Albums In My Collection
– Live & Life
– Pepper’s Ghost
– The Seventh Degree Of Separation
– Songs From The Lion’s Cage
– The Unquiet Sky
– The Visitor
Since the mid-1990s, this long-lasting Neo-Prog act from the UK has released a series of albums I consider quite enjoyable in general. Yet, a warning—the band is somewhat inconsistent regarding its overall sound (not quality, which is always high, just overall style). This has much to do with the fact that Arena has had four lead singers (all good, yet some better than others) over the course of its two-decade lifetime, therefore, the material today sounds like it comes from an almost totally different band than the one that created the material of the past.
In the olden days, particularly with their second vocalist Paul Wrightson and his heavy Fish-like delivery, range, and tone, Arena reminded me of Marillion. And no shock, since Marillion’s original drummer, Mick Pointer, is one of the band’s founders and constant members. After a few albums, however, with the third singer Rob Sowden (and his different range and delivery style), Arena added a touch of metal to its overall sound on several tracks. And now, with yet another new singer (Paul Manzi) for the past few albums, and a more streamlined approach—ie. shorter tracks, meaning more concise ideas and less adventurousness when it comes to arrangements—the band sounds different still, much less “early-Marillionesque” and more like a band such as Fates Warning, only with an emphasis on keyboards (as usual) as opposed to guitars.
So to fans of the genre, beware when delving into Arena’s back catalogue—depending on your taste in Prog-Rock, some of the albums may have different levels of personal appeal. Although each era of the band has its pluses and minuses, each is also better than average as far as songwriting and musicianship when compared to its numerous contemporaries. So, as with me, it usually boils down to which singer one likes the best—and thankfully, I like all styles of singers about evenly, so I’m happy with each era of Arena.
Overall, the band produces some great Prog-Rock!