Arena - Immortal?

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Verglas
Catalog Number: VGCD 019
Format: CD
Total Time: 55:18:00

And where will you find immortality?
Kneeling in mysery?
Making endless reassurances, lost in naivety?
Standing up, looking up?
Conjurors hoaxers exploiters killers occultists volunteers?
Hatred or love leading you?
Submerged in lifelong kudos?
Or perhaps you have already found it.

Arena (courtesy)After we were treated to the vocal talents of newcomer Rob Sowden on the fanclub only CD The Visitor - Revisited, the new album Immortal? is the first album with the complete, new line-up. So this is also the first release with bass player Ian Salmon (Shadowland, Janison Edge) who replaced John Jowitt last year.

Sporting yet another fabulous cover by renowned artist Hugh Syme (Rush, Megadeth, Faith no More), Arena once again steps higher on the ladder of worldwide recognition as the album contains some of the best compositions you could dream of. Opener 'Chosen' has all the typical Arena ingredients including bombastic keys from Clive Nolan, pumping bass, guitar riffs which seem to come out of the Yes-mould, and thundering drums. And it's also amazing how well Rob's voice settles in to the Arena sound, because I hear little difference between his voice and that of predecessor Paul Wrightson.

"Waiting For The Flood" is based on the acoustic guitar of John Mitchell with some nice mellotron in the background, which in fact conjures up the atmosphere you get between ebb and flood. Mellotron fans will really enjoy this one because at the end of the song the arrangement is stripped of all its trimmings, only to leave the original sound of the vintage instrument.

From the first note of "The Butterfly Man" and the moment Rob introduces his voice into the song, you can't mistake this for being anything other than true Arena. So expect a very dramatic vocal input embedded in wonderful symphonic textures containing some of the best guitar playing Mitchell has done for ages. In fact all of the material on this album has been written by the threesome Nolan-Pointer-Mitchell, which I think is the best combination within the realm of Arena.

"Ghost In The Firewall" starts very ominous, only to change towards what is probably the strongest chorus on the album, and certainly a strong contender for the "sing-along section" during forthcoming concerts. I love it when, right at the end, the rhythm is halted abruptly to filter through with some delicate keys from Clive.

The rhythmic kick off in "Climbing The Net" certainly goes back to early Marillion and thus also to Arena's Songs From The Lion's Cage period. I would have loved to hear some female backing vocals here that could lift the chorus to even bigger heights. The song evolves into something playful when keys and guitar play the same lines. Yet another live favourite without any doubt!

For a long time the title for the new album was rumoured to be Moviedrome. Now we all know the title has become Immortal? but there is a track "Moviedrome" to be found here, which, with its 19'47" running time, certainly is the main attraction on the album. Of course due to the length of the song you will be taken to different atmospheres which are all tangled into one in order to create a mini-musical. I write the word musical because at times the way Rob Sowden sings makes me think of Meatloaf as he's singing with a lot of pathos, energy and feeling. A real vocal drama, this is, for which the arrangement has been adapted so that it stands out perfectly against the instrumental backdrop. Especially the part where Rob's voice is only accompanied by piano is very Meatloaf-ish, but then again our "big" friend is a star the world over so that can't be bad as a comparison! The album closes with the airy "Friday's dream"; an acoustic based song with once again some great vocal input from Rob. I can already see all of those waving arms and Zippo lighters held high during gigs! Also the production which has been tackled by the tandem Clive Nolan and Simon Hanhart is ace with an ear for every detail.

Arena, the progressive Meatloaf, will embark on an extensive tour in October [2000]. To coincide with the tour, a live album that was recorded during the autumn tour of 1999 will be released. Looks like they're definitely back and let's hope this line-up will stick for a long time to come!

Also released by InsideOut Music America (IOMACD 2012)

Chosen (6:20) / Waiting For The Flood (5:52) / The Butterfly Man (8:56) / Ghost In The Firewall (4:55) / Climbing The Net (4:40) / Moviedrome (19:43) / Friday's Dream (4:44)

Rob Sowden - vocals
John Mitchell - guitars, backing vocals
Clive Nolan - keyboards, backing vocals
Ian Salmon - bass
ick 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: April 1st 2000
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 965
Language: english


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