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Ayreon - Into the Electric Castle CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

4.14 | 784 ratings

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5 stars Should any of my readers not know who Ayreon is, let me edify you. Ayreon is not a band, not really. Neither is Ambeon. Let me explain. Ayreon and Ambeon are projects, you might say alter egos of brilliant Dutch composer and musician, Arjen Anthony Luccassen.

You see, Arjen has borrowed one from the book of the ever successful recording broker, Alan Parsons. He composes a Rock Opera and then like the mice followed the Pied Piper into the river, several well known, at least to me, guest singers and musicians follow our piperish leader, Arjen, into the studio to record, this wonderful music.

Now Arjen hasn't used this successful formula once or twice. No he's made eight exciting albums this way, two of which are double albums. Mind you now, I understand there's a waiting list to be in Arjen's next production. I can see why, it must be fun, mingling with other very talented people and making this remarkably interesting and different music. It's probably like, if I may regress to seventies terms, a "happening". And how different it is!

Into the Electric Castle, as do all of Arjen's projects, tells a story and in this case it is a science fiction story centered around eight strangers brought together into a dimension of no space and no time. It seems, if Luccassen ever decides to hang up his guitar he could make a living writing sci-fi.

Here is a summary of the story from Ayreon's Website:

"'Into the Electric Castle' tells the story of 8 stereotypical characters from different periods of time who suddenly find themselves in another dimension. A Highlander, Knight, Egyptian, Indian, Barbarian, Roman, Hippie and Futureman each try to understand where they are and what they are supposed to do. It is then that a voice rings out from the sky to tell them that the dimension they have arrived in is built on dreams and fears. In order to find their way back to their own dimension and time, they must go in search of The Electric Castle. During the search every character is forced to confront his or her innermost fears, and not everyone survives the treacherous journey to the Castle."

"At the end of the journey those that successfully dealt with their personal demons find out that the voice belongs to an alien named 'Forever of the Stars', a member of an alien race living in a distant galaxy. These aliens created planet Earth and its people as an experiment so they could study, and hopefully one day experience emotions, as they themselves lost feelings eons ago."

"'Into the Electric Castle' is a double CD. On disc 1 we experience the journey to The Electric Castle and on disc 2 we find out what happens when they arrive there."

Haven't I read something by Stephen King like that. Yeah, I know, the plot is pretty ch-e-e-ze ball but honestly the music is fabulous, here are some highlights:

"Isis and Osiris" is an eleven minute multi-part song.

"Let the Journey Begin" is the first part with Highlander and Indian singing in what is an ethereal, almost Moody Blues part. "The halls of Isis and Osiris" is sung by Roman and Egyptian as the pace picks up nicely with a choppy orchestral beat plus a sitar and guitar solo. "Strange Constellations / Reprise" the third and forth parts narrated by Highlander (Fish) with an atmospheric background and some remarkable guitar and keyboard work. This is an amazing piece of work that I could use a thousand words describing.

"The Decision Tree (we're alive)" sung by Barbarian and Highland, with all joining in on the chorus's. It is a medium slow very catchy song with lots of organs and synths.

"Across the Rainbow Bridge" sung by Knight, Roman and Hippie. Opens with acoustic then switches back and forth to electric while keyboards in background to a varied pace. At three+ minutes it changes with a chugging beat at a medium fast pace. really great song.

"the Garden of Emotions" is a ten minute multi-part song that opens Disc 2. "In the Garden of Emotions" sung by Hippie (actually spoken through a distorter of some sort) and Egyptian slowly and atmospheric. "Voices in the Sky" picks up with a heavy crunchy beat and some very nifty organ / synth work. sung by Barbarian, Roman and Indian. "The Agression Factor" is sung by Futureman , Knight and Indian and is a mix of the first two parts

"The Castle Hall" sung by Knight and Barbarian, starts out with some very deep heavy guitar work and ominous singing before mellowing out at a medium tempo. Great melody and hooks.

"The Two Gates" sung by Barbarian and Knight, played in a medium heavy beat and pace with some more great hooks and all singers join in and pace changes again. Excellent!(Trying to describe these songs is impossible, every couple minutes everything changes) CONCLUSION

I have a soft spot in my heart for Ayreon. They, are the catalyst that has propelled me in the musical direction I have chosen. I accidentaly came across them while downloading and was so overwhelmed and intrigued that I wondered what else I could be missing. It turns out, it was quite a bit, so for the last two years I have been relentless in that nothing worthy gets by me.

The whole time I was writing this review I had this eerie feeling that our characters, Highlander, Indian , knight etc. were members of that inane TV show, Survivor. Of course in our story the characters die instead of getting voted off. Oh, I didn't tell you? Sorry.

Ok, the conclusion. Ayreon is remarkable, and Into the Electric Castle is his most remarkable project. This is Progressive music like no others make. It is bombastic, highly varied (even within each song)and even at 100 minutes it captivates you. I just finished a review on another rock opera, a rather good rock opera I might add but it pales in comparison to this, this is chicken salad while it is chicken sh-i-t.

So, if you don't buy this album I'm going to report you to the consumer office of bad judgement for obviously following a path of mundane, mediocrity.

semismart | 5/5 |


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