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THE UNQUIET SKY

Arena

Neo-Prog


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Arena The Unquiet Sky album cover
3.74 | 246 ratings | 13 reviews | 23% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 2015

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Demon Strikes (5:37)
2. How Did It Come to This? (4:30)
3. The Bishop of Lufford (5:24)
4. Oblivious to the Night (2:47)
5. No Chance Encounter (4:30)
6. Markings on a Parchment (2:19)
7. The Unquiet Sky (5:29)
8. What Happened Before (4:55)
9. Time Runs Out (4:39)
10. Returning the Curse (3:48)
11. Unexpected Dawn (3:52)
12. Traveller Beware (7:40)

Total Time: 55:30

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Paul Manzi / vocals
- John Mitchell / guitars, backing vocals
- Clive Nolan / keyboards, backing vocals
- Kylan Amos / bass
- Mick Pointer / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Kylan Amos

CD Verglas Music - VGCD037 (2015, UK)

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy ARENA The Unquiet Sky Music


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Import
Imports 2015
Audio CD$12.58
$12.57 (used)
Unquiet Sky by Arena (2015-08-03)Unquiet Sky by Arena (2015-08-03)
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Audio CD$41.35
Unquiet Sky by ImportsUnquiet Sky by Imports
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Audio CD$32.90

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ARENA The Unquiet Sky ratings distribution


3.74
(246 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(23%)
23%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(43%)
43%
Good, but non-essential (21%)
21%
Collectors/fans only (10%)
10%
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)
2%

ARENA The Unquiet Sky reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars * Please note - this review is based on the pre-order CD sold directly from the band, one month before the worldwide general release *

Clive Nolan and his Neo-hard rocking companions return for the eighth Arena album in twenty years, `The Unquiet Sky', taking inspiration from (without being a direct interpretation of) M.R James' short story `Casting the Runes'. It's easy to see why the ghostly tale of supernatural intrigue and occult mystery from 1911 would appeal to Mr Nolan, and the album reveals plenty of the sleek and heavy symphonic rock with poetic lyrics that the British band is known for. The previous disc `The Seventh Degree of Separation' was a divisive and somewhat controversial release for a new line-up of the group that now included vocalist Paul Manzi, a transitional album that saw them adopting a more streamlined hard rock/metal sound. But long-time fans of the group will be pleased to know that, while there are still similarities to that previous album here and there, the much-loved symphonic atmospheres the band was known for are given more focus again, meaning a better balance of these two qualities together to create a truly sublime Arena work.

Some of the twelve tracks on offer still retain a hard-rock flavour, but everything an Arena fan could hope to discover is all present and accounted for here. After a more low-key performance on the previous album, virtuoso keyboardist/composer Clive Nolan is center stage again over the entire disc. Not only are his exquisite synths constant and upfront, but the artist has also implemented plenty of theatrical and orchestral symphonic textures into the group this time around, his recent work with the `Alchemy' musical being obvious right from the start, and these theatrical flourishes are a perfect fit for the group. Vocalist Manzi made a promising and reliable debut as singer for the group on `...Separation', but here he lifts his game considerably and offers endless more vocal variety. Better worked into the group, he is equally at home with heartfelt ballads, theatre flair and chest-beating rockers, and he has really become a perfect frontman for the band. Kylan Amos from Nolan's own `Alchemy' production replaces bass player and IQ member John Jowitt and makes an impressive debut here, ex-Marillion drummer perfectly drives the music forwards and It Bites/Kino/Lonely Robot guitarist John Mitchell delivers his usual tasteful and commanding guitar flair.

Of several of the highlights, listen out for the gleefully wicked and wondrous orchestral pomp that opens the album that could easily be an outtake from Mr Nolan's `Alchemy' show, the infernal and overwhelming church organ intimidation of `The Demon Strikes' and especially the shimmering dark reggae (yes, really!) chimes and sleek electronics of the thrashing `No Chance Encounter', where Kylan's bass really glides. `The Bishop of Lufford' perfectly mixes ghostly gothic mystery with soaring symphonic prog and muscular hard rock (and wait for that hair-tearing heavy finale!). `Oblivious to the Night' is a fragile little piano interlude with whimsical synths and a thoughtful vocal, `Markings on a Parchment' is an eerie dream-like introspective instrumental, and Mitchell's extended guitar solo in the classy title track even brings to mind Nolan's other band Pendragon.

Cascading classical piano spirals with snarling brooding guitars in `What Happened Before', and Clive delivers an overload of delirious synth soloing goodness on both `Time is Running Out' and `Returning the Curse' in the best Nolan tradition that his fans always love to hear! `Unexpected Dawn' is a strong ballad with warm Hammond organ and soothing acoustic guitar, and the ambitious seven minute closer `Traveller Beware' finds time for plenty of ghostly gothic tension, punchy plodding heavy riffs, creeping piano and a stirring repeated chorus with a dark lyric.

But special mention has to go to glorious power balled entitled `How Did It Come To This?'. It's a glorious emotional tune with a sombre piano melody, delicate orchestration and dreamy lyrics, carried by a perfectly controlled yet soaring vocal from Manzi. A restrained unfolding guitar solo from Mitchell in the middle ensures it may be one of the truly most heartfelt pieces ever to appear on an Arena album, and it's certainly one of their most purely romantic musical statements to date.

Along with typically fascinating and surreal proggy cover artwork and a lavish CD booklet (but what a shame there doesn't seem to be a vinyl version in the works so far), `The Unquiet Sky' is one of the most lavish, sophisticated and varied Arena albums to date, and certainly one of their most endlessly melodic. It's a fine return to form for the Neo prog institution, and it really shows what this latest line-up is capable of, so hopefully even more impressive music is to come from the mighty Arena!

Four stars.

Review by rdtprog
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars The album concept is from a short horror story by Mr. James called "Casting the Runes". The atmosphere of this film is illustrated in the opening song. If the last Arena's album didn't convince all critics, this one could bring back some of those who didn't like the direct approach of this last album. This new album is not radically different from the others, but you can hear how much Clive Nolan's work on keyboards and piano has succeed to create some new sounds which give to the music a more atmospheric sound. You just have to listen to the track "Returning the Curse" to hear some nice atmospheric sounds from the keys that could find similarity with the band IQ. Also on this song, it's easy to get hooked on the chorus : "You look at me, but you failed to see me". Usually I am not the biggest fan of ballads, but here, the two ballads "How did it come to this" and "Oblivious to the Night" have enough quality to keep my attention throughout the album. The confident voice of Paul Manzi must help me enjoy those songs, but also the nice melody. There is also some semi-ballad type of songs that are not as captivating as most of the songs, but we get enough strong compositions to make for it. I was under the impression on the last song of the album "Traveller Beware", the way the song was building up, that it was going to be a epic like they did in the past, but this time the band keep their songs not too long. I don't want to finish this review without talking about the but the guitar work of John Mitchell who's sensible touch is tangible through this album .
Review by Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars After the rather weak and very disappointing 7th Degree of Separation, Arena (or more specific leader Clive Nolan) seems to realize that that record was not up to their fans expectations and quickly released (for Arena´s standards) The Unquiet Sky. And I must say they really did an excellent job. This new CD has everything you should expect from this great group and was lacking from the previous album: a dark concept, terrific melodies, intelligent and tasteful arrangements, symphonic keyboards and heavy guitar interplay and a very fine singer. That last aspect surprised me the most. I was not really bought by new vocalist Paul Manzi on 7th Degree... Technically he was great, but his delivering up to then was too nice and soft for Arena´s themes. Here he seems to understand how to deliver the dramatic lyrics with passion and menace that makes his vocal lines much more convincing.

Instrumentally the album is also much more varied and interesting, helped by the renewed, inspired songwriting (based around the M.R James' short horror story `Casting the Runes'). Nolan´s elegant keyboards lines are back on the forefront along with the emotional, creative guitar solos of John Mitchell. Bassist John Jowitt has left the ship again, but you´ll hardly notice it for newcomer Kylan Amos has a similar style of playing and does a fine job throughout the whole CD. As usual the Mick Pointer´s drumming is fantastic. Production is also top notch, balancing vocals and instruments in a much better way than on 7th Degree... (where the vocals were too loud). There are no real lows on this album, the flowing of the tracks is very smooth and pleasant, making it one of Arena´s best works in a long time. I always listen to The Unquiet Sky form start to finish with the same pleasure and that tells it all.

Conclusion: if you´re thinking Arena was going downhill after 7th Degree Of Separation, think it over. They came back with an album that is as strong as anything they have released before that CD. I wish other bands could come back after a dud with such powerful and inspired follow up!

Rating: 4,5 stars. Highly recommended!

Review by friso
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Arena - The unquiet sky (2015)

After the mediocre Peppers ghost and the somewhat flat progressive metal album The seventh degree of seperation (with new vocalist Paul Manzi), Arena returns with a classic neoprogressive record that can live up to the 'Visitor', 'Immortal?' and 'Contagion' era of their career.

Most songs are either dark progressive tracks or emotional ballads. All songs have a part that really sticks and some instrumental passages remind me of the best of what my all-time favorite Contagion had to offer. Moreover, vocalist Paul Manzi now seems to add to the Arena-style, instead of diminishing it like on their previous effort 'Seventh degree of seperation' - though I would still prefer Rob Sowden any day.

The opener 'The demon strikes' sets the atmosphere that is actually quite dark. 'How did it come to this?' and 'Unexpected dawn' are both good examples of how a symphonic ballad can work really fine. On the last track 'Traveller beware' Arena gives an almost eight minute long treat of their extended progressive rock songwriting, perhaps a bit like 'The butterfly man'. My favorite part of the album is the string of songs that starts with the atmospheric 'Markings on a parchment' (with a nice bass lead), continues with the exciting dark piano parts of 'What happened before' and the classic Arena 'Time runs out'.

The production of the album is fine, with especially the bass guitar well in the mix and impressive symphonic sounds. I am always amazed by the guitar-playing of John Mitchell and his leads sound really well on this album, though I must admit I sometimes get the feeling 'I got to know his list of tricks'. The vocals are a often dubbed and a more natural vocal sound would not have hurt, though I know it is a part of the genre.

Conclusion. A much appriciated return to form from my first progressive rock love. Had it been a bit more inventive I could have given it five stars, but it will have to do with four. Recommended to listeners of the neo-prog and symphonic prog genres, and perhaps to those who like their prog with a dark atmosphere.

Perhaps this record deserves a bit more anticipation around here?

Review by lazland
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The Unquiet Sky is a welcome return to form by Clive Nolan and Mick Pointer's pomp prog vehicle, Arena, and it certainly is a huge improvement on Seventh Degree of Separation, an album generally regarded as being a massive disappointment.

The key, really, is a return to what the band do well. Take a story, preferably, as in this case, one revolving around the supernatural and ghostly world, add layer upon layer of huge sounds, until an atmospheric masterpiece is created. Simple, eh?

I have to say that one of the pleasures of this album is just how much of a great performance Paul Manzi puts in. Massive vocals, atmospheric, and reflecting the quality of the material he works with. I was not overly impressed on the last album, and this, I have to say, really sounds as if it was the material, rather than the bloke himself to blame. Manzi is very well suited to the overblown post-neo pomp of Arena, rather than the ill advised crashing metal he was on previously.

John Mitchell is as good as he has ever sounded, meaning we are treated to some fantastic licks. Clive Nolan has, especially, returned to that layered sound. His effects on the title track (think the prog version of Enya) are a joy to listen to, whilst the rhythm section of Amos and Pointer are extremely efficient in keeping matters moving along nicely.

This album is, for me, in the top five prog releases of 2015, and it has been played many times now, and, if anything, gets more enjoyable with each listen. Beholding such a return to form has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the year musically.

This is up there with the best of Arena, and gets an easy four stars, in reality four and a half, if we had such a rating. An excellent addition to any prog collection, and those unfamiliar with the band's work, or this type of bombastic prog, could do a lot worst that starting here. Hugely enjoyable.

Review by Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Neo-prog standouts Arena return with their powerful blend of hard hitting, pomp-filled, highly melodic, and well performed rock with The Unquiet Sky, a concept album that, despite seeming to check every item on the "Prog Rock" checklist, comes across as a bland and ultimately unmemorable experience.

I decided to pick up this album after revisiting the band's excellent catalog (including Contagion, probably my favorite album in the neo-prog sub-genre here on the Archives). I was happy to hear the band roar to life within the first two minutes, smashing out a heavy blast of guitar and walls of keyboards in the great introductory track, "The Demon Strikes." One thing that can never be taken away from Arena is the band's excellent musicianship; they're simply great at creating this style of music, and know how to put the pieces together to make for outstanding instrumental moments. Paul Manzi, who returns to handle vocal duties, is serviceable, fitting in well with the tone established by the band's preceding vocalists. Personally, I prefer Sowden, who has stronger timbre and phrasing, but Manzi can belt out passionately and has a powerful sustain.

My issue is mostly in the songwriting and overall feel of the album. It's not because The Unquiet Sky is basically a by-the-books prog-rock concept album; we can easily forgive this because there are so many great examples out there that are, when you get down to it, derivative. It's more a malaise of mid-tempo blandness which pervades the majority of the album's running time. The highs aren't high enough; ballads not subtle enough; up tempo moments not exciting enough... you get the picture. I can totally groove to a single track or two on this album, but when taken as a single listen I am totally bored by the end. The music doesn't capture me, and the story doesn't inspire me; in fact, the lyrics are encumbered by their sheer number and need to tell a story, often literally, rather than through creative rhymes or poetic verse.

So sort of a mixed bag in the end. You won't regret listening to The Unquiet Sky, but it won't get nearly as much play as other albums in the genre. Fans should definitely check it out, but others should stick to the group's more diverse and exciting library.

Songwriting: 2 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

Latest members reviews

5 stars I heard great things about this album and being relatively new to Arena but having really liked Contagion I thought it would be the ideal next thing to listen to. I was quite disappointed at first ? for reasons I can't remember ? but it didn't last. This album is superb and Paul Manzi really shines ... (read more)

Report this review (#1779154) | Posted by benbell | Monday, September 4, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Arena Use The Yin And Yang Approach By Balancing Old And New Sounds To Create A Filthy Gorgeous album. I Have been an Arena fan for quite some time now and it's so nice to hear and see this band really coming to the forefront of displaying so much quality both in sound and conceptual storytell ... (read more)

Report this review (#1424243) | Posted by progbethyname | Saturday, June 6, 2015 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Arena has gotten lazy, selling us English Victorian fantasies (hence the talk of bishops and the parchments) all over again. I've heard this album described as a return to form after the relatively simplified Seventh Degree of Separation, but neither Degree was that bad nor the new one is that ... (read more)

Report this review (#1408826) | Posted by Progrussia | Tuesday, May 5, 2015 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Oh well, another disappointing release from what used to be one of the best neo prog bands around. What happened to the progressive Arena, anyway? The band that made GREAT albums like The Visitor and Immortal? I had assumed that Seventh Degree of Separation was just an aberration, but apparently I w ... (read more)

Report this review (#1397697) | Posted by emperorken | Sunday, April 12, 2015 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I picked this album up when I went to the first gig on Arena's 2015 tour. I had enjoyed "The 7th Degree of Separation", but I didn't think it matched the rich vein of form the band struck starting with "The Visitor" and ending with "Contagion". "The 7th Degree of Separation" brought the guitars to t ... (read more)

Report this review (#1394301) | Posted by steve-s332 | Sunday, April 5, 2015 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Arena are back on form! I've had this album since their gig in London recently (a couple of weeks ago) and I've had it virtually on repeat. I won't make too much of an extensive review here but I will make a few bullet points. * Anyone who had issues with Paul Manzi's voice on the last album sh ... (read more)

Report this review (#1390549) | Posted by onslo | Monday, March 30, 2015 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This review is based on 3 listens on receipt this week of the new album - and I'm sure my feelings may change with time and more familiarity, however, I have to say that this (to me) sounds just the same as Seventh Degree, very formulaic. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this album as I enjoyed t ... (read more)

Report this review (#1389048) | Posted by Wasp | Saturday, March 28, 2015 | Review Permanlink

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