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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Arena

Immortal

Review by G. W. Hill

A fine concept album, this one has many great prog elements, most notably Pink Floyd and Marillion. The Marillion sounds are a natural, since this band was formed by former Marillo Mick Pointer along with Pendragon's Clive Nolan. The conceptual themes of this album are carried along by recurring lyrical references throughout the disc.

Arena is Rob Sowden, John Mitchell, Clive Nolan, Ian Salmon and Mick Pointer.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Chosen
Atmospheric sounds lead to a very modern alterno-metal sounding percussion and vocal intro. As the instruments jump in, the mode is very symphonic. The cut alternates between this mode and a more metallic section for a time. Next, a dramatic and, at times, hard-edged prog mode takes over for a while. The next change is into a great acoustic guitar based segment. The cut then moves into a rather basic rhythm section with fusionish guitar riffing over top. A brief Pink Floydish mode takes us into the acoustic segment, this time with a new take on it. The rest of the cut focuses on the melding of most of these modes.
Waiting For the Flood
Set in a great acoustic ballad mode, this one is a nice breather from the hard-edged fast prog of the last cut. It gets quite complex, but still in that same mode. It is quite evocative, both drawing energy from the strength of the vocals and a wonderful keyboard solo. This one feels just a bit Floydish at times.
The Butterfly Man
Mysterious, almost creepy keyboards start this cut. As the vocals enter, they continue building this mode. The lyrics are also in a rather spooky sort of mode. The song is actually sedate and pretty, but just a little unsettling. It gets harder edged later in the cut, building on the same musical themes. This is a very strong piece. "He waits in the dark for lives, misguided and wrecked, The catcher of innocent souls, He's proud of his human collection, Of losers who give up the chase, Of winners who fail to look around". This is quite a powerful piece and has some bits of chorale type vocals. This one drops to the opening mode to end in fine creepy fashion.
Ghost in the Firewall
Echoey textures begin this cut in somewhat Floydish textures. As more string-oriented keys enter, the Floyd elements remain. A very modern sounding rhythm section joins, followed by quite powerful vocals. The chorus here has a definite Pink Floyd texture. This is another strong cut on an incredibly strong disc. It alternates between that earlier verse mode and the harder edged chorus, but drops to a strange sort of keys driver mode to end.
Climbing the Net
Coming in with a triumphant sounding keyboard mode that feels a bit Marillionlike, this one drops to a more bare bones chorus, and still the Marillion-like textures persist. A nice soaring sort of instrumental break ensues after a time, getting a bit Genesisish. It then drops to a section with textural, atmospheric music and processed vocals, but comes back out in a strong triumphant mode, again a bit Marillionish. This mode serves as the outro.
Moviedrome
The epic of the disc, sedate tones, feeling a bit like a Star Trek movie soundtrack, begin this one. After a short time, hard-edged, dramatic scream out and take control. The vocals herald in a more stripped down, but potent segment. It drops to a more sedate and atmospheric mode for a time, a bit dark sounding. Then the music screams out its resistance to the downtrodden lyrics of that section, building in hard edged, neo classical modes. The piece then drops to electronic, percussive, dark sounding modes, then bursts out to a great hard-edged prog section. It then moves into a very strong neo classical instrumental break. The next change is a drop to a pretty piano ballad mode. This extended section is quite evocative and powerful. It gets very reminiscent of old school Marillion. As guitar explodes, carrying the piece in a new direction, the sound seems to combine Misplace Childhood era Marillion with Pink Floyd. It drops to another mellow dramatic mode, then jumps to a great Wakemanesque keyboard build that takes us to another hard-edged metallic prog jam. This section gets rather Dtish with other modes mixed in. A triumphant sort of texture takes over to end the cut.
Friday's Dream
A nice acoustic driven number, this one is evocative and powerful. It ends with an "it's morning, get up."
 
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