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Ayreon - Universal Migrator, Part 1: The Dream Sequencer CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.61 | 503 ratings

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4 stars Of the two Migrator albums, The Dream Sequencer--the mellower, more atmospheric of the two, is in my opinion the stronger one, and worth hearing just for the first four songs alone. The premise, related, apparently, to prior albums, is of a Martian colonist at the beginning of the 22nd century who is now the last human being alive. Lonely, desperate, and in danger of running out of supplies, he seeks refuge in a machine called the Dream Sequencer which takes him back, in a hypnotized state, to his prior lives.

The first four songs, to my mind, offer the most powerful emotional punch. After the soothing, Pink Floyd-like introduction of "The Dream Sequencer", we are taken back to the narrator's desolate childhood--to the moment when the young boy first realizes he will never see Earth...nor even lead any semblance of a normal life on his dying colony world. The vocals by Johan Edlund, while admittedly strange to say the least, could not be better fitted for the emotionally-draned narrator's state of mind.

After this, we travel back to "2084"...the year when the human race unleashed a devastating superweapon and wiped the planet barren of all life. The introduction is chilling beyond air raid sirens sound and machine guns are fired, it's all too easy to imagine this being our fate 80 years from now. Could such a superweapon be in the works somewhere, in some terrorist's basement or in some government's secret lab? Who knows? After all this, it is a truly haunting transition into "One Small Step", where a young boy in the 20th century (again one of the narrator's past lives) hears the news that man has landed on the moon...but in his sleep he is then haunted by warning dreams. As a listener, for a second I was even fooled into thinking, It's a shame it all turned out that way, as JFK's voice announced the inauguration of the space program. To hear that voice, this quote, once such symbols of youth, vitality, and optimism, in this context is emotionally crushing, and perhaps the most masterful touch on the entire album. It still chokes me up to hear it, to this day.

The next songs are, while quite enjoyable for the most part, a bit less emotionally- involving than the first four...but then again, those four are almost impossible to match. "Dragon on the Sea" is probably my favorite of thees, telling the tale of Queen Elizabeth's stand against Spain's Invincible Armada, cleverly set to the rhythm of ships' cannons...apparently our humble narrator has lived in high places! "Carried by the Wind" will be a treat to fans of Arjen Lucassen's voice; he sings the song by himself in its entirety, unusual among Ayreon songs. This is the only other song besides the first three that relies entirely on a fictional character--a blind 6th century minstrel named Ayreon, who tried to warn humanity of the horrible fate he (correctly) perceived in the distant future.

The Dream Sequencer is, overall, incredible, and would have easily received a 5.0 if not for one song: "The Temple of the Cat". The vocalist, unfortunately, is annoying. I try very hard to cut foreign singers a lot of slack, but occasionally someone makes so many errors, and in crucial places, that it ceases to be alluring and becomes impossible to ignore. That's what happened when the singer finally mispronounced "cat" (among other things) so many times in, shall we say, a very prolonged manner. I would have advised that either this song be dropped (at the length of this album it wouldn't take away much) or that another vocalist perform it. I really don't understand why it was chosen as the album's representative single--"Dragon on the Sea" or "Carried by the Wind" might have done the album much more justice.

As with The Human Equation, the lyrics are passable, but not the main skill of the band. However--the concept is excellent, and the music should provide more than enough to satisfy. Those of you who do not care for metal may want to use this as an introduction to Ayreon, in fact. In spite of one song with an oversight, I think that any and all fans of prog rock should have The Dream Sequencer in their collection--ideally with its companion album, the prog-metal adventure The Flight of the Migrator. Ayreon, overall, may be one of the most innovative musical projects currently in existence.

FloydWright | 4/5 |


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