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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

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


Double VisionDouble Vision
Verglas Music 2018
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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)

3.86 | 396 ratings
Songs From The Lion's Cage
1995
3.64 | 316 ratings
Pride
1996
4.05 | 640 ratings
The Visitor
1998
3.91 | 438 ratings
Immortal?
2000
4.16 | 605 ratings
Contagion
2003
3.62 | 400 ratings
Pepper's Ghost
2005
3.49 | 275 ratings
The Seventh Degree Of Separation
2011
3.74 | 260 ratings
The Unquiet Sky
2015
4.10 | 98 ratings
Double Vision
2018

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

3.71 | 72 ratings
Welcome To The Stage
1997
3.78 | 81 ratings
Breakfast In Biarritz
2001
4.27 | 73 ratings
Live & Life
2004
3.53 | 25 ratings
Live Recorded 2011/12 tour
2013

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

3.91 | 50 ratings
Caught In The Act
2003
3.83 | 59 ratings
Smoke & Mirrors
2006
4.07 | 30 ratings
Rapture
2013
3.54 | 25 ratings
XX
2016

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

2.97 | 73 ratings
The Cry
1997
3.33 | 23 ratings
Ten Years On 1995 - 2005
2006
4.19 | 28 ratings
Contagion Max
2014

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

2.23 | 11 ratings
Edits
1996
3.48 | 14 ratings
Welcome Back! To The Stage
1997
3.45 | 19 ratings
The Visitor (Revisited)
1999
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Story Of My Life
1999
5.00 | 2 ratings
Never Alone
1999
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Cage Unlocked
2001
3.50 | 14 ratings
Unlocking The Cage - 1995 - 2000
2001
2.89 | 50 ratings
Contagious
2003
2.60 | 28 ratings
Radiance
2003
3.15 | 46 ratings
Contagium
2003

ARENA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Double Vision by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.10 | 98 ratings

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Double Vision
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by javajeff

5 stars This is the biggest surprise of 2018 for me. I skipped the last album, and almost skipped this one based on the cover alone. I could circle around to The Unquiet Sky later, but right now I am going to spend time letting Double Vision marinate for a while. I do have most of their albums, and Double Vision is my absolute favorite. Paul Manzi on vocals is excellent, and everything else is just perfect. It starts off with Zhivago Wolf, which has a stellar sing along melody, and musicianship of the highest quality. The songs that follow are just as good, and then it ends with the extra proggy The Legend Of Elijah Shade. I absolutely love this album, and I could not recommend it enough. It is a must get for progressive rock fans. 4.5 stars.
 Double Vision by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.10 | 98 ratings

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Double Vision
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by Progrussia

3 stars Another album in the line of similarly-sounding recent Arena releases - slick, but safe, for them, spinning pompously vague tales of the supernatural and fallibility of reality in a heavy adult-oriented rock fashion. The songs are catchy, to be sure, but predictable, made from familiar ingredients - a loud riff (the intro to Zhivago Wolf even made me think that this was going to be Arena's most metal album, but, thankfully, no), a spacey break, a softer vocal-driven verse, a wailing guitar. The listener is also treated with Arena's longest track - a 22-minute epic. Which is, well, an OK epic, more diverse than the rest, but not yet a magnum opus. Like the Unquiet Sky album, it is best thought of as a story set to music, something, it seems to me, that Mr. Nolan has been lately most interested in.
 Double Vision by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.10 | 98 ratings

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Double Vision
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by The Jester

5 stars It's almost 3 years since the release of The Unquiet Sky and Arena returned with a new album. Double Vision was released a few weeks ago, and as it seems, it is the best album the band recorded since Contagion (2003). In Double Vision Arena re-discover their musical identity, and present an album that totally worth its money. Personally speaking, I didn't like the two previous albums as much as their older ones, so I had no idea what to expect with this new one.

In my opinion, this album can be characterized as Arena's come back! With the heavy riffs of John Mitchell's guitar, the beautiful passages of Clive Nolan's keyboards, the nice melodic turns, the very good compositions and the excellent overall performance of the band, it is definitely a great album!

Double Vision includes 7 songs, all of them good ones, and has a total running time of almost an hour. It begins with Zhivago Wolf, a rather powerful song, (which I didn't like so much to be honest), but right after that, the rest of the album is a real treat for the ears and the soul. The album is closing in the best way possible, with the 22-minute-long epic The Legend of Elijah Shade, a really strong composition, which is going to be loved by every Progressive Rock fan, with its endless turns and changes.

Favourite songs (so far): The Mirror Lies, Scars, Red Eyes, Paradise of Thieves, The Legend of Elijah Shade.

This is a very serious piece of work and I recommend it to all the Progressive Rock and Neo Prog fans. Give this album a try and you won't regret it!

My Rating: 4.5 stars.

 Double Vision by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.10 | 98 ratings

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Double Vision
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Metal / Heavy / RPI / Symph Prog Team

5 stars After a couple of albums of more concise songs, the band is back with songs of epic scale. Arena has always been critical about their own compositions and the production. There are not many bands that can produce albums exempts of ordinary songs. "Double Vision" has seen the light after 1 year and a half of preparation. The first song has a dark intro and we can feel the epic style with symphonic passages. In the song "The Mirror Lies" we have a spacey Pink Floyd keyboard part of Clive that bright things up the straightforward first part of the song that ends nicely with some heavy guitars and a brief acoustic part. "Scars" brings some majestic keyboards lines and a long instrumental section. I am not sure if this song is a suite of "Crying for Help" because of the lyrics but it's a different atmosphere for sure. "Red Eyes" is a dark song with some of the heaviest stuff of the album where Clive is leading the way a while before stopping suddenly into a short calm ending. The song has some special vocals effect and a clear influence from the band Muse. "Poisoned" is a fine acoustic ballad to give a breather into this stormy music. And how can be an Arena album without an epic song at the end with countless tempo shifts, moods, and atmospheres where the intensity is always kept. Clive is going from the piano to the keys to finish in a pure Rick Wakeman style with the church organ. This is a solid 4.5 stars, time will tell if it stands out for being one of their best.
 Double Vision by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.10 | 98 ratings

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Double Vision
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by freddie71

5 stars This band is back in great shape again. There is an extremely strong magnitude in the sonority of this new album Double Vision, giving notoriety to the production and the excellent execution of the work of all the members of the band. All of them completed their mission in a grandiose way, giving a strong structure to all the tracks found here. The album contains 7 tracks, the pearls of this album are The Legend Of Elijah Shade, which contains 22 minutes of pure subtlety and The Mirror Lies, around 7 minutes. Double Vision is not an album for progressive rock purists, as their strands are more routed to hard rock, but even those might not be disappointed with such musical quality, The boys are back in business and I think, this might be another landmark album, who knows?
 Pepper's Ghost by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.62 | 400 ratings

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Pepper's Ghost
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars Although only formed in 1995, ARENA had became one of the great prog revival bands of the decade by imitating Fish-era Marillion and then quickly latching onto a veritable sound of their own as Clive Nolan found a new niche away from his other neo-prog bands Pendragon and Shadowland. A decade after the formation of ARENA, the band changed up their sound yet again on their sixth album PEPPER'S GHOST which after many lineup changes in their earlier years emerged as the third album in a row with the same cast members. At this point the collaborative songwriting efforts of Clive Nolan (keys), Mick Pointer (drums) and John Mitchell (guitars) was in full swing as they once again as they independently created their own parts and then adapted them to a band setting which surprisingly combines well into another album of thoughtful constructs that deliver another epic concept album.

The concept of PEPPER'S GHOST revolves around five different individuals who travel through time to defeat a demon all of which is narrated through a comic book included in the packaging. For a tale so tall it connotes a stylistic upgrade in sound and on PEPPER'S GHOST, the band ramped up their decibalage and tempo to the point this blurs into heavy rock territory for much of the time without ever feeling like a metal album so i guess it could be considered heavy neo-prog or something of the sort. The term PEPPER'S GHOST comes from a projection technique developed by John Henry Pepper, a 19th century inventor whose technique casts the illusion of ghostly objects fading into and out of existence in a room but can also "magically" transform certain objects into totally different ones. How this term and storyline weave together is beyond me but arcane enough to accept blindly without question.

Musically PEPPER'S GHOST carries on where "Contagion" left off. There is no significant deviation to the stylistic approach, the interplay or any sort of song structures as with other albums, ARENA craft seven tracks with the final "Opera Fanatica" being the most ambitious and lengthy at time run of of just over thirteen minutes. Despite the similarities, there are several differences as well. First is the abrupt heaviness that makes PEPPER'S GHOST the most hard rock leaning album up to then with crunchy guitar riffs and even more ambitious solos that occur from time to time however ARENA have lost none of their atmospheric prowess as Nolan conjures up beautifully powerful ambient backdrops to accompany the more aggressive guitar and bass. Ironically the drumming does not take on a more aggressive role as Mick Pointer creates more subtle drum rolls that add rhythmic contrasts. Rod Sowden delivers another brilliant vocal performance as always however this time around his lyrics seems submerged beneath the heavier production and guitar dominance.

Another difference is the type of melodic developments. The album begins with circus music that finds itself reprising throughout the album's musical development which adds a sort of gypsy jazz swing element dispersed throughout the album when least expected. For some reason PEPPER'S GHOST doesn't seem to be as well revered as previous ARENA albums and that's quite the shame because i find PEPPER'S GHOST to be just as compelling as any of the earlier albums minus the magnificence of the perfection of "Contagion," however ARENA doesn't shed their origins on this one, they merely augment them with a more diversified palette that allows more extreme dynamics, faster tempos and more ambitious lyrical themes in their concepts. Personally i find this one to be slightly more addictive in the melodic hooks in comparison with some of the earlier albums. For anyone avoiding PEPPER'S GHOST on account of the lower ratings, i have to say do check this out for it's on par with any of the other classic neo-prog albums of the era.

 Double Vision by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.10 | 98 ratings

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Double Vision
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by mitarai_panda

3 stars Arena is a very famous new avant-garde band and can be considered as a leader in this school. They were established in Surrey, England in 1995. It is a super combo, played by Marillion's former drummer Mick Pointer and Pendragon's keyboard. Kevin More, the guitarist of Clive Nolan and Asia, was replaced by Keith's John Mitchell. From so many members of the new avant-garde band, it's no wonder that the band that was established in the mid- to late-1990s will be called the New Guard. Counting this year's new album, they have released nine albums so far, the most famous of which is Contagion in 2003. The new brick is called "Double Vision," as the cover shows. In terms of music, there are some assembly lines for stealing four songs. Without exception, it is a combination of three elements: heavy riff+ pop vocals and keyboard symphony. Although riff sounds very cool, but life is not quite my appetite, Paul Manzi's voice range is a bit narrow, and surprised, Clive Nolan (he himself also made many albums) keyboard occasional flash , but not much. It wasn't until the fifth Red Eyes reached a peak time, the psychedelic opening and the end, where the keyboard was shining, and it was a small number of highlights. Afterwards, Poisoned was a cappella accompanied by acoustic guitar. This sing was quite good, but it did not touch me. Finally, a 23-minute epic, The Legend of Elijah Shade, was somewhat dramatized. It was a weird vocal chorus accompanied by a witty keyboard. When I thought it would be a little different, the song immediately restored the stereotypes of the three elements. Until the time of entry, some synthesizer sounds and solo are still good, but in the end they still get into the assembly line. The long length and too many singing and instrumental performances without real highlights seem to be telling the self-indulgence of the avant-garde rock. . Overall, this is a mediocre album, stylized, with great highlights, and I was disappointed with their album last year, a Samsung and a half evaluation.
 Double Vision by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.10 | 98 ratings

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Double Vision
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

5 stars Arena, a band that in many ways was brought together by a running joke in an underground fanzine, which led directly to Mick Pointer realising that there was quite a vibrant prog scene. In turn he was introduced to Clive Nolan, and the rest as they say, is history. The debut 'Songs From The Lion's Cage' was released in 1995, and the jokes soon started about never being at far left or far right on a band photo as you would be the next to leave, but the guys have been stable now for quite some times, with the same line-up since 2011's 'The Seventh Degree of Separation'. That was the last album I heard, as for some reason I missed 2015's 'The Unquiet Sky', although I have been listening to quite a lot of Clive's other works, as well as releases featuring guitarist John Mitchell (the line-up being completed by singer Paul Manzi and bassist Kylan Amos).

Having played Clive's 'Alchemy' so much that it is almost worn out (according to LastFM it is my second most played album since I joined that site in 2007, behind only Camel's 'The Snow Goose), plus having known him for more than quarter of a century (I feel old) and having most of his projects, I was really looking forward to this album, and I wasn't disappointed. While Arena are first and foremost a progressive rock band, what I found fascinating with this album is the amount of theatricality within it. Paul Manzi surely has one of the most expressive and emotive voices around, and his relationship with Clive is long-standing in this and other projects, and they have an innate understanding of what is needed to take a song to the next level. There are times when I am clearly reminded of his performance on the aforementioned 'Alchemy', such is the power of his storytelling.

But, this is very much a band album, although it obviously has been heavily influenced by Clive who wrote or co-wrote every songs and provided all the lyrics, but Mick is playing better than ever, Kylan has a great sliding style that really suits the music. Then on top of it all there is the incomparable John Mitchell. He may not have been the original guitarist (who was Keith More, ex-Asia, for the first two albums) but he has been there for twenty years now, during which time he has built a considerable reputation as one of the finest guitarists in the scene, and I don't think anyone was really surprised when he joined It Bites. He knows when to riff and drive the music along, when to provide solos, when to use restraint and when to just let the music rock.

Here we are in 2018 and both Galahad and Arena have this year released possibly the finest albums of their careers, only time will fully be able to judge that, showing that although they were in the underground scene in the Nineties, playing all the dives that entailed due to no publicity (or internet!), they are ready and able to reap the rewards of keeping going when others have given up. This is a stunning album, one that all progheads need to discover at once if not sooner. I loved it the very first time I played it, and it has only got better the more I listen to it.

 Contagium by ARENA album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2003
3.15 | 46 ratings

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Contagium
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by thwok

4 stars I agree with the general consensus regarding CONTAGIUM. This is the better of the two EPs consisting of songs that didn't quite fit onto CONTAGION. The songwriting and general memorability of these four songs is a bit stronger then CONTAGIOUS. It isn't better then the CONTAGION album, but it's still very good. I didn't have access to the bonus features for this review, so I am only reviewing the 4 songs.

Only "The March of Time" overstays its welcome. I suppose "On The Edge of Despair" and "Confrontation" take pride of place over the other two tracks. I was very happy when Arena became a more aggressive band and shortened their songs a bit, which they did during this period. Arena aren't a clone of any other band, but the general description of them as a more hard rock-sounding Marillion is apt. It was enough to get me to start listening to them. If that piques your interest in Arena, this EP is a very fine place to start.

 The Unquiet Sky by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.74 | 260 ratings

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The Unquiet Sky
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by benbell

5 stars I heard great things about this album and being relatively new to Arena but having really liked Contagion I thought it would be the ideal next thing to listen to. I was quite disappointed at first ? for reasons I can't remember ? but it didn't last. This album is superb and Paul Manzi really shines as the new (to me) vocalist here.

The material is a tighter story, almost more towards Clive Nolan's musicals in form, though not stylistically and obviously with a single vocalist.

I should probably put Contagion on again sometime and remind myself of it, but these days every time I want to listen to Arena this is the album I pull out.

Five stars, no ifs and buts.

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

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