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Arena - The Unquiet Sky CD (album) cover





3.67 | 287 ratings

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4 stars Arena - The unquiet sky (2015)

After the mediocre ´Pepper´s ghost´ and the somewhat flat progressive metal album ´The seventh degree of seperation´ (with new vocalist Paul Manzi), Arena returns with a classic neoprogressive record that can live up to the 'Visitor', 'Immortal?' and 'Contagion' era of their career.

Most songs are either dark progressive tracks or emotional ballads. All songs have a part that really sticks and some instrumental passages remind me of the best of what my all-time favorite Contagion had to offer. Moreover, vocalist Paul Manzi now seems to add to the Arena-style, instead of diminishing it like on their previous effort 'Seventh degree of seperation' - though I would still prefer Rob Sowden any day.

The opener 'The demon strikes' sets the atmosphere that is actually quite dark. 'How did it come to this?' and 'Unexpected dawn' are both good examples of how a symphonic ballad can work really fine. On the last track 'Traveller beware' Arena gives an almost eight minute long treat of their extended progressive rock songwriting, perhaps a bit like 'The butterfly man'. My favorite part of the album is the string of songs that starts with the atmospheric 'Markings on a parchment' (with a nice bass lead), continues with the exciting dark piano parts of 'What happened before' and the classic Arena 'Time runs out'.

The production of the album is fine, with especially the bass guitar well in the mix and impressive symphonic sounds. I am always amazed by the guitar-playing of John Mitchell and his leads sound really well on this album, though I must admit I sometimes get the feeling 'I got to know his list of tricks'. The vocals are a often dubbed and a more natural vocal sound would not have hurt, though I know it is a part of the genre.

Conclusion. A much appriciated return to form from my first progressive rock love. Had it been a bit more inventive I could have given it five stars, but it will have to do with four. Recommended to listeners of the neo-prog and symphonic prog genres, and perhaps to those who like their prog with a dark atmosphere.

Perhaps this record deserves a bit more anticipation around here?

friso | 4/5 |


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