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ARENA

Neo-Prog • United Kingdom


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Arena picture
Arena biography
Founded in 1995 in Virginia Water, Surrey, UK - Still active as of 2020

The gathering of ARENA's famous musicians makes a super-group: Mick POINTER (Ex-MARILLION) plays the drums, Clive NOLAN (PENDRAGON) the keyboards, and Keith MORE (ASIA) played the guitar until replaced by John Mitchell (Ex-Kino). Vocalist Rob SOWDEN has been with the band since IMMORTAL? and the bass player is Ian SALMON. There have also been some guest appearances by Tracy HITCHINGS (singer of QUASAR, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN & LANDMARQ) and Steve ROTHERY (MARILLION's gifted guitarist).

"Songs From The Lion's Cage" is then a very professional Progressive rock, both close to MARILLION and hard-rock. "Pride", their second opus issued in 1996 (one year after the previous one) confirmed the high musical level of this band, at a time when they added a touch IQ to their music. Curiously the band's sound gained in heaviness after their 2 first albums, and the music quality increased a lot in originality and musicianship.

Recorded in 1998, "The Visitor" alternates passages inspired by Steve HOGARTH's group along with some dark instrumentation. "Immortal" shows a new heavier dimension that still remains anchored in the best neo-Progressive music. "Moviedrome" is an excellent twenty minute track. "Contagion" follows the glorious tradition of "Immortal", although I found it more hard edged and multidimensional from all aspects. This powerful and evoking concept album tells about the quest for redemption, through the vision of a dark and anguishing future. No doubt about it, people won't have to think for a long time before electing the best album of winter 2002-2003!

''Pepper's ghost'' from 2005 sees Arena entering the realms of a quite heavy and very symphonic sound with some metal elements, a real highlight of their career. Long-time members Rod Sowden and Ian Salmon left the band in 2010 and they were replaced by Paul Manzi and John Jowitt respectively, the latter starting his second stint with the band.''The Seventh Degree Of Separation'' offers a very fresh and pounding sound, but the song structures had now become a bit conventional. Same goes for their latest entry, the 2015 ''The Unquiet Sky'', here Jowitt's place has been taken by newcomer Kylan Amos.

One of the best bands on the English scene nowadays... HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

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ARENA discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

ARENA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.85 | 443 ratings
Songs from the Lions Cage
1995
3.64 | 353 ratings
Pride
1996
4.06 | 712 ratings
The Visitor
1998
3.94 | 494 ratings
Immortal?
2000
4.17 | 687 ratings
Contagion
2003
3.66 | 443 ratings
Pepper's Ghost
2005
3.47 | 309 ratings
The Seventh Degree of Separation
2011
3.68 | 293 ratings
The Unquiet Sky
2015
3.76 | 250 ratings
Double Vision
2018

ARENA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.67 | 78 ratings
Welcome to the Stage
1997
3.76 | 89 ratings
Breakfast in Biarritz
2001
4.34 | 79 ratings
Live & Life
2004
3.61 | 27 ratings
Live - Recorded 2011/12 tour
2013
5.00 | 2 ratings
XX
2016
4.55 | 11 ratings
Re-Visited: Live!
2019

ARENA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.01 | 55 ratings
Caught In The Act
2003
3.83 | 63 ratings
Smoke & Mirrors
2006
4.09 | 32 ratings
Rapture
2013
3.56 | 30 ratings
XX
2016

ARENA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.99 | 80 ratings
The Cry
1997
3.38 | 25 ratings
Ten Years On 1995 - 2005
2006
4.17 | 36 ratings
Contagion Max
2014

ARENA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.06 | 14 ratings
Edits
1996
3.51 | 15 ratings
Welcome Back! To The Stage
1997
3.45 | 19 ratings
The Visitor (Revisited)
1999
4.00 | 1 ratings
The Story Of My Life
1999
4.67 | 3 ratings
Never Alone
1999
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Cage Unlocked
2001
3.50 | 14 ratings
Unlocking The Cage - 1995 - 2000
2001
2.88 | 52 ratings
Contagious
2003
2.70 | 30 ratings
Radiance
2003
3.14 | 49 ratings
Contagium
2003

ARENA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Contagion by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.17 | 687 ratings

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Contagion
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by A Crimson Mellotron

5 stars British neo-progressive rock titans Arena deliver a stunning and exhaustive collection of songs on their fifth studio recording 'Contagion', with styles ranging from pure symphonic prog to jaw-dropping hard rock with infectious riffs and choruses, to pure heavy metal-sounding bangers; or else put simply, this album is a bag of treats!

Loosely (or certainly, depending on who you ask) a concept album that is seemingly telling the story of a man's otherworldly journey through the darkest places of the mind, touching upon the topics of trust, love, fear, and angst - the recurring themes of this album; it is really challenging to precisely dissect the story and make up something that sounds convincing, mainly because the story is pretty fractured! It seems like the order of the songs that would make the concept of 'Contagion' more straightforward and perceivable is shuffled. Not only this, but as most progressive rock fans know, this album is actually lacking seven tracks that supposedly animate the story (Fortunately, the full version exists as 'Contagion Max' and unfortunately, a select few have heard it). However, the real protagonist of the whole frenzy is the 'blue flame' that is mentioned on several occasions throughout the album, hypothetically the true sources of the contagion around which the concept revolves.

But what makes this record so compelling? It could hardly be the confusing conceptual side, too blurry and mysterious to be grasped? well, it is the brilliant and shockingly good music! The 'core' of Arena (Clive Nolan, Mick Pointer, John Mitchell) is untouchable on this release, delivering some of their finest moments. Vocalist Rob Snowden's performance is also stellar, so is the one of bass player Ian Salmon.

The successful amalgamation of different moods, tones, and tempos make this album a unique and blissful listening experience, that has pretty much everything one would want from a top-tier progressive rock album. Nonetheless, there is not a single weak track on here, vocal or instrumental. However, I would say that the songs should really be heard in the context of the album, not as sixteen separate entities, since many of them flow into one another, forming a complete listening experience.

Some very good tracks on 'Contagion' include the metallic opener 'Witch Hunt', a song that sounds like it could perfectly fit 'Immortal?' as well; it isthe perfect way to open the album on a high note. 'An Angel Falls' is a small prelude to the beautiful 'Never Ending Night'. 'Painted Man' and 'Specter at the Feast' are also very strong; 'Skin Game', 'Salamander' and 'On the Box' might be my top three tracks off 'Contagion', definitely some of the best Arena material is on so far. The following three/four tracks also form some sort of a mini-epic. It has to be noted down that all the instrumentals are severely impressive, very elegantly played and always in-place, no mindless noodling on this LP, not even for a second. Finally, there are 'Cutting the Cards' and 'Ascension'; two very emotive and powerful songs to finish off a one-of-a-kind album.

All I can say as a conclusion is that the neo-progressive label that goes along with Arena's output would be a pretty imprecise and misleading categorization for this album. 'Contagion' is special for its very strong songs and for its palette of sounds and moods, topped by the flawless performance by the five men making up this band. A 21st century British prog classic! /And an album deserving much more attention/

 Double Vision by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.76 | 250 ratings

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Double Vision
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

3 stars "Double Vision" was a worthy attempt from Arena to be back on form after two disappointing albums with Paul Manzi on vocals.

But sadly, the magic of the past is still missing in this predictable and even boring collection of songs full of mid- tempos accompanied by a fine but not so great final epic. Paul Manzi tries to sound like the missed Rob Sowden here, but he lacks the passion and distinct voice of the former frontman.

The production is very good, a bit more guitar oriented that "The Unquiet Sky", and the song writing resembles in style to "Immortal?", but the epic is not so good ad Moviedrome and the shorter tracks are predictable and far from memorable.

So is "Double Vision" better than the two previous Paul Manzi records? Of course. Is so good as "The Visitor" or the Rob Sowden albums? Definitely not.

Best Tracks: Zhivago Wolf (dark and heavy) and The Legend of Elijah Shade (fine epic and arguably the biggest effort of this album)

My rating: ***

 Radiance by ARENA album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2003
2.70 | 30 ratings

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Radiance
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review Nš 399

"Radiance" is an EP of Arena and was released in 2003. It's usual that Arena release special fan club albums. There have been released three so far, "Welcome Back! To The Stage" released in 1997, "The Visitor (Revisited)" released in 1999 and "Unlocking The Cage ? 1995-2000" released in 2001, containing demos, live recordings and acoustic versions of the songs. The latest releases are called "Radiance" and contains about fifty minutes of acoustic live material from several albums. It was recorded at the mythical hall De Boerderij, in Zoetermeer, in Netherlands, on 7th November 2002.

The artwork of the EP is very nice with a painting of the "Contagion" virus spreading over a dying earth. It was made by the same artist that designed the "Contagion" artwork. The sparse four pages of the booklet includes full credits and some few liner notes by Clive Nolan in which he tells us how special this acoustic live performance meant to him.

The line up on the EP is Rob Sowden (vocals), John Mitchell (backing vocals and acoustic guitars) and Clive Nolan (backing vocals and keyboards).

"Radiance" has thirteen tracks. The first track "(Don't Forget To) Breathe" was originally released on their third studio album "The Visitor". The second track "A State Of Grace" was also originally released on "The Visitor". The third track "An Angel Falls" was originally released on their fifth studio album "Contagion". The fourth track "Spectre At The Feast" was also originally released on "Contagion". The fifth track "Skin Game" was also originally released on "Contagion". The sixth track "Bitter Harvest" was also originally released on "Contagion". The seventh track "The City Of Lanterns" was also originally released on "Contagion". The eighth track "Mea Culpa" was also originally released on "Contagion". The ninth track "Ascension" was also originally released on "Contagion". The tenth track "Crying For Help IV" was originally released on their debut studio album "Sons From The Lion's Cage". The eleventh track "The Butterfly Man" was originally released on their fourth studio album "Immortal?". The twelfth track "Jericho" was also originally released on "Sons From The Lion's Cage". The thirteenth and last track "Crying For Help VII" was originally released on their second studio album "Pride".

So, the acoustic live set of "Radiance" has two beginning tracks that belong to "The Visitor", seven tracks in the middle that belong to "Contagion" and the four last tracks that belong to their first two studio albums, "Sons From The Lion's Cage" and "Pride", and one track from "Immortal?". So, naturally the highlights of the set are the 7 songs that belong to their latest studio album "Contagion", at the time. However, "Contagion" hadn't been released yet. This 23 minute sneak preview of the album works exceptionally well in an acoustic format, especially considering the heavy sound of the studio versions of some of these songs. In these songs it became particularly obvious how much the "Contagion" material leans on Rob Sowden's vocal performance. The same goes to "TheButterfly Man" from the "Immortal?" album. In general, I think the live set works very well. Probably we can say that the seven songs from "Contagion" works better maybe because its original versions are also performed by Rob Sowden. The same goes to "The Butterfly Man". However, "The Butterfly Man" ends in a bit of chaos, but this is more of a hilarious moment than a spoiler. About the other songs, the songs that don't belong to "Contagion", I think all works well enough. Of course some songs lose some strength without bass and drums but they still sound nice to me. All in all, these songs are great from themselves, no matter the way in which they're performed. For instance, the set closes with the audience starting the "Heeeeeeeelp me!" of "Crying for Help VII", which is quickly picked up by the threesome and performed wonderfully.

Conclusion: In the first place, I must confess that I always was a great fan of acoustic live sets. I always have the feeling that on the acoustic live performances the music is more simple and pure than on normal electric live shows. We may say that on an acoustic live show the artists have no tricks in their sleeves. Making a comparatively allusion with the circus performers, we may say that on a live acoustic set an artist works without his safety net. Coming back to this EP, we can say that "Radiance" shows a very good live performance and where Arena is at times brilliant. I like particularly of the vocal performance of Rob Sowden. As all we know it isn't easy to sing only with some acoustic instrumental support. And even more difficult is when the band is doing some fun moments which creates to Rob a very difficult moment to concentrate. This is probably the reason why we can felt that Rob Sowden's performance does fail several times during the pre-Sowden songs. He has some problems performing the up-tempo on some of the songs. Thus, due to some concentration failures and because Rob seems a bit tired on some parts and does get out of tune sometimes, that makes that some songs doesn't sound as harmonious as they should sound. In my opinion, this acoustic format works well, especially considering the very heavy sound of the studio versions of some of these songs.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 The Seventh Degree of Separation by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.47 | 309 ratings

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The Seventh Degree of Separation
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review Nš 393

"The Seventh Degree Of Separation" is the seventh studio album of Arena and was released in 2011. After having wait 6 years for their new studio album, we all had high expectations about it. After "Pepper Ghost", fans became very curious to hear the new studio material from the band, really. This is another album with some changes on band's members. It's their first studio album to feature the presence of their new vocalist Paul Manzi, who replaced their previous vocalist Rob Sowden. It has also the returning of their bassist John Jowitt, who replaced their previous bassist Ian Salmon.

So, the line up on the album is Paul Manzi (vocals), John Mitchell (backing vocals and guitars), Clive Nolan (backing vocals and keyboards), John Jowitt (bass) and Mick Pointer (drums).

"The Seventh Degree Of Separation" is a conceptual album with a very strange and macabre subject. The concept is about the journey from the last hour of our life to the first hour of our death. With 13 tracks in total and a playing time of over 56 minutes of length, this is an album with a very impressive artwork. The album comes in a 3 leafed digital book with a 28 pages counting pullout booklet, packed with the original artwork. The special edition, which is mine, offers a bonus DVD of about 50 minutes featuring the making of the album, in which the five band's members give their personal point of view to the viewers, about the process they went through when composing the music of the album.

As happens with most of conceptual albums "The Seventh Degree Of Separation" is an album made of interwoven tracks and recurring themes. So, as usual on the most cases of conceptual pieces where the music and the lyrics flow throughout the album for the most part of it as if it were only a single theme, I'm going only to do a global review of it.

As we all know, Arena presents itself as a band playing different music styles ranging from symphonic to hard rock with a touch of metal style. On this album, the hard rock parts have become more prominent as the usual expenses of the symphonic progressive ones. Songs are also simpler and shorter than is usual, guitars sound heavier and the new vocalist Paul Manzi sings with a vibrato which is clearly a typical characteristic of hard rock and metal front men. By the other hand, the mixing of the album was done by Karl Groom of Threshold, what has happened with their previous sixth studio album "Pepper's Ghost", which probably had some influence with the overall heavier sound of the album, like happens with the new sound of Galahad. That is particularly evident, for me, on the eleventh track "Burning Down".

The first two songs "The Great Escape" and "Rapture" shows an album that has a lot of power. "One Last Au Revoir" is a nice song with good melodic guitar work of John Mitchell. "The Ghost Walks" is a slow song where you can hear some Steve Hackett's influences. "Thief Of Souls" and "Close Your Eyes" are two typical Arena's rock songs with some melodic vocal accents. The short track "Echoes Of The Fall" is an up tempo rock song. A more interesting track is the following song "Bed Of Nails" in where you can find more melody and a beautiful vocal line. It's full of synth strings and melodic guitar parts. The song has more diversity. This is something I usually miss in the more rock oriented songs. After this strong song it's time for the ballad "What If?". John Mitchell uses a guitar sound that reminds me sometimes the sound of Gary Chandler from their compatriots Jadis. This ballad has some beautiful vocal melodies and a nice melodic guitar solo. "Trebuchet" with his broad synth carpets and "Burning Down" are perhaps the two more typical Arena's rock songs on the album. The lengthiest song on the album is entitled "Catching The Bullet". In my humble point of view, it's the great highlight on the album, mainly because of the greater diversity on it. There is more room for instrumental interludes and it's, therefore, more interesting for the lovers of progressive rock. The album closes worthly with the track "The Tinder Box". The tension on the music of this song swells slowly towards a climax. Very nice really.

Conclusion: "The Seventh Degree Of Separation" is, without any doubt, a good and solid album with some catchy tracks. However, it doesn't sounds to me as a typical Arena's album. The replacement of Sowden by Manzi appears to me very strange because Manzi sings as a vocalist of a metal band. So, the final sound of the album is completely different that we were used to. By the other hand, the lengthy usual epic tracks of Arena are gone and has been replaced for short and conventional tracks, only slightly progressive, losing the album the usual magic of their music. Most of the songs on the album are more rock oriented. So, it lacks to the album the diversity and creativity that became really exciting for me. Thus, from a band with such high reputation and one of my favourite neo-prog bands, I expected more than a load of good rock tunes with just a progressive twist. I was maybe with too high expectations. In my point of view, "The Seventh Degree Of Separation" isn't clearly as good as all their previous albums, but it's a good consistent progressive rock album. All in all, I think the fans of Arena became enough pleased with it. But, I really think that the adventurous prog fan after six years of waiting for a new work from them, certainly expected a little bit more.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 The Visitor by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 1998
4.06 | 712 ratings

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The Visitor
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars ARENA were a "supergroup", a conglomerate of layers of sedimentary rock of MARILLIONic, PENDRAGONian and ASIAtic musical epochs. Bearing a resemblance to all of these performers on this, their 3rd release, they concocted a canard that can be ignored or parlayed into a Master's thesis. Though "The Visitor" might be less complex than some of its influences, veering close to Arena rock at times, it also makes for a less frothy and denser statement, which can be construed just from the relatively brief track lengths that bleed into one. Most of the numbers offer succinct melodies and catchy choruses that nonetheless manage to avoid sounding forced or formulaic.

While the verbosity of the story necessitates that this be a vocal heavy project, and Paul Wrightson delivers with dramatic panache and angst, the excursions of guitarist John Mitchell have a voice all their own that complements Wrightson, in splendid evidence on "Serenity". Clive Nolan seems to understand this and only wrests power from his bandmates often enough to file any metallic edges that occasionally surface, as on "Pins and Needles". A few ballads, like "Tears in the Rain", also help to offset the type of unbroken intensity that unravels many a neo prog album.

Like any worthy concept work, a few of the most memorable themes, such as from the harrowing and hallowing "the Hanging Tree", perhaps the one track here that stands on its own as a masterpiece, do reappear just often enough to tie together any loose or frayed threads. "The Visitor" is a coherent statement that indulges the considerable egos involved without pandering to them.

 Pepper's Ghost by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.66 | 443 ratings

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Pepper's Ghost
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nš 369

"Pepper's Ghost" is the sixth studio album of Arena and was released in 2005. Despite "Pepper's Ghost" isn't properly a conceptual album, Clive Nolan has remarked that there is a pronounced English feel to the album. I think he means that Arena's sound has obvious echoes of the English prog rock bands of the 70's and 80's, but he also wants to means that "Pepper's Ghost" is very much a Hollywood Victorian view. It tells us the story of five heroes in the 19th century, in London, who fight against the organized crime and, ultimately, they even defeat a demon. The characters on the story are an exorcist, a ninja, a scientist who travels through time, a count and a cowboy with Indian ways. Apparently, each of the band's members is one of the comic book heroes. The story is told in the booklet through a small comic book.

"Pepper's Ghost" is their second studio album to feature the same line up such as with their previous fifth studio album "Contagion". So, the line up of the album is Rob Sowden (vocals), John Mitchell (backing vocals and guitars), Clive Nolan (backing vocals and keyboards), Ian Salmon (bass and acoustic guitar) and Mick Pointer (drums).

"Pepper's Ghost" has seven tracks. All songs were written by Clive Nolan, John Mitchell and Mick Pointer except "Opera Fanatica" which was written by Clive Nolan. All lyrics were written by Clive Nolan. The first track "Bedlam Fayre" is an excellent opener to the album and appears in the same vein of many other great openers of Arena's studio albums. This is a typical first track for the band that reminds instantly "Witch Hunt" from "Contagion" and "Chosen" from "Immortal?". It's a track very nice and pleasant to hear that can be considered an almost an Arena's classic song, which is perfectly in the same vein as most of the songs on "Immortal?" and "Contagion" albums. The second track "Smoke And Mirrors" is a song that opens with Mitchell in acoustic mode, before the band turns on a mid tempo rock song with a very strong and catchy chorus which features some nice vocals from Sowden. The solo works from Nolan and Mitchell are wonderful and confirms perfectly well their skills as great performers. The third track "The Shattered Room" is one of Arena's lengthiest tracks and where we can hear some of the best and finest keyboard works by Nolan. This is a song that reminds me quite a bit "The Butterfly Man" from "Immortal?". The song moves through a series of different musical sections with a very intense and dramatic chorus. Once again the highlight goes to Nolan and Mitchell with their excellent work in the extended instrumental section. The fourth track "The Eyes Of Lara Moon" is in general considered the weakest of all but I like very much of it. Its name reminds me immediately the 70's film "The Eyes Of Laura Mars", what I really liked very much. It's a song built around a very simple yet effective and extremely catchy melody from John Mitchell. This is a song with good vocal chorus, nice guitar playing by Mitchell and some beautiful keyboards by Nolan. The fifth track "Tantalus" is a track that opens as a dramatic ballad with Nolan's piano being the dominant instrument. The song progresses with some nice keyboards and vocals works until the heavy parts that follow. The orchestrated backing vocals on the chorus are great and the end section, where there is a real edge to Sowden's vocals, is particularly strong. Moreover, the ending of the song is one of the heaviest parts of the album. The sixth track "Purgatory Road" is another excellent song with nice lyrics. It's a very powerful track with very fast changes, great singing, heavy guitars and great keyboard solos. Again the chorus is solid and there's also a good guitar work by Mitchell and a typical keyboard sound runs from Nolan. The song is in general excellent and became as one of the album's highlights and represents the heavy metal side of Arena's music. The seventh track "Opera Fanatica" reminds me "Moviedrome" from "Immortal?". It's one of the heaviest tracks on the album and opens with some beautiful operatic vocals, as its name indicates. For the most part we have the grandiose and bombastic pomp rock at its best, with several memorable sections with great chorus where Sowden shines. This is doubtless the great highlight of the album. Ccuriously and surprisingly it was the only track written solely by Nolan. It closes the album at a very high note.

Conclusion: "Pepper's Ghost" is a very strong release from Arena and remains as one of their best studio works. It's one of Arena's heaviest albums and we may say that it's very close to their fourth studio album "Immortal?". The heavier sound of the album is probably due to Karl Groom of Threshold who co-produced the album with Clive Nolan. The same thing would happen with the eighth studio album of Galahad, "Empires Never Last" which would be released in 2007, and that was also produced by Groom. So, the change on the musical direction of both bands isn't probably a simple coincidence. The album artwork deserves a special mention. It has an excellent digipack packaging that includes excellent cartoon strips drawn by David Wyatt, an English commercial artist. On it, each strip is designed to illustrate each song of the album. This is an excellent artwork that can only improve the magnificence of this album.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 The Visitor by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 1998
4.06 | 712 ratings

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The Visitor
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by Hector Enrique

4 stars Arena's kickoff as a relevant group inside the neo-progressive genre was due to the release of The Visitor, their third album.

It is pervaded with an obscure melancholy because of the constant death references. This topic is ideal for slow-paced songs fraught with deep emotions. That is the case of Hanging Tree, the album's ever-lasting paragon; or the hurting Tears in the Rain, which consists of a flawless blend of keyboards and guitars.

The guitar work of John Michell, a recently added member of Arena at that time, is astonishing: he stands out in the instrumental bits of Elea and Serenity, as well as in The Visitor's final solo, whose style is influenced by David Gilmour.

The rest of the songs keep a considerably good level, like in the case of A Crack in the Ice or the dynamics Pins and Needles and Double Vision. Maybe Enemy Without is the only dissonant part of the album due to its light sound: it doesn't add much to The Visitor, but it also doesn't decrease the album's quality as a whole.

Without a doubt, The Visitor is one of the best productions of the magnificent group formed by Clive Nolan and Mick Pointer.

 Immortal? by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.94 | 494 ratings

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Immortal?
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by Hector Enrique

4 stars Immortal? is a forceful work, vitalized by the incorporation of Rob Sowden in the voices, who fit in seamlessly with the band. Rather, it brings overwhelming expressiveness and drama to the theme of the album.

Proof of this is the disturbingly intense The Butterfly Man, the martial and heartbreaking Ghost in the Firewall, and the almost unmissable 20 minutes of the stupendous Moviedrome, all linked by the same dark thread, and the best of Immortal?

But it is not all, Chosen continues in the same spectral line, Climbing The Net brings to mind some air to the song Incommunicado by Marillion, they let us breathe a little with the delicate and thoughtful Waiting For The Flood. Finally, with the hopeful Friday's Dream, the album concludes in great shape.

Without a doubt, Immortal? is at the top of Arena's discography and highly recommended listening, especially for neo- progressive fans.

 Immortal? by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.94 | 494 ratings

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Immortal?
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nš 351

Arena was born in 1993, when former Marillion's drummer Mick Pointer was introduced to Clive Nolan by Richard Jordan, editor of Silhobbit Magazine. Pointer had been thinking about recording an album for a while and Nolan seemed to be the right person to re-introduce him in the world of prog music taht had changed since Pointer has left Marillion.

'Immortal?' is the fourth studio album of Arena and was released in 2000. This is the first studio album of Arena to feature the presence of their new vocalist Rob Sowden, who replaced their previous vocalist Paul Wrightson. This is also the album with the presence of their new bassist Ian Salmon, who replaced their previous bassist John Jowitt. John Jowitt would return to the band in Arena's seventh studio album 'The Seventh Degree Of Separation', released in 2011. Curiously, this time he replaced Ian Salmon. So, the line up on the album is Rob Sowden (vocals), John Mitchell (backing vocals and guitars), Clive Nolan (backing vocals and keyboards), Ian Salmon (bass) and Mick Pointer (drums).

'Immortal?' has seven tracks. All songs were written by Clive Nolan, Mick Pointer and John Mitchell, except 'The Butterfly Man' which was only written by Clive Nolan and John Mitchell. The first track 'Chosen' is a progressive track that opens the album with a bombastic way. It's a very catchy song with great melody, nice keyboard work and beautiful guitar performance. This is a track with a darker and heavier tone which leaves us the impression that the band's sound changed with a new progressive metal style influence into their music. The second track 'Waiting For The Flood' is a more traditional neo-progressive song in the same vein of the music on their previous studio album 'The Visitor'. The Rob Snowden's vocal performance it seems to me a truly reminiscence of Paul Wrightson and of the sound of their previous studio album. This is a song that features some fantastic acoustic guitar work, melodic keyboards and great vocal performance. It's an excellent powerful acoustic track with dark and apocalyptic lyrics, in the same vein of the entire album. The third track 'The Butterfly Man' is simply one of two best tracks on the album and is also one of my favourites too. It's a very powerful song that reminds me, once more, their album 'The Visitor'. This is a song with a fantastic and great guitar work and represents one of the few songs not dominated by the keyboards of Nolan. It's a fantastic song that moves perfectly well between the heavy and melodic parts. The fourth track 'Ghost In The Firewall' is a kind of an experimental Arena track that is driven almost exclusively by Nolan's keyboards. It's a song that begins with a very industrial way that reminds me Pink Floyd in some musical parts. With this kind of songs Arena proves that they are able to change their music, experiencing a new and modern sound to the neo-progressive music. The fifth track 'Climbing The Net' is a very accessible song and represents, in a certain way, a musical retrospective of their old days. It's a very good song with nice lyrics, great melodies and a good musical development. However, and in my humble opinion, 'Climbing The Net' is probably the less interesting song on the album. The sixth track 'Moviedrome' is the biggest song on the album and represents the great epic of it. This is in reality, a true progressive song with multi parts that contains many styles of music with influences of symphonic music and progressive metal. It represents one of the best examples of the contribution of Arena to a new progressive sound. It's a very cohesive song with beautiful and excellent harmonies and remarkable individual performances by all band's members. This is the second highlight of the album. The seventh and last track 'Friday's Dream' is a very simple, calm, beautiful and powerful ballad, mainly performed by acoustic guitar, which closes the album nicely and harmonically, and is definitely better than 'Climbing The Net' is. This is a song that reminds me the short tracks called 'Crying For Help' from their debut studio albums 'Songs From The Lion's Cage' and 'Pride'. It's a nice and a pacific way of Arena to close this excellent studio album.

Conclusion: 'Immortal?' is another excellent album of Arena and represents another change into their style of music. With their two first studio albums 'Songs From The Lion's Cage' and 'Pride', Arena's music was very reminiscent of the musical influences of Marillion and IQ. With their third studio album 'The Visitor', Arena's music changed and could be perceptible an attempt of the group to create and individualize their new sound. With this fourth studio album Arena managed to create a new sound in a very own way. This is very remarkable and made of Arena a band with a very distinctive sound in the neo-prog bands. They managed with 'Immortal?' what Galahad managed several years before with their studio album 'Empires Never Last'. However and despite 'Immortal?' be an excellent album, personally, I sincerely think that it isn't a masterpiece despite it was very close to be it. Anyway, 'Immortal?' is Arena's second best studio album of their four previous studio albums. So, in my humble opinion, 'Immortal?' isn't a perfect album. It has some weak points, namely 'Climbing The Net'. Thus, 'The Visitor' remains to me as their greatest masterpiece till now.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 The Visitor by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 1998
4.06 | 712 ratings

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The Visitor
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Review Nš 335

"The Visitor" is the third studio album of Arena and was released in 1998. It's their last studio album to feature vocalist Paul Wrightson. Bassist John Jowitt also quit the band after its release. He returned in 2011. It's also their first studio album to feature the presence of their new guitarist John Mitchell, who replaced their founder guitarist Keith More that participated on their two first studio albums "Songs From The Lion's Cage" and "Pride". So, the line up on the album is Paul Wrightson (vocals), John Mitchell (guitars), Clive Nolan (keyboards), John Jowitt (bass) and Mick Pointer (drums).

"The Visitor" is considered by many fans, critics and reviewers as the best studio album released by the band. The idea for this album was born in the mind of Clive Nolan, and the lyrics of "The Visitor" resulted very dark and intense. The music all over the album complemented by some excellent graphics on its cover, empathize the general mood of the album. "The Visitor" had great reviews when it was released and resulted in a very well successful live tour of Arena.

"The Visitor" is a conceptual album. An angry and disillusioned man chooses to walk across a lake that has recently been frozen. As the ice breaks, he sinks down into the freezing water. As time passes, his thoughts come to his head, about himself and his life, and so, he faces "the visitor" examining his inner being and relives certain elements of his live. In the end, our protagonist gets pulled out of the water, thought we never know if he was helped by someone. So, all over the album we experience the man's thoughts on the lyrics and the music. So, "The Visitor" is an epic concept, focused on pain, death, redemption, human's kind purpose, the nature of the knowledge, and all this things seen with a kind of a religious slant. "The visitor" is an idea, a metaphysical concept or a spirit being, travelling through the time.

As with many of conceptual albums, the length of the tracks is very different being some very short and others bigger. The music moves and flows beautifully all over the album, as the story goes throughout the album. So, I'm not going to review the album track by track, which is usual by me when I review studio albums, but only to do a global review of it.

"The Visitor" has fourteen tracks, together forming one piece of music of about 60 minutes long. All songs were written by Clive Nolan, Mick Pointer, John Mitchell and John Jowitt. The musical success of "The Visitor" is probably the result of the co-operation of the four writing members of the band. John Jowitt was responsible for large parts of the stunning opener of the album, "A Crack In The Ice", as well as the beautiful epic "The Hanging Tree". This track is preceded by the instrumental "Elea", which was written by John Mitchell. With his brilliant Gilmour-ish guitar playing in both "Elea" and the other instrumental "Serenity", he's really put his mark on this album, just as Paul Wrightson did during the vocal performance of "The Visitor". The expressive nature of Clive Nolan's lyrics and the change of atmosphere throughout the album, varying from the melancholic "Tears In The Rain" to the fierce and bombastic "Running From Damascus", form a fertile soil for a great album. These ingredients nourish for thought about the meaning of the story.

One thing that is more notable about this album that on the previous two is the slight toning down on the aggressive parts. There are still borderline metallic riffs that make their way into the seamless parade of moods and synth runs but nothing feels forced and enters the stage only when appropriated. The production values are impeccable with beautiful swirling synths providing the expected backbone around the vocal delivery and the rest of the band following their lead. I also want to mention how important the Floydian space guitars are on this album. While Genesis rightfully gets the credit for inspiring the neo-prog sub genre, it's the brilliance of the guitars that meld, in genearl, the neo-prog approach well into the space rock world, only one approach Arena utilizes effortlessly in their evolution in this specific sub-genre.

Conclusion: "The Visitor" is a great studio album and represents the first masterpiece of Arena. The two previous first studio albums "Songs From The Lion's Cage" and "Pride" are both great albums, especially "Songs From The Lion's Cage", but "The Visitor" is better and represents their finest studio work, till now. With "The Visitor", Arena made a classic concept studio album, in the same vein of many released in the 70's. "The Visitor" was made of 14 great musical sections that worth as a whole. It sounds very close to Marillion and IQ but the final result is a neo-prog album with a metal touch. I know that many people don't like the neo-prog style. They think neo-prog is a rubbish style of music, very pompous and empty. I can't disagree more. I don't like to consider neo-prog as an individual sub-genre. I think neo-prog is nothing more than a branch of the symphonic prog style, more modern and simple. It's a kind of a symphonic style less complex and much accessible. It's especially recommended for those who aren't accustomed with very complex progressive music. With "The Visitor", Arena had the honour to ascend to the rare status of be one of the most important modern prog bands. For me, "The Visitor" can be considered as one of the best neo-prog albums ever made.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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