As I've already said in my review of "Songs..."
I discovered most of Arena's material when I was on vacation in France. Actually, it all started with "Contagion" really. That was the first album I heard of this band. On every album there's something that made me want to listen to it again. But "Pride" suffered too much from the "I'd-rather-listen-to-Contagion"-syndrome. So I ended up listening to "Contagion" more than anything in my holidays. "Pride" was not bad, but it was just the weakest in my opinion.
In 1996, before "Contagion" and even before "The Visitor", noone had the problem I had in 2005. There was just "Songs..." and "Pride". So it's only fair to compare those two for now.
And when I compare them, I note a few similarities and cross-references. There are nine songs. Four of them are part of the of the "Crying For Help" series. The other five are dealing with either biblical or mythological stories. One epic and a few shorter songs. Also, the first album title has a Lion's Cage in it and the second is a (Lion's?) Pride. Also the first song is called:Welcome To The Cage
And what a fine welcome it is! A very uptempo song driven by keyboards and guitar. Some have made comparisons to Marillion's Market Square Heroes
, and I can see where that came from. Still, I think this one is much more powerful and I hope noone is gonna stone me to death when I say that Paul is a much better singer than Fish. In my opinion of course.
Again, the middle section is slower and a bit spacey, with Floydian guitars.Crying For Help V
I think this is the best of the Crying For Help series. It has a soothing effect on me. Perfect flute, or a flute-alike. It's not too long either. It gives me a feeling of hope.Empire Of A Thousand Days
I've already seen that a lot of Arena fans like this song very much. I never really understood why. I found the first few minutes always quite boring. But now I can 'understand'. The quiet parts ("Can there be comfort left?") do have a tiny bit of "The Visitor"'s mystery in it. And the guitar riff at 3:50 with the underlying synth layer is really cool. There's a church organ part and right after that comes yet another guitar solo. "Let the meek lie down" is a great sing-a-long party. Yes, it is indeed a good song!Crying For Help VI
Here's Pride's Harpsichord Song. It goes hand in hand with Crying For Help II
. Nice, but not great.Medusa
Great bass playing in this one. Jowitt really has his own style. I love how there's the subtle organ in there. Of course this is a simple song, but for some reason it really works for me.Crying For Help VII
Well, this one does NOT work for me. I know it's some sort of statement or something. And Paul Wrightson pulls it of really well. But I'm not really the a capella kind of guy. The version on "The Cry" EP is much better, and I really like that one.Fool's Gold
It starts right away with nice staccato organ. Then the chorus "All that glisters is not gold, or so the wise man said" sounds really cool. Then a Fishy "Fools gold! Ah! Fools gold!". I simply love the spooky "Let your conscience decide!" that still sends shivers down my spine. Great guitar solos after that, with a very cool keyboard sound underneath. The guitar solo at 4:10 is great! Later on it is repeated! Also listen to the bass parts there. The "digging deep" guitar riff is great. Actually, overall it's just a very energetic song with lots of things going on.Crying For Help VIII
Although it is a bit long and monotonous, for some reason Crying For Help VIII
works extremely well. And indeed, it is a nice prelude for the epic of the album.Sirens
And there it is. A few solos here and there. Yes it's great! But it can't beat Solomon
. Nice how the guitars kick in at 9:40.Conclusion
Arena's debut album is a masterpiece. "Pride" is not. But it doesn't have to be. You can't have masterpieces every year. For some reason, when I listen to "Pride" it makes me want to put "Songs..." on. I guess that's not a good sign. Still there are a few gems here: Crying For Help V
, Fool's Gold
. A difficult album indeed, but when you dig deep in this album, you'll find the gold...