ARENA — Pepper's Ghost (review)

ARENA — Pepper's Ghost album cover Album · 2005 · Metal Related Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
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.
Share this review

Review Comments

Post a public comment below | Send private message to the reviewer
Please login to post a shout
No shouts posted yet. Be the first member to do so above!

Review Index

Member Zone

Username:
Password:
Stay signed in

Metal Subgenres

Artists Alpha-index

MMA TOP 5 Metal ALBUMS

Rating by members, ranked by custom algorithm
Albums with 30 ratings and more
Master of Puppets Thrash Metal
METALLICA
Buy this album from our partners
Moving Pictures Hard Rock
RUSH
Buy this album from our partners
Powerslave NWoBHM
IRON MAIDEN
Buy this album from our partners
Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II Power Metal
HELLOWEEN
Buy this album from our partners
Rust in Peace Thrash Metal
MEGADETH
Buy this album from our partners

New Metal Artists

New Metal Releases

Beast of the Foulest Depths War Metal
PIOUS LEVUS
Buy this album from MMA partners
Black Death Terroristic Onslaught War Metal
HELLFIRE DEATHCULT
Buy this album from MMA partners
Omegalitheos War Metal
ESKHATON
Buy this album from MMA partners
The Infernal Descent Deathcore
EMERGE A TYRANT
Buy this album from MMA partners
Azrael Deathcore
EMERGE A TYRANT
Buy this album from MMA partners
More new releases

New Metal Online Videos

Megadeth - Lying In State
MEGADETH
Tupan· 19 days ago
Megadeth - Super Collider
MEGADETH
Tupan· 19 days ago
More videos

New MMA Metal Forum Topics

More in the forums

New Site interactions

More...

Latest Metal News

members-submitted

More in the forums

Social Media

Follow us

Buy Metal Music Online