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Review series: "Immortal?"

Started by PH, Mon, 2011-11-14, 10:08:11

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Hi fellow Arena fans! ;)

Part four in the review series has started! This week we listen extensively to "Immortal?".

Once again, if you want to know what this thread is about, check the "Songs From The Lions Cage" reviews thread.

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 (14 November) till Sunday (20 November) we will review Arena's fourth studio album! Good luck!

The Butterfly Man

Yes. Arena's best album to date (if you ask me ;)).

I will edit this post when I find some time to write something about this masterpiece. 8)

There will be white clouds beyond the hills...



With Arena's last album, they set the bar really high. "The Visitor" still is a masterpiece in (Neo) Progressive Rock. Is it possible to have two masterpieces in a row? It's not impossible, it's just very improbable. Especially considering the changes that were made. Paul Wrightson, the more than proficient singer, had left the band. Rob Sowden became the new singer. But also in the bass department was some shifting. The iconic John Jowitt was replaced by Ian Salmon. Such changes normally would make a band very instable.

Not Arena.

I think this is the best opener Arena has done. It's so powerful! I especially love the keyboard solo which is backed up by a guitar riff. All the keyboards are so epic on this album. And Rob's vocals are 'darker' than Paul's and thus fit the music amazingly well. I don't know what exactly happened, but "Immortal?" is much heavier than "The Visitor". And I like it a lot!

Waiting For The Flood
A nice pieceful song. The 'flute' solo is very melodic and very nice. I also love the 'choirs'. It's all Clive. This man is more than a keyboard player, he is a mood player. This is a very beautiful song indeed and in my opinion it is one of the weakest on the album. ;) That's saying something about this album!

The Butterfly Man
Alright no jokes now. This one is truly a miracle. From start to finish, this is what Arena is about. It starts with an eerie keyboard melody. The lyrics are pretty dark too: "He waits in the dark, for lives misguided and wrecked. The catcher of innocent souls. He's proud of his human collection." When the chorus kicks in for the second time, you'll be blown away. Even more when the guitar solo takes it over from the chorus. It would be very obvious to talk about the amazing(!) guitar solos in this song (and album), but I can't simply tell you with words how cool it all is. So therefore I just want to mention what a fantastic bass player Ian Salmon is. Always very precise and right on time too. Also one little fragment that I'd like to point out is the part where the choir sings "Miserere mei". Very well done, it gives me goosebumps everytime!

Ghost In The Firewall
Before I started to review this album, I didn't like this song at all. But now I had to listen to it several times and there was no way I could just skip this song. True, it's a bit of a strange song, but the chorus is really good. Again the epicness of the keyboards and all the sounds make it better.

Climbing Up The Net
Well, this song is really out of place on the album. It sounds... happy. It also reminds me of Welcome To The Cage. But it still has a lot to offer. Mainly keyboards. Lots of them. And it fades out and then...

Moviedrome comes in! "Immortal?" only has seven songs. But this one is almost 20 minutes long. But it feels like five minutes. It's such an exciting song full of interesting bits and pieces. 30 seconds into the song we are introduced to the main theme of the song by a siren like vocal. Clive does all these vocals and choirs a lot on this album. And I don't know why, but it always sounds so good. I wonder why he doesn't write film scores. He would be really good at it. At 6:35 the song begins a small instrumental interlude. Lots of mean guitar and keyboard stuff. Really, how can someone play something like that keyboard part at 7:13. All jumpy and exciting. This song is filled with some of the scariest guitar parts. Wow! I really like the piano part in the middle, which is written by John Mitchell when he was only seventeen years old. Then at 11:12 JM lies down a really beautiful guitar solo which is only interrupted by a very epic synthetic horn playing the Moviedrome theme. At 14:40 the song accelerates and some very strange and unearthly guitar stuff comes through the speakers. "So we're standing in the Moviedrome!" and finally again the theme by John Mitchell on guitar and Clive Nolan on his siren voice synth. A really fantastic gem of a song. In my opinion it's better than Solomon and still one of the best Arena has done.

Friday's Dream
After a song like Moviedrome you're craving for something calm again. And Friday's Dream is the best way to end the album. It has also a very nice chorus (again), and it sounds hopeful to my ears. Which is always kind of nice after such a dark album. It ends with a gentle whisper: "Wake up!". Was it all a dream?

In my review of "The Visitor" I asked myself whether Arena could make an album that's even better than "The Visitor". It's actually hard to answer that question. I think as a whole, perhaps "The Visitor" is better, but songs like The Butterfly Man or Moviedrome are truly one of the best Arena has done so far. So, is this album a masterpiece? Yes, perhaps not in the same way as "The Visitor", but that's not necessary. These two albums are very different from each other, but they are both very good!


Phew... I had a hard time reviewing this album... :(
For some reason I always forget this album when mentioning Arena's discography.

"There's "Songs...", "Pride", "The Visitor", "Contagion" and... wait I forget "Immortal?"..."

I don't know why that is. But it is such a fantastic album. To me, Arena really made a progression from "The Visitor" to "Immortal?".

Just had to add that to my review as a kind of appendix. ;)


OK, Tom is going to kill me for that but anyway ...

Until last week, I could have summarized Immortal ? that way : one heavy and bombastic opener, two wonderful ballads, a never-ending/hard to swallow epic and three lesser songs.

After last days' intensive re-listening, have I changed my mind ? Well, yes and no.

"Chosen" is still a great heavy and bombastic opener.

The two ballads are still wonderful. "Waiting For The Flood" builds slowly and becomes more and more moving along the way. I love the keyboards solo and the acoustic guitar reprise. I love the bass/keyboards outro too. In fact, I think I love everything in it. The most distinguished Arena song in my book. "Friday's Dream" is just immaculate. I played it at nauseam and plan to go on singing the chorus for years to come. To be honest, I have to admit that there's a kind of Robbie Williams vibe floating around but I don't care.

The epic "Moviedrome" is indeed epic. After ten recent listens, I think that I am beginning to get it. But I still would not consider it as a great and cohesive epic. I still have this feeling of a patchwork that I had for "Sirens", even amplified by the 20' length. Cinema fans often have a postulate : black and white movies are good. I have the sensation that prog fans have also their own postulate : a long epic is good. I don't share those postulates. Moviedrome has undeniably great parts : the vocal lines, the median guitar solo but as a whole it does not completely convince me. Maybe after ten more listens ... Plus, I have to say that this Halloween-like keyboards theme freaks me out a little.

And then the three "lesser" songs. Yes, "The Butterfly man" is the first of them  :-[ Of course, it is a good song but it is so dark and disturbing that I can not really enjoy it. Maybe I have done something wrong and I fear to look over my shoulder in case of the Butterfly man would be there ... In a word, maybe I am the only Arena fan who could live without this song. "Ghost In The Firewall" is the second but PH already said it all about it two posts above and I am 100% with him here. Last but not least is "Climbing The Net". Again, I share PH's thoughts -happy but out of place song reminding of "Welcome To The Cage- but my recent listens really reconciled me with this song : a lot of rhythm, a good chorus, I like it now.

To sum up, I really rediscovered "Immortal ?" and I like it much more than before, when I only played "Chosen" and the ballads, skipping everything else. And I am sure that "Moviedrome" will grow on me since I am not discouraged by its length anymore. But I would not recommend any Arena newbie to begin here.

One last word about the cover, courtesy of Hugh Syme for the second time in a row. Clive told in The Salt And The Sand that he likes the picture but not as a cover. I can understand it since the vision of this fat babyman in a diaper with a foetus in a phial beside him is purposely shabby and I would not like my children to come down on it.


Going to have to go along with most of Bupie's thoughts here with one major exception - The Butterfly Man, second best song on the album imho.
Chosen is a fabulous track as the opener for Immortal? a track I'll never tire of hearing followed by Waiting For The Flood, certainly not the strongest track but still a good listen. I feel much the same way with Ghost In The Firewall and Climbing the net, not Arena's strongest songs but still better that the best many other bands achieve.
Moviedrome, don't know why I just don't get it, not because it's long, there's plenty of long songs I really like, don't know what it is.
Friday's Dream, makes up for not getting Moviedrome, this track is just sublime, one of the best songs in history, I can play this over and over and over again, and then some more!!

Not the best Arena album for me but does have one of the best songs ever on it :)


Don't know exactly anymore, but somewhere on the internet (a recommendation by someone on an other forum or a review on a progressive website) Arena caught my attention. Google helped me to find the Arena website and I played the track 'The Butterfly man'.  Nice calm beginning, great singer and then the guitars came in. I was totally blown away, what a versatile song!! I also loved the other tracks on the website. It didn't last long that I decided to order my first Arena album, which of course was 'Immortal' and the rest is history as they say. Now I've got all the studio albums and a few live- and fanclubcd's.
Though 'Immortal' is not my favourite album (still to come ;)), you'll understand I still have a weak spot for it.
I won't do a track-by-track review, I love them all! If you've got 20 minutes to explain what's prog all about, just play 'Moviedrome'. Rob Sowden always has been my favourite Arena singer, it is obvious that Immortal? tops all the previous Arena releases for me.
'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)


Released in between the two superb concept albums The Visitor and Contagion, Immortal? may be overlooked somewhat, but it's easily the best of the "separate songs" albums and deserves attention.

At first glance (the tracklist) it may seem a return to the Songs/Pride format, with a mixture of epics and shorter songs, the big epic (their longest yet) at the end of the album. A closer look reveals Arena has moved on, both musically and lyrically.

For me it started there, with the lyrics. I had become the regular writer of the "Follow The Signs" articles in the Cage fanzine and Clive kindly sent me the lyrics (starting with Moviedrome, then the rest) to start chewing on them ahead of the release. So the lyrics already painted all kinds of images for me before I had heard a single note of music. Given the many references to technology and the internet, it's obviously set in the present or (near) future, we're far away from the ancient vibe of Songs and Pride.

Musically, it's another progression for Arena, with a more heavy and modern sounding edge. And new vocalist Rob Sowden contributes to a change of sound as well, with a quite different voice than his two predecessors. No hint of Fish this time. Arena had already shed their "marillionesqueness" with The Visitor, but on Immortal? they define their own sound further.

Chosen is a great, heavy opener, with great riffing, drums and keyboards. Waiting For The Flood I didn't like at all first time I heard the album, did not seem to fit at all. It grew on me and now I love it, with its sinister lyrics and Genesis/Trick Of The Tail vibe. The Butterfly Man is one of the all time favourite, classic Arena tracks. A great epic from start to finish, marvellous instrumental parts and poignant lyrics. Brilliant. Ghost In The Firewall, with its staccato rhythm and power chorus, is sort of an update of Midas Vision. Solid track. Climbing The Net is one of my least favourite Arena tracks. It has the vintage Arena/Marillion sound (i.e. Jericho, Welcome To The Cage... ...Incommunicado, Market Square Heroes), but somehow it doesn't really work for me. Then we have the monster track Moviedrome. This is no Solomon/Sirens part III, this is a whole new beast. A rollercoaster journey with many different moods and parts and evocative lyrics, a real tour de force. The album closes with a  shorter 'epilogue song', the ballad Friday's Dream. I really like this track that's carried by Rob's vocals.

So there we have it, my third favourite after The Visitor and ... (you know, next weeks review album ;)).

For my reflections and Clive's remarks regarding the lyrics:
Take A Leap Of Faith
Got To Build A Tower
And Where Will You Find Immortality

We stare at our screens
All our lives
What a waste of eyes..


It seems the whole forum has been silent for a long while. I have been listening to old Arena stuff and although Moviedrome is one of the songs I like best, I still dont get the lyrics. Anybody care to explain what the song is about??


Quote from: BRUNILLION on Tue, 2017-09-26, 01:58:27
It seems the whole forum has been silent for a long while. I have been listening to old Arena stuff and although Moviedrome is one of the songs I like best, I still dont get the lyrics. Anybody care to explain what the song is about??

Wow, Brunillion.
Long time no see.
Last time I saw you on a forum was at DPRP.
Welcome back!

Nowadays forums become a bit obsolete since FB.

To my knowledge Moviedrome is about how kids grow up with the technical possibilities nowadays, like internet, t.v. and such and that it isn't always a good thing.
The kids become lazy I guess.
Cause of Injury: Lack of Adhesive Ducks.