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Arena - Immortal? CD (album) cover





3.91 | 438 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars We're all sucked in!

Released between the two fantastic albums, The Visitor and Contagion, Immortal? is definitely less impressive overall than those two. However, it is still a great album by this brilliant band and there are several songs here that should be considered all time Neo-Prog classics. Immortal? is perhaps a bit more accessible and easier to get into compared to the other albums but it does not have the same degree of staying power.

One of the main attractions of both The Visitor and Contagion were the lyrics that I found profound and reflective. With some exceptions the lyrics of Immortal? are more "worldly", containing line such as 'ghosts in the firewall', 'viruses in the system', 'binary codes', 'TV screens' and (worst of all) 'the rhythm of the fax-machine' (sic!). All this tends to become a bit silly if you ask me, and considering what Clive Nolan and the band produced elsewhere, this is a bit of a letdown for me.

Is the epic Moviedrome is about the "dangers" of television? If it is, isn't that a bit reactionary in the year 2000? The only thing sillier would be to make a concept album about the so called 'millennium bug'! Anyone remember that? "Now is a time of foolish fears", indeed!; "Emotions run high and needless tears are shed"! I honestly don't see any problem whatsoever with television in our lives, but maybe I'm just "the optimist" as the song has it? Or maybe I'm misunderstanding the lyrics? Maybe it is a metaphor for something else entirely? Regardless, this song, though musically exceptional, does not "speak" to me in the way that the entirety of The Visitor and Contagion does, for example.

Having this said, there are some very thoughtful songs here too. The lyrics to The Butterfly Man, Waiting For The Flood and Chosen are more to my taste. The sublime The Butterfly Man is a very existentialist song. It is not about a man collecting butterflies, but about what we might call "the human condition" - "I've been here for so long, Don't even know what my purpose ever was. I don't even know where I belong. Through the years I've been waiting, Even time has lost it's meaning [...] Don't even hope for an end to all of this, I have no choice, but to carry on". Don't all of us feel like that sometimes when we step back from our everyday practices and contemplate the meaning of it all? On my preferred interpretation, the butterfly man is God. But, as with many Arena songs, I can see other interpretations.

Tracks like Chosen, The Butterfly Man and Waiting For The Flood (my personal favourites) are very easy to like and are almost up to the standards set by Arena's best albums. These three songs, together with the beautiful closer, Friday's Dream, are both musically and lyrically the highlights of the album in my opinion. Ghost In The Firewall, Climbing The Net and Moviedrome, though all very good, are slightly less effective.

Immortal? still displays the same excellent musicianship that I have come to expect from Arena, and the amazing guitar work of John Mitchell and the keyboard wizardry of Clive Nolan are brilliant, as usual. This album also introduced new vocalist Rod Sowden and he fills the shoes of Paul Wrightson very well! Sowden would sound even more at home on the next album, Contagion.

Immortal? is a great piece of work and a highly enjoyable album in its own right, even if I prefer several other Arena albums over this one. If you too like other Arena albums, there is no reason whatsoever that you shouldn't immediately get the present album too; I'm very confident that you will enjoy this one very much as well!

Highly recommended addition to any collection that already holds a few Arena albums

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |


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