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Ayreon - Actual Fantasy CD (album) cover

ACTUAL FANTASY

Ayreon

 

Progressive Metal

3.20 | 223 ratings

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Gatot
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars When I revisit my philosophy that "Music is emotion" I find it the more deep I look into it, I am much more sure about that simple definition that applies really well for me. In fact, when my colleague Djoko Dwijono who commented at my personal blog that "music is life" I could not disagree with him at all because he is very accurate: when I explore further, life is about emotion also, so it's just a matter of differences in word being used, but the meaning still revolve around emotion. So, whenever I have a collection of CD I always try to evaluate the music on the basis of how the music can stir my emotion. Sometime, I really don't care about the lyrics or the meaning of the lyrics which stem from the composer or the musicians who created the music. They must have thought about the storyline of the song or even the album if it's a concept album. Take Genesis "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" which revolved around personification of Rael, imagined by Peter Gabriel. Why should I bother to understand Gabriel's story line? (It's not of that it's difficult to understand, in fact, by other Genesis members). I can use the music to contemplate my own personal life journey and reflect about it to build my own personal legend. Why not?

An album that stirs my emotion, really!

So is the case with this "Actual Fantasy" album by Arjen Lucassen's AYREON. The first time I heard the music, it blew me away especially in the way the music flows - it's so natural and so nice. The music does not need to take another spin for me to be able to digest it well. Everything sounds very melodic and simple to follow and there is no such thing as complex arrangements. I suddenly imagined that this kind of music is very good for me to contemplate and perform self-reflection to move forward with ever increasing challenges. Oh my God .. how come I am now so melancholic? Well, . it's basically because of I am now listening to this excellent composition by AYREON. Believe me, I am not exaggerating, this album is really nice and simple!

The album starts with a short overture "Actual Fantasy" (1:45) which sets the overall tone and theme of the whole album. It comprises a long sustain keyboard work and floating vocal line in nice melody. It's really a good overture and it represents the whole tone of the album. I especially like the flute-like sound which is produced by keyboard. I flows seamlessly to the ambient "ghost" (?) sounds as intro of "Abbey of Syn" with some keyboard solo in slow tempo. When it approaches minute 1:00 the low register notes vocal line enters nicely to the music with long sustain keyboard sound at background. I like the sound of keyboard effects right after the first lyrical verse before minute 2:00 followed by full blast of music at 2:25 which bring the music into another platform with nice keyboard solo (reminds me to the work of Rick Wakeman). At approx minute 3:43, guitar gives its stunning solo - WOW! what a great musical piece here! I am totally satisfied with this! Keyboard also provides solo intertwiningly with guitar. Overall this second track has an excellent composition combining nice / catchy melody and wonderful music flow in slow to medium tempo. The keyboard solo is the attractive point of this track. I really love it!

"The Stranger From Within" starts with a keyboard effect in spacey nuance that reminds me to the work of Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulz. But when the drums enter, the music moves into different kind with medium tempo beat accompanying vocal that flows in flat emotion. This sounds like a pop song but the beat which comprises keyboard plus drum work has given different nuance beyond pop music. Again, Arjen proves himself as an excellent composer who focuses on music flow more than just the melody. What I mean here is the fact that the melody is actually not that catchy but Arjen has suceesfully made the song is rich in textures and solid in nuance. The guitar solo and keyboard that appear in the middle of the song is really excellent and very enjoyable.

As the name implies, "Computer Eyes" starts something like Jean Michelle Jarre music which creates a nuance of computer world while the acoustic guitar work strengthens the composition. There is a blend of Pink Floyd music and Tangerine Dream here at the opening part until minute 1:50 when the vocal starts to enter the music. In fact the background music with keyboard reminds me to "Welcome To The Machine" by Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" album. At minute 3:00 the music moves into riffs-driven beats which make the song much more wonderful. Especially, the guitar solo at this segment is also stunning. The vocal line is flat but it has great nuances as well as textures especially with the backing vocal. The guitar solo at 4:49 reminds me to Pink Floyd again but the riffs-driven beats are sort of Dream-Theater-like (in its simplest way). Frankly, I am so engrossed with the music! That's why I am so convinced that "music is emotion" because this song has proven to be very successful to stir my emotion. Thanks, Arjen!

"Beyond The Last Horizon" starts with some robotics narration followed by keyboard sound effects sounds in ambient space style. The guitar fills stimulate the new kind of music which explores the acoustic guitar work while the keyboard provides background music. At 1:53 the music enters its full blast fashion. Again, melody-wise this is not a catchy one but .. the flow of the song is really excellent and it comprises also changes in style and nice breaks.

"Farside of The World" has a nice acoustic guitar work backed by long sustain keyboard work plus effects. Vocal enters with long distance style plus some backing vocals. At approx 1:54 the music moves into upbeat tempo while maintaining the keyboard effects at background.

The remaining tracks "Back On Planet Earth", "Forevermore, and "The Dawn of Man" are also excellent ones which I will not review on track by track basis. But from this album, it's very clear that Arjen is a talented musician who could put together nice melody and nuance / ambience into nice composition. Overall, this is an excellent addition to any prog music collection. For those metalheads, this might be a very light album but for those who have not favored metal music, this album might be a wonderful beat for your lifelong journey of metal music with progressive touches. Bravo Arjen Lucassen! Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Gatot | 4/5 |

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