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Ayreon - Actual Fantasy Revisited CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.63 | 81 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Arjen Lucassen's second album, Actual Fantasy, has him straying away for the concept oriented albums that Ayreon always releases. Instead of a concept of different casts of people, this album has a consistent theme with songs that aren't really interlinked. This album is also more metal oriented than his previous effort, The Final Experiment. The musicianship is classic Ayreon, though, with bombastic organ solos and crunchy symphonic metal overtones, but this time he goes with some new elements that make this album different from any other Ayreon album. This reissue of it features the entire original album completely re-recorded and made into a much better overall experience as well as a bonus dvd that explains the amount of work that went into the project and how Lucassen went around making the album again. In the end, though, there are many interesting sections in this album, but overall, it is a bit of a boring and not very memorable album.

It opens with Actual Fantasy, a brief introduction to the album. It begins the album on an ambient note with lush synthesizers and some melodic flute playing the main theme. It's an interesting introduction to the album to say the least. Abbey of Synn opens with a majestic synthesizer line and some emotive vocals. It has a typical Ayreon feel to it with majestic synthesizer solos and heavy riffs coupled with harmony vocals. My main gripe with this piece though, is that it isn't very concise and it does seem to drag a bit. The Stranger from Within has heavy riffing with acoustic guitar chords played above it to give a more surreal feeling. Lucassen's guitar work on this track is stunning and he really shows that he can play the axe quite well. It's one of the better tracks on the album and really holds up for the entire 7 minutes. Computer Eyes begins with droning synthesizers and acoustic guitars that break way into a very Shine On You Crazy Diamond like guitar solo atmosphere. Lucassen is able to sound like Gilmour and yet play in a totally different style all at the same time. Overall, this song has very strong Floydian overtones even if it does have some heavy sections to it. Not a bad song at all.

Beyond the Last Horizon begins with some forboding noises before becoming an acoustic/synthesizer based song. Although that trend doesn't last, as the song soon becomes a heavy piece with blaring and droning synthesizers. In the end, the piece is a bit boring, despite being an emotional piece. It just seems to go on a bit long and it loses it's consistency in towards the end. Farside of the Planet begins with some rather uplifting guitar arpeggios which sound somewhat remnicient of Steve Hackett's arpeggios in the beginning of Narnia. This atmospheric intro is brought to an end by somewhat muffled vocals and a harmonized chorus. Although it's rather simplistic in structure and in overall instrumentation, the song does have a bit of a kick to it and does come off rather effectively. Back on Planet Earth begins with some quality riffing and some droning synthesizers. Despite the incredible intro and riffing towards the beginning, the song does lose pace towards the end and I can't help but feel a bit disappointed in the end.

Forevermore begins with an emotive slide guitar solo from Lucassen and some underlying synthesizer work. It has the feel of a more commercially geared piece, but it still has an unaccessible edge. The vocals on this track range from melodic and pretty to somewhat sappy, but I'm not very disappointed in the piece, especially because of the stellar guitar work. The Dawn of Man ends the album with modulated synthesizers and banging piano chords. Soon, a heavily synthesized voice that is low in the mix plays alongside some majestic and rolling synthesizer beats. It ends the album on a somewhat bleak note and yet it ends on an uplifting note at the same time. Odd, eh?

In the end, Lucassen's "sophomore slump" isn't a bad record, but it does have some overly long pieces (the entire album averages at around 7 minutes, and there are only 2 songs that don't exceed 7 minutes). My main problem with it is that it doesn't really grab my attention all that much. Sure there are many interesting parts within songs themselves, but I don't really find myself pinpointing out entire songs. If you like bombastic and grandiose symphonic progressive metal, than Ayreon is your band. For me, I think Actual Fantasy Revisited is a good album, but not entirely essential. 3.5/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 3/5 |


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