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Arena - Pride CD (album) cover





3.64 | 336 ratings

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Man With Hat
4 stars No help needed.

Pride is the second outing by top tier neo-prog band Arena. For me, this is a tremendous step up from their debut. The song writing, the playing, the atmosphere...more or less everything is enhanced on Pride. The structure of the album is similar to Songs From The Lion's Cage, with two short songs, two fairly long songs, and one epic, with four fairly short "interludes" every other song. (As an aside, I assume this is some sort of sequel or continuation of their debut, but if there is a connecting theme [aside from the Crying For Help songs] I can't detect it.)

The main aspect of this CD is that it is a neo-prog record, through and through. Perhaps a bit more harder edged than the respective bands from the 80's, but not really adding much new to the mix of neo-prog. But, for me, that is no problem at all, as this is a very successful album. The songs have great flow, with strong melodies, and a more than competent instrumental prowess (although it never gets into self indulgence instrumentally). And that is the greatest flaw I find to this album. Most of the main songs have a fairly similar feel and tempo. Medusa and Welcome To The Cage especially seem to fall in this trap. I honestly believe you could switch the music backing for each and the songs would still work. Even the two nine minute songs are fairly similar, even though their length does seem to give them a more standoutish quality (especially Fool's Gold). Sirens does tend to break the mold a bit, adding more of a Floydian feel, in the middle bit especially. However, the Crying For Help songs do tend to break the monotony, taking away the traditional song structures, using a more ambient/floating style that lets the music dictate where the songs go. Thus, the track order certainly plays a role in keeping the listeners interest (for better or worse).

Having said all that, I still don't find this a huge flaw, mostly because the music is still quite enjoyable and engaging. Welcome To The Cage and Fool's Gold are probably my favorites, for piling on the bombast and explosive choruses. Special mention must be maid for Crying For Help VII, a wonderful a capella performance by Paul Wrightson. His voice gets quite emotional, full of that helpless/worried edge/tremble that makes this song stand out amongst the interludes. Mostly though, this album works more as a whole than as individual tracks, which counts as a strong positive in my book.

All in all, this is a damn good neo-prog album, but only that. Pride certainly doesn't set the prog world on fire for it's originality or boundary pushing. What you have here is 55 minutes of excellent mid 90's hard edged neo-prog. No overt complexity or instrumental wankery, just solid song writing and some enjoyable hooks amidst the sea of keyboards and guitar leads. If you are a fan of neo-prog or the stylistic side of prog-rock (perhaps with a slight penchant for hard rock/rock-pop) you should find plenty to enjoy here. If you need more forward looking, challenging music, you probably won't. Still though, a solid 4 star album in my book. Not Arena's best, but quite nice. Recommended.

Man With Hat | 4/5 |


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