Arena – Songs From The Lions Cage

1995 (Verglas Music)

1: Out Of The Wilderness (8:02)
2: Crying For Help I (1:22)
3: Valley Of The Kings (10:10)
4: Crying For Help II (3:08)
5: Jericho (6:50)
6: Crying For Help III (4:24)
7: Midas Vision (4:36)
8: Crying For Help IV (5:05)
9: Solomon (14:37)

In the mid-nineties people couldn’t stop talking about Arena, a forthcoming new band with keyboard player  Clive Nolan and drummer Mick Pointer. What went on in their heads? The level of playing between the two musicians was sky-high. Nolan was known for his capable playing with which he lifted bands like Pendragon, Shadowland and Stranger On A Train to a higher level. Pointer on the other hand only had “Script For A jester’s Tear” on his resume, the debut album of Marillion on which he played the drums. He also can be heard on some singles and a EP from the band. After that he had a career for over a decade as a kitchen salesman.

Chemistry is a strange thing, the fact that both of them are more than a quarter of a century each others musical partners is the proves of that, they still run Arena despite the many line-up changes. Funny thing is that Arena was meant as a one-time project. That turned out quite differently.

Typical for the band sound is the attractive combination between the playful keyboards and the heavy drums, therefore the band can be classified as fierce neo-prog. Guitar, bass and vocals complete the picture and however the many line-up changes, the sound never drastically changed. You can make sure that Arena has taken a credit for life on February 6th 1995.

I can still remember the first spin. The Netherlands was captivated by the flood of the big rivers and while national tv reported this excited news, the mailman delivered a square package from the UK. Totally against my habit the package remained closed and the tv on. When the broadcast ended, I took the position between my speakers and witnessed an unseen sonic flood.

Ever since I associate “Songs From The Lions Cage” with the happenings in the south and middle-Netherlands. The fierce guitar riffs and the bass guitar in the intro of Out Of The Wilderness reminded me of the carrying of sand-bags. The mighty keyboards and powerful guitar extravaganza symbolizes the power of the water, supported by the bombastic rhythm section. However these associations are purely mine, the many biblical references in the lyrics didn’t miss me. Unfortunately I cannot say anything sensible about it, so you have to do it with my flood-story.

The Valley Of The Kings has a huge keyboard solo. In this I see the stretched flooded fields, while the mellotron can be seen as the invincibility of man. I picture the close harmony in Jericho as the togetherness of the people and the nice Pink Floyd guitar solo of Midas Vision stands at least for the good feeling that is part of that. The closing track Solomon may join the league of best epics of all time. Besides all the band members, guitarist Keith More and vocalist John Carson are mainly responsible for this. More excels, like in the metal piece in the final part and in the euphoric closing melody. It all has so much feeling. Also the images on the tv broadcast touched me deeply. I can hear it all back in the way Carsons sings. He sounds despaired, begging and most of all very combative.

Besides these five songs the album has four short pieces who are standing on the even positions. Crying For Help these parts are called and they each vary on their own. From acoustic guitar to harpsichord, from new age with a telephone to a lovely prog song with a memorable solo from Steve Rothery.

“Songs From The Lions Cage” is a strong album you can’t stop talking about. Not now, not never!

Clive Nolan: keyboards
Mick Pointer: drums
John Carson: vocals
Keith More: guitar
Cliff Orsi: bass
Steve Rothery: guitar
Tracy Hitching: backing vocals
Tosh McMann: backing vocals
Martin Albering: backing vocals
Marc van Dongen: backing vocals

© Dick van der Heijde 2022