Arena – Songs from the lions cage
After Mick Pointer was booted from Marillion’s drum stool by Fish, he pretty much withdrew from music to focus on his business and family. Ten years later, he met up with Clive Nolan and began writing new music together. And by “new,” I mean in the neo-prog style established in the 1980’s by Clive’s and Mick’s other bands, but updated with an epic hard rock edge. Kinda like a bastard son of a tawdry 1981 affair between Genesis and Rush. Big production numbers, stretching well beyond radio-play time limits, incorporating lots of differing bits thrown together to tell stories of passion, heartbreak, revolution, triumph, and stuff like that. I find myself liking the bits, but as whole songs, they mostly suffer from discontinuity and disjointedness. “Valley of the Kings,” with its “Dodo” rip-off intro, is the only rock track I like all the way through.
So then there’s the “Crying for Help” series. This was originally intended to be a complete piece of music, but they ended up using the bits as little atmospheric interludes between the epic rock tracks. Something about them invokes images of adventure video games like Final Fantasy or The Legend of Zelda. The exception is “IV,” which features the whole band in rock-ballad mode, and featuring an appropriately wailing guitar solo from guest Steve Rothery.