It has been over a year now since
"Pepper's Ghost" was released (January or February 2005) and
back then I was anxiously awaiting it's arrival after being
completely blown away by "Contagion" and the EP's and DVD
that followed from that album. Arena were my favorite band
during that period. They were on equal ground with my other
favorite bands like Porcupine Tree and the Flower Kings. I
suddenly had realized what a great talent John Mitchell (on
guitar) is, and I had been a long-time fan of Clive Nolan
(on keyboards) from his work with Pendragon. Even Nick Pointer
(ex-Marillion on drums) had improved immensley and very much
surprised me. And I very much liked the artwork and graphics
included with the CD and the EP's. Some of the artwork they
made available online was incredible and extremely imaginative.
It just enhanced the music even more.
Unfortunately "Pepper's Ghost"
did not take me as far as "Contagion" did musically. Even
though there is some great stuff here, I feel that the dramatic
shift to doing a rock opera based on cartoon characters was
not exactly the right choice to follow their best work. I
also got the feeling from this CD that John Mitchell was becoming
a little bit bored considering all the projects he had become
involved with such as working with John Wetton and helping
to create Kino. Kino's "Picture" was a much more interesting
and exciting work than "Pepper's Ghost". "Picture" was much
closer to his work with the Urbane than to his work with Arena.
However, in defense of "Pepper's", it contains a couple of
very memorable tracks like "The Shattered Room" complete with
all it's ghost sounds and guitar effects (a great track to
play live) and "The Eyes of Lara Moon" probably one of the
catchiest tracks they have ever done. Very, very nice song
writing. I do enjoy the whole CD, but as a whole I prefer
"Contagion". I think that's their greatest work to date, but
I am very much looking forward to what they come up with in
2006 and 2007.