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Ayreon - The Theory of Everything CD (album) cover

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING

Ayreon

 

Progressive Metal

4.05 | 650 ratings

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VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Review Nš 491

"The Theory Of Everything" is the ninth studio album of Ayreon, the musical project by the Dutch songwriter, producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen and was released in 2013. As happened with all Ayreon's albums, this is also a conceptual album with each character being portrayed by only one singer. However, being released five years after "01011001" which concluded the original Ayreon's concept story, "The Theory Of Everything" is the start of a new storyline for this project. Unlike their previous albums which took place in a sci-fi context, with the notable exception of "The Human Equation", which takes place in a man's mind, this is a story in the real world, indeed.

Unlike in all previous cases, in "The Theory Of Everything" Lucassen composed all the music and co-wrote all the lyrics with his girl friend Lori Linstruth, making of this his first Ayreon's album in which he shares lyrics credits in all songs.

The concept of the story in "The Theory Of Everything" is a drama about "The Prodigy", characterized by Tommy Karevika from Kamelot and Seventh Wonder, a brilliant mathematician with mental disabilities in the style of the film "Rain Man", whose talents other characters want to use for them and in the style of another film "A Beautiful Mind". Arjen pointed out these films as an inspiration to the story of the album. As all we know, the story has always been an essential element on all Ayreon's albums as an important part of the whole piece. If we compare this album with his previous sci- fi stories, this one is more dramatic and brings a higher dose of seriousness in Ayreon's magnum opus.

The line up on "The Theory Of Everything" is divided into vocalists and instrumentalists. The vocalists are: JB as "The Teacher", Sara Squadrani as "The Girl", Michael Mills as "The Father", Cristina Scabbia as "The Mother", Tommy Karevik as "The Prodigy", Marco Hietala as "The Rival", John Wetton as "The Psychiatrist" and Wilmer Waarbroek is on the backing vocals. The instrumentalists are: Arjen Anthony Lucassen (electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, mandolin, analog synthesizers, Hammond and Solina strings), Ed Warby (drums and percussion), Steve Hackett (guitar), Rick Wakeman (synthesizer and piano), Keith Emerson (synthesizer), Jordan Rudess (synthesizer), Troy Donockley (Uilleann pipes and whistles), Ben Mathot (violin), Maaike Peterse (cello), Michael Mills (Irish bouzouki), Jeroen Goossens (bass flute, bamboo flute, contrabass flute and piccolo) and Siddharta Barnhoorn (orchestrations).

"The Theory Of Everything" has four lengthy tracks divided into various segments, with each track longer than twenty minutes for a total of almost one hour and a half of music. Thanks to smooth transitions the division by the segments is imperceptible. On the album there are no classical preludes, intros, chorus, guitar solos or repetition choruses. Each of the segments is one scene in the story and its melody, style and length are determined by the events and characters in the scene. So, "The Theory Of Everything" must be heard from the beginning to the end, without shuffle or repeat options. Not that the individual segments don't sound good out of the musical context, but "The Theory Of Everything" must be heard entirely, as an opera, because each segment heard outside of the context have a lighter weight, really. There's a great instrumental emphasis here than on albums past, and each of the four sides are home to epic segments. Ayreon's traditional fusion of traditional progressive metal, electronic, folk and classical music really shines here, and though the album is almost twice the length of usual albums. The eclectic approach is consistent, fresh and engaging.

Hearing about the new cast of vocalists has always been the most exciting part of a new Ayreon's album, for me. In the past, Arjen Lucassen has had a fantastic taste in the voices he chooses for the characters. This time, despite the unquestionable quality performance of all, the names aren't as famous as before. Although the vocalists may not have been as dazzling as expected, Arjen makes up for it with an incredible cast of guest instrumentalists from across the prog spectrum. Dream Theater's keyboardist Jordan Rudess and prog wizard Keith Emerson both stand out for their respective solos, not forgetting the presence of Yes' keyboardist Rick Wakeman and Genesis' guitarist Steve Hackett.

Conclusion: "The Theory Of Everything" is an excellent album, extremely fluid, a total breath of fresh air in Ayreon's career. Everything is in top form and luckily it leaves the door open for more to happen in Ayreon's universe. Compared with the other Ayreon's albums, "The Theory Of Everything" is, probably, more progressive and more symphonic with the keyboards dominating over the guitars, turning the album less metal. I never ceased to be amazed by the quality, invention and sheer boldness of Arjen's on Ayreon's project. So, don't be fooled by the list of forty-two tracks. There's a cohesion that binds the album into an impressive and digestible whole. Despite we didn't hear anything new, here we have an incredible talented playing and amazing writing. The artwork is consistent, as usual. The album offers a great buffet with dramatic vocal performances telling a complex story in the rock opera format with a brilliant musicianship.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 5/5 |

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