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Arena - The Visitor CD (album) cover





4.04 | 674 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A Masterpiece Neo Prog Album of all-time!

I'm writing this review to serve three purposes. First, to express my personal views and deep appreciation to the band that has created this masterpiece album in the vein of neo progressive. Second, I dedicate this review to my friend: Agung Surjoatmodjo - a Supply Chain Manager of a multinational fast moving consumer goods company based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Of course, this is nothing to do with his profession but I do believe, however, that the music of ARENA has in a way contributed (may be significantly) for him to do his professional work better. Why? Agung is, I would say, a die hard fan of the band (and also Fish-era Marillion) and has been consistently listening to the music of Arena and Marillion with great passion. He almost always sends me a short message at my mobile whenever he spins the CD of Arena. I still remember his message: "Gatot, I'm now enjoying The Visitor. When it reaches 'Too late! You waited too long. I stole the freedom you needed so much', I remember you .". (it's a part of lyrics under "In the Blink of an Eye" - track 8 of this album). What an intriguing and provoking prog SMS this one is! (Agung and I seldom meet because we live in distance even though in the same city). With that kind of passion, you can imagine how die hard he is with the band. In fact, I knew him because of prog also - he loved Marillion as I did so a friend of his that knew me introduced me to him approx five years ago. If sometimes we got together at our rendezvous in Bakmi Kelinci Jl Sabang near local CD store Duta Suara, I can feel his passion of Arena through his energetic gestures emulating the band; sometimes he sung along couple of excellent melodies of Arena. Interesting prog meeting, I would say.

Third, it is for you - the readers of this website - especially to guide your purchase decision. Sorry, I'm talking too much - like a novel hah? - about my personal experience with Agung. But I'm sure that some of you may have experienced as what I experienced with Agung. You may find your prog mate even crazier than Agung. That's the beauty of being in the prog circle - people can go mad with the music of particular band! Hope you can relate with what I mean .. If not, just ignore it!

The Music

It's a concept album and it opens with "A Crack In The Eyes" in an ambient sound that brings the music in crescendo with a continuous stream of beats: soft musical riffs and howling guitar solo combined with dynamic drumming. The music is getting complex, sound wise, and suddenly turns quieter with only drum, bass and symphonic keyboard at the back and the voice line starts to roll firmly: "Dead calm / Raining all over me .". A very nice opening part. The music flows in medium tempo with some quieter passages especially during transitions. Guitar sometimes fills the passage in acoustic style. Keyboard plays a very important to provide the symphonic atmosphere with excellent solo at the back. At the ending part, the music truly moves into a quiet passage, exploring the dark nature of keyboard sounds and effects. If you listen to this ending part using a decent sound system, you can find the beauty of various sounds produced. Excellent track!

It continues seamlessly to "Pins and Needles" through a nice guitar fills augmented with keyboard. When voice line enters, the keyboard plays nice melody at the back while guitar serves as rhythm section. This short track is positioned to set an atmosphere for the next uplifting "Double Vision" that starts with a stunning guitar work in an increasing tempo. The keyboard work by Clive Nolan is really serving its purpose to create excellent and melodic fills during transition. It is sometimes combined with an organ sound. It's an excellent track that has become the band's classic now!

"Elea" is a short instrumental piece with great guitar fills and solo that wonderfully sets the atmosphere of the next great track "The Hanging Tree" which begins with an acoustic guitar fills and vocal line "Walk along the waterfall ." ugh .. man .. what a great opening! The keyboard solo then follows augmented with acoustic guitar fills - it reminds me to Genesis' "Entangled" even though it's a different music. The music then blows with the mark of drum and combination of guitar solo and keyboard. I have to admit that the guitar solo that sounds at the background augmented with a keyboard work in symphonic style has enriched the textures of this song. This part is killing me, really! "Take me to the hanging tree. There is a boy in the light. And he's staring at me. Take me to the hanging tree. It's the place that I come from. Walk along the waterline. Reach across the salt and the sand. Moving deeper into the land. I'm falling ... Falling down again!". Oh my God . it's a great ending!

The music suddenly rises up with simple riffs combined with bass and sound effects in "A State of Grace". It's an uplifting track with excellent rhythm section and guitar solo and great keyboard. Paul Wrightson does his vocals excellently - filled with soaring guitar by John Mitchell. "Don't look for comfort in this house of mine .." .. it's a very melodic lyrical part! Thumbs up!

"Blood Red Room" is an atmospheric short track that serves as an introduction part of the next energetic and uplifting track "In The Blink of An Eye" that starts with heavy and complex music dominated by keyboard. It turns quieter with the entrance of vocal line and followed by wonderful piano sounds. This track has a powerful nuance and rich in compositions - it blends all instruments into a tight composition. The composition has made this album as a cohesive prog album that sets a high standard and makes others hard to emulate or follow.

"(Don't Forget to) Breathe" is another masterpiece with tight composition performed in a rocking style. The guitar melody at intro helps accentuate the vocal layer and both produce such a great harmony sound. The short guitar solo in the middle is truly stunning ..

"Serenity" is a John Mitchell's exploration in the vein of Gilmour. His guitar style is fantastic. Definitely, this track reminds me to Pink Floyd music. It flows to "Tears In The Rain" with a mellow intro exploring the piano sounds. The vocal line enters smoothly with "This is a clown's tale .". When the music reaches the part where the lyrical part says "Why do we all fail to see .." it demonstrates the band's genius in creating catchy and killing melody. But that's just the beginning. As the music turns into guitar solo in approx min 2:40, I can feel another killing melody created by the band. Then, it reaches its peak when the lyric says "Don't offer sympathy when you've just walked away ." ughhh . man . it's really killing me! (In fact, while I'm writing this review, Agung has just sent me an SMS emulating this lyrical part . Bingo!).

It flows seamlessly to "Enemy Without" with a mellow and ambient vocal opening. The music than enter in its full stream in an upbeat tempo. It's kind like a happy mood track. "No! Don't let this child die here!" is a memorable part. This track flows wonderfully with some transitions into quieter passage and it ends up with a rhythm section of "A Crack in The Ice" and shortly continues to next track.

"Running From Damascus" lends itself part of melodies and rhythm section from the album opener "A Crack In The Ice" but it is composed in more complex textures incorporating many sounds from various instruments. The music is performed in relatively fast tempo with a very tight composition. Musically, this track should be used as concluding tune as the end of this track closes nicely with "Open your eyes!".

Unfortunately, the album still continues with other ending track "The Visitor". Parts of "The Hanging Tree" is also incorporated in this track at ending part. To me, I find the concept has become "disjointed" with the change in nuance to this concluding track. Don't get me wrong, this track is wonderful though. But, it would be better if it's positioned before "Running From Damascus" (IMHO). That's just a thought from a listener. Overall, it's a an excellent album, musically.

My Recommendation

BUY THE CD! You won't regret it at all. After all, neo prog music is I think much more accessible compared to any other subgenre of prog rock. You don't need to understand what parog music is all about. Just enjoy the CD from start to end and experience yourself how the band will bring you. I find there are many great and memorable tracks in this album but I never repeat the track in the middle of my entire spin. Usually, I repeat only after I've listened to it its entirety first and after that repeat the favorite tracks. It's basically an album that you would enjoy from start to end continuously. Keep on progging!

Yours progressively,

GW - Indonesia

Notes: A Personal Reflection (It's my personal experience - you do not need to read it).

I find this album is contemplating. I think, prog music is the best media for contemplating our mind that sometimes (mostly!) at the end would produce innovative idea(s). This is not about meditation. It's about how the melodies, the sounds and nuances of prog music like this album can help elevate our emotions. I did experience it myself, that's why I'm sharing it with all of you. Sometime in 1999, when I was working in consumer banking sector, I was assigned a challenging job in two "Six Sigma" (it's a Quality type of things - for those of you who are not aware of it) projects. When the projects that I facilitated reached a stumbling block - the team had a lot of ideas but failed to formulate a robust recommendation to the business - the music of this album has helped me a lot to rediscover myself on reformulating the course of actions that I should take to "rejuvenate" the team. I listened to it during off-duty hours - in the evening - while sipping a cup of coffee. It's not only this album, sometimes Marillion first 4 albums. I don't know why, I always found new ideas while listening to this kind of music; and I brought it back to the team the next day. You know what? The two projects that I facilitated won the no. 1 and no. 2 prizes of that year project accomplishment. Hey, it's the team that made it happen, not me - because I was just a facilitator . But, the music of this kind had helped me a lot to regain my spirit to facilitate my team. It's a true story of how prog has created impacts to life .indirectly (of course).

Gatot | 5/5 |


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