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Arena biography
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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Buy ARENA Music

Smoke & MirrorsSmoke & Mirrors
Metal Mind Poland 2006
$11.34 (used)
Inside Out 2004
Audio CD$5.94
$5.33 (used)
Pepper's GhostPepper's Ghost
Imports 2012
Audio CD$6.63
$6.62 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
Live At London Wembley Arena Lata Kishore Rare Bollywood Cassette Music India1st USD $6.09 [0 bids]
Various ?- Hit Machine 20 - Ricky Martin, Tina Arena (Box C79) USD $11.31 Buy It Now
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Arena (Jpn) (Ltd) (Jmlp) Audio CD USD $56.00 Buy It Now
Prince live concert at Wembley Arena London 3rd March 1995 A4 size poster print USD $18.44 Buy It Now
Arena Rock (CD Used Very Good) USD $9.04 Buy It Now
Prince live concert at Wembley Arena London 4th March 1995 A4 size poster print USD $18.44 Buy It Now
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Arena [Remaster] * by Marsupilami (CD, Nov-2007, Esoteric Records) USD $21.85 Buy It Now 1h 35m
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Erasure Wild! VHS Video Cassette Tape PAL BMG 1989 Live Tour London Arena Drama USD $9.77 [0 bids]
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Deep Purple - Live At Long Beach Arena 1976 [Vinyl New] USD $21.64 Buy It Now 5h 56m
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Live At Long Beach Arena 1976 - Deep Purple (2016, Vinyl New) USD $25.08 Buy It Now 6h 48m
Tina Arena : Dont Ask CD (1996) VG USD $3.20 Buy It Now 6h 53m
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7h 20m
@ CD The Urbane - Neon / ARENA / VERGLAS MUSIC 1999 USD $9.99 Buy It Now 7h 35m
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BRYAN ADAMS & BABY ANIMALS - 7th Nov 1991, Wembley Arena, London, Backstage Pass USD $4.91 [0 bids]
10h 43m
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ARENA discography

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

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

3.86 | 370 ratings
Songs From The Lion's Cage
3.63 | 295 ratings
4.06 | 598 ratings
The Visitor
3.91 | 405 ratings
4.17 | 559 ratings
3.61 | 372 ratings
Pepper's Ghost
3.48 | 251 ratings
The Seventh Degree Of Separation
3.72 | 236 ratings
The Unquiet Sky

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

3.68 | 66 ratings
Welcome To The Stage
3.83 | 73 ratings
Breakfast In Biarritz
4.49 | 67 ratings
Live & Life
3.42 | 22 ratings
Live Recorded 2011/12 tour

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

3.90 | 46 ratings
Caught In The Act
3.82 | 56 ratings
Smoke & Mirrors
4.06 | 28 ratings
3.52 | 23 ratings

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

2.97 | 70 ratings
The Cry
3.31 | 21 ratings
Ten Years On 1995 - 2005
3.93 | 23 ratings
Contagion Max

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

2.24 | 10 ratings
3.48 | 14 ratings
Welcome Back! To The Stage
3.41 | 18 ratings
The Visitor (Revisited)
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Story Of My Life
5.00 | 1 ratings
Never Alone
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Cage Unlocked
3.25 | 12 ratings
Unlocking The Cage - 1995 - 2000
2.88 | 46 ratings
2.59 | 27 ratings
3.13 | 43 ratings

ARENA Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Unquiet Sky by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.72 | 236 ratings

The Unquiet Sky
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Neo-prog standouts Arena return with their powerful blend of hard hitting, pomp-filled, highly melodic, and well performed rock with The Unquiet Sky, a concept album that, despite seeming to check every item on the "Prog Rock" checklist, comes across as a bland and ultimately unmemorable experience.

I decided to pick up this album after revisiting the band's excellent catalog (including Contagion, probably my favorite album in the neo-prog sub-genre here on the Archives). I was happy to hear the band roar to life within the first two minutes, smashing out a heavy blast of guitar and walls of keyboards in the great introductory track, "The Demon Strikes." One thing that can never be taken away from Arena is the band's excellent musicianship; they're simply great at creating this style of music, and know how to put the pieces together to make for outstanding instrumental moments. Paul Manzi, who returns to handle vocal duties, is serviceable, fitting in well with the tone established by the band's preceding vocalists. Personally, I prefer Sowden, who has stronger timbre and phrasing, but Manzi can belt out passionately and has a powerful sustain.

My issue is mostly in the songwriting and overall feel of the album. It's not because The Unquiet Sky is basically a by-the-books prog-rock concept album; we can easily forgive this because there are so many great examples out there that are, when you get down to it, derivative. It's more a malaise of mid-tempo blandness which pervades the majority of the album's running time. The highs aren't high enough; ballads not subtle enough; up tempo moments not exciting enough... you get the picture. I can totally groove to a single track or two on this album, but when taken as a single listen I am totally bored by the end. The music doesn't capture me, and the story doesn't inspire me; in fact, the lyrics are encumbered by their sheer number and need to tell a story, often literally, rather than through creative rhymes or poetic verse.

So sort of a mixed bag in the end. You won't regret listening to The Unquiet Sky, but it won't get nearly as much play as other albums in the genre. Fans should definitely check it out, but others should stick to the group's more diverse and exciting library.

Songwriting: 2 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

 Pride by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.63 | 295 ratings

Arena Neo-Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 3.5 stars for sure

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

 XX by ARENA album cover DVD/Video, 2016
3.52 | 23 ratings

Arena Neo-Prog

Review by progbethyname

2 stars * Review for CD and DVD media formats.

Absolutely Appalling A&R.

To be clear, this is one of the worst recorded live albums I have heard in quite some time, which makes it impossible for me to personally and fully enjoy the music that is being played because the audio recording really is just that bad! For me, It doesn't matter how great the music actually is because when you have shotty, 3rd rate audio production it seems to take over and my love or attachment to whatever I am listening to is completely thrown out the window...a lost cause if you will.

Moreover to be known to all, I love Arena. This is a band that has 'wowed' me in every possible respect musically with in their what is now, a 20-year history. They have been one of those few bands that have remained blemish free with in their entire studio album discography and including live albums as well...until now.

Enter Dos Equis. Yes those hideous, blown up double X's that defecate on what was once a beautiful album cover, slapped right in the middle and below the album's actual cover art. Even from doing a half-fast hatchet job like this for the album's overall presentation, you know this could be the start of something quite poor...that is quality wise. Long story short, my initial feelings on this were right because the heart of the matter, which is the audio itself, is created with no love or care at all like the album cover art, sadly.

To begin with, the overall Dos Equis recording really does sound like it was recorded from up in a tree. I really don't understand the mic tracking placement for this album because the soundstage is so unbelievably squished and It really does sound like I'm listening to a piece of music set up in a horribly compressed lounge chamber. I just can't believe my ears and I'm so disappointed because I love Arena and I think the set list they chose is awesome and it has great flow, but I just can't enjoy it or even remotely tell if Arena is actually delivering an emotionally or memorable live performance, musically. Here's the thing. I understand that this album was recorded at a very small venue in Poland that is primarily a movie theatre, but if you are an A&R guy you should really do your homework with in the subject of Psychoacoustics and understand the steps and measures you need to take in order to record an album properly by treating the room for sound diffusion and establishing risks of echo flutter as well as under going proper microphone placement, which is that of a big one! I mean poor Mick Pointer's drums sound so compressed and lifeless that his cymbal crashes sound like pure and utter distortion. Paul Manzi's vocals are treated terribly. His presence is so far away and hollow like he is shrouded with in a cave, while Kaylin Amos's bass has absolutely no low end shimmer or feeling. It's completely flat and lifeless. Clive Nolan's keyboards have no stage presence or any punch with in the overall mix of the album. I don't hear those interesting, shadowy nuances that usually burst so much character into the flow of what is known as Arena's trademark sound. There is nothing to be found here!

Mainly, we have to look at the culprits. The A&R team for Metal Mind Productions are Michal Kuczera for the recording Engineer position. Prosound software and EQ'ing (PA) Jaroslaw Kaszyński and the mixing was done by Karl Groom, who is the only one who can be excused from the list because it's not his fault. If an album is recorded like a turgid disaster, you can't expect your album mixer to save it or make the album sound any better than how it was originally recorded in the first place. Overall, I cannot recommend anyone to purchase the CD version of this live album. It's a half fast production in just about every way that is conceivable. The album was recorded in April of 2015 and released in February of 2016, so that should give you a pretty good idea of how fast XX was slapped together....I really do mean 'slapped..'

Mainly, Arena have to examine and clean house of their A&R team at Metal Mind as well as maybe drop the label because their last DVD done in 2012 (The Rapture) was not any better. The CD version however, was actually done quite lovely for the Rapture, but to talk further about both DVD versions is mainly upsetting. For both The Rapture and XX the 5.1 mix is so boring and not dynamic at all. I hear hardly anything passing through my left and right surround rear channels. The mix for both DVD's exist mainly at the front left, right channels with very little pouring out of the center channel. Above all, there is just no immersion or dynamic channel separation. Piotr Brzeziński is the main man responsible for the 5.1 codec mix, and I feel once again a little cheated by the quality of what comes out and passes through my home theater system audio wise and of course the video isn't very good either. I mean would it kill Arena and Metal Mind to release a bloody blu-ray for once! Come on! This is 2016 for entertainment's sake! How about celebrating 20-years properly?

Thus, the DVD version of XX Isn't any better nor is it a saving grace somehow. Arena need a new label and should start doing right by themselves by hiring a quality team of video and A&R Specialists to represent what a quality band Arena truly are. There is no doubt in my metal mind, that as far as Neo Prog with a metallic edge goes? Arena are second to none. What a shame that 20-years couldn't be represented in a more professional manner by their record label. This really is upsetting and is exactly why I personally put so much weight and importance into proper audio engineering or the art and science behind sound recording in general cause this live album is a perfect example of how great music can be greatly misrepresented. A&R is a bit of a thankless job in the music business, so this album is yet another perfect example as to why we should appreciate the Alan Parsons, the Andy Jackson's, the Terry Brown's and the mastering capabilities of the Bob Ludwig's with in audio engineering/production world. All I can say to you healthy listeners out there, that if you like how an album sounds to you look at the album credits. Look at the names of the individuals who have brought your music to life! You may see them, like I do, as actual members of the band because of their value.

In conclusion, I can award Dos Equis no points for the CD version and may god have mercy on its soul. However the DVD format is a slightly better experience, but still mediocre at best.

2 X's.

 XX by ARENA album cover DVD/Video, 2016
3.52 | 23 ratings

Arena Neo-Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

2 stars This DVD was not recorded in the usual venue from the Metal Productions team. The stage and the venue is a lot smaller. The light show doesn't have that same quality of the previous Arena's DVDS which is a shame, Is the band less popular these days? I heard that this tour was not a success. Maybe they could not fill the usual bigger venue. First thing that strike me watching this is how the red light make everything blurry. You can think that this was filmed with standard definition cameras. Also the camera work is questionable at times being late focusing on solo playing. I will be more positive with the audio and the performance in general. The sound and the playing are good and the inclusion of the epic "Moviedrome" in the set is a welcome addition. The 4 tracks of the new album didn't bring the same positive impression i had listening to the latest cd. The only others real highlights of that show is the other epic "Solomon", the song "Hanging Tree" and the video intro in the Hitchcock style of horror movie Maybe the band wanted to imitate Rush with this old venue that looks like made for a small band with no budget, but the difference is that here, you have to watch this thing for two painful hours and that it's for real. I don't recommend this for those who don't have anything about this band in DVD, buy the previous or only the 2cd audio.
 XX by ARENA album cover DVD/Video, 2016
3.52 | 23 ratings

Arena Neo-Prog

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

5 stars Playing the Moviedrome

Filmed in Katowice, Poland in April 2015, XX (20 in Roman numerals) celebrates Arena's 20th anniversary. The line up is essentially the same as that which recorded the excellent "Rapture" DVD in 2011 (released in 2013), with Kylan Amos replacing John Jowitt on bass. Several tracks from the fine new album "The unquiet sky" are included, but the set list spans pretty much the entire career of the band, with "The visitor" and "Immortal" albums featuring strongly.

Indeed the highlight is arguably the wonderful rendition of the 20 minute "Moviedrome" (from "Immortal"). Clive Nolan, who is much more to the fore between the songs than usual, explains that the complexity of the track meant that the band had never intended for it to become part of the live set, but persistent requests from fans persuaded them to do so. The result is a live opus that will surely become a staple of the live set to match epics such as Yes' "And you and I" or Genesis "Firth of fifth". It may be Nolan's recent experiences in presenting his rock musicals that have led to him now introducing some of the songs, but whatever the reasons, his anecdotes and relaxed chat greatly enhance an already spell-binding gig.

The new songs fit is well with the more established ones, with tracks such as "The demon strikes" and "The unquiet sky" bearing all the tenets of classic Arena numbers. Special mention needs to be made of the unique atmosphere created by Clive Nolan's multi-layered keyboards and John Mitchell's mesmerising lead guitar work. For my money, Mitchell is one of the best lead guitarists of his generation.

The accompanying interviews with co-founders Clive Nolan and Mick Pointer are worth a look too. Nolan is particularly candid in his comments, explaining among many other things, the song-writing and recording processes of the band.

It goes without saying that the filming of the gig and the sound quality is everything we would expect from the Metal Mind team, who once again set the standard from DVDs such as this.

My warped sense of humour was tickled by a Spinal Tap" like moment during the gig when Vocalist Paul Manzi proudly announces "here's a track from our new album" to be met with complete silence, although this is enthusiastically rectified by the audience after the rendition!

Overall, a wonderful presentation by a band at the top of their game. Recommend both as an introduction to the band, and equally as a superb addition for the already converted.

 XX by ARENA album cover DVD/Video, 2016
3.52 | 23 ratings

Arena Neo-Prog

Review by gringochucha

4 stars Paul Manzi is the best vocalist Arena has ever had.

I've been sick in bed for a week, so the fact that the new Arena DVD arrived in the mail today was a cause for celebration in a pretty crappy week. Being, as mentioned, sick at home, I put it in for a spin almost immediately, and I wasn't sorry. You see, I didn't get the last DVD because I was so disappointed with the Smoke & Mirrors one and I'd basically decided to only get the studio albums anymore. But when I saw that this one was going to have Moviedrome (one of my favorite songs ever) I preordered it immediately and here we are.

Enough of that; let's talk about the DVD. Understandably, the budget for the filming (once again in Poland) doesn't seem to have been very high. The lighting's pretty crappy and so is the resolution. The camera work is ok, but has the tendency to not show the musicians playing their solos, which can get frustrating. The thing is, from reading John Mitchell's Facebook posts, the tour doesn't seem to have been either very lucrative or particularly enjoyable for those involved (I'd pay good money to find out which Gentle Storm member apparently tried to kick them out of the shared dressing room...). From what I gleaned from John's posts, shows weren't very well attended and spirits were low, and you can kind of see this in the DVD ( (I personally couldn't make it here in Germany because the show was way too far away for me). The only ones that seem to be actually enjoying the experience are newcomers Manzi and Kylan Amos on bass.

That said, and having gotten the "negative" stuff out of the way, the performances on this DVD are generally top-class. Manzi shines both on his songs and on the classics. His voice is less whiny than Paul Wrightson's and more powerful than Rob Sowden's, with the power and drama of both combined. He barely misses a note here, and his rasp is also welcome. As mentioned, he adds some much needed energy and humor to the show, as the core of Clive, Mick and John smile maybe twice during the whole show between the lot of them.

The setlist is excellent. It took me a while to get into The Unquiet Sky, but the tracks from that album really shine here with Manzi. I'm actually sorry I didn't get the version with the CD, because now I want to listen to this concert on the stereo. Well, tough luck. After two very well played Visitor songs, we get to the long-awaited moment: Moviedrome on a live DVD. Up to now, the only live version was on the Breakfast at Biarritz album, and I always wished I could actually see it being performed. The one time I met Clive Nolan in Chile at a terribly attended Caamora show (seriously, it was pretty much me, my dad, and a few stoners), I asked him if he was ever going to play this live again, and he wasn't too optimistic. Luckily, as Clive explains during the concert, I wasn't the only one requesting it and finally they decided to record it for a DVD. Man, this apocalyptic masterpiece of a song has everything (including possibly Clive Nolan's best lyrics ever), and they pull it off admirably, even though you can tell they weren't as "at ease" with it as with the rest of the material.

At this point I have to say that the one guy who definitely isn't on top of his game here is Clive Nolan. John and Mick miss a beat every once in a while and John hits a few wrong notes, but mainly they're prett solid. Clive, on the other hand, doesn't really do a lot of his solos justice (Salamander?) and seems to have a lot of timing problems. I can't know what was going on while he was playing (bad monitor?) and anybody can have a bad night, but I get the impression that the maestro was kind of distracted. My two cents: The man has written so much great music, but unfortunately most of it is underrated and I can imagine it's not easy making a living playing progressive rock if you're not Dream Theater or Rush. But I digress and it's pretty ridiculous to try and psychoanalyse a guy based on his live show.

Back to the music: Manzi is excellent on the melancholic How Did it Come to This?, and the version of Bedlam Fayre is the best one I've ever heard (despite John's mistakes). It's weird for a song other than The Hanging Tree to follow Serenity, but The Unquiet Sky is a strong track with memorable vocal melodies and it's also sung flawlessly by Mr. Manzi. I'm really glad the mix on this album is good. You can hear everybody clearly (Clive Nolan was only miming on Smoke & Mirrors amirite?), and the harmony vocals by Nolan and Mitchell are very good and make you wish there were more a capella moments like when they sing "moving deeper into the land" on THT. Of course, John is an excellent lead vocalist in his own right. I have to admit I've been on something of a Lonely Robot/It Bites/Frost binge lately, and I can't help getting the impression he's happier on those projects than here. I mean seriously, the guy looks downright miserable at times here. But again I digress. Luckily he's a pro and his chops don't suffer.

Next, another one of Arena's great classics, The Hanging Tree, is performed beautifully. This song and John Mitchell's solos are so freaking good; I could listen to this all day. Next we get the only 7th-Degree track on the DVD: The Tinder Box. It's generally considered one of Arena's weaker albums, so it's not surprising they focused on other material. The song is really good, though; nice and heavy.

I have to admit that I skipped Solomon. I mean, it's good, but since I'm a "post-Visitor" fan and I only listened to the first two albums later I don't have that nostalgic obsession some Arena fans seem to have with the track. "Don't forget to breathe" (what's with the capitalization?) is a concert favorite for a reason and Manzi dons the customary top hat for the piece.

Of course, there are dozens of songs I could have wished to have seen on this DVD, but with Arena there's definitely a lot to choose from, and I think they put together the setlist very well. If I were rich I'd pay them to drop Solomon and play Opera Fanatica on their next tour (something I'm sure they'd be loathe to do considering the amount of work it would probably take to arrange and rehearse it). The DVD finishes as usual with the catchy "Help Me Heeeeelp Me Whooooaoaoaoa Help Me" (also known by its more boring title Crying for Help VII). This song's a friggin ear worm as the krauts say. It'll stay in your head for days.

All in all this DVD is a must for fans of the band. If you're not one then you probably stopped reading this a long time ago anyways.

 The Unquiet Sky by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.72 | 236 ratings

The Unquiet Sky
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by lazland
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The Unquiet Sky is a welcome return to form by Clive Nolan and Mick Pointer's pomp prog vehicle, Arena, and it certainly is a huge improvement on Seventh Degree of Separation, an album generally regarded as being a massive disappointment.

The key, really, is a return to what the band do well. Take a story, preferably, as in this case, one revolving around the supernatural and ghostly world, add layer upon layer of huge sounds, until an atmospheric masterpiece is created. Simple, eh?

I have to say that one of the pleasures of this album is just how much of a great performance Paul Manzi puts in. Massive vocals, atmospheric, and reflecting the quality of the material he works with. I was not overly impressed on the last album, and this, I have to say, really sounds as if it was the material, rather than the bloke himself to blame. Manzi is very well suited to the overblown post-neo pomp of Arena, rather than the ill advised crashing metal he was on previously.

John Mitchell is as good as he has ever sounded, meaning we are treated to some fantastic licks. Clive Nolan has, especially, returned to that layered sound. His effects on the title track (think the prog version of Enya) are a joy to listen to, whilst the rhythm section of Amos and Pointer are extremely efficient in keeping matters moving along nicely.

This album is, for me, in the top five prog releases of 2015, and it has been played many times now, and, if anything, gets more enjoyable with each listen. Beholding such a return to form has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the year musically.

This is up there with the best of Arena, and gets an easy four stars, in reality four and a half, if we had such a rating. An excellent addition to any prog collection, and those unfamiliar with the band's work, or this type of bombastic prog, could do a lot worst that starting here. Hugely enjoyable.

 The Unquiet Sky by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.72 | 236 ratings

The Unquiet Sky
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Arena - The unquiet sky (2015)

After the mediocre ┤Pepper┤s ghost┤ and the somewhat flat progressive metal album ┤The seventh degree of seperation┤ (with new vocalist Paul Manzi), Arena returns with a classic neoprogressive record that can live up to the 'Visitor', 'Immortal?' and 'Contagion' era of their career.

Most songs are either dark progressive tracks or emotional ballads. All songs have a part that really sticks and some instrumental passages remind me of the best of what my all-time favorite Contagion had to offer. Moreover, vocalist Paul Manzi now seems to add to the Arena-style, instead of diminishing it like on their previous effort 'Seventh degree of seperation' - though I would still prefer Rob Sowden any day.

The opener 'The demon strikes' sets the atmosphere that is actually quite dark. 'How did it come to this?' and 'Unexpected dawn' are both good examples of how a symphonic ballad can work really fine. On the last track 'Traveller beware' Arena gives an almost eight minute long treat of their extended progressive rock songwriting, perhaps a bit like 'The butterfly man'. My favorite part of the album is the string of songs that starts with the atmospheric 'Markings on a parchment' (with a nice bass lead), continues with the exciting dark piano parts of 'What happened before' and the classic Arena 'Time runs out'.

The production of the album is fine, with especially the bass guitar well in the mix and impressive symphonic sounds. I am always amazed by the guitar-playing of John Mitchell and his leads sound really well on this album, though I must admit I sometimes get the feeling 'I got to know his list of tricks'. The vocals are a often dubbed and a more natural vocal sound would not have hurt, though I know it is a part of the genre.

Conclusion. A much appriciated return to form from my first progressive rock love. Had it been a bit more inventive I could have given it five stars, but it will have to do with four. Recommended to listeners of the neo-prog and symphonic prog genres, and perhaps to those who like their prog with a dark atmosphere.

Perhaps this record deserves a bit more anticipation around here?

 The Unquiet Sky by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.72 | 236 ratings

The Unquiet Sky
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

4 stars After the rather weak and very disappointing 7th Degree of Separation, Arena (or more specific leader Clive Nolan) seems to realize that that record was not up to their fans expectations and quickly released (for Arena┬┤s standards) The Unquiet Sky. And I must say they really did an excellent job. This new CD has everything you should expect from this great group and was lacking from the previous album: a dark concept, terrific melodies, intelligent and tasteful arrangements, symphonic keyboards and heavy guitar interplay and a very fine singer. That last aspect surprised me the most. I was not really bought by new vocalist Paul Manzi on 7th Degree... Technically he was great, but his delivering up to then was too nice and soft for Arena┬┤s themes. Here he seems to understand how to deliver the dramatic lyrics with passion and menace that makes his vocal lines much more convincing.

Instrumentally the album is also much more varied and interesting, helped by the renewed, inspired songwriting (based around the M.R James' short horror story `Casting the Runes'). Nolan┬┤s elegant keyboards lines are back on the forefront along with the emotional, creative guitar solos of John Mitchell. Bassist John Jowitt has left the ship again, but you┬┤ll hardly notice it for newcomer Kylan Amos has a similar style of playing and does a fine job throughout the whole CD. As usual the Mick Pointer┬┤s drumming is fantastic. Production is also top notch, balancing vocals and instruments in a much better way than on 7th Degree... (where the vocals were too loud). There are no real lows on this album, the flowing of the tracks is very smooth and pleasant, making it one of Arena┬┤s best works in a long time. I always listen to The Unquiet Sky form start to finish with the same pleasure and that tells it all.

Conclusion: if you┬┤re thinking Arena was going downhill after 7th Degree Of Separation, think it over. They came back with an album that is as strong as anything they have released before that CD. I wish other bands could come back after a dud with such powerful and inspired follow up!

Rating: 4,5 stars. Highly recommended!

 The Unquiet Sky by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.72 | 236 ratings

The Unquiet Sky
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by progbethyname

5 stars Arena Use The Yin And Yang Approach By Balancing Old And New Sounds To Create A Filthy Gorgeous album.

I Have been an Arena fan for quite some time now and it's so nice to hear and see this band really coming to the forefront of displaying so much quality both in sound and conceptual storytelling. I believe Arena have now become masters or superior tradesmen in creating music that has so much progressive might without having to have a song surpass an 8min marking. This, to me, is nothing short of remarkable.

From the moment" The Demon Strikes " hits my ears I am captivated in all that wonderful Arena flare and glory, both conceptually and musically. This is a track that has 5 massively different transitions with in 5:38min song span! I bring this point up because their have been many that have said and felt, Arena have lost their progressive edge. This I tell you isn't true. Not in the slightest. If one really listens to this album with his or her full attention I would hopefully think that one would grasp all the lovely sophistication and production arrangement Arena have put forth in, " The Unquiet Sky." Clive Nolan's sweeping keyboards and generated orchestrations alone should have any progressive music enthusiast chomping at the bit. John Mitchell's guitar still shines boldly and deeply emotional, similar to that of his approach in the "Peppers Ghost" album. New comer, Kylan Amos has a massively thick bass. some of the strongest low end I have heard on just about any Arena album, except Immortal? Amos's bass peddle work perfectly suits the album's overall conceptual theme. It's a strong and brooding sound that will vibrate you from here to kingdom come. Lastly, Mr. Mick Pointer's drums are still the same. A very straight forward style that isn't overly technical, but more of groove style that still pounds and hits your ears like a fright train. All the skills of each band member are accentuated beautifully throughout the entire "Unquiet Sky" album. A ton of progressive might with a good amount of accessible melody, which will surely hook you in.

Presently, I have a hard time picking a favourite or stand out track that would sit above the rest mostly because each song on the album flows so beautifully one after the other, but if I had to list some key highlights I feel, as mentioned earlier, "The Demon Strikes" because of its unbelievable transitions and gorgeous musicianship makes for a real gem of a tune. The track also shows vocalist, Paul Manzi really coming into his own and really, above all, fitting in with the band completely. Manzi is more natural sounding and you can really feel the sense of urgency in his voice. He has toppled and crushed his performance in his debut album "The Seventh Degree of Separation." Just listen to his voice command on "The Demon Strikes" and "time Is Running Out." The way he treats the main choruses in those 2 songs is above and beyond. Another track highlight is the ballad " How Did It Come To This? " Now I've heard a lot of great ballads in my time and this one is no exception. It is perfect. I get goosebumps every time I hear it. "How Did Come To This" is pure and utter sonic joy. The emotion put forth by each band member is off the charts and is enough to put just about any listener on their knees thanking the heavens that they got to treat their ears to such a blissful song.

The last major notable album Highlight would be " The Traveler Beware." Now this is a track that I like to call, A Micro epic. It has so much rocket sauce crammed into 7:39min. I absolutely love this track because I feel this is the song that best exemplifies what Arena are doing so well and where they have become the most innovative. "Traveller Beware embodies that Yin and Yang balance whereby Arena fuse old and new styles together to an extremely beautiful and calculating level. I hear wisps of the "Contagion" and "Peppers Ghost" albums combined tactfully with their new artful heavy rock style in the present. It's really a perfect blend. Arena are riding a pretty impressive creative tide right now. I've embraced it and I hope most listeners can as well.

Audio mixing and Production. Briefly, "The Unquiet Sky" from a sound engineering/sonic level definitely has quite a few legs up from that of the previous album " The Seventh Degree Of Separation." Even with the most modest sound equipment I could still hear just how frighteningly bright and loud the "Seventh Degree of Separation" was and is sound wise. Well, to be fair, it wasn't Metallica's: Death Magnetic loud, but I found every instrument on "The Seventh Degree" was pushed too far forward. Even the vocals were way too bright, and I'm not sure if this was done purposely to showcase the new arrival of Manzi's chops but you will notice how exceptionally louder he sounds on that album as opposed to the current, "The Unquiet Sky." I tip my Top Hat to Simon HanHart for doing a great job album mixing wise because everything musically is far more balanced including the vocals. Overall, sonically "The Unquiet Sky" is a better produced/engineered album than many other previous Arena albums. It's nice to have the "loudness" wars put to an armistice.

In conclusion, I couldn't have asked for a better Arena album output, especially for what they are trying to do by reinventing their overall sound, but still keeping that old trademark flare to balance out the band's overall character and image. My feelings towards "The Unquiet Sky", everything from the gorgeous cover art, the album's production, conceptual storyline and of course the music itself is surely that of a masterpiece. This is my most favored album of 2015 thus far. My ears couldn't be happier.

All 5's. All smiles.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to apps79 for the last updates

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