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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)

3.84 | 482 ratings
Songs from the Lions Cage
1995
3.65 | 382 ratings
Pride
1996
4.06 | 757 ratings
The Visitor
1998
3.94 | 537 ratings
Immortal?
2000
4.14 | 733 ratings
Contagion
2003
3.66 | 477 ratings
Pepper's Ghost
2005
3.45 | 338 ratings
The Seventh Degree of Separation
2011
3.69 | 324 ratings
The Unquiet Sky
2015
3.71 | 289 ratings
Double Vision
2018
4.06 | 131 ratings
The Theory of Molecular Inheritance
2022

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

3.67 | 82 ratings
Welcome to the Stage
1997
3.78 | 96 ratings
Breakfast in Biarritz
2001
4.34 | 81 ratings
Live & Life
2004
3.59 | 32 ratings
Live - Recorded 2011/12 tour
2013
4.29 | 7 ratings
XX
2016
4.40 | 15 ratings
Re-Visited: Live!
2019

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

4.01 | 56 ratings
Caught In The Act
2003
3.84 | 64 ratings
Smoke & Mirrors
2006
4.13 | 36 ratings
Rapture
2013
3.60 | 33 ratings
XX
2016

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

3.00 | 84 ratings
The Cry
1997
3.28 | 26 ratings
Ten Years On 1995-2005
2006
4.18 | 42 ratings
Contagion Max
2014

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

2.09 | 15 ratings
Edits
1996
3.45 | 14 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
2.90 | 57 ratings
Contagious
2003
2.70 | 30 ratings
Radiance
2003
3.14 | 53 ratings
Contagium
2003

ARENA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Theory of Molecular Inheritance by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.06 | 131 ratings

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The Theory of Molecular Inheritance
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by Yubal

4 stars I can't say that this is my favorite Arena album. At least not if I take into account the amount of songs I've ended up adding to my favorites lists. However, I can't be impartial, because Damian Wilson is one of my favorite metal singers in the world, and to be able to enjoy him in a band of Arena's caliber is a real treat.

For some reason I get the feeling that the production of the album lacks something, that the music doesn't sound clean enough, and that tarnishes the overall result a bit.

However, it is still an excellent work, with very good songs and a good mix of power and melodies. Personally, The Equation has been my favorite song, and if I had to tell a person to listen to how Arena sounds with their new singer, this would be the song I would choose for the first contact.

 The Theory of Molecular Inheritance by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.06 | 131 ratings

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The Theory of Molecular Inheritance
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by lukretio

3 stars UK neo-proggers Arena have been around for nearly three decades now, guided by founding members Clive Nolan (keyboards) and ex-Marillion Mick Pointer (drums). The line-up soon coalesced around the two musicians as well as guitarist John Mitchell, and the trio together wrote and recorded most of the 10 full-length albums that currently form the band's discography. The line-up on their latest LP, The Theory of Molecular Inheritance, is completed by bassist Kylan Amos (now at his third album with the band) and singer Damian Wilson (ex-Threshold, Headspace, Ayreon), who joins Arena for the first time here.

The curiosity for Damian's debut was high among fans of the band as well as the broader progressive rock/metal community, who recognizes in Damian Wilson one of the most significant voices in the genre. Unsurprisingly, the singer steals the scene here with a stellar performance that is worthy of all the accolades he has received over the years. Switching with ease between powerful, high-pitch belting and mellow singing, Damian is a perfect fit for Arena's eclectic sound. The Brits have always balanced their neo-prog roots with a penchant for heavier and more metallic atmospheres, at time even close to the classic Iron Maiden sound. The new album is no exception, as it alternates softer melodic moments with heavier sections, which at times even approach the stylings of modern prog metal acts like Haken ("Twenty-One Grams"). Elsewhere, Arena usher in subtle hard-rock/AOR influences, like on the chorus of "Pure of Heart" or in the gloriously melodic coda of "Life Goes On". The end result is a satisfyingly varied collection of songs that navigates a vast universe of prog-adjacent styles with taste and class.

Surprisingly given their considerable duration, the 11 songs of this LP are fairly compact and chorus-centric, favouring a streamlined form with repeated verse/chorus sequences rather than more elaborated and extravagant structures. The arrangements tend to vary over the duration of a song, although many tracks share a common template in the alternation between soft, sparsely arranged verses and heavier, fuller choruses. After a while, this approach becomes slightly repetitive, which is why a song like "Field of Sinners", with its upbeat tempo and weird James Bond movie soundtrack vibes, feels so fresh and welcome. Arguably, more injections of diversity in the songwriting and arrangements would have done good to this record, which at over 60 minutes of length tends to plod ever so slightly as it enters the second half.

Despite these misgivings, I'd lie if I said that I have not been spinning The Theory of Molecular Inheritance madly since I got hold of the CD. With its utterly addictive melodies, this is one of those albums that naturally call for repeated listens, not only as a way to fully appreciate its content, but also for the pure pleasure of listening over and over again to a great set of tunes, performed excellently and sung by a phenomenal frontman.

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

 Double Vision by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.71 | 289 ratings

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Double Vision
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by A Crimson Mellotron
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Ninth overall studio album for Arena and third and final release with overall fourth vocalist Paul Manzi, 'Double Vision' came out in 2018 and has since been one of the better received modern neo-prog releases. This album definitely takes on and expands that creative sonic line running across the entire era of the band with Manzi as the lead vocalist - shorter, catchier songs that have a strong classic hard rock edge, whilst preserving the band's progressive pedigree. A fair presentation for a well-seasoned band full of talented musicians, most of which are also involved in several other projects in the realm of prog.

A solid album for sure, but also one whose initial impression fades away after repeated listens, it is one of these records you can definitely appreciate for what it is, but the passing of time, with the ageing of the album, indicates that you do not have too much use for it, when compared to other releases by the same artist. Apart from this, I would probably never understand that horrendous cover art showing this software-manipulated nausea-causing image of a double-eyed, double-mouthed red-eyed man. Kind of fits the music, especially the ominous, spookier tones, but by itself it is a really bad album art.

Yes, there is a major 22-minute epic closing off the album, and I would say that this is the best track on 'Double Vision', but apart from this one and the pretty solid opener 'Zhivago Wolf', the rest of the songs do not excite as much as older material by Arena. Good by itself, but far from being too special, too daring, necessarily groundbreaking, this album takes its righteous spot as one of the fine releases by the Surrey neo-prog masters. Still, I would go on to call it somewhat safe, keeping in mind that this is the band responsible for 'The Visitor' and 'Contagion', two tremendous releases.

 The Seventh Degree of Separation by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.45 | 338 ratings

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The Seventh Degree of Separation
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by A Crimson Mellotron
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 'The Seventh Degree of Separation' is Arena's seventh studio release, and first one with then-new vocalist Paul Manzi, another exquisite vocalist brought in to complement the epic music composed by one of the most exciting contemporary British prog rock bands. After a string of excellent releases in the early 2000s, with Rob Sowden handling the singing duties, and after a 6-year silence, 'The Seventh Degree of Separation' sees the band returning slightly to form and taking their best shot at starting out the new decade on a high note. And one could say that in a way they did manage to do it!

Technical and melodic, this album is simply a collection of very good songs composed by one of the most seasoned collectives out there, also seeing Arena go back a bit to the album presentation format of their heyday when their releases featured a huge number of shorter and more straightforward songs, as opposed to what we are usually used to when we talk about a prog rock band. It is really pleasant to see them applying their darker sounds and sometimes ominous tone to compositions that have strong heavy metal leanings with elements of symphonic rock, experimental rock or electronic rock. Among the highlights on here, one could not omit the mighty opener 'The Great Escape', the really heavy 'Rapture', or the more lush soundscapes of 'One Last Au Revoir'; 'Echoes of the Fall' and 'Burning Down' are also among the songs that sound the most convincing.

This is no 'Contagion', nor it is 'The Visitor' - it is a fine album by a great band, nothing too special, nothing too shabby. Just a display of power, capabilities, and will to continue to be creative.

 Songs from the Lions Cage by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.84 | 482 ratings

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Songs from the Lions Cage
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by A Crimson Mellotron
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Melodic prog rockers Arena kickstarted their very respectful career with 1995's 'Songs from the Lions' Cage'; The band led by monolithic figures of the neo-progressive rock scene Mick Pointer and Clive Nolan, the former being the ex-Marillion drummer playing on the band's early 80s debut album, and the latter being the keyboard player for Pendragon, another very successful and recognizable act in the genre, is presenting a collection of nine songs with various lengths, that are entirely bathed in that very prominent 80s neo-prog aesthetic, one that is specifically particular for British bands, and is hardly mistaken once heard. This, of course, should come as no surprise given the backgrounds of the band's main creative forces, the aforementioned duo of Pointer and Nolan, who are entirely responsible for conceiving and writing this 1995 release.

And 'Songs from the Lions' Cage' is a quite good album, it works fairly well as a continuous listening experience, it presents some captivating musical passages, but it does unfortunately for the most part, sound immensely outdated. The reason for this is most likely the fact that the 80s neo-prog aesthetic has been transferred to the mid-90s, a place where other musical discoveries and interests had been taking place, even in the realm of progressive rock, where two main domains seem to have taken shape - the one in which bands revisit their passion for the classic 70s symphonic sound, and the one where bands blend their love for prog with their excitement for heavy music, thus giving a rise in popularity for progressive metal. Somewhere in-between we ought to find neo-prog, but a more modern take on it, one that is more easily transferable to the boundaryless 21st century.

So, as much as this first release by Arena is a pastiche for a very particular age in the development of progressive music, it is also a nice collection of songs, some of which really hit the spot. Opening track 'Out of the Wilderness' is playful and fun, some of that early Marillion approach to writing gradually-built-up rockers could be appreciated; Even some of the vocal delivery seems to reminisce strongly Fish's here and there. 'Valley of the Kings' and 'Jericho' are fine but not necessarily very exciting; 'Midas Vision' is one of the better examples off this album, this one is more memorable and has a tighter grip on the listener, something that is lacking throughout most of the album. The 'Crying for Help' suite, sprinkled all over the record is also working quite well, especially these last two segments, III and IV. And finally, there is the 14-minute epic 'Solomon', a little too self-indulgent in its execution, this song seems to be a bit overshadowed by the hardly justifiable length, rather than the clarity and lavishness of some of the musical passages.

'Songs from the Lions' Cage' rightly serves as a point of initiation for Arena's journey, quite a pleasant one, but also quite far away from being a point of arrival, as other albums later on would take this role - it is also worth mentioning that neither the vocalist, nor the bassist stayed around for the band's sophomore release, while the guitar player made it no further than the second album, which has to be just another proof that this was not quite what the band was all about.

 The Theory of Molecular Inheritance by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.06 | 131 ratings

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The Theory of Molecular Inheritance
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars

ARENA The Theory of Molecular Inheritance

The 30-year old band of "NeoProggers" are back with another album, their tenth and first in four years. Thanks to the absolute perfect fit of power-singer Damian Wilson, this may be one of their best.

1. "Time Capsule" (5:30) incredible vocal performance--perhaps the best I've ever heard from prog veteran Damian Wilson. (9.5/10)

2. "The Equation (The Science of Magic)" (6:29) rather dull despite the excellent final 90 seconds. (8.25/10)

3. "Twenty-One Grams" (6:34) stereotypic drum play beneath the heavy verses but not in the more delicately textured soundscapes in the choruses. Another nice vocal performance from Damian. (8.667/10)

4. "Confession" (2:20) sounds a bit Broadway theatric. Perhaps Damian has done Phantom or Cats. (4.25/5)

5. "The Heiligenstadt Legacy" (5:42) a story song with wide dynamic range, it sounds so much like a classic rock song by JOURNEY or BON JOVI or something like that (I wouldn't really know: I was never a fan or collector of that kind of music). (8.5/10)

6. "Field of Sinners" (6:27) has a cinematic quality as well as a Thin Lizzy "Jailbreak" sound and feel to it. Nice guitar work from John Mitchell. I'm a little tired of these "borrowed" drum tracks: its as if Mick Pointer plays from programs injecting little or none of his own personality into his performances. When Damian is belting it he sounds so (too) much like some classic rock singer from the 1980s (if not Phil Lynott). (I'm too tired and lazy and disinterested to find out who.) A solid song with nice textures and layers but nothing new or special here. (8.75/10)

7. "Pure of Heart" (6:18) Standard heavy prog with a 1980s Power Rock/Metal sound and feel. (8.5/10)

8. "Under the Microscope" (6:51) perfectly matched music and vocal performance for the first two minutes before a PINK FLOYD "Comfortably Numb" chorus takes over. Speeding along after that is some excellent racing prog with both Clive and John firing on all cylinders. (13/15)

9. "Integration" (4:48) Damian singing some very powerful lyrics about the topic of nature v. nurture over piano and later synth. At the end of the third minute, Damian finishes, releasing the hounds to express themselves in a kind of Clive Nolan-dominated Scottish reel. Very Tony Banks/Genesis-like. (8.75/10)

10. "Part of You" (5:54) Damian sings "the world has done" over pulsing keyboard "strings" for the first minute before a more metal bass musical soundscape establishes itself as the foundation for the rest of the song. Like an old LOVERBOY song. Too clich'. (8.33/10)

11 "Life Goes On" (5:11) piano chord arpeggi are joined by Damian for a little intro before the rest of the band joins in. The music is rather unexceptional, the lyrics obtuse to me, and John Mitchell's solo is seasoned and fiery. The band ramps up for the final 90 seconds with its choral repetition of the song's title. A very solid studio song. (8.667/10)

Despite being the most likable Arena album I've heard (so far, I've only heard The Visitor, Immortal? and Contagion), this is, to my ears, nothing more than splicing and dicing of recapitulated sounds and riffs from past masters with a great singer singing about topics more relevant to current times.

B-/3.5 stars; a very good addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially for the masterful performances of singer Damian Wilson.

 The Theory of Molecular Inheritance by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.06 | 131 ratings

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The Theory of Molecular Inheritance
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by alainPP

5 stars Arena founded in 1995, a mega group at the time with members from Marillion, Pendragon and Asia initially. A powerful neo, the 3rd generation of prog rock after Genesis and Marillion. The heaviness of their sound has in my opinion oriented the prog towards metal for the greater good. This is their 10th opus with the contribution of Damien Wilson who has worked for Landmarq, Threshold, Headspace, Maiden United and Ayreon; it lacked a major group, it's done with Arena. 'Time Capsule' and synths forward, iron rhythm of Mick and Kylan, egosilated voice of Damian it goes fast and heavy! Uncompromising prog with this instrumentation and voice melting pot; Clive almost steps back to let John and his 6-string unleash a first solo that makes me shiver, it's still simple when the music is done well; hypnotic title with a warm, divine final ah ah ah. 'The Equation (The Science of Magic)' segues into my wood- burning piano to give way to Damien; Clive's break and Damien's revival, that's it, he's incorporated into the group as if he had been there from the start; a fat, viscous Moog reinforces the feeling of a job well done; the rhythm is heavy, nervous, makes you want to see them in concert...that's good the sound is between the sound of 1995 and that of 2022, magnificent. Damien uses his voice on different registers to break up the usual verse- chorus; the finale is explosive. 'Twenty One Grams' heartbeat, Kylan's dark bass, Mick is recognizable with his many caressed drums; Damian sings to a mermaid, castrato tune, I hope he will appreciate given the place of excellence they were given before; well, an angel, maybe it will be better. It goes up halfway with this Clive solo that makes me raise my last two hairs, it's really good at the instrumentation level, the atmosphere reminds me for a time of the dark metallic wanderings of the Riverside, I melt; final where the keyboard shows that it can be a centerpiece in a prog band these days. 'Confession' and the Genesis ballad on a piano-voice basis, the time to recover from the dose of unloaded musical adrenaline. I feared a lambda album, warned by a chronicler friend of the potential bomb that this album represented, I remain stuck for the moment. 'The Heiligenstadt Legacy' with Damien on a statement from Ludwig van Beethoven's will bequeathed to his brothers, an angelic voice boosted again by Clive's divine, solemn piano. An emotive voice, sensitive before explosion where it is found in its more usual register; John oozes his guitar notes, they fall from the sky; a crescendo where the power of the guitar goes hand in hand with the captivating voice.

'Field of Sinners' starts with oblivion, undead cries? Then a Marillion Fish-era synth, I like that already; it's latent, explosive, a pure product of Arena with the keyboard pads, with this feeling that Clive has 3 hands; the most progressive title in my opinion, less melodic, more search for musical atmospheres; I'm thinking back to 'The Visitor', it's well done, nervous, it makes my head move, I'm definitely seduced from the first listen, rare for me and John's machine-gunner solo isn't going to make me change my mind . 'Pure of Heart' ah this tune to The Passions, yes by far but the music has this fabulous thing that it brings back many memories; well it goes up and I find the energetic Arena with the intro that warms your ears, the one you don't know when it's not going to stop. Damien tumbles, choppy voice on a metallic riff then his high voice la Jon Anderson 'Drama' era; the synths deliver far then closer with a break before launching John; the final hard riff revives Damien on high choruses, explosion before 'Under the Microscope' and a robot comes to introduce the longest title; only 7 minutes but given the hook between each track, the pleasant impression of having long songs. Good 2 minute warm-up before the climb; fat, twirling synths, it flows everywhere, the guitar gets involved, we go full force into the world of Lewis Caroll with nursery rhymes that we suppose are extravagant but I don't want to go under the microscope; the final instrumental with endless Gary Moore air guitar; a chilling crescendical title. 'Integration' forms a clean break, title apart voice and piano, it rests the ears, Damien still in value; a ballad that nay a fight of keyboards and strings that starts suddenly; Clive does nervous Pendragon, Arena, neo-neo fruity prog, yes some will still say that I mix food and music? but music can be spiritual food. 'Part of You' classic riff with a majestic, emphatic hit; superb climb that reminds us that in prog there is progression, a moment of musical distraction where you don't know where the musicians are going to take you; it's composed, researched, John tortures his guitar, Damien sings on Clive's keyboards securing the atmosphere that Kylan and Mick have undermined; solo spurting on the machine-gunned bass, simple but perfect, gripping, bringing adrenaline, sweat, emotion. 'Life Goes On' on 'The Exorcist' not possible! Ah yes Mike? Oldfield is listening he might sit down and listen interested; culmination of this flawless album where each title is linked to the next, a concept that does not look like it; the most agreed title in my opinion, everything is in place and I feel like I have already listened to it.

Arena that I had never reviewed, I who fell into the pot with their 'Songs', I who always fear to review an album before its release, I started... and I did well. This album is in my top 2022, no matter what we say in view of the perfect millimeter association between the guitar, the keyboards, the rhythmic bass and the voice of Damien. I will listen to the other albums without any problem again, I feared too much vocal presence, I am doubly reassured and enthusiastic. Clive had to be sure to wink at me. Note the artwork of David WYATT who had already worked for 'Contagion' and 'Pepper's Ghost'.

 Immortal? by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.94 | 537 ratings

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Immortal?
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by A Crimson Mellotron
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Among Arena's best we have to mention 'Immortal?', the band's fourth full-length studio release, put up for the world to enjoy in the first year of the new millennium. This one is also the first record with vocalist Rob Sowden, who would record two more before parting ways with the band, and has the severely difficult task of following up the stellar masterwork of Arena, 1998's 'The Visitor'. Of course, the core of the band, in the face of Clive Nolan, John Mitchell and Mick Pointer, as well as the other two players do not disappoint and deliver the second installment of what could certainly be considered the 'Holy Trinity' of Arena albums, including 'Contagion' as well.

'Immortal?' opens with 'Chosen', a dark, heavy song, with a throbbing main riff and a haunting atmosphere, this is still Arena, but they dare to go to some even gloomier places than before, still focusing on atmosphere, as on 'The Visitor'. The 9-minute 'The Butterfly Man' is another highlight of the album - this is pure neo-prog mixed up with heavy metal, ultimately ending up as one of the most evocative songs in Arena's entire catalogue. 'Ghost in the Firewall' is pure emotion, always highly anticipated when playing the album, this for me is one of the band's all-time bests tracks. 'Climbing the Net' does reflect slightly Mick Pointer's Marillion days, as this one is certainly an homage to the 80s neo-progressive rock scene, reminiscent a bit of 'Double Vision', a song appearing on Arena's previous album. Then there is the great 20-minute composition 'Moviedrome', this one is epic and suspenseful, dark and melancholic, heavy and abundant, everything you might expect from this group.

'Immortal' is a great debut for Sowden, and a very strong release for Arena; It is, my least favorite of their classic three, but the album definitely has a lot to offer and serves impactfully as one of the better neo-prog releases of the early 2000s.

 The Theory of Molecular Inheritance by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.06 | 131 ratings

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The Theory of Molecular Inheritance
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by KansasForEver

5 stars To say that this tenth studio album by the British combo was expected is the most singular pleonasm and for various reasons, four years after the mixed "Double Vision", the Covid 19 pandemic having passed through there as for the whole world, musical or nope. The first of these reasons is obviously the change in the position of principal vocalist with the departure of the discussed but nevertheless honorable Paul MANZI and the arrival of one of the sizes of progressive music for a good twenty years, Damian WILSON.

This "The Theory of Molecular Inheritance" is conceptual as were before it "The Visitor" and to a lesser degree "Contagion" two of the most outstanding works of the Virginia Water combo, SURREY. Conceptual also means that all the titles follow one another, sixty-two non-stop minutes of a brilliant energetic neo progressive flirting regularly with our good old family hard rock.

From the first title "Time Capsule" it's big, very big ARENA beyond progressive music, everything is there the six strings of John MITCHELL, the metronomic rhythmic pair of Kylan AMOS and Mick POINTER and the voice, the voice !!!!! Damian WILSON what a throat?listen carefully, we are in the middle of the URIAH HEEP David BYRON period (the ah ah ah), limit it is Clive NOLAN the most discreet (10/10). "The Equation" same fight, calm start before John MITCHELL ignites everything, nice Moog solo in the middle of the piece, the rhythm tumbles my hen as we say at home, it's solid business (8/10 ). Twenty-one grams of music introduced by Kylan AMOS' bass is not much but it's only the title, quiet track (compared to others obviously), Damian plays it for us in the first half before a nice energizing dose in the finale, mister John of course (9/10). A welcome breath without drums, piano/voice, "Confession" to put everyone to sleep after the first eighteen minutes of high intensity (8/10), closes the first third of the work.

"The Heiligenstadt Legacy" for those who do not know the language of GOETHE, it is the heritage of the sanctuary, with a new (arch)angelic Damian between two rises of adrenalinic tension, where he gives it to us Ian GILLAN green years, superb piece that would not have denied the Deep Purple that we all know (9/10), my God it's good. If I were mean I would say that the next track "Field of Sinners" is probably the least interesting of all because the most basic, the most rock n'roll, a bit cultured, I'm still looking for the melody, an instrumental score a bit messy around the third minute in my modest opinion (7/10), on the contrary a piece that should rock on stage. "Pure of Heart" should have been a quiet piece according to its title but not at all, it's even the opposite, it pulsates severely, mister Clive's keyboards have a little trouble being heard, we're there we find with pleasure heepian choirs here and there and a John MITCHELL in fusion (8/10).

The sweet start of "Under the Microscope" the longest (by little) track of the album is a treat, it's calm but invigorating with Clive NOLAN who mooguizes thoroughly and finally an almost instrumental finale to sustain me largely, the exacerbated lyricism of John MITCHELL's guitar with a superb Celtic coloring (who remembers BIG COUNTRY?) from the first to the last second (10/10). We are already arriving at the last quarter of this "The Theory of Molecular Inheritance" with first of all "Integration", the only title under five minutes, if we except the breath of confessional air (see above), begins calm (piano / voice again) before a new simultaneous Nolanian and Mitchellian deluge, there's no way they know how to play the buggers (9/10). "Part of You" is coming, classic piece of a historic ARENA that we could have found on "Songs" or "Pride" concreted by AMOS and POINTER, radiophonic and hymnic at the same time, also cut for concerts (8/10).

The final point of this theory "Life Goes On" a sublime concluding track like the quintessence of a major work of progressive music of the decade, yes, yes... (10/10) a summit, ah this six-string guitar by John MITCHELL, this marvelous vocal phrasing by Damian WILSON and Clive NOLAN which coats the whole thing like a five-starred chef, I remain prostrate in front of this delicious dish. A word about David WYATT's artwork, the same one who had already worked with ARENA for "Contagion" and "Pepper's Ghost", it is simply up to the music, at the top level, original, not necessarily progressive primary sense, but at the top level.

 Ten Years On 1995-2005 by ARENA album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2006
3.28 | 26 ratings

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Ten Years On 1995-2005
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review N 526

"Ten Years On 1995 ? 2005" is a compilation of Arena and was released in 2006. Unlike their previous compilation, "The Cry", released in 1997, which is a very special compilation with all the eight parts of "Crying For Help" themes, taken from their first two studio albums "Songs From The Lion's Cage" and "Pride", released in 1995 and 1996, respectively, put together and reworked as a completely new single conceptual album, "Ten Years On 1995 ? 2005" is a traditional compilation with songs taken from their studio albums, until then, as a best off, to celebrate Arena's 10th anniversary.

The tracks chosen by Arena to be part of this compilation are: "Solomon" from "Songs From The Lion's Cage" from 1995, "Empire Of A Thousand Days" from "Pride" from 1996, "The Hanging Tree" and "A Crack In The Ice" from "The Visitor" from 1998, "The Butterfly Man" and "Chosen" from "Immortal?" from 2000, "Skin Game" and "Salamander" from "Contagion" from 2003 and "Smoke And Mirrors" and "Bedlam Fayre" from "Pepper's Ghost" from 2005.

So, "Ten Years On 1995 ? 2005" has ten tracks. The first track "Smoke And Mirrors" is a song that starts with Mitchell in an acoustic mode, before the band turns it 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 second track "Skin Game" has a good start and an epic finish. It's a heavy track with some heavy passages that come and go. It has an abrupt beginning and has strong vocals too that are well supported by Clive Nolan's powerful keyboards. The guitar that follows sounds beautiful, as do the harmonies to the end of the song. The third track "The Hanging Tree" has a guitar lead that reminds a little of Joe Satriani leads. It's built on a nice vocal line and isn't very sad thematically. In general, the songs always capture moods that fit the thematic framework. The structure of the song is a reminiscent of "Jericho" from their debut album. It's one of the highlights of the original album. The fourth track "The Butterfly Man" is one of the two best tracks on the original album and one of my favourites too. It's a powerful song that reminds me "The Visitor". It's a song with a great guitar work and is one of the few songs not dominated by the keyboards of Nolan. It's a great song that moves perfectly well between the heavy and melodic parts. The fifth track "Chosen" is a progressive track that opens the original album in a bombastic way. It's a catchy song with great melody, nice keyboard work and a 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 sixth track "Empire Of A Thousand Days" is a nice and good song. However, it sounds to me a less appellative and a less catch song than many of the songs on the original album and on this compilation too. It's an epic song with very good lyrics and nice guitar and bass works. It represents a great musical moment on the original album and here too. The seventh track "A Crack In The Ice" starts with a rather strange sound that immediately cuts into your ears and appears again and again on the original album in a modified form. The guitar takes over this sound passage and turns it in a typical Arena's song. The chorus never lets go. And then the break in the ice happens. It's a powerful song. The eighth track "Salamander" opens with keyboards and is another favourite of mine. It has the best chorus on the original album. The track contains some excellent keyboard work by Clive Nolan, both in the gothic sounding backing and his fantastic, if short, solo. It has also fairly good, nice chorus and guitar solo and a keyboard solo. The ninth track "Bedlam Fayre" is an excellent opener to the original album and appears in the same vein of many other great openers of Arena. It reminds me "Witch Hunt" of "Contagion" and "Chosen" of "Immortal?". It's nice to hear and can be considered an Arena's classic song. It's in vein of most songs on "Immortal?" and "Contagion". The tenth track "Solomon" is often considered as one of their finest tracks. It's a well structured song with a storyline, many time changes and a majestic keyboard work and a great guitar work too. This is the big highlight of the original album. With this song Arena made one their best songs and one of their most brilliant closing track numbers in their career, really.

Conclusion: As I wrote before, "Ten Years On 1995 ? 2005" is a retrospective over the first ten years of existence of Arena. For those, like me, who knows perfectly well all the entire career of the band, the quality of this compilation isn't a real problem, indeed. In reality, the track list is great. Of course we can always question the subjective choice of the tracks chosen to be part of it. We always can say that many other great tracks were left outside of it, or even that it isn't right to choose some tracks from a conceptual album like "The Visitor", since a conceptual album should be presented entirely. However, for newcomers to Arena, "Ten Years On 1995 ? 2005" is a good starting point with songs from their first six studio albums. But, if you have all this six studio albums, like me, in spite of be a very nice and interesting musical journey to the different stages of the band, it has nothing new to offer, really. So, this is good but non-essential.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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