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Arena - Songs From The Lion's Cage CD (album) cover

SONGS FROM THE LION'S CAGE

Arena

 

Neo-Prog

3.86 | 377 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

siLLy puPPy
4 stars In my opinion ARENA carried the torch of Fish era Marillion when they arrived on the scene in 1995. Hogarth era Marillion just lost me big time as it sounds like a hollow version of what came before. I know others love his vocals and their light delicate sound but i personally want some rock in my neo-prog and that's EXACTLY what ARENA deliver on their debut album SONGS FROM THE LIONS CAGE. Just as Marillion took on the late 70s Genesis sound and ruled the 80s with that new symphonic prog renamed neo-prog, once Fish departed, it left a vacuum in the market for that very successful formula. Two neo-prog veterans took notice and decided that niche needed to be revisited.

Those two veterans, of course, were keyboardist Clive Nolan and Mick Pointer. Nolan who ambitiously has fronted Pendragon since 1986, Shadowland since 1992 and ARENA since 1995 simultaneously is an ambitious one having created some of the best offerings the neo- prog sub has to offer. Mick Pointer, on the other hand, was the original drummer for Marillion playing only on the first EP "Market Square Heroes" and the first LP "Script For A Jester's Tear" and pretty much stayed out of the musical world since. This connection is evident as much of this album sounds very much like 80s Marillion but to write it off as a mere clone would be erroneous since there is so much more to offer.

This is a profound album that sounds like it was done by true professionals in the field. All musicians are outstanding but it is Nolan's Wakeman-esque keyboard wizardry interacting with the outstanding guitar acrobatics of Keith More that really give this album an electrifying energy. The only ARENA album to feature John Carson on vocals shows him display a full command of every tender passage and then able to rock out at the drop of a hat. I particularly love his vocal phrasings and he is one of my favorite voices in this particular type of prog. The lyrics are beautifully poetic with traumatic life experiences such as the loss of love which are metaphorically represented by such images of historical horrors such as the album title alludes to.

This album has it all. It really excels at clever songwriting and delivers every single passage in a perfect way. The longer tracks cleverly alternate with the mostly instrumental "Crying For Help" interludes which embellish the atmospheric mood building to great success. The cream of this fine album comes with the finale "Solomon," a sprawling fourteen minute plus prog gem that displays all the goods in one track with lightning fast keyboard runs playing with virtuoso guitars and highly developed soft spoken melodies trading off with hard rocking segments.

I really love this debut album by ARENA. I get a 5 star enjoyment level out of this one but i just can't rate it that high because it is a bit too similar in sound with 80s Marillion at times and even though it is perfectly done i just can't bring myself to rate it higher. It is a super strong 4 stars though.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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