I used to follow Arena’s music in the beginning but after The Cry I lost interest. Years later I picked up Immortal? And it was a totally different sounding band. They started to get into the prog-metal camp and again I lost interest. I really enjoyed Lion's Cage and Pride CDs and was hoping for something similar, then along came Pepper’s Ghost. I was skeptical about the music but gave it a chance.
I am so glad I did because Arena is back to form with some additional updated sounds. They retained some of the metal sounds, luckily in moderation and I even hear, dare I say a slight post-rock vibe thanks in part to Rob Snowden’s involvement with his band Solar. To me this elevates Arena beyond their original musical conception as a Neo-prog band. Much in a way how IQ has elevated themselves over the years.
The title, Pepper’s Ghost refers to a “ghost-like” image projected via glass reflections created in Victorian-era London. The lyrics convey that concept with themes of mis-perceptions of images. The album cover art is provided by David Wyatt and shows the band in the roles of Victorian comic book characters that Clive Nolan created for each member.
It is a concept album but not in a flowing way. As afore mentioned there’s a common theme with illusions. Stand out tracks for me are Smoke And Mirrors (which is the more obvious of the themes and the most mainstream sounding song) and of course the “epic” closer Opera Fanatica. I'm sure people that will get to experience these songs live will be very happy campers.
This is one of the few releases that I enjoy playing over an over again. It clearly fits into any symphonic prog lovers collection. There really isn’t a bad song on the album. In fact all songs are winners which makes it a essential purchase for those that are fan’s of their early work as well as symphonic prog for 2005.
Reviewed by Ron Fuchs on March 8th, 2005