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Arena - The Visitor CD (album) cover





4.04 | 672 ratings

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4 stars Arena sure can come close to producing a masterpiece, but they just can't quite get there. I agree with other reviewers that this is as close as they have come, though I'm not ready to say they actually accomplished it. Simply put, there is a lot of very high quality music, but there are also too many boring parts, overly emotional (and a bit cheesy) bits, and too much ambient and atmospheric effects. It's a shame, but I do find it a challenge to listen to this album all the way through, although there are many highlights.

Exhibit A: A Crack in the Ice. Great music, but unfortunately it's sandwiched between three minutes of sound effects that really add nothing in my opinion. Therefore only half of the 7 minute running time is actually interesting. Too bad, because this anthem could be as effective as The Wall's opening if it could keep up the intensity a bit more.

Exhibit B: The Hanging Tree, The Visitor. As many have noted, The Hanging Tree is the best song on the album...but they haven't noted something glaring. The awesome guitar solo that SHOULD have been at the end of this song is actually just thrown on at the end of The Visitor. Who's idea was this? A producer? The band's? Regardless, it's a bad decision, in my opinion. The Hanging Tree builds slowly, pensively, and then when it's finally worked up to a powerful finale, it dies down. It's wasted momentum, and it happens in other places on this album as well.

Highlights: the aforementioned songs, Enemy Without/Running from Damascus. With these last two, Arena show that they CAN make a great transition, but for whatever reason they usually choose not to. Running from Damascus is an absolute freight train, and just when your head has exploded from the previous melody, it hits you with a new one. AWESOME stuff!

Lowlights: A State of Grace, (Don't Forget to) Breathe, Tears in the Rain. Slow, melodramatic, and uninspired.

If this album was cut down about 20 minutes (leaving out the boring stuff), I think this would qualify as a masterpiece. It's definitely worth your money, because there is some great material, but just not 60 minutes of it. Also, I have to say that this album sounds quite fresh from being out in 1998--certainly not something you can say about all (or the majority) of neo-prog.

Flucktrot | 4/5 |


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