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





3.86 | 396 ratings

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Symphonic Team
5 stars Progressive Arena Rock? Well, not quite!

What a stunning debut album Songs From The Lion's Cage is! I did not always consider it a masterpiece, but it really is! Arena was formed by Clive Nolan and Mick Pointer, previously of Pendragon and Marillion respectively, on keyboards and drums. The line up is here completed by John Carson on vocals, Cliff Orsi on bass and Keith More on guitars. Carson is a really impressive vocalist and there are some exceptional vocal moments on this album. More and Orsi are very good instrumentalists, but they, and Carson too, would soon be replaced by other and more distinctive talents that would come to play larger roles in further shaping the band's characteristic sound. A sound that, at least in my opinion, has a lot more depth and substance, and also much more of an edge, compared to other Neo-Progressive bands. I have never been much a fan of the subgenre, but Arena is special to me - very special!

This first Arena album consists of six "proper" songs plus three rather laid back pieces that might be called 'interludes' or 'links', all of which are called Crying For Help, and three of which are instrumentals. This formula would be used again on the band's second album but it works best here. I really like the idea of having these rather mellow interludes break up the harder edged and more progressive songs. The first Crying For Help piece is a lovely acoustic guitar number. Crying For Help II is a harpsichord piece with a folky/medieval sound. Again, this is a lovely piece that really adds something to the album as a whole even if it is not in any way remarkable standing on its own. The third Crying For Help piece is less interesting, however. It is a rather repetitive New Age-style piano piece that is a bit too long for its own good as it runs for almost five minutes without anything really interesting happening. But it does let you catch your breath before the onslaught of the last three tracks. Crying For Help III also includes samples of a telephone ringing that I find bit annoying for primarily two reasons: first, it breaks the "ancient" atmosphere of the album by introducing such a modern thing as a telephone, and second, I always start looking for my telephone whenever I hear that sound! This is thus the weakest point (and the only weak point whatsoever!) of the album for me. But it is not offensive and it does not disrupt the flow of the album too much.

All of the rest of the songs are all simply amazing Neo-Prog classics and some of the strongest songs I have ever heard! The last Crying For Help-piece is a vocal and piano piece that is exceptionally good and the only real ballad of the album. The presence of a song like this one proved the versatility of the band and makes the album varied and complete in a very appealing way. Jericho and Solomon has become live favourites and eternal Prog classics and deservedly so. These songs are nothing short of exceptional! Like with basically all the Arena albums, this album too is a grower. It is surely an album that deserves repeated listens even if it is not quite as rich in detail as the equally amazing albums The Visitor and Contagion.

Extremely recommended in addition to The Visitor and Contagion

SouthSideoftheSky | 5/5 |


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