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Ayreon - The Human Equation CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

4.20 | 1209 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Imagine the conceptual scope of PINK FLOYD's The Wall combined with the musical atmospheres of albums like Wish You Were Here, The Dark Side of the Moon, RICHARD WRIGHT's Broken China. Add to that influences from metal, Irish folk, and even a bit of Broadway, and you can start to imagine The Human Equation. Somehow, it all blends together almost seamlessly. It's amazing that something like this didn't collapse under its own weight, but I suspect the fact that the burden was spread among so many different artists, and not just Arjen Lucassen (leader of AYREON), may have helped.

The concept is about a man who has fallen into a coma due to injuries in a car accident (you find out more about this as you go on), and while he is comatose, his emotions become personified. The only way he can recover is to join them in facing the issues that have shaped him into who he is. While I don't want to spoil the ending for anyone, I will say that in this way it resembles The Wall--but this man gives recovery and reconciliation a much more spirited try than Pink ever did. Admittedly the lyrics are not as strong as The Wall by any means, and it borders more on Broadway than anything (you could imagine this thing performed on a stage), but I grew up on that sort of thing...and what's more, the music more than makes up for the weakness in the lyrics.

Musically, I think the greatest strength is in the synthesizer and Hammond playing, which is excellent and seems to have drawn quite a bit from PINK FLOYD. Some synth settings are eerily reminiscent of Wish You Were Here, and also a bit of Dark Side of the Moon. The vocals are varied, however. Oddly enough, James LaBrie, whom I could not stand at all when hearing him on DREAM THEATER's Six Degrees of Turbulence (it was bad enough to put me off from the band altogether) sounds good here. I have no idea what he did differently, but whatever it is, it works. OPETH's Mikael Akerfeldt does extremely well. The vocal production is quite different from the brutal style, in-your-face style you hear on OPETH's albums, and I suspect this is because of the attempt to reach out to so many audiences. Still, both his clean and growled vocals are excellent, especially in "Trauma"...and there's a death-scream on the very last song that reminds me of "Karma" on My Arms, Your Hearse. Those expecting mostly growled vocals from him will be dissatisfied, but his clean vocals are excellent. Arjen Lucassen also turned out to be a pretty good vocalist, as well as Heather Findlay.

A few of the vocals didn't work quite as well...even though it does seem he's well suited to the role of the voice of "Reason" (literally!), Eric Clayton's bombastic vocals can get annoying at times, and I'm quite glad they don't go on for longer than they do! I also thought that while the song musically interesting, the vocal performances on "Loser" were the weakest on the album...Mike Baker's performance as Father is rather comical, like something from PINK FLOYD's "The Trial", and that's not too bad. Devin Townsend's screaming doesn't quite work as well as his other vocals on the album.

It is incredibly hard to name favorite songs on this album, as they have such different, unique characters that it almost seems unfair to put them up against each other. Suffice it to say I think this may be one of the best albums released this year. Even though I subtracted half a star for the lyrical and vocal issues I indicated, this is absolutely worth your time, and on a 5-star system I go ahead and give it the 5.

FloydWright | 5/5 |


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