ARENA

Metal Related / Non-Metal • United Kingdom
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Arena is a progressive rock/hard rock band formed in 1995 as a super-group. The band featured artists from bands such as Pendragon and Marillion.

Their musical style has always had a harder-edge, but their first three albums are softer and more traditional progressive rock. After the album 'Immortal', Arena explored their hard rock side more and their two most recent albums 'Pepper's Ghost' and 'The Seventh Degree of Separation' even have some metal influences in them. Their most recent album 'The Unquiet Sky' was released April 27th 2015.

(Biography written by Unitron on October 12th 2014. Updated May 5th 2015.)
Thanks to Unitron for the addition

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Double VisionDouble Vision
Verglas Music 2018
$24.99
Unquiet SkyUnquiet Sky
Verglas Music 2015
$15.96
$15.96 (used)
Visitor (20th Anniversary)Visitor (20th Anniversary)
Remastered
Verglas Music 2018
$21.77
Pepper's GhostPepper's Ghost
Verglas Music 2012
$9.50
$18.98 (used)
ContagionContagion
Inside Out Germany 2004
$11.21
$5.94 (used)
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THE OFFSPRING - Live, Concert Ticket Stub, Wembley Arena, UK 21-01-2001 THE OFFSPRING - Live, Concert Ticket Stub, Wembley Arena, UK 21-01-2001 USD $13.27 Buy It Now 1h 39m
PRIMAL SCREAM SHEFFIELD ARENA ORIGINAL ADVERT 15 X 11 PRIMAL SCREAM SHEFFIELD ARENA ORIGINAL ADVERT 15 X 11" POSTER SIZE 7 NOV 1992 USD $18.66 Buy It Now 1h 39m
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ALANIS MORISSETTE - Live, Concert Ticket Stub, Wembley Arena, UK 15-07-1999 ALANIS MORISSETTE - Live, Concert Ticket Stub, Wembley Arena, UK 15-07-1999 USD $19.95 Buy It Now 1h 42m
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Di'Anno - Nomad  CD 2001 Arena Music   Iron Maiden Di'Anno - Nomad CD 2001 Arena Music Iron Maiden USD $22.67 Buy It Now 3h
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ARENA Discography

ARENA albums / top albums

ARENA Songs From the Lion's Cage album cover 3.96 | 6 ratings
Songs From the Lion's Cage
Non-Metal 1995
ARENA Pride album cover 3.78 | 6 ratings
Pride
Non-Metal 1996
ARENA The Visitor album cover 4.14 | 11 ratings
The Visitor
Non-Metal 1998
ARENA Immortal? album cover 3.69 | 11 ratings
Immortal?
Non-Metal 2000
ARENA Contagion album cover 4.58 | 8 ratings
Contagion
Metal Related 2002
ARENA Pepper's Ghost album cover 3.37 | 9 ratings
Pepper's Ghost
Metal Related 2005
ARENA The Seventh Degree of Separation album cover 4.06 | 8 ratings
The Seventh Degree of Separation
Metal Related 2011
ARENA The Unquiet Sky album cover 4.00 | 5 ratings
The Unquiet Sky
Metal Related 2015
ARENA Double Vision album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Double Vision
Metal Related 2018

ARENA EPs & splits

ARENA Contagious album cover 3.21 | 4 ratings
Contagious
Metal Related 2003
ARENA Contagium album cover 3.36 | 6 ratings
Contagium
Metal Related 2003

ARENA live albums

ARENA Welcome to the Stage album cover 3.50 | 2 ratings
Welcome to the Stage
Non-Metal 1997
ARENA Breakfast In Biarritz album cover 4.00 | 2 ratings
Breakfast In Biarritz
Non-Metal 2001
ARENA Live & Life album cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
Live & Life
Metal Related 2004
ARENA Arena: Live Recorded 2011/2012 Tour album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Arena: Live Recorded 2011/2012 Tour
Metal Related 2013

ARENA demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

ARENA re-issues & compilations

ARENA Contagion Max album cover 5.00 | 1 ratings
Contagion Max
Metal Related 2014

ARENA singles (0)

ARENA movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

.. Album Cover
4.00 | 1 ratings
Caught In the Act
Metal Related 2003
.. Album Cover
4.50 | 1 ratings
Smoke and Mirrors
Metal Related 2006
.. Album Cover
4.50 | 1 ratings
Rapture
Metal Related 2013
.. Album Cover
4.00 | 1 ratings
XX
Metal Related 2016

ARENA Reviews

ARENA Pepper's Ghost

Album · 2005 · Metal Related
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
Although only formed in 1995, ARENA had became one of the great prog revival bands of the decade by imitating Fish-era Marillion and then quickly latching onto a veritable sound of their own as Clive Nolan found a new niche away from his other neo-prog bands Pendragon and Shadowland. A decade after the formation of ARENA, the band changed up their sound yet again on their sixth album PEPPER’S GHOST which after many lineup changes in their earlier years emerged as the third album in a row with the same cast members. At this point the collaborative songwriting efforts of Clive Nolan (keys), Mick Pointer (drums) and John Mitchell (guitars) was in full swing as they once again as they independently created their own parts and then adapted them to a band setting which surprisingly combines well into another album of thoughtful constructs that deliver another epic concept album.

The concept of PEPPER’S GHOST revolves around five different individuals who travel through time to defeat a demon all of which is narrated through a comic book included in the packaging. For a tale so tall it connotes a stylistic upgrade in sound and on PEPPER’S GHOST, the band ramped up their decibalage and tempo to the point this blurs into heavy rock territory for much of the time without ever feeling like a metal album so i guess it could be considered heavy neo-prog or something of the sort. The term PEPPER’S GHOST comes from a projection technique developed by John Henry Pepper, a 19th century inventor whose technique casts the illusion of ghostly objects fading into and out of existence in a room but can also “magically” transform certain objects into totally different ones. How this term and storyline weave together is beyond me but arcane enough to accept blindly without question.

Musically PEPPER’S GHOST carries on where “Contagion” left off. There is no significant deviation to the stylistic approach, the interplay or any sort of song structures as with other albums, ARENA craft seven tracks with the final “Opera Fanatica” being the most ambitious and lengthy at time run of of just over thirteen minutes. Despite the similarities, there are several differences as well. First is the abrupt heaviness that makes PEPPER’S GHOST the most hard rock leaning album up to then with crunchy guitar riffs and even more ambitious solos that occur from time to time however ARENA have lost none of their atmospheric prowess as Nolan conjures up beautifully powerful ambient backdrops to accompany the more aggressive guitar and bass. Ironically the drumming does not take on a more aggressive role as Mick Pointer creates more subtle drum rolls that add rhythmic contrasts. Rod Sowden delivers another brilliant vocal performance as always however this time around his lyrics seems submerged beneath the heavier production and guitar dominance.

Another difference is the type of melodic developments. The album begins with circus music that finds itself reprising throughout the album’s musical development which adds a sort of gypsy jazz swing element dispersed throughout the album when least expected. For some reason PEPPER’S GHOST doesn’t seem to be as well revered as previous ARENA albums and that’s quite the shame because i find PEPPER’S GHOST to be just as compelling as any of the earlier albums minus the magnificence of the perfection of “Contagion,” however ARENA doesn’t shed their origins on this one, they merely augment them with a more diversified palette that allows more extreme dynamics, faster tempos and more ambitious lyrical themes in their concepts. Personally i find this one to be slightly more addictive in the melodic hooks in comparison with some of the earlier albums. For anyone avoiding PEPPER’S GHOST on account of the lower ratings, i have to say do check this out for it’s on par with any of the other classic neo-prog albums of the era.

ARENA Contagion Max

Boxset / Compilation · 2014 · Metal Related
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
After a ten year wait in 2013 fans of ARENA’s monstrous neo-prog hit “Contagion” were finally treated to hearing the album as it was originally intended to be released in the form of the extended double disc CONTAGION MAX. Clive Nolan has always stated that the “Contagion” story was to be more intricate and drawn out with extra instrumental passages and vocal tracks that add more depth to the storyline. Well, Nolan wasn’t too sure about the possibilities of releasing an extra long album and felt the pressure to to edit their ambitious project down to a single disc release. The result was that seven tracks were chopped off the listening experienced and released simultaneously on two separate EPs titled “Contagious” and “Contagium.” While it was all fine and dandy to make those orphaned tracks to the public, much was lost regarding the context in which they were woven into the overall theme. After many years of a demanding public for the album to be released in full form, voila!

Fast forward ten years and the CONTAGION MAX anniversary edition finally sees the light of day in its complete original intended format. It contains all seven tracks in the proper order stuffed into the album “Contagion” from 2003 as a double disc digipak CD release. While i found nothing wrong with the original album “Contagion” and in many ways find it to be the peak of the creative juices flowing for ARENA in their lengthy career, i must say that i much prefer hearing it as the extended double album experience it was meant to be as it smooths out the ruff-around-the-edges transitions that become more apparent once listening in the band-desired delivery mode. CONTAGION MAX doesn’t exactly make the two EPs that came before completely irrelevant if you are interested in hearing electronica induced remixes of the tracks “Witch Hunt” and “Salamander” but i find them a little cliche and devoid of any true reason to exist therefore i highly recommend this beautiful extended version of “Contagion” for anyone who loves that album and wishes that it was longer.

Despite being a fairly newer release, this album has become a little difficult but not impossible to find. Initially it was released as a pre-order campaign with band members adding their autographs but was only released in limited numbers therefore not as easy to obtain as the much easier to find “Contagion.” Another worthwhile mention is that it seems that CONTAGION MAX is possibly a digitally remastered version of the original plus the extra tracks in the proper order. This album sounds EXCELLENT! The production is off the charts beautifully executed with every little sound shining like a crazy diamond and all aspects of the music perfectly mix together in superb splendor. It is unbelievable how well this album sounds and how wonderful it is to experience this one as it delivers on all accounts. Perhaps if this were released as intended it would have been considered a rival force to IQ’s “Subterranea” which is of the same calibre but could also stand up to any of the great symphonic prog releases of the past.

This track listing shows the entire track listing of CONTAGION MAX with the titles in bold being the seven tracks that appear on this expanded edition which were originally spit up randomly and placed on “Contagious” and “Contagium.” They are followed by brief descriptions

Disc One:

1 Witch Hunt (4:17) 2 An Angel Falls (1:14) 3 Painted Man (4:38)

4 VANISHING ACT (from “Contagious”) (4:11) was originally a leftover instrumental track from “The Visitor” album and had the title “Sacrifice” but was rearranged, rerecorded and renamed. It begins with a space rock Floydian echoey guitar and synth run and then becomes more hard rocking with a ample change of riffs drenched in camp mellotron. Very cool sequencer beat and guitar solos that brings aspects of “The Wall” to mind

5 This Way Madness Lies (3:32)

6 THE HOUR GLASS (from “Contagious”) (5:58) begins as a sensual ballad but adds some extra punchy guitars that display the vocal talents of Sowden and thick layers of synthesizers and a heavy bass led melodic development. It adds a continuity to the story as the narrative builds another layer of darkness to the mix

7 Bitter Harvest (2:50)

8 I SPY (from “Contagious”) (2:33) is primarily an acoustic guitar folk number also displaying Sowden’s vocal abilities. Other than acoustic guitar, only the bass is heard

9 Never Ending Night (3:11) 10 Spectre At the Feast (5.34) 11 Skin Game (4:44)

Disc Two: 1 Salamander (4:00) 2 On the Box (2:30) 3 Tsunami (2:30)

4 ON THE EDGE OF DESPAIR (from “Contagium”) (5:40) begins with the same bass line and melody of “This Way Madness Lies” from Disc 1 and sort of a revisiting of that point in the story but after almost a minute switches gear and becomes an acoustic guitar ballad once again highlighting Sowden’s vocals and lyrical supplementation. It continues to alternate between the beginning intro segments and then jumps back into acoustic guitar part again. Sounds really good together as the two parts contrast perfectly and add that flavor of life when some things seem familiar while totally new aspects are being introduced

5 City of Lanterns (1:23) 6 Riding the Tide (4:24)

7 CONTAGIOUS (from “Contagious”) (4:07) begins with sirens and incorporates different sounds that are from the “Contagion” album and creates a little overture of sorts to revisit certain moods of the album. It features a strong bass line with John Mitchell delivering some of the most sophisticated and daring solos on the album. There is also nice background synthesized(?) vocals that add a spooky ambience to the overall mood. Nice keyboard runs as well. This is kind of a revisitation point on the album that takes a few minutes to reflect on what’s already been happening. Very appropriate and nice to take a breather.

8 MARCH OF TIME (from “Contagium”) (7:29) continues the only two tracks that sit back to back not on the original “Contagion.” This sounds more like the majority of tracks as it begins with a heavy bass driven melody and screeching guitars in a Floydian style drenched by feedback and fuzz and then slows down a bit to usher in Sowden’s vocals. Generally speaking the vocal parts are more Floydian and the instrumental parts are harder rocking. It also has some acoustic parts that remind me of The Who especially on “Tommy” with that Pete Townsend type of strumming.

9 Mea Culpa (3:45) 10 Cutting the Cards (4:41)

11 CONFRONTATION (from “Contagium”) (5.05) begins with some sort of mixed media narration clips before ceding into a darkened bass line that is ominously overshadowed by more possibly synthesized background vocalists and that Who inspired acoustic guitar strumming pattern once again punctuated by a staccato heavy guitar chord. It all stops and enters church organ territory and then adds acoustic guitar again only before Mitchell channels his inner Pink Floyd guitar solo instincts and lets loose. This is another all instrumental track

12 Ascension (4:34)

Total Running Time Of CONTAGION MAX = 92 minutes and 40 seconds but i can’t say i get bored once through it’s entirety and much prefer this version as opposed to the truncated “Contagion” album of 2003. Something about the extra tracks connects all the dots for me on this one but that does not mean that the original CONTAGION album suffers from its brevity. On the contrary ARENA hit a home run with two stunning versions of this album that works with or without the seven tracks equally in my world.

ARENA Contagion

Album · 2002 · Metal Related
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As ARENA entered the 21st century they finally hit a stable lineup and for the first time and released two albums in a row with the same band members which allowed them the opportunity to learn how to coalesce their individual talents and develop a strong and stable chemistry. On their fifth studio release CONTAGION they hit the high point of their career with yet another concept album that like many of their albums delivers vague and ambiguous notions of going through the trials and tribulations of being human and experiencing every emotion there is to be had a hundredfold. This one is supposedly about the end of the human race and all the emotional baggage of being alive until it happens. As much as i try i still haven’t found a decent explanation of what exactly the concept is supposed to consist of but it matters not for at long last ARENA found their perfect sound with Clive Nolan (keys), John Mithcell (guitars), Ian Salmon (bass), Mick Pointer (drums) and their third lead vocalist Rob Sowden and the quality of the compositions on CONTAGION shows it.

From the first notes of “Witch Hunt” it is obvious that ARENA got major rekindling of musical mojo. At this point they sound less and less like 80s Marillion which was the sound of their early albums and more like their contemporaries IQ who also released a concept album at the same time. This time around the band found a new lease on neo-prog by adding heavier and harder rock guitar and bass often verging into metal territory briefly with virtuosic guitar solos and heavy churning riffs and thundering bass but still manages to weave it around the intricately delicate melodies that have been carefully crafted into extremely strong and catchy tunes that build upon one another and seamlessly transition from track to track until an entire album unfolds around you. There are also many space rock references to Pink Floyd with dreamy echoey guitars, sensual solos and Salmon’s strong Rickenbacker bass lines.

CONTAGION is perfectly partitioned into vocal and instrumental tracks. “Witch Hunt” begins with a thundering bass line, heavy guitar riff and powerful vocal performance by Sowden which sets the tone for the majority of the album but there are also ballad segments like the beginning of the music box beat backed “Spectre Of Feast” and the piano laden “Never Ending Night” which weaves in tender moments surrounded by more thunderous heavy rock. Despite having the qualities of AOR, something about ARENA’s attention to details make the music quite sophisticated with variations in the subtleties such as keyboard runs, echoey guitar backings or different types of drum fills. The melody is the main driver of the tracks with Sowden’s vocal emphasis on the lyrics being mostly in the spotlight except when the band delivers excellent musical prowess such as on the instrumental beasts “This Way Madness Lies,” “On The Box” and “Riding The Tide.”

I must admit that i wasn’t a huge fan of CONTAGION upon first listen as it sounds very much like many neo-prog albums that may come off as gimmicky with the heavier rock elements added but after a few spins i was hooked and the intricate charms of the album shone through with synth rich ambient notes backing heavy yet melancholically addicting melodies passing the torch to the next track that takes the listener onto a new adventure and then on to the next. While there are clearly stronger tracks than others, the beauty of the album is that is places all of the elements in key places. It opens with several strong tracks and then has some quieter less powerful tracks that skillfully link the various parts together. The musicianship is extraordinarily strong on CONTAGION with every member going the extra mile to eke out the most satisfying musical performances.

CONTAGION was originally intended to be released as a double album but Clive Nolan got cold feet on releasing such a sprawling 90 minute plus behemoth of a double album and nixed seven tracks and would release them simultaneously on two separate EPs titled “Contagious” and “Contagium.” After many years of demands by rabid voracious fans to release CONTAGION as the originally intended double album, in 2013 it finally came to be as a tenth anniversary expanded edition titled CONTAGION MAX which contains all of the missing seven tracks in their proper places amongst the others. While it was not intended to replace the original truncated form and was solely intended to provide a supplemental insight into the album’s history, i have to say that ARENA scored big time with CONTAGION as i find it works equally well in either form as CONTAGION doesn’t feel forced and never indicates that certain tracks were left out merely for editing’s sake nor does CONTAGION MAX feel like the extra tracks were superfluous filler either. Personally i would highly recommend both editions but CONTAGION is probably the first place to stop for anyone wanting to check out ARENA’s thoughtful and subtly textured symphonic progressive rock. CONTAGION will surely go down as their magnum opus as it is one of those album’s that only gets better the more you listen to it, at least that’s the way it worked for me.

ARENA Contagium

EP · 2003 · Metal Related
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
Clive Nolan’s original intent for the “Contagion” album from his band ARENA was for it to be a double album with several instrumental tracks appearing at certain points in the album for there to be a smoother flow between the segments that spell out the storyline. But the record label had other ideas and the band was forced to scrap the idea and instead trim the album down to a single disc and with the leftovers created two separate EPs released simultaneously with the “Contagion” album.

There are several head scratchers about this decision of how to release these extras though. First of all instead of releasing one compilation album of the seven extra tracks, they were instead issued on two different releases, one called “Contagious” and this other edition CONTAGIUM which features the three leftover tracks “On The Edge Of Despair,” “The March Of Time” and “Confrontation.” In addition there is the “Special Remix Of Salamander” which sounds more like a psytrance meets hard rock track with plenty of mellotrons turned up to the max. There are also some multimedia additions that includes a video of “Painted Man,” some ghost vocals that tell the story as well as a tour photo gallery and screensaver.

Like on “Contagious,” these leftovers are quite decent quality listens but this EP as well has been made quite irrelevant since these leftover tracks found a new home on the 2013 anniversary re-issue called “Contagion Max” which featured all of the extra tracks in their proper place on the album as originally intended in its double disc form. The only track that has never found a new home is the remix of “Salamander” and it is hardly worthy of making this bunch of tracks relevant as the “Contagion Max” places the tracks that matter in their proper context.

ARENA Contagious

EP · 2003 · Metal Related
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
Clive Nolan’s original intent for the “Contagion” album from his band ARENA was for it to be a double album with several instrumental tracks appearing at certain points in the album for there to be a smoother flow between the segments that spell out the storyline. But the record label had other ideas and the band was forced to scrap the idea and instead trim the album down to a single disc and with the leftovers created two separate EPs released simultaneously with the “Contagion” album.

There are several head scratchers about this decision of how to release these extras though. First of all instead of releasing one compilation album of the seven extra tracks, they were instead issued on two different releases, one called CONTAGIOUS and the other “Contagium.” On this release CONTAGIOUS contains the tracks “Vaninishing Act,” “I Spy,” the title track and “The Hour Glass.” In addition to these surplus musical tidbits, there is a “Special Remix Of Witch Hunt” which sounds more like an early 80s new wave band than ARENA.

While the music on this one is quite good, this EP has been made somewhat irrelevant since in 2013 an anniversary release called “Contagion Max” was finally made public and included all the extra tracks in their original intended ordered on a double CD. That means only the “Witch Hunt” remix is unavailable anywhere else and believe me it’s certainly no reason to track this down separately. It’s also strange that these tracks don’t appear sequentially on the “Contagion Max” edition and are scattered about randomly on both discs.

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