Arena - Contagion

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Verglas
Catalog Number: VGCD024
Format: CD
Total Time: 00:00:00

It took a long time, due to recording and production problems, but finally it is here: Contagion, a new step in the evolution of Arena. It's their fifth studio album and this one is more in line with The Visitor, a concept based on a story by Clive Nolan (keys). The production was in hands of Clive Nolan and John Mitchell (guitar), and they did a great job on it. Contagion is a well-balanced album with some heavy as well as atmospheric moments.

The album opens with "Witch Hunt," which immediately reminded me of "Chosen," the opening track from the previous studio album Immortal? and that used to be the crunchiest song to date from Arena. But Contagion is not a metal album, but pure progressive rock, so the heavy tone changes to a more light one in the next song, the ballad "An Angel Falls." The album counts three instrumentals and the first one shows the fantastic bass play of Ian Salmon (Shadowland, Janison Edge), who plays the Rickenbacker on "This Way Madness Lies." Salmon joined in 2000 and first played on the album Immortal? and here he shows this was a very good move. John Mitchell's guitar playing is balanced, with some great solos, like in the song "On The Box," which features Clive on my favourite instrument: the Hammond!

If you have seen Arena live anytime in the past two years, you will have heard how good Rob Sowden sings live. Well, on Contagion he shows once more how good he is. From heavy songs like "Witch Hunt," to beautiful ballads like "The City Of Lanterns," definitely one of the best songs of the album, as well as progressive songs like "Salamander." The constant factor in Arena is Mick Pointer (ex-Marillion). His drum sound does not excel nor is it bad, but it just fits the music of Arena.

Contagion is an album that has to grow on you, so you have to give it some time. But it is one of the better progressive rock releases and Arena once more proves they belong to the top in the progressive rock genre.

Similar bands: Marillion (Fish-era), IQ, Spock's Beard, Pallas

Also released in Europe by SPV (SPV 087-65062)

[This review originally appeared February 2003 at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]
Witch Hunt / An Angel Falls / Painted Man / This Way Madness Lies (instr.) / Spectre At The Feast / Never Ending Night / Skin Game / Salamander / On The Box (instr.) / Tsunami / Bitter Harvest / The City Of Lanterns / Riding The Tide (instr.) / Mea Culpa / Cutting The Cards / Ascension

Rob Snowden - vocals
John Mitchell - guitar and backing vocals
Clive Nolan - keyboards and backing vocals
Ian Salmon - bass
Mick Pointer - drums

Songs From The Lion's Cage (1995)
Pride (1996)
The Edits (1996, OOP)
Welcome To The Stage (1997)
The Cry (EP, 1997)
The Visitor (1998)
The Visitor - Revisited (1999) (Dutch fan club only release, OOP)
Immortal? (2000)
Unlocking The Cage - 1995-2000 (2001) (Dutch fan club only release, OOP)
Breakfast In Biarritz (2001)
Contagion (2003)
Radiance (2003) (fan club only release)
Live & Life (2004) (box set)
Pepper's Ghost (2005)
Ten Years On (2006)
The Seventh Degree Of Separation (2011)
Live 2011/12 Tour (2012)
Arena XX (2016)
Contagion Max (reissue of Contagion) (2014)
The Unquiet Sky (2015)
The Visitor - 20th Anniversary Remastered Edition (2018)
Double Vision (2018)

Caught In The Act (DVD) (2003)
Smoke And Mirrors (DVD) (2006)
Rapture (DVD) (2013)
Arena XX (DVD) (2016)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: November 28th 2004
Reviewer: Marcel Haster
Artist website:
Hits: 1087
Language: english


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