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Arena - Pride CD (album) cover

PRIDE

Arena

 

Neo-Prog

3.64 | 302 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

siLLy puPPy
3 stars After their beautiful debut release which put ARENA on the map as worthy successors of Marillion's unique neo-prog sound from the 80s, the band went through a few changes with the loss of both a bassist and a lead singer. Out was Paul Wrightson and in was John Jowitt, who played in Ark, IQ, Jadis and Frost. Vocalist John Carson was also out and Paul Wrightson stepped in as the second vocalist of ARENA's ever changing lineup. The result of these changes gives their second album PRIDE an overall harder edged feel that has a much different sound than the debut album that really could have passed as an 80s Marillion album if you didn't know any better.

From the very first track "Welcome To The Cage" it is clear that the guitar riffs are been sped up, the vocals are more aggressive and the style has a more rough and round the edges approach. We also get a continuation of the "Crying For Help" tracks that alternate between the main tracks. The first one "V" is a nice little melody that reminds me of a lullaby and the rest serve as mood enhancers to properly transition the main tracks, although on this album it feels more forced as they don't always successfully fit in. The rest are all instrumental as well ranging from arpeggiated guitar numbers with a classical Bach type feel "VI" to one that's a cappella "VII" and one that's a great deal ambient with a choir and operatic diva belting out wordless vocals "VIII".

"Empire Of A Thousand Days" and "Fool's Gold" are two of the longer tracks both reaching just over the nine and a half minute mark. The former is a nice classic neo-prog track that incorporates all the expected moody synths, guitar textures and layers of emotional response triggers that makes a really good neo-prog song. The track "Fool's Gold" is another rocker with hyperactive keyboards, borderline prog metal riffing and a bass line that reminds of the classic Marillion sound. A decent high energy performance on this one. "Sirens" is the longest track just under fourteen minutes. This track also takes us on a journey through different moods and emotional soundscapes. IMHO kind of long and doesn't go as many places as i would like.

Overall i'm not as enthralled by this second ARENA release. While there are plenty of beautiful tracks, the consistency isn't as good as what preceded and not even close to what follows. The turbulence of the circumstances in the lineup changes seems to have affected the album as a whole. It sounds to me like the "Crying For Help" tracks fit more with the debut and the others take on the new harder rocking avenue the band was taking. To me they don't flow together as smoothly as they should. Although i really love albums that contrast sounds, such is not the case in the realm of neo-prog where i find a consistency between the tracks to be mandatory in making a cohesive album. This is probably one of my least favorite ARENA album (still haven't heard the last two) but even so there is plenty of good music on this album even if it's not their absolute best. 3.5 rounded down

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |

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