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Arena - Pepper's Ghost CD (album) cover





3.65 | 426 ratings

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Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Oh dear, thank god I decided not to write a review when I don´t like some albums right away. Prog albums, as everyone knows (or should know), are complex affairs and sometimes you just not ´get it´at the first few listens. But after some time, and in the right mood, you sudden see that abandoned CD on the shelf and decides to give it another try. And you discover that not only it was not nearly as half as bad as you remember it, but also that it is actually very good. That´s exactly what happened with Pepper´s Ghost. When I first heard it at the time of its release I though it was a mediocre affair, way below Contagion, which came before this one. But now I can see the problem: it is just different. And I can finally give it a fair rating.

Arena started as a personal project of Clive Nolan (from Pendragon) and Mick Pointer (Marillion´s original drummer). Eventually they evolved from a kind of Marillion derivative group to a very big ´proper´ band that carved their name into prog history. Some of their work are among the best prog CDs since the mid-90´s (specially their masterpice The Visitor). Pepper´s Ghost is the third album to feature the same line up of Ian Salmon on bass, John Mitchell on guitar and Rob Sowden on vocals, plus the aforementioned founding members. And it is quite heavy: not to the point of a metal band, but heavy anyway. Mitchell´s guitar is always on the forefront and his work is a simply wonderful mixing of blistering power riffs and very melodic lines taken into perfection (just listen to his emotional guitar solo at the end of The Shattering Room for a sample of his talent). Pointer´s drumming is another highlight along with Nolan´s majestic (and often aggressive) keyboards. The perfect production only enhances the band´s best qualities, with a very clean and balanced sound.

There are no real highlights here. Like Contagion, all the songs are very good, inspired and played with lots of conviction and they work very well between them. It´s the kind of album you can hear from start to finish without skipping a single track. Of course I like some parts better than the others, but that´s just a matter of taste, since all of them are top rated. Ok, I´ll agree with some of the other reviewers that claim this is not Arena´s best album. And yet it is an excellent addition to any prog collection. If you like prog music that is at the same time heavy and melodic, well written and perfomed by a powerful band you can´t miss this one. But take my advice, give this record several spins before deciding you opinion about it. It is worth it. Four strong stars.

Tarcisio Moura | 4/5 |


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