Album Reviews: Pepper's Ghost by ArenaArena, the British neo-prog outfit, is playfully pretentious on their latest, Pepper's Ghost. The album's "7 Stories of Mystery & Imagination" are delivered with an over-the-top theatrical flair, complete with comic book portrayals of the band members as the "Knights of the London Fog."
Fantasy lyrical content finds a comfortable home over constantly changing meters and melodramatic musical settings. Themes of illusion and madness are shamelessly served up over a bedding of prog-metal pomp. Guitarist John Mitchell is the standout, displaying an impressive range from strummed acoustic rhythms to percussive electric riffing to sweeping lead arpeggios.
While there are no dull moments on this album, the most compelling tracks are the tragic "The Eyes of Laura Moon," and the touching lament of "Tantalus," the son of Zeus punished for his mischievous deeds by an eternity of thirst while submerged up to his neck in water. The album reaches its inevitable conclusion with the 13-minute epic "Opera Fanatica," replete with pseudo-operatic vocals, galloping Brit-rock rhythms, and a grandiose finale.
Pepper's Ghost is a refreshing antidote to the heartfelt reality works of today's broken-hearted singer/songwriters. If Berlioz were to write the "Symphonie Fantastique" today, it would probably sound a lot like this. - Chris Allen
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