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





3.86 | 396 ratings

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3 stars Arena - Songs from the Lion Cage (1995)

The debut of Arena, main act of modern neo-progressive rock, has some great moments, but makes a dull impression on me overall. The individuel members are skilled; prog vedette Clive Nolan on keys and Keith More on guitars are the main attraction here. To bad Keith More's replacement during later albums, John Mitchell, is still way better.

The sound of Arena on the debut is that of beginning neo-progressive band; many theatrical/sentimental vocals, some heavy instrumentation with loads of reverb and delays and seas of synths. The recording is a bit dull, but the sound quality ain't the main problem here. The key equipment of Nolan isn't optimal and his over-use of bombastic arrangements does not help at all. Some of his compositions are however quite brilliant, namelijk the opening track Out of the Wilderness, Midas Vision and stage favorite Soloman are strong tracks. The latter of these three is one of the best Arena epics to date. With its thirteen minutes of great song-writing and an amazing long, melodic solo's section just before the end it can be called one of the best of the neo-prog genre. I must admit that I do prefer most of the live versions, because of the better guitars by Mitchell and better vocals by Sowden.

On other tracks this early stage Arena has some in-effective song-writing, making songs like Valley Of The Kings and most of the Crying for Help parts a bit boring. Crying for Help IV does have some catchy parts, I must admit, but the acoustic guitar version of this track (found on The Cry) is more impressive.

Conclusion. A good beginning for what yet has to become one of my favorite (and few) modern prog bands I like to listen to. The opening and ending track are very good, but Solomon can also be found on all the live recordings of the band. I think Arena can get away with a small three star rating here. Recommended only to fans of the band and enthousiasts of the neo- prog genre.

friso | 3/5 |


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