1995 is the year it all begins. The first album of Arena, then consisting of Clive Nolan and Mick Pointer plus Cliff Orsi (bass), Keith More (guitar) and John Carson (vocals), sees the light. This excellent piece of work, entitled Songs From The Lions Cage and released on Arena's own Verglas label, is very well-received and a new progressive rock legend has instantly been born.
In 1996 the answer is given. Pride is the new album, with renowned producer Simon Hanhart behind the mixing desk. The result is astonishing, and despite the changes in the line-up the music and cover feel comfortably familiair. Paul's voice is not totally unlike John's, but there is just a tad more power and agression, if you like, in it.
However, again luck is not on Arena's side when in 1997 Keith More leaves the band. Keith wanted to be part of Arena on a session basis, which was not an option. New guitarist is John Mitchell, who immediately gets the chance to prove himself on the EP The Cry. This EP consists of (mostly reworked versions of) the Crying For Help-collection from the first two albums. Also, the aggressive new song The Healer is featured on this EP.
In that same year, Arena's first live record is released. Produced by John Mitchell, Welcome to the Stage! (combined with the first fanclub release Welcome Back! To The Stage) gives a good overview of Arena's music and captures the atmosphere of an Arena live concert very well.
1999 - a somewhat quiet year for Arena, as no album is released. Some of the members are working on side projects (John on The Urbane and Clive on the Jabberwocky project with Oliver Wakeman), which are all released by Verglas. Unfortunately, 1999 is also the year in which Paul Wrightson stops being a part of the band. Again the search for a charismatic singer starts, and this time the man for the job is Rob Sowden, a personal acquaintance of John Mitchell. Despite the fact that it is difficult for Rob to replace Paul, as Paul was considered the best Arena singer by many, Rob succeeds in convincing the crowd of his talents during an acoustic fan club gig in May 1999 - the day on which the new fan club CD ( The Visitor Revisited) was released as well, featuring the first appearance of Rob on CD.
The first album on which both Rob and Ian appear ‘officially’, is the 2000 release Immortal ?, for which the writing sessions had started late 1999. Again, the album is an absolute killer and Arena has proven that they succeeded in turning the setback of yet another two line-up changes in 1999, into something absolutely positive! Immortal ? is not a concept album like The Visitor , but it is a ‘conceptual’ album, as Clive puts it. Food for thought again, thanks to Clive! The music contains very good atmospheres, and varies from partly-acoustic ballads (Friday's Dream) to crunching epics (Moviedrome), thus leaving the fans not empty-handed. Both Rob and Ian sound very convincing, making it seem they have been part of the band for quite some time.
Again a tour follows, which results in the ultimate live Arena album: Breakfast In Biarritz…which is released in 2001. A CD that also sees the light of day in 2001 is the third fan club CD Unlocking The Cage 1995-2000, which offers exclusive material from all Arena-era's and thus offers a good overview for all Arena fans. Touring Germany with Saga is scheduled in 2001 as well, and the boys get busy with their side projects and other hobbies. Clive is busy touring with Pendragon, while Rob and John are working on solo albums.
Meanwhile, work on the new album Contagion has started..2002, work on Contagion still continues and the release is now planned in September. First, however, the new Nolan/Wakeman effort is released, The Hound Of The Baskervilles, based on yet another classic story. During the course of the year, the album gets closer to its final state, but due to ‘various circumstances beyond the band’s control’ it also becomes clear that the release date will be hard to achieve, and thus it is decided to postpone the release until early 2003 - also to avoid the interference of the Christmas period with its flow of releases.And then…
The long-awaited moment has come, January 2003 brings the release of Contagion ! Being the first subsequent studio album in the same line up, the album reflects the grown unity of the band. It’s another concept album, this time based on a short story written by Clive, and offers ‘a dark vision of the future’. Surpassing The Visitor with even better artwork by fantasy artist David Wyatt and an intense musical rollercoaster ride, the album leaves both fans and critics stunned. It’s impossible to name any highlights – the album is one coherent whole. It gives Arena their first chart position in the band’s existence, in both Germany and Holland.The band embark on a new tour, which coincides with the release of the Contagious, the first of the two EP’s that together fill the gaps in the Contagion concept.