Posts Tagged ‘Clive Nolan’

ARENA: The Unquiet Sky

April 23, 2015

ARENA, The Unquiet Sky

Studio album 27 April 2015

12 tracks (55:30)


Paul Manzi: vocals

John Mitchell: guitars

Clive Nolan: keyboards

Kylan Amos: bass

Mick Pointer: drums


Arena has produced a fine piece of prog rock that belongs in the library of every fan of classic neo-prog and especially in the hands of all fans of M.R. James, weird fiction & ghost stories, and classic horror movie adaptations.

The Unquiet Sky, the eighth studio release of one of the long-time mainstays of the “third-wave” of the neo-prog revival of the 1980s, delivers what prog listeners have always enjoyed—pure entertainment, conceptual storytelling, and blistering good musicianship!

This album while not inspired or elevated to “classic” status (at least not yet; time is usually needed in making such judgments) gives us, however, more than songs and music—one is placed into a cinematic horror story of black magic, evil, revenge, and perseverance in heroism. The larger than life story & libretto come from Clive Nolan’s brilliant re-imagining of the famous British short story ‘Casting the Runes’ by master of unsettling and intelligent spectrally-speculative fiction M. R. James. (a great podcast discussing this seminal short story can be heard at: )

Nolan has not given us a rote regurgitation of the prose of James but has gone for the visual and emotive power of the 1957 screen adaptation (liberal adaptation) ‘Night of the Demon.’ (


From the striking cover art of Kylan Amos (the bass player; this guy is GOOD) to the creepy and complex lyrics, this is a wonderful old-fashioned concept prog album that gets better and better upon successive listens.

The solid rhythm section of Pointer and Amos anchors everything down and keeps the story driving on relentlessly, BUT it’s the standout performances of Nolan on keyboards, Mitchell on guitars, and most of all Paul Manzi on vocals that totally draw the listener into this dark and deadly story.

From the opening 90 seconds of instrumental madness in track 1, The Demon Strikes, the whole disc bleeds out cinematic soundtrack undercurrents, painted upon by Mitchell’s incredible solos and Nolan’s washes of melodic synths and clever samples and sound effects. I am a huge, huge, John Mitchell fan (peremptorily naming his Lonely Robot/Welcome Home album Best Album of 2015 in February) but it’s the singing of Manzi that makes the whole concept story work. Whether the music varies from neo-prog tropes (heavy synths and keyboard duets with lead guitar) to more theatrical Andrew Lloyd Weber stage music (at times almost like Styx meets Tran Siberian Orchestra), it’s Manzi that sings with power and authority holding the listener’s interest. So whether it’s a slower ballad or a rousing power metal/prog metalish anthem, the vocals are clean, clear, and up front in the great mix.  The album is so good it will make you want to track down the movie, and especially the James’ short-story!

Arena has made an album I needed to hear. I rate it a solid A-/A.



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