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Arena - The Visitor CD (album) cover

THE VISITOR

Arena

 

Neo-Prog

4.06 | 692 ratings

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VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Review Nš 335

"The Visitor" is the third studio album of Arena and was released in 1998. It's their last studio album to feature vocalist Paul Wrightson. Bassist John Jowitt also quit the band after its release. He returned in 2011. It's also their first studio album to feature the presence of their new guitarist John Mitchell, who replaced their founder guitarist Keith More that participated on their two first studio albums "Songs From The Lion's Cage" and "Pride". So, the line up on the album is Paul Wrightson (vocals), John Mitchell (guitars), Clive Nolan (keyboards), John Jowitt (bass) and Mick Pointer (drums).

"The Visitor" is considered by many fans, critics and reviewers as the best studio album released by the band. The idea for this album was born in the mind of Clive Nolan, and the lyrics of "The Visitor" resulted very dark and intense. The music all over the album complemented by some excellent graphics on its cover, empathize the general mood of the album. "The Visitor" had great reviews when it was released and resulted in a very well successful live tour of Arena.

"The Visitor" is a conceptual album. An angry and disillusioned man chooses to walk across a lake that has recently been frozen. As the ice breaks, he sinks down into the freezing water. As time passes, his thoughts come to his head, about himself and his life, and so, he faces "the visitor" examining his inner being and relives certain elements of his live. In the end, our protagonist gets pulled out of the water, thought we never know if he was helped by someone. So, all over the album we experience the man's thoughts on the lyrics and the music. So, "The Visitor" is an epic concept, focused on pain, death, redemption, human's kind purpose, the nature of the knowledge, and all this things seen with a kind of a religious slant. "The visitor" is an idea, a metaphysical concept or a spirit being, travelling through the time.

As with many of conceptual albums, the length of the tracks is very different being some very short and others bigger. The music moves and flows beautifully all over the album, as the story goes throughout the album. So, I'm not going to review the album track by track, which is usual by me when I review studio albums, but only to do a global review of it.

"The Visitor" has fourteen tracks, together forming one piece of music of about 60 minutes long. All songs were written by Clive Nolan, Mick Pointer, John Mitchell and John Jowitt. The musical success of "The Visitor" is probably the result of the co-operation of the four writing members of the band. John Jowitt was responsible for large parts of the stunning opener of the album, "A Crack In The Ice", as well as the beautiful epic "The Hanging Tree". This track is preceded by the instrumental "Elea", which was written by John Mitchell. With his brilliant Gilmour-ish guitar playing in both "Elea" and the other instrumental "Serenity", he's really put his mark on this album, just as Paul Wrightson did during the vocal performance of "The Visitor". The expressive nature of Clive Nolan's lyrics and the change of atmosphere throughout the album, varying from the melancholic "Tears In The Rain" to the fierce and bombastic "Running From Damascus", form a fertile soil for a great album. These ingredients nourish for thought about the meaning of the story.

One thing that is more notable about this album that on the previous two is the slight toning down on the aggressive parts. There are still borderline metallic riffs that make their way into the seamless parade of moods and synth runs but nothing feels forced and enters the stage only when appropriated. The production values are impeccable with beautiful swirling synths providing the expected backbone around the vocal delivery and the rest of the band following their lead. I also want to mention how important the Floydian space guitars are on this album. While Genesis rightfully gets the credit for inspiring the neo-prog sub genre, it's the brilliance of the guitars that meld, in genearl, the neo-prog approach well into the space rock world, only one approach Arena utilizes effortlessly in their evolution in this specific sub-genre.

Conclusion: "The Visitor" is a great studio album and represents the first masterpiece of Arena. The two previous first studio albums "Songs From The Lion's Cage" and "Pride" are both great albums, especially "Songs From The Lion's Cage", but "The Visitor" is better and represents their finest studio work, till now. With "The Visitor", Arena made a classic concept studio album, in the same vein of many released in the 70's. "The Visitor" was made of 14 great musical sections that worth as a whole. It sounds very close to Marillion and IQ but the final result is a neo-prog album with a metal touch. I know that many people don't like the neo-prog style. They think neo-prog is a rubbish style of music, very pompous and empty. I can't disagree more. I don't like to consider neo-prog as an individual sub-genre. I think neo-prog is nothing more than a branch of the symphonic prog style, more modern and simple. It's a kind of a symphonic style less complex and much accessible. It's especially recommended for those who aren't accustomed with very complex progressive music. With "The Visitor", Arena had the honour to ascend to the rare status of be one of the most important modern prog bands. For me, "The Visitor" can be considered as one of the best neo-prog albums ever made.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 5/5 |

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