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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Arena Re-Visited Live! (Blu-Ray/Dvd/2Cd/Booklet)Arena Re-Visited Live! (Blu-Ray/Dvd/2Cd/Booklet)
VERGLAS MUSIC 2019
$41.54
$41.02 (used)
Visitor (20th Anniversary)Visitor (20th Anniversary)
Remastered
Verglas Music 2018
$21.93
$28.09 (used)
Unquiet SkyUnquiet Sky
Verglas Music 2015
$13.49
$16.75 (used)
Double VisionDouble Vision
Verglas Music 2018
$14.55
$17.22 (used)
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ARENA Discography

ARENA albums / top albums

ARENA Songs From the Lion's Cage album cover 3.92 | 8 ratings
Songs From the Lion's Cage
Non-Metal 1995
ARENA Pride album cover 3.80 | 8 ratings
Pride
Non-Metal 1996
ARENA The Visitor album cover 4.17 | 13 ratings
The Visitor
Non-Metal 1998
ARENA Immortal? album cover 3.71 | 12 ratings
Immortal?
Non-Metal 2000
ARENA Contagion album cover 4.56 | 10 ratings
Contagion
Metal Related 2002
ARENA Pepper's Ghost album cover 3.39 | 10 ratings
Pepper's Ghost
Metal Related 2005
ARENA The Seventh Degree of Separation album cover 4.13 | 9 ratings
The Seventh Degree of Separation
Metal Related 2011
ARENA The Unquiet Sky album cover 3.72 | 6 ratings
The Unquiet Sky
Metal Related 2015
ARENA Double Vision album cover 4.00 | 4 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 | 2 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 Double Vision

Album · 2018 · Metal Related
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
The uncertainty of ARENA continuing after the departure of vocalist Rob Sowden left fans wondering if the band would ever return with new material but after a six year absence the band recruited Paul Manzi as the lead frontman and put all doubts to rest that ARENA was still in it for the long run. Three albums in after their comeback in 2011 with “The Seventh Degree Of Separation” the band returns in 2018 with the 9th studio album DOUBLE VISION and no this is not a collection of Foreigner covers! After the comeback, ARENA beefed up the heaviness and toned down the progressiveness becoming more of a crossover prog act than the bona fide powerhouse neo-prog outfit that they had evolved into leading up to “Contagion.” Unfortunately the following “The Unquiet Sky” continued to tamp down the progressiveness and focused more on tightly delivered melodic rockers that only added touches of atmospheric rivers of synthesizers and eschewed lengthy grandiosity and virtuosic outbursts.

DOUBLE VISION comes three years after “The Unquiet Sky” and after all the negative feedback regarding that album, the band wisely revived more of the progressive aspects however they also kept the heaviness churning and in fact create one of the most rockin’ albums of the band’s existence. While bassist John Jowitt rejoined the band for “The Seventh Degree Of Separation” he quickly departed and was replaced by Kylan Amos. DOUBLE VISION enjoys the same lineup as “The Unquiet Sky” which allowed the current lineup of Clive Nolan (keyboards, backing vocals), Paul Manzi (vocals), John Mitchell (guitars, backing vocals), Kylan Amos (bass) and Mick Pointer (drums) to conjure up the organic chemistry needed to perfect all the proper elements to make this third phase of ARENA’s career as vivacious and relevant as the first two. In that regard DOUBLE VISION definitely steps things up from the rather lazy predecessor that pretty much sounded like a “Seventh Degree Part 2”.

First noticeable difference between DOUBLE VISION and the other two Manzi led albums is that his vocals have improved remarkably. It almost sounds as if he’s been taking voice lessons in order to improve not only his dynamic delivery but he has expanded his vocal range and covers more diverse grounds. Same goes for the compositions themselves. While the band not only beefs up the prog factor, there was obviously more attention paid to crafting more addictive melodic hooks that develop into a larger frame of pleasantly unfolding prog fueled rock that wends and winds through six strong tracks that culminate in the grand finale, the whopping almost 23 minute long epic “The Legend Of Elijah Shade” which consists of six parts strung together to create one of those delicious slices of overweening pompous prog that true believers will eat up like kids in a candy store.

Now granted, ARENA are not interested in deviating from their established neo-prog style that they have been changing subtly throughout the band’s near quarter century career. The strength is in the almost impeccable consistency that sticks to the playbook and only tweaks it enough to create a few unexpected twists and turns but the real bravado is in the excellent melodic developments and how they are strewn together in a series of soft and revolving heavy passages that result in synth-laden, guitar heavy crescendoes. DOUBLE VISION, while not deviating from the established playbook, does however crank out seven stellar tracks that not only rock the house but implement the proper dosages of holy progginess with all that excellent delivery of piano runs, keyboard glides and atmospheric haziness that Nolan so judiciously generates.

Out of the three albums that have featured Manzi, DOUBLE VISION is the best one yet and finds the band effortlessly melding the many phases of ARENAS existence into one beautiful album that includes the more sophisticated compositional prowess of albums like “Contagion” but also some of the melodramatic Marillion inspired 90s sounds from “Immortal?” Add to that the heightened awareness of casting the proper metallic spell and the perfectly placed bombastic parts in conjunct with the synthesized streaming operatic moments amount to ARENA’s best album of the decade. True that nobody will find any surprises not already included int he ARENA playbook but when an album contains no weak tracks and each one is constructed so uniquely and placed in the proper sequence which amounts to such a glorious listening experience then who really cares if this is the most original album ever to hit the prog scene. Sometimes high quality over originality wins the day and DOUBLE VISION certainly made the quality a top priority. A triumphant return to form!

ARENA The Unquiet Sky

Album · 2015 · Metal Related
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
After the six year gap between 2005’s “Pepper Ghost” and the 2011 return with “The Seventh Degree Of Separation,” ARENA debuted a new lead vocalist in the form of Paul Manzi after the departure of long time frontman Rob Sowden. Also rejoining the cast was bassist Jon Jowitt who had left the band way back after 1998’s “The Visitor.” While ARENA enjoyed a brief period of stability around the turn of the millennium, the band’s eighth album THE UNQUIET SKY found yet another lineup change. While band founders Clive Nolan (keyboards) and Mick Pointer (drums) were still at the helm directing the band’s every move as well as long time guitarist John Mitchell, THE UNQUIET SKY found yet another bassist with Kylan Amos after Jon Jowitt left the band once again. While the band didn’t take six years to release a new album, they were in no hurry either and THE UNQUIET SKY wouldn’t emerge for a full four years after the predecessor.

THE UNQUIET SKY pretty much continues the exact format as “The Seventh Degree Of Separation” which found the band ramping up the heavy rock aspects to make the updated version of the band with Manzi as the vocalist a louder more rockin’ affair. The album starts off with an elaborate cinematic soundtrack type of intro which gives a clue to the inspiration behind the album’s content. While the overall themes are multifaceted, the story is based on a short horror story by M.R. James titled “Casting The Runes” and the 1957 film version titled “Night Of The Demon.” The timeline is in the Victorian times and the album also nods to the rock operas “She” and “Alchemy” due to Manzi’s involvement in the latter. ARENA performs in the usual theatrical and moody manner that they always have with Clive Nolan’s eerie keyboard touches haunting every cadence and providing the atmospheric generator as the canvas on which to paint the melodies and rhythmic drives of the heavy guitar, bass and drums.

Overall it’s really hard to distinguish THE UNQUIET SKY from “The Seventh Degree Of Separation” as the album seems to carbon copy every aspect and the band had fallen into a comfort zone with little desire to expand beyond the previous album’s newly established harder edge rock tracks. Once again ARENA implements a series of shorter tracks that emphasize strong melodic hooks that constitute simpler constructs although with just enough progressive mojo to keep it from being booted out of the progressive rock club. If random tracks from this one were mixed with the previous album and shuffled together it would be virtually impossible to distinguish which belonged on which album therefore THE UNQUIET SKY fails to distinguish itself in any significant way save the rare overtly cinematic touches such as the introductory track. While the band perfectly checks off all the boxes that make ARENA the band they are, what’s missing here is some sort of interesting deviation from the status quo.

To my ears this album sounds like one of those bonus albums that was tacked on to deluxe packages, a trait that has become more common especially in prog circles like IQ and other neo-prog bands. An album that is perfectly listenable and basically gives the fans a double dose of what a particular album dishes out. If this had been released the following year after “The Seventh Degree Of Separation” and marketed as a sort of “Part 2” then this might have been more acceptable but after a four year absence in which to craft something more stellar, THE UNQUIET SKY does fail at wowing the aural sensibilities. Nevertheless there is nothing bad at all about this album. It effortlessly cranks out twelve well-crafted tracks that weave pleasant melodies, dynamic outbursts of heavy rock alternating with piano led slower moments and the expected storyline that revolves some melodramaticism excavated from long ago. Unfortunately despite all the exact same traits as its predecessor, everything seems a little watered down and showcases ARENA in a slow but sure decline.

ARENA The Seventh Degree of Separation

Album · 2011 · Metal Related
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With the loss of vocalist Rob Sowden, it’s no wonder ARENA had to step back for a while and decide if the band should continue or not. After all, Sowden’s distinct vocal flare is what made ARENA, well ARENA, right? Well not so fast there. After a presumably restful break with some soul searching for the next move that the band should embark upon if any at all, ARENA returned six long years after 2005’s “Pepper’s Ghost” with not only a new vocalist in the form of Paul Manzi who came out of nowhere but also found the unexpected return of bassist John Jowitt who had left the band after 1998’s “The Visitor.”

While the band never officially broke up and continued to tour, the new lineup was the perfect reset button and ARENA did the wise thing and didn’t try to find a vocalist who would merely mimic the previous while pretending everything was just the way it was before. Au contraire. ARENA reinvented themselves for the seventh album aptly titled THE SEVENTH DEGREE OF SEPARATION which continued the ARENA tried and true tradition of cranking out an album’s worth of nebulous concepts concerning life, death and the ethers that bridge the two all set up in emotive musical drama with instantly addictive hooks laced with progressive touches.

In fact, the changes had already begun on “Pepper’s Ghost” as the band ramped up the heavier elements with harder guitar delivers, increased tempos with a more heavy rock edge than any of the album’s that preceded. THE SEVENTH DEGREE OF SEPARATION simply picked up where that album left off stylistically speaking as if six years were just an illusory chunk of time. However, despite the attempt to just pick up where things left off, the notable differences in vocalists dictated that things were not the same and it sounds like every attempt was made to allow the music to adapt to Manzi’s vocal abilities rather than the other way around.

Continuing the heavier aspects, ARENA opted to tamp down the more complex aspects of the progressive side of things which didn’t sit well with many a fans and for many this was a clear decline and disappointment for one of the premiere neo-prog bands of the 90s. The tracks are more clear and concise with not a single one extending beyond the eight minute mark and most hovering around four. In a nutshell, THE SEVENTH DEGREE OF SEPARATION is much more a hard rock album than a progressive neo-prog album but that doesn’t diminish the effectiveness of its rich tapestry of melodic weaving and excellent mastery of vocals, guitar oriented riffing and Clive Nolan’s unworldly talent for casting the perfect atmospheric projections on his keys.

Conceptually, THE SEVENTH DEGREE OF SEPARATION tackles the subject of death by exploring Frigyes Karinthy’s theory from which the album title gets its name only ARENA changed the original six to the number 7. Karinthy was a Hungarian author and postulated that all people are only six or fewer social connections away from each other. I guess he wasn’t taking hermits into account but i digress. As with all ARENA albums, the thematic presence is loosely defined, nebulous to the core and is meant to fire up the imagination rather than cast an iron clad tale into literal form. Once again the music perfectly matches the imagery and despite the more accessible musical compositions works quite well in tandem.

While the obligatory bloated progressive elements are removed and replaced by a series of catchy pop hooks, the tracks whiz by fairly smoothly, all connecting for a nice album ride to the near hour completion. In some ways, Manzi reminds me of Geoff Tate of Queensryche in his vocal style only without the multi-octave range but his vocal phrasings and voice signature in general makes this connection. Likewise, the progressive metal of early Queensryche also seems to have at least made a marginal impact as some of the tracks have similar chord progression and atmospheres however these are subtle references and THE SEVENTH DEGREE OF SEPARATION stands up on its own two feet.

For finicky prog purists, this one will surely disappoint. It seems to purposely eschew any meandering sections that point to the perfect prog escapism but rather nurtures the melodic constructs into shorter and to the point rockers. But despite the decomplexifying touches, this is still prog rock through and through and there are healthy doses of time signature deviations, stellar atmospheric overcasts that glaze the Genesis inspired soaring guitar licks and emotive rock opera styled melodramatic effects. Just don’t expect an album like “Contagion.”

What’s clearly missing is any sort of standout performances by Nolan as the keyboards have taken a back seat to the more ramped up guitar, bass and drum parts. Despite the new direction, i find THE SEVENTH DEGREE OF SEPARATION to be quite the addictive album based on the strong melodic hooks alone and the fact that they are augmented by a heavy rock bombast makes it all the stronger. I can totally understand why some fans jumped ship at this point but i find this new phase to be just as appealing as what came before but then again i crave change rather than relish complacency any day.

ARENA Pepper's Ghost

Album · 2005 · Metal Related
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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
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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.

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