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Arena - Pepper's Ghost CD (album) cover





3.65 | 420 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Arena's lastest studio effort is an interesting mixture of metal riffing and neo prog type overtones that mixes into a very hard rocking neo album. John Mitchell, Clive Nolan, Mick Pointer, Ian Salmon, and Rob Sowden create a very mythic and medieval feeling on this album, mainly from the lyics and the superb album cover. I don't really understand why this album is not very well regarded, but I do see where they fault it, and while I somewhat agree with them I enjoy most of this album. Unlike the past album, Contagion, Pepper's Ghost is not a true concept album, although they do seem to have a concept for every single song and the album does share a common theme overall. It may not be the best Arena album, but it's damn close to it.

The album opens with the marketplace noises of Bedlam Fayre. Soon enough, though, the band kicks in with strong 5/4 riffing and some interesting keyboard melodies from Nolan. In all, it has some cool soloing from Mitchell and a cool middle section. Smoke and Mirrors has some definite Alex Lifeson inspired riffing with ascending riffs and harmonics before becoming an epic sounding piece that doesn't really in the end do much for me. Sure the riffing is solid, but the song is terribly formulaic and there's no real invention to it. The Shattered Room has some great guitar from Mitchell and some solid underlying keyboards from Nolan. The 7/8 verses have a great sound to them. The song has a nice sense of evolution as well, changing in tempo and pace towards the middle and Clive Nolan's solo is just great (as well as the dynamic Mitchell solo towards the end). The Eyes of Lara Moon begins with some acoustic guitar that plays an odd chord progression (although it sounds cool) and the rest of the band pick up the pace soon after. It's not an excellent song, but it's effective and gets its point across quickly.

Tantalus has some melodic intertwining piano lines in the introduction, but as the song progresses, it becomes a heavy piece of music with some interesting 5/4 riffing alternating with a 3/4 vocal section. In the end, Tantalus is another strong piece on this album. Purgatory Road begins with a Floydian guitar solo over some keyboards becoming a heavy piece with a riff that has a similar lurch to that of Garden Party (maybe Pointer's influence?). It does tend to drag out too long and it really could have been a bit shorter. Opera Fanatica concludes the album on a very epic note. Although the introduction is a bit contived, with a male opera vocalist giving his vocal chords a run followed by a female opera vocalist doing the same. After that, though, there's a lot of good in the song, including a great chorus, some incredible soloing from Nolan and Mitchell as well as some complex riffing in 5/4. Truly the best piece on the album.

In the end, Pepper's Ghost may not be Arena's best album, but it still is in my eyes a fine effort that fans of Arena and the projects of Mick Pointer, Clive Nolan, and John Mitchell will enjoy. And to a lesser extent, fans of prog metal may find something to like about this album, with it's crunchy riffs and heavy middle sections as well as some definite metal soloing from John Mitchell. It's a good album, but it isn't essential for the casual listener. 3.5/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 3/5 |


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