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Arena - The Visitor CD (album) cover





4.04 | 674 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I concur with many other reviewers and Arena connoisseurs on that "The Visitor" is the band's apex. With newcomer Mitchell as guitarist, Arena achieved a rockier sound without losing a single ounce of their neo-prog drive: Nolan restrains himself a bit regarding a less increased delivery of solos, but his synths are still the main nucleus of Arena's sound, since Nolan shows a special preoccupation for multiple layers, eerie effects, and massive orchestrations. Although the structure of the compositions tends to be less complex than on Arena's previous two efforts, the melodic richness is superior, and so is the cohesiveness of the instrumentalists' interplays - specially, Nolan, Jowitt and Nolan. Meanwhile, Wrightson - the best Arena vocalist ever - delivers his singing with genuine passion, fluidly combining his emotional timber (sometimes, even whispering or getting pretty close to whining. in a good way) with the ambiences and ideas conveyed by the melodies and harmonic bases. Musically, the band has developed their Genesis-like melodic approach and added a touch of "The Wall"-era Pink Floyd, particularly in the most dramatic moments. This is a concept-disc revolving around death, pain and redemption, with a religious twist and a (supposedly) serious moral concern regarding the value of self-knowledge as the ultimate goal of a human being: this certainly helps to make the lyrics crucially important in the album's general context. The accomplishment of a well-crafted internal connection in the repertoire is another major asset in a concept-album, and Arena does a great job at this, too. The explosive opener 'A Crack in the Ice' sets the mood and the main basic idea for the entire album to follow: the synth and bass 6/8 sequence that lies on the basis of the song's main motif will recurrently reappear throughout "The Visitor" - pay close attention to the final part of the closing namesake track, which feels quite solemn and creepy, at the same time. Other recurring motifs come and go and get revisited every now and then in order to reinforce the repertoire's internal integrity. The most up tempo numbers are usually the closest to the old Arena ('Double Vision', 'In the Blink of an Eye', 'Running from Damascus'), although you may also find some sort of indulgent AOR stuff cooking ('Tears in the Rain', 'Enemy Without'). On the other hand, Arena's epic side is delivered in a more dramatic fashion, splendorous and explosive, but not as exulting: 'The Hanging Tree' and 'The Visitor' are the finest examples of this factor, and I suspect, this is where the current near-prog metal status of Arena's sound was being born, and where Mitchell was obtaining a major role in the band's creativity. These two tracks are also, IMHO, the most notable ones in the album. The three instrumentals are interludes, that is, their relevance should be valued against the previous or following track: the Camel-esque candour of 'Elea' is a prelude to the emotional storm comprised in 'The hanging Tree'; the thriller-like synth effects of 'Blood Red Room' anticipate the massive display of energy delivered by 'In the Blink of an Eye'; the eerie guitar solo of 'Serenity' precedes the stylish sadness of 'Tears in the Rain'. I really love this album: I don't see it as a masterpiece, but definitely, this is an excellent item from the 90s prog scene.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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