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Marsupilami Arena album cover
4.10 | 110 ratings | 10 reviews | 24% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Prelude To the Arena (5:23)
2. Peace Of Rome (7:01)
3. The Arena (12:55)
4. Time Shadows (11:16)
5. Spring (9:16)

Total Time: 43:51

Line-up / Musicians

- Fred Hasson / lead vocals, percussion, harmonica
- Dave Laverock / electric, acoustic & bowed guitars, percussion, vocals
- Leary Hasson / piano & electric piano, organ, Mellotron, tubular bells
- Jessica Stanley-Clarke / flute, vocals
- Richard Hicks / bass
- Mike Fouracre / drums, timpani, percussion

- Bob West / vocals
- Mandi Riedelbauch / tenor & alto saxes, flute (5), percussion
- Peter Bardens / percussion, producer

Releases information

Artwork: Ray Feibush

LP Transatlantic Records ‎- TRA 230 (1971, UK)

CD Transatlantic Records ‎- TACD 9.00741 (1989, Germany)
CD Expertise Records ‎- EXCD-9913 FF (2003, Europe) Remastered
CD Esoteric Recordings ‎- ECLEC 2007 (2007, UK) 24-bit remaster by Ben Wiseman

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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MARSUPILAMI Arena ratings distribution

(110 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(24%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(54%)
Good, but non-essential (14%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

MARSUPILAMI Arena reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by hdfisch
4 stars Very early intricate Prog and close to a masterpiece!

Edited 09/26/05!

Second album by MARSUPILAMI was an ambitious concept one about the brutality of the ancient Roman culture involving not less than eight musicians. BTW it has been produced by Peter Bardens whose band CAMEL was still waiting for their big success at that time. On ARENA the band had refined and further improved their sound by adding Mellotron, sax, electric piano, more woodwinds and percussion. But central instrument is still the Hammond played incredibly skillful by Leary Hasson covering its full potential spectre.

Apart of the involvement of more instruments the most striking difference to their debut is that the compositions on here are much less catchy and very intricate with a rather strong jazz influence at times almost towards RIO. Thus this one needs definitively a few spins to get into it. Prelude to the Arena opens the albums with a fluttery organ sound followed by narrative vocals by Fred Hasson leading to a quite heavy part with screaming, furious drumming and guitar but as well more quiet parts with e-piano, Mellotron or flute. First track is already a highlight! Second song Peace of Rome is as well a very versatile one varying between mellow, beautiful sections and more savage ones. Thereafter the very intricate epic songThe Arena is following with 13 minutes of timing and including awesome solos on Hammond and flute. Initially the track has a very oriental inspired sound developing more into a Canterbury vein. Time Shadow is the one where the sax comes into play and probably the best one with an incredibly intricate interplay between flute, sax and Hammond. It starts with psychedelic sounding spoken vocals then a dramatic intro with organ and drums which segues into a rather quiet part with flute, organ and short amazing solo on Harmonica (!) before vocals come in. This track has a very strong jazzy Canterbury touch not mainly due to the sax playing. Really an absolute highlight! The initial part of The Spring is the weirdest and oddest one of the album with a strange and disharmonic Hammond sound and a savage free jazz jamming, then it segues into a very pleasant theme on flute followed by a solo by Harmonica and the song switches more into a psychedelic folksy vein with mesmerizing vocals not unlike the band Quintessence. The final part is a reprise of the flute theme with tubular bells added on.


IMHO this album is an almost masterpiece in early Prog and an absolute essential one deserving a much higher attention than it actually has. Just the fact that I try to be more careful with giving the highest score keeps me off rating it with 5 stars (but 4,5 in real!).

Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This concept album about the drama of the gladiator's arena during the Roman Empire is the second of two intriguing albums Marupilami recorded in the early 70s. The pair of proto-prog albums are of almost equal strength, and both are worth investigating. While the first album wins marks for being such a unique work and sounding like very little like anything that came before it, Arena's greater variety in terms of instrumentation probably tips the scale in its favour.

Prelude To the Arena: The Undertones Of Violence In A Drifting Generation begins with some threatening noises from lead vocalist Fred Hasson over some frenzied attacks but soon settles down into a truly beautiful melancholic passage with acoustic guitar, flute and mellotron. Fast-paced jazzy vocals and a great electric piano solo from Leary Hasson take this piece home

The second track Peace Of Rome: They Manufactured Death To Keep The Peace, has a nice, dark mid-section led of course by organ and flute, before a searing special from Dave Laverock (actually the best guitar solo I've heard from him) takes the music to a new level. Marsupillami's longest song The Arena (The Fighting, The Killing, The Mother Of Fornication) doesn't start off so well but after a couple of minutes becomes an outstanding organ-dominated psychedelic improvisation, drawing heavily from Eastern themes, with drummer Mike Fouracre also making his presence felt. This track loses momentum, but again resolves itself towards the end, even if the very last notes of the song seem unbearably harsh

Time Shadows (Lay Low The Past, The Future Brings Hope) is a sombre, almost eerie affair, with Jessica Stanley Clarke's flute and Leary Harsson's organ doing a good job in building up an atmosphere (Fred Hasson's harmonica works rather less well). It eventually breaks into jazzy flute driven prog. There's some nice piano playing, and another pleasing surprise when a saxophone kicks in to good effect. Laverock's jazz guitar solo is also of note, while the ferentic stomping conclusion to the piece ensures that a good time is had by all.

The closer Spring is another strange one With a pastoral acoustic guitar/organ/flute opening giving way to a veritable cacophany of sound for more than a minute before a beautiful almost soft-rock passage comes into play. This portion is rather remiscent of Camel's tamest moments which is perhaps no surprise given that future Camel stalwart Peter Bardens produced this album. There's a harmonica solo, a powerful jam with an eerie conclusion and a restatement of the soft-rock passage before the show shuts down.

By and large Arena is an album that doesn't really follow any precedents, which is exactly what makes it, to my mind, so darned fresh. ... 80% on the MPV scale

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Into the Arena!!

An amazing and complex album that was in line or even ahead of where the competition was at the time it was made in 1970. As you likely know this is a concept album about the Roman culture that was produced by Camel's Peter Bardens who also plays some percussion. Musically and lyrically it is heavy, dark (mostly), and quite adventurous. More than anything though this is a near perfect example of early English progressive rock (though recorded in the Netherlands.)

"Prelude to the Arena" (subtitled "the undertones of violence in a drifting generation") starts quite violently with Sabbath style dramatic chords and the theatrical exclamations of Fred Hasson, whose vocals are adequate for this material but sit just on the edge of being annoying at times. This leads to alternating calm and rock sections with organ, guitar, flute. Bass and some furious drumming are pretty stellar throughout the jamming. Quite a nice opener. "Peace of Rome" ("they manufactured death to keep the peace") starts with a back and forth between vocalizations and flute. Then there is a section of sung spoken narrations about the Roman concepts with lovely flutes and another fluent rock section with organ. "The Arena" ("the fighting, the killing, the mother of fornication") begins with more dramatic narration over Hammond blasts and then some extended organ over subdued drumming, bass, and female background vocals. The flutes come in and the sound is quite eerie and a bit exotic. In the middle there is a great section of piano, flute and whispered female vocal, the calm before the chaos to follow. Starting at 9:20 is a section that sounds quite Camel-ish, one wonders if Barden's picked up some subconscious influence here although most of Marsupilami is much more brash than Camel. The latter half of this song features some truly fine prog rock moments, great guitar work, mellotron, vocals, and overall memorable textures.

Side 2 begins with "Time Shadows" ("lay low the past, the future brings hope"). This one starts very weird with echoed vocal and organ, then acoustic and flute join and then harmonica and vocal. Soon a brisk bass and jazzy drum beat grabs the weirdness and pulls it along, then some piano joins in. If this sounds like a mess, well it kind of is a musical car wreck and yet is quite fulfilling. About half way through we get the saxophone and electric guitar trading licks with an urgent flute and rhythm section behind. The last minute gets pretty crazy with the sax and guitar laying down some very heavy rock. "Spring" is a great closer and another good hippie rock moment. After yet another insanely dramatic beginning the track suddenly jumps into the most delightfully melodic passage of flute, piano, and gentle Camel like rhythm. That stops and we move into a vocal weirdness section with cathartic wailing to edgy strings and keys. Then a short e guitar solo-the lead guitar work is good enough though by no means jaw dropping. But with everything else going on around it doesn't need to be. The sound here again is VERY busy and ambitious, and somewhat difficult. This will be just too bizarre for some to enjoy, but others will feast on the eccentricity of the album. After several minutes of strangeness it slips back to the Camel-like melody to provide a pleasing and memorable ending.

"Arena" is an album that puzzled me at first but I'm glad I stuck with it, I now find it to be a challenging and always entertaining listen. To give a bit more info on the overall sound I quote just a short section from the GEPR: "There is also a strong folk feel in the vocal melodies and some of the music. The organ work gives a bit of a early '70s psych feel. Arena is a concept album but the songs on both albums run in the 7-9 minute range. Perhaps not essential but generally pretty nice if you like melodic prog with folk touches and a bit of an early feel. I especially like the heavy keyboards and busy drumming. Their overall sound is somewhat typical of the period - full of late sixties influences - but unique enough to be worthwhile. They occasionally sound like In Search of Space era Hawkwind but with more emphasis on vocals and keyboards. The instrumental proficiency and variety will keep the average prog-head interested." [part in quotes from GEPR]

It's certainly true that parts of this sound dated but that isn't necessarily the same thing as "not aging well." If you don't mind theatrics I'd say this has aged quite well, the strange complexities of the composition and arrangements make it as interesting to me as some of today's ultra complex prog. The Japanese remaster is not a gatefold unfortunately but it does offer some decent sound quality considering how old this is. 4 solid stars for a great early prog album and recommended to anyone intrigued by what they're read.

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars After their debut album's release, Marsi toured and expanded by adding Mandy Riedelbanch on multiple wind instruments and found themselves relocating in Amsterdam, where they were playing a series of concert in the Paradiso theatre with the then-state of the art MC2 Lightshow. This is when they started to write and rehearse for their second album, with the assistance of an external lyricist Bob West. The album, recorded in London, was produced by future Camel founder Peter Bardens, and indeed you can hear some of Mirage's source of inspiration in Arena, including Latimer's flute, much reminiscent of Jessica Stanley. "Graced" with one of the ugliest ever prog artwork, Arena was an improvement on their debut, partly because the extra musician allowed the group to have much more possibilities, sonically and songwriting-wise.

So the aptly titled opening track Prelude does musically exactly that: it resumes the first album's progress and the band is ready to pick up things where they'd left it at. So with the following Peace Of Rome (we're in a concept, but I was never bothered to follow it too much without smirking at the pretentiousness, the worst offender being Triumvirate) is a very ambitious piece, exploring its themes over circus/arena crowd noises, and a touch of mellotron (that was missing in the debut album) and plenty of interplay time. The mammoth title track starts rather eerily, but in a second movement, it picks a mid-eastern them over tabla and drums, but in the next one, the ambitious and daring vocal passage turns close to ridicule, but saved from it by further impressive progressions until a sharp and raw end. At one point, you can hear Laverock's bowed guitar give an acetate cello sound.

The flipside starts on effects-laden narration as intro of the other epic of this album, Time Shadows. This tracks spends a considerable time in its first movement a piano/organ duo (overdubbing from Leary, certainly), before gradually intervening are Jessica's flute, Mandy's sax and Laverock's now jazzy guitar. After an insufferably long passage dishing out whatever lyrics the track had to offer, the group unleashes on a bass and closing lyric lines, before echoing keys and sax bring the track into a very Graaf-esque ending. Indeed you'd swear this is Jaxon , Banton, and Hammill closing this track. . I'm not sure whether the closing Spring track is supposed to be part of the concept, for it doesn't get one of those pompous description like the first four tracks, but it's also a collectively-written track, that starts as a complete mayhem to slowly settle down in a dervish-like trance , with Fred's meandering scat vocals soaring over the rest of the band's great semi-raga, until the guitar and flute slowly deconstruct the group's unity (there is a superb double flute interlude that last until the organ breaks it up, announcing the piano and now double scat vocals. Fantasrtic stuff and definitely the group's best moment and it is quite accessible too. Much more than some of the more "baroque" passages that "doesn't click all the way".

Unlike the debut album, Arena did receive a Cd issue, but this was in the early 90's with the German label Line A (and apparently there was also a Japanese remaster according to a fellow reviewer), and it was long out of print, so all kudos goes to Esoteric Records to have re-unearthed this small forgotten gem. One of the rare deceptions I have is that it seems that the new member Riedelbanch is only really present (or at least noticeable) on the album's flipside, which is a crying shame, because I think she made quite a difference. Arena is definitely an improvement on their debut album, but it is a bit like Gnidrolog?. Get both albums as they're equally good, even if this one will get more nods.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars MARSUPILAMI were one of the early Prog bands to come out of the UK and are often compared to EAST OF EDEN not because they sound anything alike but because they both played very complex and adventerous music, especially for 1970. By the way they named themselves after a cartoon character created by a Belgian artist. This is their second and final album released in March of 1971, they broke up after this one because of poor album sales. They became quite popular in The Netherlands though after their debut prompting the band to actually relocate there before making this concept album, in fact in the original liner notes for "Arena" there are some very complimentery words from two fellows associated with The Paradiso in Amsterdam who praise the band for not only their music but for their warmth and friendship as they really adopted these Brits as their own.

They added a new member for this release in Mandy Riedelbanch who plays sax, flute and percussion bringing this up to a seven piece band. Also they have two guests helping out in Bob West who helped with the lyrics for this concept about the "Arena" where so much violence and death occurred in the name of entertainment etc. back in Rome, Italy many centuries ago. Also Pete Bardons(CAMEL) produced this and helped with percussion, it should be noted that this was 2 years before CAMEL released their debut album. We get mellotron on this one as well with plenty of it on the first three tracks.

"Prelude To Ruin" opens in an intense and eerie manner before the music kicks in with vocals in tow. Aggressive drumming and guitar lead the way early on before it settles right down with reserved vocals. Gotta love the mellotron after 2 1/2 minutes before it kicks back in. Best part of this song for me is the last 1 1/2 minutes where it's almost jazzy with piano and prominant bass. So good. "Peace Of Rome" builds with flute, drums, vocal melodies and more. Vocals come in and eventually organ as the music continues to shift. A calm before 3 minutes then it builds. I like the keyboards, percussion and flute here then the vocals return along with some intensity. Nice guitar solo too. The bass is throbbing as we are treated to an excellent instrumantal section. Vocals are back before 4 1/2 minutes. Man this sounds so good 5 minutes in after the vocals stop briefly. It's almost haunting late for a short time. "The Arena" opens with strange sounding vocals and some mean sounding organ runs. The flute that joins the organ is wicked. What I love about this band more than anything is their instrumental work and thankfully we get plenty of that the rest of the way. This is the longest song at just under 13 minutes. Great sound with the percussion, guitar and organ before female vocal melodies join in. They seem to jam here which is fine by me. Vocals and flute are back 4 minutes in. A beautiful section takes over before 6 1/2 minutes with soft spoken female vocals, piano and flute. It kicks back in a minute later with vocals. We get another killer instrumental section starting 9 minutes in. Reserved male vocals with a mellow sound follow but this song continues to have many time changes. A very entertaining track to say the least.

"Time Shadows" opens with spoken vocals that echo bringing to mind Krautrock. Freaky stuff before a melancholic organ and sound takes over. I like the flute and organ here. The harmonica before 2 minutes is brief then the vocals come in. It's still laid back. The tempo picks up before 3 1/2 minutes. This is really good as the vocals and flute standout. Piano joins in. A jazzy vibe around 5 minutes caused mostly by the bass playing then the sax joins in. Nice. This instrumental section continues for some time then the vocals return after 7 minutes as the sound changes. It's laid back here but the intensity rises late with the organ and sax dominating. "Spring" ends the album in style. It's pastoral to start before becoming experimental quickly. It settles back before 2 minutes and it sounds amazing with the beat, piano and flute. Gorgeous stuff right here. Bass and harmonica to the fore a minute later. Vocals join in along with bowed guitar which sounds very cool. The drumming starts to impress as well. The guitar starts to solo after 5 minutes after the vocals have stopped. It's the flute's turn and we get two of them. So cool ! Vocal melodies come in late as it then calm right down to a whisper 8 minutes in. When it kicks back in to that familiar melody I have to say i'm not worthy.

I can't believe it took a couple of spins for me to start to realize that I had something special here. A solid 4 stars.

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Poor English group Marsupilami - forever destined to be confused for being an Italian band! But one thing they sure had in common with the vintage Italian acts on their second and final album `Arena' in 1971 (after a superb organ-heavy proto-prog flavoured self-titled debut the year before) was an energetic, unpredictable heavy sound jam-packed with filthy keyboard danger, thrashing drums, mangled guitar intensity and a deranged and coarse singer full of charisma! A concept album about the gladiator arena of the ancient Roman Empire, the LP was produced by Pete Bardens of Camel fame, but those expecting a similar lush symphonic ride similar to that will be rudely kicked in the plums right from the start of the disc!

Mostly performed in the studio live to best capture the lively spontaneous energy of the group, the album instantly rages to life from its opening seconds with possibly one of the greatest ever introductions on a Seventies prog album - just listen to vocalist Fred Hasson's unhinged and demented feral outburst - "We've come here today to rip the veil from your eyes, unhinge your heads and pull out your BLOODY MINDS!!" - Love it or hate it, `Prelude to the Arena' will instantly grab your attention! It goes on to bombard the listener with wailing guitar soloing, snaking thick bass punctuations and a breakneck pummelling of drums, with quieter breaks of careful organ, flute ruminations and nimble fingered jazzy electric piano runs. `Peace of Rome' holds lurking darker organ and flute-driven symphonic unease behind pained crooned vocals and fiery tearing electric guitar rumbles.

The schizophrenic thirteen minute `The Arena' presents dramatic narration alongside piercing twisted female cries, madly darting huffing flute, devilish stop-start organ blasts and dreamy piano passages before sauntering into some very exotic themes and drifting reflective passages that still manage to hold a serrated harshness. Some blasting up-tempo spots almost come close to Genesis and the shimmering reaching guitar strains briefly remind of Yes' Steve Howe.

After an echoing narration, mud-like Black Sabbath guitar snarls and droning treated vocals, `Time Shadows' tears into lengthy improvised passages, where jazzy piano sprints ripple with tension behind wisps of flute, harmonica and saxophone and warm humming dominating Hammond organ, and there's some cleverly executed reprises of earlier themes. After opening with aggressive panning organ stabs over rumbling drums and stormy brimstone-heavy electric guitar mangling, closer `Spring' is probably the nearest the album comes to a Camel-like moment with a recurring charming and breezier rejoicing melodic theme with pleasing flute, harmonica, piano and violin, the bass constantly pulsing with hypnotic unease.

Some will find the borderline flat vocals in parts to be a bit of a deal-breaker, but `Arena' contains all the symphonic grandiosity you could want from a Seventies prog album without the fancy production polish and politeness, and the welcome tougher edge and raging sense of danger is refreshing and highly distinctive. While it's far from a complete obscurity, `Arena', so close to being a minor masterpiece and not sounding like any other album or band before it, definitely hasn't received the attention it truly deserves over the years, and this gutsy symphonic rough gem deserves a complete reappraisal and rediscovery now.

Four and a half stars.

Review by Warthur
4 stars How to describe the bizarre early prog rock of Marsupilami? Imagine if one of those mildly jazzy psychedelic outfits who could still come up with a decent hook now and again that were so rife in the era - like Colosseum (geddit?) or Audience - got melded with one of the darker prog outfits from the sinister side of the tracks, like Van der Graaf Generator, Gnidrolog, or Comus. Maybe you'd arrive at something which sounded even remotely similar to this, veering as it does between the dark intensity and furious violence of the Roman gladiatorial games to more gentle and pastoral themes such as Spring.
Review by Menswear
4 stars Tough to get around, tougher to describe.

A british band with lots of folly, splurge, insanity or madness...without being Italian Prog!? It's a bold blend of flute, screaming, awkward vocal harmonies, more screaming and bat[&*!#]ness. Way before Triumvirat serenaded us with Spartacus-Roman-Gladiator scenario, Marsupilami destroyed our eardrums and charmed us with this wicked bag-of- cats of an album. Charmed indeed, I seem to go back again and again to this, probably because the weirdness factor is so high.

Usually this type of insanity is reserved for the lost gems of Italian Prog, but this steamy pile will test your gray matter. It deserve your full attention since the 'melodical' segments are scarce and the theatrical aspect are all over the place. You can tell easily that they could be a grandfather to Camel, but at the same time, in 1971 no one sounded like them...and it's a good thing.

Even when you think you heard it all, this remains a curiosity in my collection, a conversation starter with my prog wisemen. An entertaining album that will fascinate the progger in search of a (mental) challenge.

I can see myself in cocktail parties: 'Hey you know Yezda Urfa, Catapilla and Minotaurus? But have you heard Marsupilami?'

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars MARSUPILAMI which formed in 1968 had humble beginnings as a mere folk band that formed out of the ashes of the R&B band Levitation in Taunton, England but quickly emerged as one of the most progressive bands when prog was still in the cradle. The lauded self-titled debut which debuted in 1970 was already miles ahead of the fledgling proto-prog groups and took progressive rock to new heights only a year after King Crimson shocked the world with its dazzling debut "In The Court Of The Crimson King." Meanwhile MARSUPILAMI which was named after the Belgian comic character was crafting some of the earliest examples of prog reaching its logical conclusion. Steeped in mellotron drenched symphonic prog blended with jazz-rock, hard guitar rock and unexpected hairpin turns and rich in time signature changes, MARSUPILAMI may not have become a household name but was without a doubt the most sophisticated prog band to emerge at such an early stage.

The band wasted no time conjuring up a second coming and had no intention of tamping down its eclectic tendencies in order to forge a crossover appeal. On the contrary the band upped the ante and crafted an even more dynamic mix of disparate musical elements that took things to the next level by adapting its musical vision to a large-scale epic tale that recounts the gladiator fights of Ancient Rome. With the same lineup as the debut which consisted of Mike Fouracre (drums), Fred Hasson (vocals, harmonica, bongos), Leary Hasson (keyboards), Richard Lathan Hicks (bass), Dave Laverock (guitars) and Jessica Stanley Clarke (flute, vocals), the band expanded its lineup to include Pete Bardens on various percussion as well as producer, Mandy Riedelbanch on tenor and alto saxophones and flute and even more percussion along with poet Bob West who provided lyrical inspiration as well as extra vocals. An English band that settled in the Netherlands, MARSUPILAMI crafted another dazzling display of eclecticism that somehow found ways to allow melodic structures to shine through the bizarre shifts in dynamics, tempos and musical motifs in unthinkable opposition.

ARENA appeared in 1971 and was a couple years ahead of the prog world which peaked around 1973. While many prog bands were just getting started and shedding their psychedelic 60s rock sounds, MARSUPILAMI was already crafting expansive slabs of complexity that found lush pastoral mellow sounds as heard from Genesis mixed with complex symphonic prog arrangements in the vein of Yes' more demanding material with moments of heavy rock bombast, folk-tinged flute workouts (a la Focus) as well as elements of classical and jazz. The music follows the tale of the themes focused on the Roman Coliseum where gladiators battle it out and even recounts a Greek minstrel whose destiny if a violent untimely death. The album took the thematic approach of a veritable rock opera and teased out the musical processions into a complex labyrinth of shifting musical motifs that showcase the Hasson brothers' extraordinarily brilliant compositional skills which unfortunately went over the heads of too many at the time despite some of the most stunningly adventurous musical moments in all of early prog.

Consisting of only five tracks, two of which exceed the eleven minute mark, ARENA is a wild eclectic ride through the early world of the progressive rock world making this sophomore offering even more adventurous than the already bold debut. "Prelude To The Arena" begins with jarring noise that sets the tone for the pins and needles mood for the album's adrenalizing adventures. The sounds quickly shift into hard rock guitar stomps, a quick narration and some sizzling guitar solos along with some of the most energetic and trailblazing drum performances in early prog. But just as quickly as the band gets firing on all pistols, the music shifts into a mellow flute-driven pastoral performance of acoustic guitar, mellotrons and sensual contemplation however even that doesn't last for long and the band jumps back into a heavier rock mode with demanding intricate melodic developments laced with angular jazzified chord progressions. The album only gets wilder after the opening track which happens to be the shortest.

"Peace Of Rome" offers a moment of hypnotizing repetitive percussion with howling keys ushering in a more dynamic shift to frenzied bass groove and demented keyboard style reminiscent of Van der Graaf Generator. Like the opener this track continues the labyrinthine stylistic shifts as it narrates the tales of the Ancient atrocities. The following title track and "Time Shadows" are the focus of the climactic drama of the Roman experience which alternates placid flute runs with nail-biting horror from the keyboard and mellotron darkness. With countless stop / start shifts into completely different musical styles and unpredictable time signature deviations from the norm, these two tracks showcase the extreme excesses that MARSUPILAMI was tackling before bands like Genesis, Gentle Giant and Jethro Tull were getting their prog workouts firing on all pistons. Fiery trade-offs between improv fueled jamming sessions and the passionate vocal performances of Fred Hanson accompanied by the ethereal backing femininity of Jessica Stanley-Clarke with the occasional sax solo thrown in for good measure is the stuff that prog dreams are made of.

The album closes with the seemingly tame sounds of "Spring" which offers a respite from the frenetic shifts that preceded. While a dangerous cacophonous roar of instruments clash at the beginning, the track ultimately simmers down to find an ostinato bass groove maintaining a consistency for the track's run while the instrumentalists take turns adding melodic counterpoints. It's actually understandable why MARSUPILAMI had a difficult time catching on at this early stage as even a hardened progger like myself has required many years of listening to this one for it to fully sink in but after it gestates in your soul and you can come back to it time and time again it unleashes its transcendental beauty and casts a spell of magnanimous beauty as if you have entered the fabled city of Shangri-La and this was the divine musical path to heaven. While it's understandable why this musical maze of prog ingenuity went over the heads of fans back when it was released, it does baffle me that this one hasn't earned its just desert some fifty years after it was created. This is without a doubt on of the earliest pinnacles of prog rock expression and for me still remains one of the best albums that symbolizes the world of crazy complex prog on steroids. This was unfortunately the last stop for this excellent band. This is for advanced prog aficionados only. Newbies stay away!

Latest members reviews

4 stars A fine piece of early seventies prog. Plenty of styles fused into an original and imaginative mix. The music is mainly keyboard driven, but the vocal and brass arrangements brought to mind Colosseum's early albums. This probably does deserve the term 'undiscovered gem' - it's hard to understand ... (read more)

Report this review (#144535) | Posted by barp | Sunday, October 14, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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