ARENA BIOGRAPHY I OVERWRITED THE BAND'S BIO THAT I WROTE- THIS IS FROM THEIR WEB SITE UNTIL I REWRITE IT)
Arena's journey commenced in 1995 with the album "Songs From The Lions Cage". At the time consisting of singer John Carson, bass player Cliff Orsi, guitarist Keith More and the two creators, drummer Mick Pointer and keyboard player Clive Nolan, Arena quickly became one of the leading progressive bands around.
The following year, now working with renowned engineer/producer Simon Hanhart behind the mixing desk, Arena released "Pride" and embarked on a successful world tour, now with Paul Wrightson behind the microphone and John Jowitt taking care of the bass. 1997 saw the welcoming of new guitar player John Mitchell and the making of the "The Cry" EP.
In the same year, Mitchell also proved to be a competent producer and engineer when he oversaw the live album "Welcome to the Stage". With no real breathing space, Arena carried on with the making of studio album number three, now with Hanhart and Nolan sharing the producer's chair. In the spring of 1998 the world witnessed the birth of "The Visitor"; Arena's best selling album to date, and months of touring followed.
Although releasing no Arena album in 1999, Verglas Music was very much active, with the spectacular all-star project Nolan & Wakeman's "Jabberwocky" and Mitchell's own The Urbane among the releases.
Due to unfortunate circumstances, Arena had yet again to replace their vocalist. Later that year, John Jowitt wanting to pursue other interests, left the band. The search for the perfect line-up was still ongoing.
Determined not to rush into decisions, but to carefully pick a vocalist with the capability to handle the nuances of Arena's multifaceted songs, the band eventually found what they were looking for in Rob Sowden.
Sowden has proven to be not only a bright shining front man on stage, but also a brilliant and charismatic singer. The main strength being his quality voice; he masters everything ranging from dramatic and demanding rock songs to expressive and sensitive ballads. The new boy had no problem convincing the most die-hard Arena fans that he was the man for the job, when he made his debut during a fan club convention in Holland in May 1999.
A familiar face to prog rock fans is Ian Salmon, bassist extraordinaire and the last piece to complete the jigsaw puzzle. Having played in one of Nolan's other constellations, namely Shadowland for nearly ten years; the band already knew what to expect from this musician with a multitude of talents.
The song writing trio Nolan, Pointer and Mitchell entered their own "programming suite" during late 1999 and created the music for "Immortal?" and the past few months have been spent in Thin Ice Studios, with the dedicated and successful team Nolan/Hanhart once again responsible for the production. Perhaps colored by the recent complications, the songs exude strong images and atmospheres, thus turning the tribulations of the previous year into something much more positive.
Acknowledged as a stunning live act, Arena have a strong following, allowing them to tour Europe regularly with great respond from the audience.
Recently, in Holland's biggest progressive magazine I. O. Pages, the committed fans voted Nolan as the best keyboard player of all times, leaving giants like Tony Banks and Rick Wakeman behind him. Winning most of the prizes possible in Britain's Classic Rock Awards, there is no doubt this is a band highly appreciated by the listeners.
As a taster, the band will make a few appearances at various summer festivals all over the world, and then embark on an extensive tour in October to support "Immortal?". Their new live album, recorded throughout the autumn tour of 1999, will be released to coincide with said European trip.
"Our aim has always been to write songs, and not just a set of complex time changes lacking melody or structure; we write music, not exercises", states Pointer.
There's no question; music comes first for this dynamic quintet. Oblivious to trends and passing fads, Arena has always preferred to set the standards rather than to follow the stream and they favor looking forward musically, using the word "progressive" in its true meaning. Their trademarks have become many over the years; well-written songs with hooks and memorable vocal lines, powerful arrangements and elaborate keyboard playing, compelling guitar work by skilful yet emotional six string master Mitchell, fascinating artwork by Hugh Syme (Rush, Megadeth, Aerosmith etc) superbly linked with Nolan's intriguing lyrical themes.
Every past Arena album has been a classic in its own way, but this one will prove to be Immortal.
Contagion, released in 2003, is a more heavy album than its predecessors but avoids being classified as prog-metal by it's progressive arrangements.
The band is currently on tour.
Songs From The Lions Cage (1995)
The Cry (1997)
Welcome To The Stage (1997)
The Visitor (1998)
Breakfast In Biarritz (2001)