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Ayreon - The Final Experiment (Special Edition) CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.69 | 68 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Arjen Lucassen's debut metal opera was the starting point for a fruitful series of concept albums that utilized a character and an idea. The character in question was Ayreon, the blind minstrel who received messages and visions from the year 2084. Throughout a series of 3 different albums, the story of Ayreon's journey begins here. From his debut, the seeds of Lucassen's entire output of Ayreon can be heard. He utilizes essentially every cliche in the book of progressive rock, diverse synthesizers, watery organs, and overly grandiose and bombastic compositions. Even though it is terrible cliched, that sort of style actually works for Lucassen, no matter how derivative it really is. This album, The Final Experiment, may be my least favorite individual album from Lucassen, it certainly did lead to many more exciting and engaging albums like Into the Electric Castle and The Universal Migrator, so I must be thankful that this album was created, but on the whole, I'm not as impressed with this album as I am with other Ayreon works.

The whole story opens up with Prologue, which essentially gives the listener an overview of Ayreon's case and the happenings in the year 2084. Musically, the track is a mixture of atmospheric sound effects and a vocal narration of the story so far, but soon becomes a bombastic guitar/orchestration that displays a main theme to the album. The Awareness is where the album truly begins. Rich synthesizers and twangy acoustic guitar arpeggios display the main motif for most of the song, then a soaring synthesizer swirls with a crunchy distorted guitar. Eyes of Time has a majestic and lush synthesizer pattern underneath some heavy riffing and consistent drumming. The choruses involve operatic female vocalists in a call/respond pattern with the vocalsit who plays Ayreon. Not a bad track, but I'm not terribly impressed at the same time. The Banishment is the epic of the album, and it's one of the best on the album as well. It's probably the most pivotal track story-wise and it features some outstanding musicianship. There's this mini-jam towards the end where the guitars, keyboards, and bass trade off solos, and the bass solo is just out of this world. Probably my favorite track on the album.

Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy is a bit of a throwaway piece that offers a gentle edge to the heaviness of the previous track. It's not a terribly strong piece, and seems more like filler than anything else. Sail Away to Avalon continues the epic and bombastic feel of the album. It's not a bad track at all, a very fun track with a cool chorus. Nature's Dance has acoustic guitar arpeggios and buzzing synthesizers and some emotional and melodic vocals. Computer Reign (Game Over) is a darker piece, with more droning bass synthesizers and an underlying criss cross synthesizer pattern. Some interesting mellotron and dynamic unison female vocals break into a strong chord based riff. Waracle is a more menacing piece musically, with some interesting bass lines and forboding synthesizers. The vocals on this track are dynamic, but I feel they are too cluttered during the louder sections, but the narrations are quite nice. Listen to the Waves, Magic Ride, and Merlin's Will are three of the more throwaway tracks on the album. Listen to the Waves is interesting musically, but not much else is there. Same goes with Magic Ride and Merlin's Will (which has a vocalist that sounds a lot like Axl Rose), I just can't seem to get into those tracks.

The Charm of the Seer has an over the top feeling (this feeling is prevalent in a lot of Ayreon songs), especially toward the middle with the harmonized guitar lines and the somewhat dated keyboards. Swan Song is a short prelude to the album closer Ayreon's Fate. Acoustic guitar arpeggios and melodic intertwining piano lines are augmented by an airy synth line and add to an overall somber atmosphere. It's a good track, but nothing truly spectacular. Ayreon's Fate ends the album on an epic note. It also sets up perfectly for a series of sequels (which eventually would happen). I'm quite fond of the guitar on this track, which ranges from somber arpeggios to heavy chord based metal sections.

In the end, The Final Experiment is not a bad album, it's just not as good as Lucassen would get in the future. It lays the foundations for his future projects, so this is something to check out if you're a fan of this whole saga. Even symphonic metal fans will find something to enjoy with this album. Unfortunately, it seems to suffer from every cliche in progressive rock and can feel way to over the top at times. I liked it, though, not really a bad album. 3/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 3/5 |


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