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Arena - Pepper's Ghost CD (album) cover





3.65 | 420 ratings

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3 stars Some of Arena's past work for me simply are slow tempo pieces with too much down time. That is not the case here--each song is catchy, well-arranged, and never boring. On the downside, there is nothing revolutionary here: Arena is still keyboard and guitar driven, with the vocals, drums and bass notching a lower level of quality.

Badlam Fayre, Smoke and Mirrors, The Eyes of Lara Moon, Tantalus. These are more-or-less the "singles" of the album, and I'm never tempted to skip these tracks for the longer pieces. Plenty of guitar wails, power chords, and tasteful (read: unobtrusive) keyboards from Nolan. I also like the fact that they utilize more harmonies for Snowden--I think the choruses sound MUCH better than previous albums (specifically Immortal) and help to cover some of his inadequacies.

The Shattered Room. I like this song more every time I hear it. The first five minutes are a nice, mid-tempo ride concluded by fine keyboard and guitar solos...then it kicks into double time, with killer licks and guitar harmonies from Mitchell. Probably my favorite performance by Snowden as well.

Purgatory Road. Another enjoyable listen, with a solid intro and chorus. The spacey guitar/keyboard sequence in the middle is especially well done.

Opera Fanatica. Here's a microcosm of why Arena can't quite come up with a prog masterpiece. We've got a cool operatic opening. Then we've got some metal-ish riffing in 5/4 time. Then we've got a earth-shaking pipe organ. Then we've got a crescendo of power chords and a guitar solo. AWESOME STUFF! Then what happens? The music dies down and proceeds to build up the EXACT SAME SEQUENCE for the finale. All the stuff in between is certainly good, but given the context it comes as a bit of a letdown. A very cool song, lots of good ideas, the intent is definitely in the right place, and it's obvious that a lot of work was put into this piece, but it just could have been execuated a bit better. Also, I think Snowden is a bit of a liability here--just because the song has some opera elements doesn't mean you have to sing that way yourself. The chorus is repetitive and could use some more emotional "juice".

In short, a good buy. I'm not much into comics, but that theme may be a kicker for you if that's up your alley. Arena may yet succeed, but a masterpiece has alluded them again. Here's hoping they keep trying to pull it off--I hear improvement, and it's only a matter of time!

Flucktrot | 3/5 |


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