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Arena - Double Vision CD (album) cover





3.77 | 240 ratings

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2 stars The English neo-progressive group Arena has been a favorite of mine since age 14. The band had just released 'Contagion' and I read about it in a Dutch metal magazine (it gave it 87/100 I remember!). It's follow-up 'Pepper's Ghost' has grown on me, but the albums after that have been real hit/miss experiences. Only 'The Unquiet Sky' has struck a chord with me. The band has shifted from a front-runner in keeping the neo-prog genre alive and innovative - or at least reflective - to a prog-metal or even crossover prog band. As progressive as for instance present day Saga. That's a pity for a band that once could easily match IQ en Pendragon's best albums with its Visitor / Immortal / Contagion / Live & Life winning streak.

Arena's 2019 release 'Double Vision' is another rather predictable song-based symphonic metal album. More like 'Tinder Box' than 'The Unquiet Sky'. Very well produced and well-sounding, but tiring and formulaic. A lot of melodies and riff you kind of heard before. Suitable for a wider range of public perhaps, but never suited to be a well-remembered and inspiring record. Paul Manzi is a very competent singer and Joh Mitchell is still one of my favorite guitar players of the genre, but they don't shine on these songs because lack of stand-out moments and ideas. The guitar solo's of Mitchell that once made them stood out are almost absent.

The epic of the album, 'The Legend of Elijah Shade', has a little more going for it. More ideas at last, some contrasts between the separate parts. Again, the band fails to step out of the solid rail that has become their house style - it rather expands on it in length. The last eight minutes are however quite strong and imaginative and finally we get an outbreak of Mitchell's guitar (which is cut short by a fade-out into a senseless piano loop).

If you'd compare this work to IQ's 'Resistance' and 'Road of Bones' there's not a lot going for Arena's 'Double Vision' - in an artistic sense. Who's to say what is most enjoyable for you? I sure hope the band keeps releasing their earlier albums on a vinyl, like the decent (but pricey!) vinyl release of 'The Visitor'. I've read the other reviews and chances are many listeners of neo-progressive music (and before mentioned bands) will actually like this album a lot more then I do. Two and a halve stars for this one, but do listen to the epic before casting your judgement!

friso | 2/5 |


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