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Arena - The Visitor CD (album) cover





4.04 | 671 ratings

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4 stars A superb slab of neo prog, and one of the genre's highlights of the 1990's. This is a concept album, apparently built around an incident on a trip to foreign parts witnessed by Clive Nolan, and, as with the best of such albums, the tracks move seamlessly into one whole part.

Musically, it is a triumph, and I should state that I regard Paul Wrightson as being a superb vocalist. Yes, very reminiscent of a certain Mr Dick from Marillion's early days, none more so on (Don't Forget To) Breathe and the title track, but, hey, I loved him as well! However, he is not a one trick pony, and on Tears In The Rain, especially, his melodic, feeling, and sympathetic vocals enhance a haunting lyric and musical piece.

Nolan's keyboard work is essential in creating the predominantly dark mood at play here, whilst the guitar work by John Mitchell, at times, is inspirational and moving, and definitely added a new dimension to the band. Both of them shine on the introduction to In The Blink of An Eye, and after the vocals start, Nolan's piano work is very deftly performed. The end of this track, by the way, turns into one of the best rockers around. Mitchell plays very moving acoustic guitar on the album's opener, A Crack In The Ice.

The two instrumentals, Elea and Serenity, are examples of just how good Mitchell is electrically, and the band as a whole absolutely shine on the highlight of the album, the seven minute plus epic The Hanging Tree. Haunting and dark, this is a great piece of music, and is a treat from start to finish.

However, to pick out individual tracks is perhaps a little unfair, as this is an album that you should not be selective about in listening to individual tracks, but listen to the work as a whole. It all builds up to quite a huge and moving climax in the closing three tracks. They are all stunning and epic in scope, and special mention should be made for John Jowitt's thunderous bass line on Running From Damascus and the title track closer.

This is neo prog at perhaps its finest in terms of knowing nods to the past, symphonic epic and conceptual rock, and, as such, is very highly recommended.

Four stars for this, but, in reality, 4.5.

lazland | 4/5 |


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