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ARENA

Neo-Prog • United Kingdom


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

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Buy ARENA Music


Smoke & MirrorsSmoke & Mirrors
Multiple Formats · AC-3
Mvd Visual 2006
DVD$10.63
$18.84 (used)
Contagion MaxContagion Max
Import
Imports 2014
Audio CD$25.39
$27.64 (used)
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ARENA shows & tickets


ARENA has no upcoming shows, according to LAST.FM syndicated events and shows feed

ARENA discography


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

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

3.85 | 310 ratings
Songs From The Lion's Cage
1995
3.66 | 240 ratings
Pride
1996
4.04 | 502 ratings
The Visitor
1998
3.91 | 344 ratings
Immortal?
2000
4.19 | 459 ratings
Contagion
2002
3.59 | 317 ratings
Pepper's Ghost
2005
3.47 | 191 ratings
The Seventh Degree Of Separation
2011

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

3.63 | 57 ratings
Welcome To The Stage
1997
3.81 | 65 ratings
Breakfast In Biarritz
2001
4.30 | 54 ratings
Live & Life
2004
2.95 | 11 ratings
Arena: Live recorded 2011/12 tour
2013

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

3.86 | 39 ratings
Caught In The Act (DVD)
2003
3.80 | 49 ratings
Smoke & Mirrors
2006
4.05 | 20 ratings
Rapture
2013

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

2.95 | 62 ratings
The Cry
1997
3.34 | 18 ratings
Ten Years On 1995 - 2005
2006
3.77 | 16 ratings
Contagion Max
2014

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

2.23 | 7 ratings
Edits
1996
3.44 | 11 ratings
Welcome Back! To The Stage
1997
3.39 | 13 ratings
The Visitor (Revisited)
1999
3.38 | 8 ratings
Unlocking The Cage - 1995 - 2000
2001
2.86 | 40 ratings
Contagious (EP)
2003
2.49 | 22 ratings
Radiance
2003
3.12 | 36 ratings
Contagium (EP)
2003

ARENA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Seventh Degree Of Separation by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.47 | 191 ratings

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The Seventh Degree Of Separation
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by Tom Ozric
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I've spent lots of time with this album. All I can say is that despite all the negative assessments, this album is definitely a slow-grower. My first few listens to this album were under-whelming. I certainly could hear the talent involved, yet, I could not understand why this arrangement would be considered 'top-class' within the Neo-Prog genre, as many have claimed to be... All I can say is that throughout all the songs presented here is that : yes, they are catchy, almost commercial sounding to be honest, and yes, there are some cheesy elements involved - like repetitive choruses and riffs etc. The band do take a certain 'metal' approach to this offering, it is quite heavy and I have to admit that guitarist John Mitchell does steal the show, whether it be crunching metal-chords or ripping solos. I have been familiar with Arena's Neo-Prog for years, yet never taken the plunge.

My assessment concludes that yes, Clive Nolan's keyboards aren't as 'widdly-widdly' as one has expected - if you want this style, just spin some Pendragon .......he constructs a certain symphonic wall of sound that permeates the entire album, it is always there, it forms an amazing atmosphere, and is quite inspired. Pointer's drumming is all one would expect from a neo-Prog band, clever and intricate, but not virtuosic, nor does it really need to be. I have to say that despite Jowitt's talents on bass (leaving IQ, for whatever reason....) he really doesn't hold himself back, his amazing bass lines run throughout the album, rumbling busily or holding stead-fast to what the song requires. New singer Paul Manzi recalls those 'big hair' Metal vocalists from the 80's. He has a strong voice, he knows about structure and complexity, and he sings with a strong passion. I am brief as I'm sure my submission will be timed out. However, there's so many superb moments amongst the 'mainstream cheese' attributed to this album. Not so much tech-instrumental display (but it's present in certain pieces), this thing is a 'vision', and it doesn't necessarily take complex times sigs (though these are often present) and widdly-widdly synth solos - we'll go for a Pendragon album for that, shall we ?? This pretty intense and impressive album has given me much dilemma, is it an excellent 4, or just a good 3 ??? My conclusion is that it's a 3.5 star effort pushed up to a 4, because it just 'works'...... Top tracks - One Last Au Revoir, Trebuchet and the near 8 min Catching The Bullet, of which the last half is what all Proggers wish to hear.... May I also mention that the imagery found on the inner sleeves is astounding, morbid, fascinating, disturbing, yet incredibly captivating, further adding to this 'last hour of life/first hour of death' concept....

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 Contagion Max by ARENA album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2014
3.77 | 16 ratings

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Contagion Max
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by Roland113
Collaborator Neo-Prog Team

5 stars In my not so humble opinion . . .

Contagion Max is everything Contagion was plus more.

Back in 2002, Arena released one of the seminal Neo-Prog albums in 'Contagion'. At the time, there were more tracks that they could have included, but the band cut some material out to keep the release on a single CD. Over the next year, they released two EP's, Contagious and Contagium, that contained the missing material. For years fans have clamored for the complete Contagion, with the missing tracks.

In 2013, the band asked their fans if they'd be willing to pay for the compilation up front and started a crowd sourcing fund raiser. Well, the answer was apparently a resounding 'yes' and the dream finally became a reality.

I'm not going to review the entire album, you can see my thoughts on the Contagion reviews page. Instead, I'll be focusing on the new tracks and what is different.

For starters, there are seven tracks that were only on the two EP's, Vanishing Act, The Hour Glass, I Spy, On the Edge of Despair, Contagious, March of Time and Confrontation. These tracks have now been included in their proper order among the songs that were on the standard release.

'Vanishing Act' is a rockin' extravaganza that almost reminds me of something from the background of a video game. 'I Spy' is kind of a forgettable ballad though the Salamander nod in the solo section redeems the tune. 'March of Time' is my favorite of the new songs, Rob Sowden sounds particularly clean and up front here. All in all, there are three instrumentals and four lyrical songs that immensely help the progression of the original story.

The second difference is that the order of the songs are now as they were meant to be, 'Bitter Harvest' has been moved up considerably and 'Never Ending Night' and 'Spectre at the Feast' have been switched.

The third difference is the mix, to my ears, it sounds a little brighter on the remix, but still clean and pristine.

So, where do I rate this, five stars, that was easy. Seriously, it's one of my favorite albums, but better and with more music. If you're a casual Arena fan, then yeah, you probably don't need the remix, but if you love Arena or if you don't have the original, this is essential.

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 Arena: Live recorded 2011/12 tour by ARENA album cover Live, 2013
2.95 | 11 ratings

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Arena: Live recorded 2011/12 tour
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by Theo Verstrael

2 stars What a poor album this is! All songs are recorded separately during different shows and no attempt has been made to give this album a real live atmosphere. After each song the audience is faded out, a short silence follows and then the next song starts. Because of that this album sounds like a very cheap compilation. Combined with the less than strong rendition of some songs from their latest album 'The seventh degree of separation' and the fact that many 'classic' Arena tracks were played far better with Rob Sowden doing the vocals makes this an irrelevant album. A shame for this very nice band; they can do far better than this! Turn to their Rapture dvd which contains almost the same songs in a different running order but recordedd as a real show and stay away from this one.

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 Rapture by ARENA album cover DVD/Video, 2013
4.05 | 20 ratings

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Rapture
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Arena´s latest video was recorded, as expected, at the same venue in Poland, like the previous two. Nothing against that: actually the place is beautiful and the acoustics must be special, for the sound of the recordings only gets better and better with the latest technology involved. This is one of the best features of this DVD/blue ray: the words impeccable and perfect are the ones that come to mind the most when I listen to the show. I don´t know if there was any studio overdubs, but it clearly sounds very natural. The Video quality is also top notch, the best so far I saw from this band, laced with some very fine light work, with the right lots of blue and shadows.

Having said that, I´m not entirely convinced by either the new material from their latest product, The Seventh Degree Of Separation, nor by the perfomance of the new singer Paul Manzi. Ok, the guy is probably the best singer the band ever had, technically speaking. His vocal prowness is amazing, but not really his delivering. He is just too "nice", too "soft", if you know what I mean, lacking that gloomy, almost spooky interpretations Rob Sowden and Paul Wrightson had that fitted so well to the dark themes Arena embraces. Both previous singers had a far more dramatic approach the tunes ask for and Sowden in particular could sound specially menacing on stage, giving the lyrics a liver impact. Manzi, as much as he tries, rarely comes close to that.

And while the new material works better live than on CD, it is still not on par with their earlier stuff. Not too much, but still inferior. Fortunatly only seven tracks of that CD are performed and they are all short ones. The performances of the band members are, again technically., nearly perfect. Clive Nolan and John Mitchell have gained a few pounds since the last time I saw them on stage and sometimes I have the feeling they are not playing with the same energy they used to. However, it´s good to see John Jowitt back (of IQ and Jadis fame) in the fold after a long spell.

Overall a quite enjoyable show, filled with great songs and nice perfomances. As I said before, it´s their best visual and sounding DVD ever, although the interpretation of the songs is not as powerful as they used to be.

Rating: somewhere between 3 and 3,5 stars.

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 Contagion by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2002
4.19 | 459 ratings

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Contagion
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by jmeadow

5 stars This album is quite some record - a journey through humanity's dark night of the soul to something approaching redemption at the other end.

Musically this is quite heavy for neo-prog - the first song in particular sounds like a metal song - and consequently for me it did take some getting in to, but, as with all good music, that investment of time has paid great dividends.

Contagion is a dark and atmospheric record, its success made possible Rob Sowden's vocal performance of real power and mastery. Whereas many concept albums seem to lose their way towards the end, this record gradually gathers momentum, so that the second half seems stronger than the first.

The album is a cohesive whole, but many of the best individual tracks would undoubtedly work as stand-alone songs - 'Salamander', 'Bitter Harvest', 'Mea Culpa' and 'Cutting the Cards' are personal favourites.

Overall, this is highly recommended - an album that shows the continuing possibilities of 'popular' music.

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 The Visitor by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 1998
4.04 | 502 ratings

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The Visitor
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by jmeadow

4 stars This is certainly progressive *rock*, a concept album in the neo-prog tradition of Genesis and Marillion, but with strong echoes of mainstream rock.

The album starts quite slowly, the first few tracks are either a little melodramatic or somewhat unmemorable, but it really comes to life with the fifth track, The Hanging Tree, a masterpiece that evokes the mystery and magic of the places of our childhood and the sense of loss at having left those places and that childhood.

The Hanging True is followed by another stand-out track, A State of Grace, which sounds like a song Marillion would have made around this time if Fish had never left. Those two tracks are probably the album highlights, but there are other strong songs here, such as (Don't Forget to) Breath, Tears in the Rain and Enemy Without.

The story of the mysterious visitor adds an extra dimension and unity to the album, though many of the tracks (particularly the strongest) work perfectly well outside the context of the over-arching story.

Overall, an excellent addition to any prog rock collection; probably essential for neo-prog aficionados.

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 Immortal? by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.91 | 344 ratings

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Immortal?
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by genbanks

4 stars When I discovered Arena, at first I was shocked with Songs from the Lion's Cage and The Visitor, two extraordinaries albums, but then I paid attention to Inmortal?, and finally I realized that it is a great album too. In fact, about all the Arena's stuff, these three albums are the best by far for me. Here, the band moves to an even harder territory in which the new voice of Rob Sowden fits really well. A bit of industrial sounds, hard riffs and a different keyboard sound (really powerful in some songs), make to Inmortal? something different but with the seal of Arena. The opening Chosen is a really powerful number based in a strong drum work and hard riffs. Nolan brings a solid keyboard support for the song an Sowden fits perfect. Butterfly Man is another powerful track combining peaceful sections with strong ones, in the way of Solomon. Once more again, the work of Nolan fills the song with this enormous sound, and this effect takes more relevance in the amazing Ghost in the firewall, a stunning track. Moviedrome is the epic, very cohesive, dramatic and powerful track, with good instrumentals and guitar riffs. Even with some pompous section, just great. The album completes itself with the Marillionesque Climbing the Net, in the Arena's old style, domined by Nolan's keyboards, a good track, and with two soft acoustic numbers of great quality, specially the closing Friday's dream, an amazing ballad. Great album and an excellent addition for any prog rock collection.

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 Immortal? by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.91 | 344 ratings

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Immortal?
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by surrogate people

4 stars Arena's fourth studio offering marks the debut of vocalist Rob Sowden, who has a similar voice to his predecessor, maybe sounding a bit less like Fish, and adding a touch of vibrato that fits perfectly with the somber atmosphere of this album. The sound here changes a bit from previous albums, being heavier and darker. The individual performances are almost all excelent, except for Mick Pointer, who has evolved from his old Script days, but not quite enough, especially if we take into acount the great work of Clive Nolan ( A master of melody and harmony), some brilliant solos by John Mitchell and the masterful bass work of Ian Salmon. At least the electronic drums sound better here than in the previous album. Opener Chosen is just an average hard rock song, with a riff that reminds me of Dio's Sacred Heart. Then we have Waiting for the flood, which at the beginning strongly reminds me of Spandau Ballet's Through the barricades, but then in the middle has a section that resembles Queensryche's Silent lucidity. Nothing special so far, but then we head into which is in my opinion the best Arena song ever (alongside The Hanging tree), The butterfly man. I must admit that I have no idea of who this human lepidoptera might be, but he seems to be someone quite evil, and Sowden sings it in a really convincing way. Maybe he's even worse that the slenderman, who knows!. But returning to the song, has parts in 6/8, 7/8 and 4/4, and all of them are great. And the lead guitar hooks are beatiful. Next comes Ghost in the firewall, with its opressive mood, starting with a delayed synth bass that gives it a Pink Floyd flavour. A very good one, indeed. sadly from there we are taken into Climbing the net, which sounds like a takeout from Script for a Jester's tears, even with a title that's in a way reminiscent of The web. Moviedrome with its almost 20 minutes is supposed to be the masterpiece here, but I must admit that the song never really takes off and it could do with a few minutes less. It has some interesting parts, anyway. And in the end we are left with Friday's dream, a beautiful ballad that closes the album in a very pleasant way. A really interesting album, the best among the ones I heard from Arena.

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 Songs From The Lion's Cage by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.85 | 310 ratings

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Songs From The Lion's Cage
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by Memo_anathemo

5 stars The very first album of an excellent band, one of my favorite bands. I discovered ARENA with The Visitor, but when I listened to SONGS FROM THE LION CAGE I confirmed my enjoyment for this band. Mick Pointer (former Marillion) joined Clive Nolan in the quest of a side project to Pendragon, and together with John Carson, Keith More and Cliff Orsi, they created the SONGS full of neoprog sounds. The Crying for Help songs are divided in 4 parts, each part played with different instruments and different mood. The first one has the acoustic guitar playing in a classical way, the second part, Nolan uses the harpsichord effect, the third one is one of my favorites, kind of reflexive and ambient, the last one has voice in it and of course a guest, Steve Rothery, whose style of playing is remarkable. The rest of the songs have that power in guitars, voices, and drums. I love the choirs in Valley of the Kings, and John's voice marked the standard in the band, something that would be followed by P. Wrightson and R. Snowden. Solomon is a wonderful song that starts slow and then the last part becomes totally a delight to hear. Midas Vision and Out of the Wilderness are the same powerful songs, Jericho is amazing how it begins as a ballad and turns into a powerful song! Excellent album!

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 The Seventh Degree Of Separation by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.47 | 191 ratings

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The Seventh Degree Of Separation
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by Progrussia

3 stars This is at the same time a significant departure from Arena's style yet it retains the essential ingredients of their sound that make them Arena - pompous, forceful rock with highest quality ingredients throughout - from words to vocals and individual instruments (well, maybe except for the drums). It's not the first time they change - they went from enjoyable, yet derivative genesis-pink floyd amalgam to metallic neo-prog, doing 3 albums of each. A harbinger of what's to come now?

Its true that little here remains of prog - it's mostly vocal-driven hard rock with backing synths, a la the 80s, but with a modern production touch. But it's good hard rock, with screaming guitar licks (like in Rapture) and catchy melodies. Yet it's baffling that it took them 7 years to come with this, even with band members doing other projects. 2003's Contagion also had short songs as part of a concept cycle, but they were filled with little details, which left impression of a well-crafted album. Here it seems they are not really trying, as if they did an album just for the sake of maintaining Arena brand - more popular than all other projects.

To sum up, if you put all Arena's songs into iPod and hit random, the better half of these songs (the defiant Rapture, lush melodic hard rock of One last au revoir, trademark Arena's bittersweet and mysterious slow burners Close your eyes and What if, and Catching the bullet, the only complex number here) would be a welcome periodic diversification from older, headier numbers. But this album in its entirety is a hard listen, because many songs tend to blend (also because the constant dramatic voice is mixed in a way that tends to overpower things) and have little else to leave a lasting impression but a catchy chorus and a few memorable riffs.

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