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Ayreon - The Human Equation CD (album) cover

THE HUMAN EQUATION

Ayreon

 

Progressive Metal

4.19 | 1157 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

CalamityDaemon
5 stars Arjen A. Lucassen, a masterful composer/musician from the Netherlands (why is it that Europe spawns greater music than America? Answer: Probably the Pot) has been “re- birthing” the Rock Opera genre since early 1995 starting with his first album “The Final Experiment”. I cynically quote “re-birthing” because there never really was any such genre save for such instances as The Who’s “Tommy” album, Dream Theater’s “Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory” (Not really…), and Rush “2112”—but in the end, who really cares anyway? Arjen, here out referred as Ayreon, has not “re-birthed” the idea of Rock Opera (as many reviews and critics have claimed) but has instead fixed and perfected it. His masterful blend of outside artists, outrageous album concepts, and simplistic quest for personal enjoyment make “The Human Equation” an irrefutable four star album.

Let me give you some background: Ayreon has released six albums and six singles, participated in two early 80’s hair-metal bands, and contributed in three splinter projects aside from his personal Ayreon series. In short, Ayreon has experience under his belt. He knows what the market would crave, and he knows that over-the-top, D&D-style, pretentious music is not necessarily in vogue in the MTV-market of today. Yet he insists on his style of music and the sad thing is…it works!

Sure, we could all listen to John Petrucci rip up his gloriously majestic fingers on his fret board, and yes, we can also listen contemplatively to Spock’s Beard’s melancholy songs and pseudo-pop lyrics, or (even better) listen to Symphony X and Tool—bands that hardly click within the designated, yet blurry, lines of “Progressive Metal”; but for what end? It is my belief that Ayreon asks that same question. How does music balance the precarious homeostasis needed to keep from crossing over to gratuitous pop/hip-hop and, to the other extreme, Peter Gabriel-style pomp? In Ayreon’s albums, he seeks to (1) create music that is intelligible and yet still laughable; (2) to actually find such music enjoyable; and (3) to tell a story. “The Human Equation” is no different, and it shows.

At its core, “The Human Equation” (referred to as THE on Arjen’s personal-website forums) is about a man thrown into a coma after a semi-lethal car crash. Medically, he should be able to awaken himself but as the listener later finds out, his mind and personal trauma is keeping him locked away to deal with locked away issues. Each song represents a single day in his mind and the battle therein. To accomplish this already soap-opera-esque storyline, Ayreon invites extremely gifted singers and artists to contribute their talents as either musicians or characters. Most of these are semi-well- known (Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth), James LaBrie (Dream Theater), and Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn)), but he mixes this recognized and established talent with equally talented, relatively unknown singers (Marcela Bovio (Elfonia), Irene Jansen (Karma), and Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery)). To accompany his already virtuosic guitar work, Arjen enlists the skills of Ed Warby on drums. Martin Orford and Ken Hensley on keyboards and hammonds.

Enough of the cast, how about the music? Consider it done. Arjen’s music, in case you are new to the Ayreon-universe, is over-the-top; Monday- morning soap opera style songs and lyrics put through a blender and shoved through a trekkie convention and maybe a few Vonnegut novels. Take all that and put it on steroids add a little drums and guitar and you are now so-Ayreon. Throughout the album, LaBrie’s vocals might make you want to rip out and roar (Day Twenty: Confrontation) and Ed Warby’s drums will blow you away (Day Sixteen: Loser—how many different rhythms is that!?), and you may even question your sexuality (Day: Eleven Love). The deluge of emotions within the listener is what makes this album so much fun and easy to listen. There is no Music Theory doctorate degree required to fully understand and enjoy the album (like some forum ogres would like you to believe). The beauty of Ayreon is his simplicity. Since he can not read music (or tablature, as I found out) his music is strictly from the heart. There are no holier-than-thou complexities that the music is filtered through, just pure and simple melody.

That about sums it up: simple, melodic, and enjoyable. It is a collage of talent and all kinds of silly (as you may see in the Special Edition DVD). If you are going to start out your Ayreon/rock opera journey, then start here. Dim the lights a touch, put on your headphones and take the Ayreon Journey.

CalamityDaemon | 5/5 |

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