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ARENA

Neo-Prog • United Kingdom


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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!

ARENA Videos (YouTube and more)


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Buy ARENA Music


Double VisionDouble Vision
Verglas Music 2018
$11.77
$11.42 (used)
Pepper's GhostPepper's Ghost
Verglas Music 2012
$8.83
$7.83 (used)
Breakfast in BiarritzBreakfast in Biarritz
Inside Out Germany 2003
$17.27 (used)
Unquiet SkyUnquiet Sky
Verglas Music 2015
$12.05
$12.98 (used)
ContagionContagion
Inside Out Germany 2004
$9.60
$5.98 (used)
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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 | 412 ratings
Songs From The Lion's Cage
1995
3.63 | 328 ratings
Pride
1996
4.04 | 659 ratings
The Visitor
1998
3.91 | 448 ratings
Immortal?
2000
4.14 | 622 ratings
Contagion
2003
3.63 | 411 ratings
Pepper's Ghost
2005
3.47 | 287 ratings
The Seventh Degree Of Separation
2011
3.71 | 270 ratings
The Unquiet Sky
2015
3.89 | 202 ratings
Double Vision
2018

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

3.68 | 75 ratings
Welcome To The Stage
1997
3.76 | 84 ratings
Breakfast In Biarritz
2001
4.36 | 75 ratings
Live & Life
2004
3.57 | 26 ratings
Live Recorded 2011/12 tour
2013

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

4.01 | 53 ratings
Caught In The Act
2003
3.84 | 61 ratings
Smoke & Mirrors
2006
4.08 | 31 ratings
Rapture
2013
3.54 | 27 ratings
XX
2016

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

2.97 | 75 ratings
The Cry
1997
3.35 | 24 ratings
Ten Years On 1995 - 2005
2006
4.20 | 29 ratings
Contagion Max
2014

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

2.19 | 12 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
2.87 | 50 ratings
Contagious
2003
2.64 | 29 ratings
Radiance
2003
3.16 | 46 ratings
Contagium
2003

ARENA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Live & Life  by ARENA album cover Live, 2004
4.36 | 75 ratings

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Live & Life
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Arena - Live & Life (2004)

I've been picking up some new Arena live records and was quite blown away by this one. I've been listening with goosebumps to the Contagion album since age fourteen (delivering papers after school hours!) and I still frequent this magical album.

On the first disc of this double live set they play the album almost in its entirety. Though some of the original's abstract magic is lost, this powerful rock star rendition recorded has a charm of its own! Rob Sowden shines throughout with vocals that mach the atmosphere of the original, whilst opening up registers of vocal strength on some major powerful moments. The guitars sound thicker and grittier, the keyboards are a bit more to the background the rythm section is playing in a higher gear throughout. The total mix sound fuller and more intense then the Contagion album itself. Surely this is one of the best neo-prog live album recordings I know of. If the genre lacks one thing, it's the feel of really rockin' out.

On the second disc we get an overall 'best of' from the debut, Visitor and Immortal. Standout song like Solomon, The Butterfly Man and The Hanging Tree are glorious, whilst 'Chosen' seems to be the only song that doesn't benefit from this spiced up version of Arena. On songs from the first three Arena albums Rob Sowden again stands out as the best vocalist the band ever had.

I will give five stars for this most entertaining and uplifting live record.

 The Unquiet Sky by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.71 | 270 ratings

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The Unquiet Sky
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

3 stars After the boring, uninspired and dry The Seventh Degree of Separation, Arena came back four years later with The Unquiet Sky!!!

And despite the scheme of the album is similar, having a long list of short songs unlike the band's classic albums, this time Arena tried to retrieve a bit their classic sound but without achieving this task completely. The album is heavy, dark and more guitar oriented in comparison to previous works, much in the vein of The Seventh Degree of Separation, but this time the songwriting is better and there is also more place to pure neo-prog elements in songs like Returning the Curse.

Sadly, Paul Manzi is still not the adequate singer for this band in my opinion. He uses a tone which is not so high pitched this time, but his style is too heavy metal oriented, and he lacks the dramatism and great interpretation of the lyrics that the other Arena singers like Paul Wrightson or the very missed Rob Sowden had.

Nevertheless, we must see the bright side of life, so let's say that The Unquiet Sky was still an improvement!

Best Tracks: The Bishop of Lufford (dramatic and powerful), Time Runs Out (simple, but effective), Returning the Curse (the most neo-prog song and where Clive Nolan shines the most) and Unexpected Dawn (and unexpectedly good acoustic track)

Conclusion: The Unquiet Sky was not the comeback album that the Arena fans were waiting for. It's too repetitive, with too many insipid guitar riffs and it lacks the dramatism and great keyboards of older albums. And Paul Manzi is not the adequate singer for this music, despite having a very good voice.

But like I said, the album was at least better than The Seventh Degree of Separation being an enjoyable experience in general terms, giving us a glimpse of hope for the future of this once great neo-prog band.

My rating: ***

 Double Vision by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.89 | 202 ratings

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Double Vision
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

4 stars The latest incarnation of popular British Neo-Prog band Arena has been in place for seven years now, and 2018's `Double Vision' marks the third album fronted by superior vocalist Paul Manzi for the group. While `Double Vision' may not quite be the big leap forward in sophistication that 2015's `The Unquiet Sky' was in comparison to the previous song-based (but actually rather underrated!) `The Seventh Degree of Separation' that kicked of this era, it still confidently marries the heavy guitars and shadowy gothic keyboards of this current version but now fuses them again to the lengthier prog epics of Arena's early days. While the album may not be a narrative-driven concept work, all of the seven pieces here share a similarly icy air, heightened emotion and surreal darker lyrics to maintain a stylistically similar mood the entire disc.

The curiously titled `Zhivago Wolf' is a punchy opener fuelled by Clive Nolan's mysterious icy synths and John Mitchell's snarling guitars, the piece detailing the way memories can be distorted over time only to seem more real than ever before. Vocalist Paul Manzi reels off a feverish string of stream-of-consciousness fragmented imagery and the band tear off into an up-tempo sprint behind Kylon Amos' pulsing bass and Mick Pointer's thrashing drums in the final moments. `The Mirror Lies', detailing the `emperor's new clothes' syndrome of those who believe their own hype, might feature big organ blasts and crushing riffing, but some calmer guitars and soothing ambient synth washes throughout harken back to the prettiest earliest Arena moments, and it also holds a catchy chest-beating chorus perfectly delivered by Manzi's soaring voice (and just listen for Clive's wavering keyboard break in the middle!).

Synths elegantly shimmer throughout `Scars' behind Manzi's pleading introspective voice, but it's really a showcase for John Mitchell's stadium-sized guitar soloing that rages with purpose, and muscular riffing around trippy electronic ripples burn throughout `Paradise Of Thieves' that also reveals another superb chorus. Bombastic organ menace and biting heavy guitars are perfect for conveying the hideous world of online sexual grooming in `Red Eyes', and lyrics like `Virtually invisible to you, spinning out my charms and promises, I can walk right into any room,' are deeply confronting. `Poisoned' is then classy and emotional ballad for lost loved ones, a true standout moment for Manzi on a disc that constantly highlights this charismatic singer.

It's then onto a closing epic (oh, as if prog fans dig those!), and the near-twenty-three minute `The Legend Of Elijah Shade' continues some story elements introduced on Arena's rightly cherished masterwork from twenty years ago, `The Visitor', a title often placed alongside other highly-regarded Neo-Prog works such as IQ's `Subterranea' `Twelfth Night's `Fact and Fiction' and Pendragon's `The Masquerade Overture'. Actually it's more a multi-part continuous suite of tunes than a true epic that would hold recurring themes and reprising passages, but pantomime-like grandness (similar to the wonderful stage shows that Nolan spends a lot of time on these days), ghostly piano ballads, boisterous harder rockers and uneasy gothic touches are all peppered with the theatrical vocal delivery, rousing choruses and surreal words the band do so well. There's no shortage of runaway keyboard soloing, and passages of sweetly chiming guitars and pretty synths instantly embrace the more romantic moments of the early albums once more, making the piece everything Arena do so well, and it maintains the great momentum and suitably dramatic build they excel at.

Arena here manage to marry the new with the old, but crucially without making it sound like a lazy retreat due to lack of inspiration. It's certainly not a challenging reinvention for the group, nor is it ever particularly subtle, but strong tunes, melodic arrangements, robust singing and an atmospheric instrumental backing all help make `Double Vision' a deceptively powerful and effective addition to the Arena discography that many of their fans will adore.

Four stars.

 The Seventh Degree Of Separation by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.47 | 287 ratings

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The Seventh Degree Of Separation
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

2 stars After the departure of the best singer in Arena's history, Rob Sowden, along with the bassist John Salmon, Arena returned with a new line-up and some new ideas, starting a whole new era for the band.

But sadly, a great part of the magic of this band was sadly gone. The new singer Paul Manzi is a good one, but his heavy and high pitched style just don't fit in Arena. Rob Sowden is very missed here, but even other Arena singers were a better choice than Manzi in my opinion.

Nevertheless, the real problem in this album is the boring, predictable and average songwriting. In The Seventh Degree of Separation we can encounter a bunch of songs in a not very progressive dark-hard rock style where Manzi is the protagonist leaving little space to the great keyboards of Nolan (who is not prominent at all throughout the record) and the Mitchell's solos, being Catching the Bullet a fine exception.

The result is a less than average neo-prog record. Boring, repetitive, sometimes really insipid and not remarkable at all.

Best Tracks: The Great Escape, What if? (beautiful chorus) and Catching the Bullet (good progressive interlude)

Conclusion: Paul Manzi a good singer, but not a good choice for Arena. He lacks dramatic strength and true feeling in his singing. And this fact along with the mediocre songwriting, makes this album the weakest in Arena's discography in my opinion, Even under the not so loved Pride.

For this reason, I consider The Seventh Degree of Separation just for fans only and true neo-prog junkies. The rest can easily avoid this one, because does not offer anything really interesting.

My rating: **

 Double Vision by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.89 | 202 ratings

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Double Vision
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by PureViewer

3 stars I really had high expectations of this release. I really tried to like it. But when I compare it to what Arena has done in the past, I can't convince myself that this is a great album. It lacks soul. Just like the most of "The Seventh Degree Of Separation". Let me tell you why:

"Zhivago Wolf" opens heavily, which in the first listen made me think that this was going to be another dark, interesting album like "The Unquiet Sky". But as soon as the chorus started, I was reminded of "The Great Escape" of The Seventh Degree Of Separation. I have a huge problem with chorus lines on this album. They're too pop-oriented. At 3:20, an interesting riff accompanied by an atmospheric keyboard background + double bass starts to play but the chorus quickly ruins it for me. "The Mirror Lies" lacks beautiful guitar/keyboard solos Arena used to perform. It starts with an ordinary riff. I'm pretty sure John Mitchell can do much, much better than this. Then, from 4:00 to 5:10, the combination of another riff and keyboard sounds so powerful. "Scars" is a track I like on this album. Still, I like it to be more creative. I see very little of those sudden, blistering twists of Arena in this album. Again, the chorus doesn't excite me that much. At 3:40 of "Paradise Of Thieves", things start to get interesting but it doesn't last too long. "Red Eyes" starts beautifully but the guitar riffs which come after it are too dry. At 3:45, I felt the old Arena was back. Finally an engaging keyboard solo! The song's ending is exciting too. "Poisoned" repeats itself too much and lacks those twists and creativities Arena used to have. Finally, "The Legend of Elijah Shade", an epic song which resembles "Moviedrome" from "Immortal?". Not a bad song, starts nicely, and from 13:00 to 18:20 creates memorable moments, but cannot overtake Moviedrome.

I really liked Paul Manzi's performance on The Unquiet Sky. It had emotion and excitement. But here he sings too safely. And I can say this about the whole band. They really killed it with The Unquiet Sky (despite all criticism against it, I think that album is fantastic), but they played it very safely here.

 Double Vision by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.89 | 202 ratings

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Double Vision
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by aapatsos
Special Collaborator Prog Metal and Heavy Prog Teams

4 stars Like it or not, I am the best chance you got...

...and that is returning to the ''original'' Arena song-writing. The 2-album ''gap'' where the band deviated from their trademark sound seems to have disappeared with the release of Double Vision. I first approached this with cynicism after the two previous efforts, which left me indifferent.

There is here reference to the ''Pepper's Ghost'' era of Rob Snowden - to my ears, THE reference vocalist for the band. And although Paul Manzi does not reach the theatrical grandeur of Rob, in this album he seems to have adjusted to the new (old) style of the band to deliver much more epic melodies and songs veiled in some mystery - and consequently, interest - for us poor listeners. Double Vision delivers signature Neo Prog of the 90's with emphatic guitar riffing and lush - but balanced - keyboard playing by Clive Nolan.

It does seem that the chemistry is back (or was it a conscious decision to revert to the old, safe and sound, style?). Not groundbreaking as the 90s/00s releases but still a very solid and well-played album, an excellent addition to the Arena catalogue. What next? Stick to the proven recipe or try something new?

 Double Vision by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.89 | 202 ratings

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Double Vision
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by Menswear
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Back to the good stuff.

In the early 2K's, I would've bet a sack of nuts Arena was hands down the best band around. I bought everything they produced (DVD included) and saw them in concert; yes, I was an Arena machine. They had so much to offer: incredible melodies, mouth-watering keyboard solos, dramatic singers, emot emotionnal guitar solos and dark, brooding artworks that could not do wrong. They delivered from the star start a series of (dire I say, very) enjoyable albums filled with everything you want.

Let's be frank, 7th Degrees and the Unquiet Sky were (to our amazement) duds and I lost interest, di disappointed that one of my favorite bands lost it's mojo. And how! What happened?! The reason they de delivered 2 wet blankets back to back still eludes me today. Sometimes your muse takes a break and le leaves you alone, it happens (it did for Van Halen, Tori Amos and The Cure).

Just like M.Night Shayamalan, Arena are back with rejuvenated energy and Double Vision doesn't disappoint. The curse seems to have vanished and they kick it Contagion style right away with the best songs they offered us since more than decade. The recipe is working again, and they hit major points with their super-duper-enjoyable epic 'The Legend of...', full of...er...everything I love about them them. What bombastic, catchy melodies and effortless time changes! Yummers!

Once again, what happened?! They are back in super shape and the Shayamalan curse is off...good fo for us.

Now that's what I call a freakin' comeback!!

 Double Vision by ARENA album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.89 | 202 ratings

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Double Vision
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by javajeff

4 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
3.89 | 202 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
3.89 | 202 ratings

BUY
Double Vision
Arena Neo-Prog

Review by The Jester

5 stars Review #88. 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.

Favorite 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.

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

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