Arena - The Unquiet Sky

(CD 2015, 55:39, Verglas Records)

The tracks:
  1- The Demon Strikes(5:37)
  2- How Did It Come To This?(4:30)
  3- The Bishop Of Lufford(5:24)
  4- Oblivious To The Night(2:47)
  5- No Chance Encounter(4:30)
  6- Markings On A Parchment(2:19)
  7- The Unquiet Sky(5:29)
  8- What Happened Before(4:55)
  9- Time Runs Out(4:39)
10- Returning The Curse(3:48)
11- Unexpected Dawn(3:52)
12- Traveller Beware(7:40)

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One of England's best progressive rock bands Arena celebrates their 20th anniversary this year. The band with ex and current members of Pendragon, It Bites and Marillion, have just released their 8th studio album called: The Unquiet Sky.

The twelve new songs are all typical Arena songs, which you recognise just after a couple of seconds and again, as usual, the guitar melodies of John Mitchell and the keys of Clive Nolan dominate the sound of the album. The Unquiet Sky is a concept album and it was inspired by the short horror story Casting The Runes, written by M.R. James; the 1957 movie Night Of The Demon is an adaptation of the story. The theme of the album and also the atmosphere and the sound truly remind me of the Leonardo: The Absolute Man album (2001) by Trent Gardner. Opener The Demon Strikes is a classical, very recognisable Arena opening, filled with strings, piano and fierce guitar melodies and solos. The vocals are dramatic, emotional and in my opinion sometimes a bit over the top. Follow up How Did It Come To This?, is a ballad with a nice melodic Mitchell solo in the middle. The Bishop Of Lufford is one of the highlights of the album, featuring a bombastic intro, followed by breath taking guitar solos and excellent orchestral passages. This track almost sounds like a mini opera and the Fish-like vocals are an additional treat to this track. A song of the same high musical level is the title track, which kicks off with a choir, furthermore featuring a very catchy chorus and the best and longest guitar solo of the entire album. The other songs are all excellent Arena numbers, but sadly the musical level drops a bit and the band starts to repeat itself too much. The only rather “weak” song is called Oblivious To The Night, which is more of an intermezzo than a real song.

Over all you could say that Arena did it again as The Unquiet Sky is a treat for fans of true British prog rock music in the vein of Marillion, Pendragon, IQ and It Bites. If you liked the other seven Arena albums you can buy this new CD without further ado; ENJOY.

**** Martien Koolen (edited by Astrid de Ronde)

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