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Review series: "Pride"

Started by PH, Mon, 2011-10-31, 07:50:54

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Hi everyone!

This is part two of the Arena discography review series where we eventually review each studio release. This week is "Pride" week.

When you want to check back for the 'conditions' or 'rules' (not that there are many), check back the topic about "Songs From The Lions Cage".

24 October - 30 October: "Songs From The Lions Cage"
31 October - 6 November "Pride"
7 November - 13 November "The Visitor"
14 November - 20 November "Immortal?"
21 November - 27 November "Contagion"
28 November - 4 December "Pepper's Ghost"
5 December - 11 December "The Seventh Degree Of Seperation"


From today (31 October) till Sunday (6 November) we will review Arena's difficult second album! Have fun!


With Pride we can continue the Marillion comparison: just like Marillion's second album Fugazi, Pride is very much the same mould as the debut a year before, yet with a more raw and agressive edge to it.

It opens energetically with Welcome To The Cage, a title inspired by the title of the editorial of the Cage fanzine. A fun track that reminds me of Incommunicado. I like the menacing interlude ("when you're forced to the wall etc") the most.

Empire.. is the highlight of the album for me, big and bombastic like Valley Of The Kings, the basic theme/riff is marvellous and the finale (the organ solo, the gorgeous guitar solo and then "Let the meek lie down"etc) I can hear again and again (and have).

Fool's Gold is another great epic, a bit less strong than Empire, but the quiet part ("No it's not alright to call..") that slowly builds towards the guitar solo is one of the absolute Arena highlights for me.

Medusa is a nice ballad, nothing groundbreaking but a nice song between all the big mighty epics. The Cry tracks on Pride are very good, a bit stronger than on Songs I think. The final part a bit too long and repetitive maybe until the beautiful choir comes in, which more than compensates for it and makes it a great intro for closing track...

...Sirens. Solomon's twin sister is a great way to end the album. It never became the same kind of classic as Solomon, maybe because it's too much the same idea yet lacks the same anthemic quality ("Does it matter to you"!), but it's a stunning track nevertheless that I'd like to hear live again (just like Empire...).

So, to conclude, Arena succeeds with the notoriously difficult second album, especially given the double line up change (vocals and bass). They consolidated their sound and delivered a strong album, but did not break any new ground. That would come with their third album after yet another line up change, to be continued next week!
We stare at our screens
All our lives
What a waste of eyes..


Fantastic review Erik! :)

I'm still not ready to write a review since I've never really pushed myself to listen to the album on a full-listen basis. Probably because to me this is really Arena's least album. So I'm still heavily listening to this album.

These Arena review series is more or less a therapy. We are indeed forced to listen to the albums.

I think I can already agree with you on the "Cry" parts on this album: they are a little bit better than on "Songs". Although the strictly a capella song is a bit too much for me.


Quote from: PH on Mon, 2011-10-31, 18:05:34
Although the strictly a capella song is a bit too much for me.
It's a quite courageous move and works well I think, although I slightly prefer the version on the Cry EP that's backed by acoustic guitar. Just as it's a mirror song to Empire.. lyrically (refer to lyrics article that Tom posted the link to in the Songs.. thread), it's also a mirror song musically: a capella from the view of the oppressed versus the heavy bombastic sound of the ruler.

The vocal highlight on the album for me though is the first part of Sirens, simply beautiful and moving.
We stare at our screens
All our lives
What a waste of eyes..

The Butterfly Man

Pride......... tough one, certainly not among my favourite albums by Arena. My main gripe is the production. The music sounds a bit too cold and shallow to my ears. Songs From The Lions Cage for example sounds much warmer. Anyway, instead of writing a review I will point out some of my personal highlights on this album, just like I did with 'Songs'.

Empire Of A Thousand Days. I've never been the biggest fan of Paul Wrichtson but the laid-back way in which he sings the 'innocence of acquaintance or liaison' - and 'an act of trust is as fragile as a child'-parts is really good. Of course, the already mentioned organ-bit followed by that great guitarsolo are great too and I always liked the 'Let the meek lie down!'-part too...until I heard Rob Sowden's version on Ten Years On. But as I said, I've never been the biggest fan of Paul Wrichtson's voice - I think it's too dramatic - whereas Rob Sowden is still my favourite Arena-singer.

Fool's Gold. That guitarsolo!!! *horns* I also like the lyrics on this one.

Crying For Help VIII. Very beautiful, especially when the choir comes in. It serves as a nice build up to...

Sirens. I like everything about this track, especially after things kick of after the electric guitar enters. The aggressive music that follows 'In shadows I can see light. I whisper your name... In the night' is probably my highlight of this song (and the album). It makes me wanna jump around and bang my head. :P The ending is also very good but to me they tried a bit too hard to recreate the anthemic ending of Solomon.

By the way, wouldn't it be nice if they dusted off Sirens again for the upcoming tour?


There will be white clouds beyond the hills...



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.

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.

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.

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 and Sirens. A difficult album indeed, but when you dig deep in this album, you'll find the gold...


I have to be honest : I had completely lost any remembrance of Pride's three epics. In fact, "Welcome To The Cage", "Medusa" and "Crying For Help VII" were the only songs that "spoke" to me when I re-listened to Pride for the first time in years this week-end.

But I did remember having a soft spot for this album, more than for Songs ... And after four or five new listens, I know why : I like it ... a lot !

So I am going to disagree with some of you and with the guys in the band who don't consider Pride as a highpoint in their career, according to their biography.

Unlike Tom, I like Pride's production better than Songs'. I find it more lively and dynamic (sorry, I can't give a more technical explanation) where I find, like Mad, that Songs has a somewhat distant sound.

Unlike Erik, I love "Medusa". I would put it in my Arena's top ten and maybe even in my top five. The song is extremely catchy and Paul's singing during the verses, along with the soft piano touch, really moves me. Furthermore, as the ice on the cake, I don't hear any hint of another neo-prog band : it's all Arena (with maybe a bit of Shadowland, if you really search for an influence).

On the contrary, the other songs IMHO show influences. This time, it's more IQ than Marillion, with even a pinch of Pendragon towards the end of "Empire". I make clear that this is not a criticism nor a bad point for me, even more when you consider the strong links between those bands : Mike was in Marillion, Clive was and is still a Pendie and the co-founder of Shadowland, John was and is now back in IQ. And Paul has some intonations that remind me of another Paul, Menel in this case.

I won't do a track by track review but what I can tell is that the songs really grew strongly on me listen after listen, way more than I excepted, especially for the epics. "Fool's Gold", for instance, let me cold at first and now I love it : very dynamic, with great guitar riffs a la IQ. Empires made me a better impression at first, then became a bit of a letdown and finally convinced me, especially from the 5' mark where it becomes delightful.

And then comes the last but not least "Sirens" that gathers all the praises. So far, I hear excellent moments like the keyboards and guitar solos (especially the last one around the 11' mark) but the slow-paced first seven minutes seem a bit long. I think that I still need more listens to fully enjoy this demanding song.

The concept of the "Crying For Help" interludes continues from Songs. V and VI parts are delicate and nice while I have mixed feelings about part VII (mainly because I am biased, knowing the electric version of the song before discovering this original a capella version) but I still like to sing along. Finally, part VIII is interesting from the 3' mark but drags along before that point.

One last word about the artwork : again, it seems rather amateur but I do like the painting on the cover though I would have prefered a thinner marble frame.

One more-than-last word about Paul Wrightson : I think his voice perfectly fits the music but IMHO it's a permanent feature in Arena's history. Three great singers so far and I hope that the new one will perpetuate the tradition.

Best moment for me : the sequence of "CFH VI" and "Medusa".


Don't have that much to add ;). The album starts with a 'happy' song for Arena standards. Love the keyboard sounds on this track. 'Empire of a Thousand Days' becomes interesting later on in the track, agree with Tom. Paul Wrightson hasn't been my favourite singer, but his voice works really well on 'Medusa'. Love the guitar solo on 'Fool's Gold' and the closer is my favourite track, love it from start to finish. The 'Crying for Help' interludes again work well, except for the a capella one, that's over the top to me. All in all a good successor to 'Songs From The Lions Cage', but no improvement for my taste.
'I will surrender my heart to the sky
Oh, our love doesn't end here, it lives forever on the wings of time'
Toto - Wings of time (Kingdom of Desire)