Arena - The Cry


Year of Release: 1997
Label: Verglas
Catalog Number: VGCD 005
Format: CD
Total Time: 35:47:00

Although released in 1997, I've only recently gotten my hands on this disk. I don't know why this is called an EP, really, as it is a complete album in every sense of the word. I guess it is due to its length - and yes, it is far too short at 35 minutes.

I have liked Arena since their debut close to five years ago, Songs From The Lion's Cage. The Cry takes unused material as well as material that originally appeared on their first two albums - Songs and Pride. That material was the "Crying For Help" interludes. The liner notes give all the details, including notes on each track - therefore I won't delve into that here (nor am I going to compare them to those that appear on the original albums).

My overall comment on this disk is that it is beautiful and lush, with a light touch. There are some instrumental passages here that are simply stunning - correction, all the instrumental passages, which make up the bulk of the album. "The Offering" is but one example, where Clive Nolan's keyboard notes are, on (with) the one hand plucked (like a harp) and on (with) the other floating (like a flute) - a great dynamic here that is at once neo-progressive rich and classically textured. This is smoothly followed by the basically unchanged "Problem Line" ("Crying for Help III" on Songs).

In some ways, the original "Crying for Help" sections were overshadowed by the heavier tracks on the respective albums - putting them into a solo setting not only highlights them, but also gives Nolan and guitarist John Mitchell a chance to spread out, to play with a lighter, more lyrical touch.

The album is so seemlessly produced and arranged that it is hard to tell where one movement ends and another begins - which is perfect, because this will take you on a sonic journey. This is all by design, of course, as the musical themes are repeated in various variations. There are passages that will make you think less of neo-prog and more of Enya, actually - I am refering to the track "Fallen Idols," which is a new version of "Crying For Help II" (Songs). And yet, there are passages that recall the atmospheric aspects to their most recent release, The Visitor: that sense of the epic, of dramatic notes, played in a haunting fashion, ethereal, swirling...subtle. In fact, comparing this to The Visitor is not far off - as there is that same sense of going on a journey, however different that journey is.

Steve Rothery guests on "Only Child" - those who know me, know what kind of thrilling chills go up my spine hearing Rothery play. There may be technically better guitarists out there, but Rothery is the one that does it for me. I can't really describe how I react to his playing, except maybe to say I don't only hear it, I feel it (this is what I found missing from Radiation). Now, not to take anything away from Mitchell - not at all. His style is like Rothery's, but not so much like him that he's a clone. It's style rather than tone that's the same with those well placed, sparse, sustained, beautiful notes.

Only three of the album's ten tracks have vocals, all by Paul Wrightson, who left the band after the release of The Visitor (1998).

The closing track, "The Healer" is a rocker in the well known Arena style - where Wrightson sounds more like a Fish / Gabriel / Barrett / (Wrightson) mix...actually, throw North Star's Tom Newman in there, too (which, given his vocal similarity to Phil Collins, means we have to throw Phil into the mix, too). You won't at any point say he sounds exactly like any of them (except Wrightson, of course), but phrases here and there have their tonal quality. I focus on this unnecessarily, really, because it is far from being either criticism or complaint.

This is simply a stunning piece of work, and a must have for not only Arena fans, but any fan of finely crafted symphonic music. Highly recommended.


Tracklisting:
Theme (0:55) / The Cry (3:10) / The Offering (2:33) / Problem Line (4:02) / Isolation (1:59) / Fallen Idols (4:12) / Guidance (5:09) / Only Child (5:03) / Stolen Promise (2:58) / The Healer (5:44)

Musicians:
Clive Nolan - keyboards and backing vocals
John Mitchell - guitars
Paul Wrightson - vocals
John Jowitt - bass
Mick Pointer - drums
Steve Rothery - guitar (8)

Discography:
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)

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

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: October 11th 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Artist website: www#arenaband#co#uk
Hits: 667
Language: english

  

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