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Arena Contagion Max album cover
4.18 | 41 ratings | 5 reviews | 46% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Boxset/Compilation, released in 2014

Songs / Tracks Listing

Disc One:
1. Witch Hunt (4:17)
2. An Angel Falls (1:14)
3. Painted Man (4:38)
4. Vanishing Act (4:11)
5. This Way Madness Lies (3:32)
6. The Hour Glass (5:58)
7. Bitter Harvest (2:50)
8. I Spy (2:33)
9. Never Ending Night (3:11)
10. Spectre At the Feast (5.34)
11. Skin Game (4:44)

Disc Two:
1. Salamander (4:00)
2. On the Box (2:30)
3. Tsunami (2:30)
4. On the Edge of Despair (5:40)
5. City of Lanterns (1:23)
6. Riding the Tide (4:24)
7. Contagious (4:07)
8. March of Time (7:29)
9. Mea Culpa (3:45)
10. Cutting the Cards (4:41)
11. Confrontation (5.05)
12. Ascension (4:34)

Total Time 92:40

Line-up / Musicians

- Rob Sowden / Vocals
- John Mitchell / Guitar and Backing Vocals
- Clive Nolan / Keyboards and Backing Vocals
- Ian Salmon / Bass
- Mick Pointer / Drums

Releases information

Compilation of the album Contagion and the two EP's Contagious and Contagium with all songs remixed and placed in their proper order.

Thanks to Roland113 for the addition
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ARENA Contagion Max ratings distribution

(41 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(46%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(34%)
Good, but non-essential (10%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (7%)

ARENA Contagion Max reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Roland113
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars In my not so humble opinion . . .

Contagion Max is everything Contagion was plus more.

Back in 2002, Arena released one of the seminal Neo-Prog albums in 'Contagion'. At the time, there were more tracks that they could have included, but the band cut some material out to keep the release on a single CD. Over the next year, they released two EP's, Contagious and Contagium, that contained the missing material. For years fans have clamored for the complete Contagion, with the missing tracks.

In 2013, the band asked their fans if they'd be willing to pay for the compilation up front and started a crowd sourcing fund raiser. Well, the answer was apparently a resounding 'yes' and the dream finally became a reality.

I'm not going to review the entire album, you can see my thoughts on the Contagion reviews page. Instead, I'll be focusing on the new tracks and what is different.

For starters, there are seven tracks that were only on the two EP's, Vanishing Act, The Hour Glass, I Spy, On the Edge of Despair, Contagious, March of Time and Confrontation. These tracks have now been included in their proper order among the songs that were on the standard release.

'Vanishing Act' is a rockin' extravaganza that almost reminds me of something from the background of a video game. 'I Spy' is kind of a forgettable ballad though the Salamander nod in the solo section redeems the tune. 'March of Time' is my favorite of the new songs, Rob Sowden sounds particularly clean and up front here. All in all, there are three instrumentals and four lyrical songs that immensely help the progression of the original story.

The second difference is that the order of the songs are now as they were meant to be, 'Bitter Harvest' has been moved up considerably and 'Never Ending Night' and 'Spectre at the Feast' have been switched.

The third difference is the mix, to my ears, it sounds a little brighter on the remix, but still clean and pristine.

So, where do I rate this, five stars, that was easy. Seriously, it's one of my favorite albums, but better and with more music. If you're a casual Arena fan, then yeah, you probably don't need the remix, but if you love Arena or if you don't have the original, this is essential.

Review by friso
3 stars Arena - Contagion Max (2014) (fans release)

Contagion (2002) is an album I listened to while bringing newspaper as a fourteen year old kid, ten years ago. I've always had a weakspot for almost all songs on the album and I've never found a neo-prog album that was remotely as good as this one. It is just so mysterious and the combination of abstract and theatrical sounds never worked better. Futhermore, I find the vocals of Rob Sowden perfectly fitting on this album and I'd wish he'd still be around recording music with the band - albeit his performance on stage is not really 'for the poeple' to put it mildly.

This 2014 release is 2cd album with the tracks from the ep's reintegrated in the album, and as a result the overall concept of the album is enhanced and a storyline is said to appear. To be honest with you, I think all the additional tracks are of a lesser quality, with 'Vanishing Act' as an exception, and the overall album atmosphere is disrupted by the new songs that tend to have a more eighties prog sound. If I would have changed the original Contagion album, I would have rather withdrawn a few track like the perhaps misplaced electronic 'Riding the Tide'.

This is a release the band has made because it was asked to do so by the fans - who of course will find this album very rewarding. I myself will keep to the original, one of my favorites of alltime. Three stars for this release, though keep in mind that is because of my preference for the 2002 Contagion release.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars After a ten year wait in 2013 fans of ARENA's monstrous neo-prog hit "Contagion" were finally treated to hearing the album as it was originally intended to be released in the form of the extended double disc CONTAGION MAX. Clive Nolan has always stated that the "Contagion" story was to be more intricate and drawn out with extra instrumental passages and vocal tracks that add more depth to the storyline. Well, Nolan wasn't too sure about the possibilities of releasing an extra long album and felt the pressure to to edit their ambitious project down to a single disc release. The result was that seven tracks were chopped off the listening experienced and released simultaneously on two separate EPs titled "Contagious" and "Contagium." While it was all fine and dandy to make those orphaned tracks to the public, much was lost regarding the context in which they were woven into the overall theme. After many years of a demanding public for the album to be released in full form, voila!

Fast forward ten years and the CONTAGION MAX anniversary edition finally sees the light of day in its complete original intended format. It contains all seven tracks in the proper order stuffed into the album "Contagion" from 2003 as a double disc digipak CD release. While i found nothing wrong with the original album "Contagion" and in many ways find it to be the peak of the creative juices flowing for ARENA in their lengthy career, i must say that i much prefer hearing it as the extended double album experience it was meant to be as it smooths out the ruff-around-the-edges transitions that become more apparent once listening in the band- desired delivery mode. CONTAGION MAX doesn't exactly make the two EPs that came before completely irrelevant if you are interested in hearing electronica induced remixes of the tracks "Witch Hunt" and "Salamander" but i find them a little cliche and devoid of any true reason to exist therefore i highly recommend this beautiful extended version of "Contagion" for anyone who loves that album and wishes that it was longer.

Despite being a fairly newer release, this album has become a little difficult but not impossible to find. Initially it was released as a pre-order campaign with band members adding their autographs but was only released in limited numbers therefore not as easy to obtain as the much easier to find "Contagion." Another worthwhile mention is that it seems that CONTAGION MAX is possibly a digitally remastered version of the original plus the extra tracks in the proper order. This album sounds EXCELLENT! The production is off the charts beautifully executed with every little sound shining like a crazy diamond and all aspects of the music perfectly mix together in superb splendor. It is unbelievable how well this album sounds and how wonderful it is to experience this one as it delivers on all accounts. Perhaps if this were released as intended it would have been considered a rival force to IQ's "Subterranea" which is of the same calibre but could also stand up to any of the great symphonic prog releases of the past.

This track listing shows the entire track listing of CONTAGION MAX with the titles in bold being the seven tracks that appear on this expanded edition which were originally spit up randomly and placed on "Contagious" and "Contagium." They are followed by brief descriptions

Disc One:

1 Witch Hunt (4:17) 2 An Angel Falls (1:14) 3 Painted Man (4:38)

4 VANISHING ACT (from "Contagious") (4:11) was originally a leftover instrumental track from "The Visitor" album and had the title "Sacrifice" but was rearranged, rerecorded and renamed. It begins with a space rock Floydian echoey guitar and synth run and then becomes more hard rocking with a ample change of riffs drenched in camp mellotron. Very cool sequencer beat and guitar solos that brings aspects of "The Wall" to mind

5 This Way Madness Lies (3:32)

6 THE HOUR GLASS (from "Contagious") (5:58) begins as a sensual ballad but adds some extra punchy guitars that display the vocal talents of Sowden and thick layers of synthesizers and a heavy bass led melodic development. It adds a continuity to the story as the narrative builds another layer of darkness to the mix

7 Bitter Harvest (2:50)

8 I SPY (from "Contagious") (2:33) is primarily an acoustic guitar folk number also displaying Sowden's vocal abilities. Other than acoustic guitar, only the bass is heard

9 Never Ending Night (3:11) 10 Spectre At the Feast (5.34) 11 Skin Game (4:44)

Disc Two: 1 Salamander (4:00) 2 On the Box (2:30) 3 Tsunami (2:30)

4 ON THE EDGE OF DESPAIR (from "Contagium") (5:40) begins with the same bass line and melody of "This Way Madness Lies" from Disc 1 and sort of a revisiting of that point in the story but after almost a minute switches gear and becomes an acoustic guitar ballad once again highlighting Sowden's vocals and lyrical supplementation. It continues to alternate between the beginning intro segments and then jumps back into acoustic guitar part again. Sounds really good together as the two parts contrast perfectly and add that flavor of life when some things seem familiar while totally new aspects are being introduced

5 City of Lanterns (1:23) 6 Riding the Tide (4:24)

7 CONTAGIOUS (from "Contagious") (4:07) begins with sirens and incorporates different sounds that are from the "Contagion" album and creates a little overture of sorts to revisit certain moods of the album. It features a strong bass line with John Mitchell delivering some of the most sophisticated and daring solos on the album. There is also nice background synthesized(?) vocals that add a spooky ambience to the overall mood. Nice keyboard runs as well. This is kind of a revisitation point on the album that takes a few minutes to reflect on what's already been happening. Very appropriate and nice to take a breather.

8 MARCH OF TIME (from "Contagium") (7:29) continues the only two tracks that sit back to back not on the original "Contagion." This sounds more like the majority of tracks as it begins with a heavy bass driven melody and screeching guitars in a Floydian style drenched by feedback and fuzz and then slows down a bit to usher in Sowden's vocals. Generally speaking the vocal parts are more Floydian and the instrumental parts are harder rocking. It also has some acoustic parts that remind me of The Who especially on "Tommy" with that Pete Townsend type of strumming.

9 Mea Culpa (3:45) 10 Cutting the Cards (4:41)

11 CONFRONTATION (from "Contagium") (5.05) begins with some sort of mixed media narration clips before ceding into a darkened bass line that is ominously overshadowed by more possibly synthesized background vocalists and that Who inspired acoustic guitar strumming pattern once again punctuated by a staccato heavy guitar chord. It all stops and enters church organ territory and then adds acoustic guitar again only before Mitchell channels his inner Pink Floyd guitar solo instincts and lets loose. This is another all instrumental track

12 Ascension (4:34)

Total Running Time Of CONTAGION MAX = 92 minutes and 40 seconds but i can't say i get bored once through it's entirety and much prefer this version as opposed to the truncated "Contagion" album of 2003. Something about the extra tracks connects all the dots for me on this one but that does not mean that the original CONTAGION album suffers from its brevity. On the contrary ARENA hit a home run with two stunning versions of this album that works with or without the seven tracks equally in my world.

Review by VianaProghead
4 stars Review Nš 300

"Contagion Max" is a compilation of Arena which was released in 2014. "Contagion Max" is nothing more than the inclusion of "Contagion" plus their two EP's "Contagious" and "Contagium" in only one double album package.

In 2003, Arena recorded their fifth studio album "Contagion", their second conceptual album after the critically acclaimed "The Visitor" of 1998. At the time, it was released as a single album containing almost one hour of music. However, Arena has recorded more music for this conceptual album, but the band felt that nobody was really interested in listening to ninety minutes of music spread over a double album. So, the band decided to put the additionally recorded material on the two EP's, "Contagious" and "Contagium", both released in 2003 as well. Coinciding with the tenth anniversary of "Contagion" in 2013, it was decided to release a double album including those three releases.

"Contagion Max" comes in a digipak containing two discs including the regular album complemented with all the missing tracks that were released on the EP's. These tracks were placed in the correct order in the concept. The definitive master track list follows the chapters of the story, and for that reason it differs from the original version.

It's a well documented fact that when Arena released "Contagion" back in 2003 it wasn't the full story that we can hear on the original album. So, this new double album's release now includes the entire apocalyptic short story created by Clive Nolan which is interspersed throughout the lyrics within the CD booklet. In a nut-shell, it tells us of a deadly virus, unleashed by the main protagonist Noah Kemp, which is destroying the world and all living things. But Noah is also the world's saviour as he searches for a little girl (Una) who shares the same birthmark, is immune to the blue-flame virus and who has the power to cleanse the world of this deadly plague. Thus, clearly there are biblical undertones here.

In short, "Contagion Max" holds a 28 page booklet including the lyrics as well as the story and additional new artwork.

As I've already reviewed all these tracks in a detailed way on Progarchives when I reviewed "Contagion", "Contagious" and "Contagium", I'm not going to do it again. So, if you are interested to know, in more detail, what I wrote about them before, I invite you to read my three reviews of those albums. So, I'm just only going to do a global appreciation of it.

Thus, I'm going to focus my attention only on some tracks that certainly need some more attention. For example the three instrumentals "This Way Madness Lies", "On The Box" and "Riding The Tide". The first piece starts as a kind of bass solo by Ian Salmon. The subsequent guitar solo is one of the lengthiest ever performed by John Mitchell. On the second instrumental the Hammond organ has a leading role, while "Riding The Tide" is a real roller coaster on which Nolan excels on the keyboards playing some amazing synth solos. The changes in keyboard sounds and in the dynamics between the sections work out great. On "Skin Game" Mike Pointer plays an excellent drum work in the same vein of the good old days of the 70's. On numerous songs Rob Sowden proves to be a brilliant singer when he still fronted the band. Throughout the album he sings full-heartedly and with a lot of passion and emotion. But, for those who never heard the EP's, it's maybe wise to tell what you can expect from these missing tracks. The first one is a left over from "The Visitor" sessions originally called "Sacrifice". They now rearranged it and called it "Vanishing Act". It's a great instrumental piece based on a sequencer beat with a fine guitar solo played by John Mitchell. "The Hour Glass", is a sort of prog rock ballad marvellously sung by Rob Sowden. Ian Salmon's bass has a leading role here and lifts the song to a higher level. "I Spy" contains some nice music influenced by folk. "On The Edge Of Despair" starts with the theme of "This Way Madness Lies" and then changes into a kind of acoustic ballad. The strong instrumental piece "Contagious" begins with sirens and themes from the "Contagion" album. Again Mitchell shines on this piece playing an excellent electric guitar solo. "March Of Time" is a more up-tempo with great solos by John Mitchell and Clive Nolan. The last track "Confrontation" is another fine instrumental piece and again with a fantastic guitar solo by John Mitchell.

Conclusion: I think we can guess that with the 2003 release, Arena had to pick the best of the bunch and leave out those tracks they considered inferior. However, in the context of the bigger picture, these tracks combine perfectly well with the 2003 release and give to the whole album a sense of fulfilment or closure towards a better understanding of the story's concept. And while listening to this new version of "Contagion", I realized that everything sounds even better than on the original one. The music sounds very dynamic and the instruments blow out of your speakers. Especially the keyboard choirs have been mixed much more to the fore. So, I have to compliment Arena for making time in their busy schedules to realize "Contagion Max", a superb sounding album. When you take in to account the artwork, the 28 page booklet with Nolan's story and the great music and musicianship, this is pure unadulterated classic prog that we love.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Latest members reviews

4 stars In 2002 Arena released Contagion - a great, dark, heavy neo-prog story-driven album. Tracks that didn't make it to CD were released as EPs. Now they have been put together and remixed. For a band with such limited commercial appeal, Arena, or, make it Clive Nolan, sure are adept at working their ... (read more)

Report this review (#1286434) | Posted by Progrussia | Wednesday, October 1, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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