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Ayreon - The Human Equation CD (album) cover

THE HUMAN EQUATION

Ayreon

 

Progressive Metal

4.19 | 901 ratings

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semismart
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Fantastic, 2004 is shaping up as a defining year for the Progressive and Symphonic Metal genre. In fact in just the last two months three amazing albums (two of them double)have been released to the public, Evergrey's Inner Circle, Therion's Lemuria/Sirius B and Ayreon's Human Equation.

Speaking of the public, my question is when is the public going to get sick of radio and MTV pablum and embrace these great artists? To be sure, they have their fans and keep getting more every day but not like they deserve. I understand The Human Equation is even on display at Best Buy. Wonders never cease.

I'm sure many of you reading this review are familiar but for you newcomers here is a little background. Ayreon is not a band in the normal sense. It is a continuing project of Dutch Multi-instrumentalist and composer, Arjen Anthony Lucassen, not unlike Alan Parsons. This is Lucassen's eighth overall Rock opera and sixth under the name Ayreon. The other two were entitled Star One and Ambeon.

Once Lucassen has written a new rock opera he invites guest singers and musicians to participate. To date he has had ninety-two guest artists participate in his eight projects.

The Human Equation

The first thing I noticed about The Human Equation was that it was mellower than most of Ayreon's previous projects. The second thing I noticed was that it was not as mellow as I had thought. The third thing was that, although I at first didn't think I liked it that much, the more I listened the more I liked it. In fact after three listens I decided it is one of Lucassen's best works, if not his best. After a couple more listens I have decided that it's in the running with the two above mentioned masterpieces for Progressive album of the year.

The Human Equation like all previous Ayreon rock operas tells a story. In The Human Equation we have a comatose man reliving his memories and the events leading up to his bizarre auto accident, slowly realizing only he can wake himself.

For this project we have an unprecedented eleven singers including Lucassen himself. I'm sure you'll recognize some of the names as they read like a whos who of progressive rock/metal.

Guest Singers: "Me" - James LaBrie, Dream Theater "Best Friend" - Arjen Lucassen "Wife" - Marcela Bovio - Elfonia "Father" - Mike Baker - Shadow Gallery "Agony" - Devon Graves - Dead Soul Tribe "Fear" - Mikael Akerfeldt - Opeth "Rage" - Devin Townsend "Pride" - Magnus Ekwall - The Quill "Reason" - Eric Clayton - Saviour Machine "Love" - Heather Findlay - Mostly Autumn "Passion" - Irene Jansen

Guest Musicians: Ed Warby - Percussion Ken Hensly - Hammond Joost van den Broek - Piano/synth Martin Orford - Synth Oliver Wakeman - Synth

Song/Track List CD1: 01. Day One: Vigil [1:42] 02. Day Two: Isolation [8:42]***** 03. Day Three: Pain [4:58]***** 04. Day Four: Mystery [5:37]****1/2 05. Day Five: Voices [7:09]**** 06. Day Six: Childhood [5:08]**** 07. Day Seven: Hope [2:47]***** 08. Day Eight: School [4:22]***1/2 09. Day Nine: Playground (instrumental)[2:15]***** 10. Day Ten: Memories [3:57]****1/2 11. Day Eleven: Love [4:18]*****

CD2: 01. Day Twelve: Trauma [8:59]***** 02. Day Thirteen: Sign [4:47]**** 03. Day Fourteen: Pride [4:42]****1/2 04. Day Fifteen: Betrayal [5:24]**** 05. Day Sixteen: Loser [4:56]***** 06. Day Seventeen: Accident? [5:42]**** 07. Day Eighteen: Realization [4:31]***** 08. Day Nineteen: Disclosure [4:42]****1/2 09. Day Twenty: Confrontation [7:02]*****

As you might expect, being a rock opera there is wide variations of styles between songs but an overall similarity. One constant is the extraordinary performances by the eleven vocalists.

Highlight Songs

ME: "I can't move, I can't feel my body I don't remember anything What place is this, How did I get here? I don't understand what's happening Am I alone"

FEAR: You've been deserted, everyone has left you You know it's always been that wayThose frantic years, the people you neglected Now the time has come to pay"

"Day Two: Isolation" is a long involved multi-part song with vocals by six of the singers, ME, FEAR, REASON, PASSION, PRIDE and LOVE. The singers banter back and forth trying to get ME to give up or wake up while the music runs through several episodes, including heavy metal, psychedelic, even Pink Floydian. Isolation does not end but segues into "Day Three: Pain", where we only have four singers, AGONY, ME, RAGE and LOVE. The music is typical Ayreonesque fare. After a slow ethereal start, bass drums kick in to a medium paced folksyrock number with lead and background vocals.

BEST FRIEND: "Let me take you back To the time when we were chasing all the girls Two maniacs indulging in the pleasures of this world

So much to see, so much to live for Questions to answer places to go So much to be, so much to care for Deep down inside I think you know You are free...come back to me"

"Day Seven: Hope" What a great song, very happy, very upbeat, strong organ reminiscent of carousel music. Two singers only BEST FRIEND and ME.

"Day Nine: Playground" A short instrumental again highlighted by organ or synth, slightly celtic or even Western movie epic sounding.

ME: "Friday night, I had a few There she was, out of the blue Thunderstruck, nailed to the floor I couldn't move, couldn't talk...anymore"

LOVE: "Of all these guys, it's you she desires Secretely her heart is on fire Waiting for you to ask her to dance Go ahead, make your move...now's your chance"

"Day Eleven: Love" Medium paced slightly folk sounding with seven of the lead singers and you can tell, ME, LOVE, PASSION, PRIDE, AGONY, FEAR and WIFE. Great song great singing. I especially like Heather Findley's voice who reminds me of Cadence Night, pretty too. Too bad Mostly Autumn doesn't let her sing more.

"Day Twelve: Trauma" another long complex song, with many variations. Ethereal, electronic sound with REASON (who sounds a little like Peter Steele of Type O Negative) singing leading into a heavy metal and synth interlude where FEAR and AGONY and PASSION take over. When REASON come back the song gets ominous undertones.

FATHER: "Look at you, defenseless and alone See I'm no fool, I always knew you wouldn't make it on your own Cos you're like your mother, well where is she now? You'll end up like her soon, 6 feet under ground, loser"

"Day Sixteen: Loser" nice guy, I'm glad my father wasn't like that. "Loser" is a folksy sounding song with a heavy metal attitude. That doesn't make sense? sorry that's what it is. Listen for yourself. By the way the venerable Ken Hensley of Uriah Heep fame does a great Hammond solo on this one. Got your interest?

"Day Eighteen: Realization" Seven of the singers have short lines accompanying LaBrie in this song. Starts out like an instrumental with all kinds of short solos including a neat flute solo.

BEST FRIEND: "See his mouth, he tries to speak He cannot move his voice is weak"

ME: "My dear friend can you hear me now? I'll try to tell you how I feel"

BEST FRIEND: "I feel the pain inside of you Tell me please what can I do?"

ME: "Listen well to what I have to say I have to tell you of my betrayal"

"Day Twenty: Confrontation" well this is the finale so we get nine of the singers and a grand finale it is, a medium slow heavily orchestrated, heavily vocalized, musical, mulligan stew. Delicious!

Conclusion:

Evergrey, Therion, Ayreon, the three extraordinary bands I mentioned that have released magnificent albums within the last three months have one thing in common. Reviewers, fans, critics, it doesn't matter, they all have trouble putting a label on their music or comparing them to other bands. That is because each of them has followed a uniquely different path than their contemporaries. They each make music like no other, within their own personal sub-genre.

If you've never heard Ayreon or Evergrey or Therion, you're in for a treat and so I leave you with this thought, I bought The Human Equation for just under $17 on line. For that $17 I got 20 songs totaling 103 minutes of four to five star music. This figures out to $.85 per song or $.16 per minute. How does that compare with the last Pop, alternative or rock album you bought. The last Pop album I bought was on sale for $9.99 plus tax, for which I got two four star and one five star song totaling 8 minutes and 45 seconds. How does that break down? Why it's only $3.60 per song or $1.23 per minute. Good deal huh!

Of course all this math won't do you any good if you don't like Ayreon's style of music, so I'm going to go out on a limb and draw some parallels to bands you are sure to know. That doesn't mean they sound like these bands, however on some level at some time, there are similarities. Here goes: The Beatles, Styx, Queensryche, Loreena Mckinnett, Jethro Tull, Kansas, Yes, Pink Floyd, The Moody Blues and believe it or not Jesus Christ Superstar(Probably because it's a rock opera).

semismart | 5/5 |

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