarus | Sunday, January 21, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Arena's debut album is a top quality offering from ex-Marillion drummer Mick Pointer and keyboard player Clive Nolan, abley supported by Keith More on guitar, Cliff Orsi bass and John Carson vocals. There are five excellent tracks linked very cleverly by crying for help parts I to IV. Out of t ... (read more)

Report this review (#100242) | Posted by laghtnans | Friday, November 24, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars It makes me disheartened to see Arena get so much praise for their later albums like The Visitor and Contagion while I see the ratings for their two beginning albums, Songs from the Lion's Cage and Pride dwindle and fall yet lower in rating. It is a shame that these albums are neglected so muc ... (read more)

Report this review (#86672) | Posted by stonebeard | Friday, August 11, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars In the middle-nineties this album was a fresh breeze for everyone who missed the Marillion of the eighties. Even when the Marillion of Hogarth has got great albums, the sound of Fish has gone after his last participation with the band. Well, Arena is the project of Mick Pointer, the firs ... (read more)

Report this review (#51052) | Posted by incubus | Sunday, October 9, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Yes , I give this one a 5-star rating. Why? Because all the tracks are written and performed at a constant high level. And above all: because this album meant the return of the old Marillion. This is true neo-prog of the early 80's at its best. And of course, the influences of Marillion, Pendr ... (read more)

Report this review (#948) | Posted by | Wednesday, March 9, 2005 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Much overrated debut from this neoprog outfit with everchanging line-ups. There's a lot of powerplay, but the compositions lack focus and sharpness. It seems like they did some overtime to have at least three songs of epic proportions. The Crying For Help concept does not work due to a lack of ... (read more)

Report this review (#946) | Posted by PROGCOM | Sunday, February 13, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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 pe ... (read more)

Report this review (#947) | Posted by Emperor | Thursday, February 10, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This is one of the most popular bands among the neo-prog genre. Leaded by ex-Marillion drummer Mick Pointer and Pendragon's keyboard player Clive Nolan, the main influences were from those bands although not sounding as cheesy as Pendragon. Honestly, although I like neo-prog a lot I think the ... (read more)

Report this review (#945) | Posted by Prosciutto | Sunday, January 9, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is an absolute classic and an absolute must have for all who like neo-prog music. In overall sound it is somewhat similar to the better work of Marillion (Fish-era) with highpitched guitar work and a voice reminiscant of Fish in his better days, also influences of Pendragon, IQ and Genes ... (read more)

Report this review (#943) | Posted by tuxon | Monday, November 15, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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