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Arena - The Visitor CD (album) cover





4.04 | 671 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars Continuing their rotisserie of cast members coming and going from their musical theater, ARENA really pulled it together on their third full album THE VISITOR. On this release we get John Mitchell replacing Keith More on the guitar but what really works about this album is it sounds like ARENA really came into their own sound, sufficiently distancing themselves from the Marillion inspired sound of their debut album and continuing some of the sounds of the second which didn't quite come together as well as i had liked.

On THE VISITOR we are treated to a full concept album (although a somewhat nebulous one) that is a pleasure to listen to from beginning to end replete with only the most pleasant melodic progressions and outstanding musicianship to follow suit. Paul Wrightson also sounds like his voice has melded perfectly into the mix and above all the prepossessing prowess of the poetic lyrics are outstanding! With baleful lyrics such as those in "The Hanging Tree" so perfectly placed together to express themselves, it makes me wonder if poetry was Nolan's first love.

One thing that is more notable about this album the previous one is the slight toning down on the aggressive parts. There are still borderline metallic riffs that make their way into the seamless parade of moods and synth runs but nothing feels forced and enters the stage only when appropriate. The production values are impeccable with beautiful swirling synths providing the expected backbone around the vocal delivery and the rest of the band following their lead. I also want to mention how important the Pink Floydian space guitars are on this album. While Genesis rightfully gets the credit for inspiring the neo-prog sub genre, it is the brilliance of the guitars that meld the neo-prog approach well into the space rock world, only one approach ARENA utilizes effortlessly in their evolution of the sub genre.

This is about the point where Clive Nolan was proving himself to be one of the most vital forces in neo-prog as he was scoring big with both ARENA as well as Pendragon but also found time to have creative energy left over for yet one more band, Shadowland. Although the concept is nebulous and pretty much serves as an undefined heart strings tug for the most part, the murkiness of the meaning accompanied by the outstandingly beautiful music works well on my part. The continuation of a long string of high quality releases by one of my faves in the neo-prog world.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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