Fireworks

Arena - 'The Unquiet Sky' Hot

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Written by Central Electronic Brain     July 30, 2015    
 
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Another excellent album that all fans of good music will love.

It's been almost four years since the last Arena release 'The Seventh Degree Of Separation'. Since then, bassist John Jowitt has again left the fold to be replaced by Kylan Amos whilst this is the second album featuring vocalist Paul Manzi, who for me is at least the equal to Paul Wrightson. It also, rather shockingly, celebrates the bands twentieth anniversary.

'The Unquiet Sky' is, and this shouldn't surprise anyone, a concept album of very dark subject matter, which, and this may surprise you, doesn't include any "epics" as such. The songs are all relatively short, most being between four to six minutes with the longest being just under eight minutes with the album as a whole containing twelve tracks.

It starts in very dramatic style with 'The Demon Strikes' and a brilliantly orchestrated intro from Clive Nolan, which is reminiscent of 'Opera Fanatica' before striding out in all its majesty with John Mitchell making an early appearance on guitar. As is typical with Arena, there's a lot of contrasts with the heavier, more intense tracks and quieter more balladic songs. The first of these is 'How Did It Come To This?' which has a really nice guitar solo from Mitchell and demonstrates the emotion in Manzi's voice. 'Oblivious To The Night' is a weird little track, at just under three minutes and it's a puzzler to me; it's pleasant but I failed to understand its part in the album. I feel it would work better in the middle of a different song.

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The title track and 'Unexpected Dawn' probably fit between the soft and heavy with the former being very melodic, the latter has a very strong Uriah Heep vibe to it while the vocal is very reminiscent of Ronnie James Dio (check out 'Catch The Rainbow' on the debut Rainbow album). The dramatic includes the strangely titled 'The Bishop Of Lufford' (don't bother checking Google, there wasn't one), 'No Chance Encounter' which starts heavy, has Funk guitar in the middle and a big finish, 'What Happened Before,' which is total Prog with key and tempo changes and some nice tinkly piano from Nolan and 'Time Runs Out', a bleak song about dying with Nolan doing a Tony Banks solo and ending as a foot tapper, despite the subject. Final track 'Traveller Beware' is the longest at seven and a half and has another excellent and precise guitar solo from Mitchell.

This is another excellent album that all fans of good music will love and the majority of tracks are instantly accessible, while the others soon settle in with just a couple of listens. It's easy to see why they have made the twenty year mark.

Andy Brailsford

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