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Arena - The Seventh Degree of Separation CD (album) cover





3.47 | 346 ratings

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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 Arena 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 there are some cheesy elements involved - like repetitive choruses and riffs and an almost throwback-to-the-80's sound. 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 I was never really 'sold' on them.

Immediately noticeable is that 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's 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, at times, intricate, but not virtuosic, nor does it really need to be. I have to say that John Jowitt's talents on bass are put to good use (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 (as sometimes happens). 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 present) and glistening synth solos - (again, we'll go for a Pendragon album for that, shall we ??) to serve its purpose. This pretty intense and occasionally 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 an instrumental stretch which all Proggers wish to this is the Arena styling that deserves attention. 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.... .......oh yeah, for full effect, this one is best heard at a high volume........

Tom Ozric | 4/5 |


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