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Arena - The Visitor CD (album) cover





4.05 | 667 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Arena's last studio album of the millennium has them treading into emotionally charged and conceptual territory. What you'll also find on this album is a new guitarist in John Mitchell (who had appeared on the live albums after Pride), who right from the get go shows a new style in the Arena sound. This album is a lot more guitar oriented, and the resulting sound is a lot heavier than the previous two albums (I haven't heard them yet, but from what I can gather they were more keyboard oriented). This isn't saying that the album doesn't have much keyboard presence; the keyboards are still ever prominent, with many dynamic and fitting performances from Nolan. This album also would mark the end of Paul Wrightson's stint with Arena, the next album would feature their current vocalist Rob Sowden, and Wrightson leaves with a bang, giving great performances overall.

The album opens with a bang in A Crack in the Ice, from the beginning you can hear the group going into heavier territory. Strong 3/4 riffing are complimented by soaring leads from Mitchell. It's a very strong opener that sets the tone and atmosphere for the entire album., although the ambient outro that takes up around two minutes could have been cut out. Pins and Needles has some strong Steve Rothery type riffing and majestic leads from both Nolan and Mitchell. Double Vision is one of my favorite tracks on the album. It has incredible 5/4 riffing and some great keyboard work from Nolan. But the best section comes with the 5/4 vocal part, "Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide", add in some alternating 6/4 then 7/4 interludes and you have yourself another strong piece. Elea is a short, atmospheric instrumental with very Tony Banks-esque mellotrons and solid rhythmic work from Jowitt and Pointer. Add in some great leads from Mitchell and you have yourself a nice little interlude. The Hanging Tree, probably my favorite track on the album, has a nice sense of evolution and progression. Beginning as a folky, acoustic number with lush multi-harmony vocals, around the third minute it becomes a heavy piece with a very doomy, forbidding feel. Add some superb vocals from Wrightson and impeccable keyboard work from Nolan and this song is just perfection.

State of Grace begins with steady notes and Floydian esque sound effects. Overall, though, I think this song is more filler than anything else, despite some interesting melodies and arrangements. Blood Red Room is a short interlude that acts as more of an introduction to the next song, the more uplifting piece In the Blink of an Eye. In the Blink of an Eye has some very dynamic keyboard fills from Nolan and some steady rhythm work. This song has some great moving bass work from Jowitt and he really breaks away from the pack on this piece. (Don't Forget to) Breath begins with distorted drums and synthesizers coupled with a floating lead from Mitchell. The chorus is also pretty cool, with the words, "my friend" repeated many times within a short time span. Serenity is a short guitar solo from Mitchell with some great synthesizer chords from Nolan underneath it. It has that Shine On You Crazy Diamond feel, really Floydian and really spacey, but just pure magic. Tears in the Rain begins a majestic yet somber piano motif that breaks into a nice group riff after a nice vocal section. Enemy Without is one of the more simplistic pieces on the album with a catchy chorus and some nice harmony vocals as well as a nice overall chord progression with some nice hammered chords from the guitar. Running From Damascus repeats the Crack in the Ice theme and is mainly instrumental, with the droning beat that began the album being a prominent musical theme in the song. Then album ends with The Visitor with some dynamic leads from Mitchell and an overly epic feel that really ends the album on a high note. Also worth noting is the Floydian type ending in which the droning beat that began the album also ends the album.

In the end, The Visitor is a stellar album, that has it's faults, but on the whole is a pretty interesting piece. Arena would once again go into the concept territory with their 2002 album Contagion, but this marks their first album that really has a conceptual flow to it. Still, though, you can't go wrong with this albums. Fans of groups like Marillion, IQ, Pendragon, and Jadis will be right at home with this album, and even some prog metal fans may like this album as well. But for me, I think this is an excellent album, though is no masterpiece. 4/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 4/5 |


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