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3 stars Ayreon's first album, although not released under the band name at the time I understand, marks out the territory for future releases with a well crafted concept album full of good, if not memorable tunes (better was to come). Sail Away To Avalon and Computer-reign are very catchy tracks that hold up well to the Ayreon style, but I especially recommend a listen to The Banishment, a fantastic track with many mood and time changes, the album highlight for me. Lucassen is a genius at this well crafted Prog metal genre, and he continuous to get better.
Report this review (#1154)
Posted Thursday, June 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is one of those albums that I've kind of had to force myself to be hard on. It's AYREON's very first album, and unlike Actual Fantasy Revisited, there were no alterations possible to the original due to the loss of the tapes. Therefore, what I am reviewing is the original album as it was 10 years ago. Definitely from listening to this, it was a very promising start for AYREON, even though there were problems...large problems of a sort that are not really evident on any of ARJEN LUCASSEN's later AYREON works. I think one does need to own all of the other albums before getting this one, but if you are a dedicated AYREON fan, don't will find enough to keep you interested--especially if you'd like to hear a much darker side to LUCASSEN that very rarely ever appears: compare the ending music to Into the Electric Castle. While the ideas in those places were similar, the tones couldn't be further apart.

Before I really launch into this one, know that three stars means I see more good than bad on here. Even as a huge AYREON fan, there's no way I can hold back from discussing the issues on this album. Its problems are opposite from those that I discuss in my review of Symphony X, another good debut--where Symphony X lacked in sound quality but already had ironclad composition and playing, The Final Experiment had good audio quality but some problems in the execution.

The concept itself was a very clever, rich idea, and, as it turned out, inspiring enough when coupled with Actual Fantasy to end up spawning the entire universe we get to know through later albums. And I don't know about others, but when I listened to it, I definitely felt for the character of Ayreon, the blind minstrel in the age of Camelot who received the messages from the future. Probably ARJEN LUCASSEN himself, when singing for Ayreon, gave him the most life and compelled the listener to care for the character--especially on "Nature's Dance" and "Magic Ride". There were some nice lyrics that stuck out as I was set written by LUCASSEN for "Magic Ride" ("I long to see, I need to touch, I wish to be..." maybe you have to hear it to catch how well it flows?), but the other written by someone else was for "Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy". In other places, he does a very good job to capture the bloody-minded arrogance of Merlin and others towards Ayreon, such as in the written lyrics to "The Banishment", "Merlin's Will" ("Don't you KNOW who I am??" You want to smack him for such condescenscion!), and "Ayreon's Fate". And one definitely suspects that Ayreon is no courtyard minstrel boy, but rather a full-grown man. Details like that work quite well.

However, while the concept was extremely clear, especially written, I felt that some very unnecessary confusion and distraction was created by two factors: first, there was no constant choice of vocalists for each role...or at least, people who had sung for Ayreon were not kept from singing later for Merlin, and I thought that was extremely problematic. Thankfully LUCASSEN seems to have realized this by the time he got to Into the Electric Castle, and such a confusing situation would never be created again. The other trouble was that at times there were some rather obvious English mistakes. (That in and of itself has not been one of my reasons for deducting points, though!)

There were many noteworthy musical moments: perhaps the most haunting is the leitmotif for the minstrel Ayreon himself. Heard in the "Overture" and "The Awareness", as well as throughout the album, this is a riff that captures all of the beauty and tragedy of this character...and honestly pulled at my heartstrings. "Eyes of Time" was probably the most infectious track, and while the vocalist playing Ayreon here has got an unusual voice to say the least (shades of GEDDY LEE?), I really find myself liking it. The bassist also shows off his skills well here, and later on "The Banishment". For some carefree fun, "Sail Away to Avalon" should make the listener's day, and is indicative of AYREON's future (the project, not the minstrel, unfortunately!). I also enjoyed "Nature's Dance", sung by ARJEN LUCASSEN himself, and the melancholy tone, while very unusual in light of later works, is executed well. "Computer Reign (Game Over)" is a much darker number, and here LUCASSEN hits his stride...not to mention that the minstrel himself is trying to do the most important creative work of his life! "Waracle" is also good (though marred by a certain instrument I'll discuss later), and the second part especially, as the vocalist begins ad-libbing for Ayreon, crying out, "Set me free!" is a success. On "The Charm of the Seer", as Ayreon nears his impending doom, you can hear some influence from "Gethsemane" on Jesus Christ Superstar (cited by LUCASSEN as an influence) as here Ayreon prepares to go to what he knows will be his death. This one prefigures some work from Into the Electric Castle. As for "Swan Song"...this is perhaps the most beautifully melancholy piece you'll ever hear on an AYREON album. You know what this is before you even look...and the hidden whispers are a nice touch, considering that a blind person in Ayreon's situation would probably be focusing in on every little sound around him.

Unfortunately, there definitely were some problems musically as well. Perhaps the most glaring, to my mind, is a mismatch that occurs at times between the mood of the lyrics and the music. Therefore, I must beg to differ with the other reviewer and say that "The Banishment" is by far the weakest track on the album. For some reason the music is intolerably happy during the part where Ayreon is about to be run out of town...this is a lynch-mob, and the music should reflect the darkness of their hatred. And then there are two vocalists that I cannot stand on this album: the first one also plays the "Barbarian" on Into the Electric Castle, and I didn't like him there, either. The second...what was up with the growling on here? Was somebody growling one line and yelling on another track? What was going on? It actually made me hit the skip button at that point; it was so annoying. Too bad a talent like MIKAEL AKERFELDT couldn't have been brought in to replace that part! The other problem came from an instrument heard prominently at the opening of "Waracle" and in other places...I couldn't tell whether it was a synth or a fretless bass played badly, but the sound really grated on my nerves.

Overall, The Final Experiment is an album just for the fans, but I had to give it the third star because I think it is one of the best debut albums I've ever heard.

Report this review (#1156)
Posted Wednesday, May 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well for me this is the only work by Arjen Lucassen which is well worth checking out from the beginning to the end, being quite far away from the music stereotype regarding such a tiring metal prog of a few European this particular occasion the interesting rock opera within the present album - projected by a "fertile" Dutch musician and divided into 4 acts- reminds us of a different stuff, in the vein of bands such as for instance Jethro Tull (talking about the unplugged parts), Rush, Il Trono dei Ricordi and so on.of course you can listen also to some harder harmonic solutions, reminding me of Magellan, but here helped in their construction by seven musicians, five choristers and thirteen singers, whose contribution is very important for the whole structure of the opera!! Ayreon is a blind jester from 6th century, who foretells the futuristic vision concerning the 20th century: such a worrying vision regards the environmental and technological decline of the world (do you remember the main theme of "De Profundis" , the splendid work by After Crying ?...) and after a short declaimed prologue the first act begins.I like the unplugged arpeggio accompanying the sweet vocalism by E. Reekers, then alternated by means of symphonic and more thrilling parts, which are brilliantly performed along with the female chorus. It's the best section within "Dreamtime", this latter un unforgettable tune for many listeners. Instead the other songs of the first act are quite homogeneous and in the vein of the medieval stuff, yet a simple bridge towards the second act, regarding the landing of Ayreon into the court of King Arthur, after being driven away from his Country: the flute and the vocal parts of Barry Hay are remarkable in the track "Sail away to Avalon" , which is one of the first songs Jethro Tull- oriented, being so close to the spirit of Jan Anderson!! Instead "Nature's dance" is a bucolic short track, ending the second act in a more pastoral manner . Then the third act begins to close the whole circle of the main theme, with its more typical "rock language" of the seventies, sometimes resembling the style of the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar", through the present narration by Ayreon: it tells us about the cyber destruction of the environment, by means of such direct language. Here the human being is subject to the machines and the story-plot is complete this way. Besides you can appreciate the song entitled "Waracle" , above all for its simplicity, being the meeting between the classic rock genre and the symphonic one, suitable for all the different tastes of the listener and according to his personal music background: as a matter of fact the meaning of the song is clear to all of us, anyway;while the following tunes are closer to the spirit of Rush and sometimes characterized by a mysterious mood too, before introducing the epic keyboards, a bit Magellan-like, always played by Lucassen.

Therefore, finally, you can listen to the fourth conclusive and dramatic act, introduced by "Merlin's will", in which the Celtic magician knows Ayreon .well at the end He will decide to kill him, because He cannot hear his telepathic message from the future and it will be a mistake.the final song is entitled "Ayreon's fate", telling the story of the tragic end concerning the life of the leading character: such theatrical last act is the perfect link with the music ideas of the concept. After all, despite of finding a bit foolish theme inside, the work is clever, even though Lucassen uses the Celtic cliché of King Arthur and naturally He's not the first musician involved with the medieval legends. However by means of this album He has expressed all his best arrangements and ideas as well, so you can forgive such venial sin, as moreover the following albums have been not so much inspiring and original.instead the present album- dated 1996- is absolutely worth checking out and you could add another half star at least!

Report this review (#43634)
Posted Sunday, August 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am not going to pick apart The Final Experiment, so ths may not be viewed as a "proper review". This is more about how this album affected -me-. I've always been a huge music lover; one who enjoys almost every genre known. I've loved new age (Synergy, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream) and most forms of rock for a long time. I've even had affinity for progressive-style rock before I knew what it was (Yes, Meatloaf, Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons...)

I am in my late 30's and was just recently introduced (formally) to the world of prog, with Marillion, IQ and Spock's Beard being my first dates. Spock's Beard really whetted my appetite and I started looking for more. Dream Theater was next and I was highly impressed with their precision, yet their vocals seemed extraneous and they left me wanting.

Then I stumbled upon The Final Experiment. Great GODS! I had never heard anything like this before. Track after track I was smashed over the head with how marvelous it is. I was listening to it at work and found myself stalled... unable to do much of anything productive. I kept mouthing (silently) "holy ***" with each new mood change. The power and beauty of this album (and the bonus disc) just flipped a switch in my soul and lit it up.

It single-discedly transformed me from a curious and casual purveyor of progressive rock to a rabid non-blinking prog fiend!! I made it a point to quickly buy everything Arjen that I could get my mitts on. This hunger has led me to other places as well; Porcupine Tree, Pendragon, Glass Hammer, etc...

That was about 6 months ago. I've since found other Ayreon and related Lucassen works that I like even better. That said, I do feel that "The Final Experiment" is a masterpiece. I don't expect it to have the same effect on most others as it has me, but for some, it just may stroke every sweet-spot on you. This album remains one of my top-ten albums of all time and I will always perceive my first listen as a life-changing event for me.

Report this review (#47018)
Posted Sunday, September 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I recently bought this album, for I have been interested in Ayreon since I saw how many renown musicians he had worked with on THE HUMAN EQUATION. Unfortunately, I couldn't find that album, so I got this. THE FINAL EXPERIMENT is hardly a disappointment, but being a debut album it doesn't really show Ayreon in his full creative swing. There are some nice solos by Arjen Lucassen and some interesting songs, but what ruins it for me is the overall theatral nature of this project and sometimes it just gets too theatral. It reminds me of Nightwish (and that's not a good thing). Also some of the singers have voices I can't stand, notably that one on "Eyes of Time", who ruined an otherwise fine melody for me. He sounds like he belongs in Poison.

All in all, it's not a bad album and the concept may be interesting, but if you really wanna hear Ayreon/Arjen at his best, don't look for it here.

Report this review (#65881)
Posted Saturday, January 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Actually it is 3.5 stars because It is a good album but a flawed one. The guitar playing in it it is marvellous, Lucassen is a master conducting this rock opera and the musicians in It they are top noctch. Have you listened the bass playing in "The Awareness" ? awesome!! The concept is cool, the story amusing and the songs keep you interested. But I found two irritating parts in It. One is the trumpet like keyboard they use when they say and his name is (was) Ayreon, sooo eighties, so Final Countdown, so cheap. And the other are the final vocalsisation on a closing song by some operatic star. What is that? ridiculous to sy the least; if you want to do it right please listen carefully to "A Gig in the Sky" for at least a hundred times and learn a little. So in the end a good album with a blemished face for me.
Report this review (#85951)
Posted Sunday, August 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
3 stars Nowadays Ayreon is a known progrock musician but back in the early Nineties he had to visit many record labels to get his music on a CD: again and again he was rejected (to be seen on one of his latest re-releases that shows in the booklet all those negative answers by records labels, great move by Arjen Lucassen and quite embarrasing for those record labels) but in the end the new Dutch label Transmission (also responsible for re-releases on CD from other Dutch progrock band Finch) gave Ayreon a chance, in 1995 he released his debut CD entitled The Final Experiment. Ayreon founded a band and recruited known musicians like Cleem Determeyer and Peter Vink from Finch, Barry Hay from Golden Earring and Lenny Wolf from Kingdome Come. It would become Arjen's habit to use many known guest musicians on his albums but his dream still is Jurgen Fritz from German ELP-inspired band Triumvirat!

The story of this concept albums starts in the year 2084 AD when scientists try to avoid total destruction of the Earth. With a new computer programm called Time Telepathy they succeeded in contacting a blind minstrel from the sixth century called Ayreon. He has to warn people for the impending downfall by singing his vision. He even meets Merlin but the famous magician vows that Ayreon's word will be spread in the twentieth century. And so the moralistic epilogue says "The outcome of the final experiment has now been placed in your hands". Fortunately the music has not become an ordinary clash between ego's or just another exhibition of self-indulgence. This CD shows a tight band, scouting the borders between hardrock and symphonic rock. Most of the 15 tracks are strong and varied. Especially the use of many different singers (an Ayreon trademark) adds an extra dimension to the music. Arjen Lucassen delivers many biting soli with hints from Satriani (and also with echoes from his hero Ritchie Blackmore) but there is no overkill. Cleem Determeijer has a remarkable part in the music: sumptuous sounding synthesizers (Juno/Oberheim/Moog), a beautiful flute and harpsichord duet (Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy), nice interplay between Mellotron and acoustic guitar (Listen To The Waves) and piano and Mellotron (Swan Song) and delicate harmony between different keyboards, flute and biting guitar, like a desperate cry of the future in The Charm Of The Seer. On this CD there is chemistry between the musicians and between the music and lyrics, this makes The Final Experiment to one of the best Dutch progrock debut albums!

A good start to discover the Dutch progrock master Ayreon but there was better to come! My rating: 3,5 stars.

Report this review (#126894)
Posted Wednesday, June 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
2 stars Assuming you aren't snickering at the premise or introductory voice-overs, you will probably find yourself enjoying Ayreon's first album throughout. It has a big, pompous prog sound with strong melodies and occasionally strong performances. For what they are, the songs are nicely arranged and earnest in their delivery of the subject matter. However, the cheesy synthesized orchestra, at times mediocre vocals and overall lack of song writing flair make "Final Experiment" one for fans of the band only-- it's like a warm- up for later albums which are far and away more entertaining.
Report this review (#138004)
Posted Thursday, September 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Unlike many other bands in the prog-metal genre, "Ayreon" has definite prog flavours. And this mix sounds rather pleasant to be honest.

What is not pleasant though is this recitation style during the intro and some other parts of the work (very much like Jeff Wayne's "War Of The World" oriented) as well as the growling during "The Banishment". "Magic Ride" is also a very weak track.

If you would exclude these, "The Final Experiment" is a good album. The start of an interesting experience I would say. This one man's band provides an enjoyable music. Some "ELP" touches here and there, but more than anything a great guitar work. Arjen Lucassen (that's the name of the heart & soul from "Ayreon") has had the genious to ask bunches of guests to participate to his works. How they accepted is rather mysterious (especially for his first attempt).

Actually, the music featured here has little to do with metal IMO. True symphonic moments are plenty. Strong compositions, melodic and well constructed. Lots of short songs (even if they are re-grouped into some sorts of "Acts") to illustrate the "concept".

This middle-age futuristic (?) history is not really thrilling. This "Ayreon" minstrel being able to communicate with people from the twenty-first century is too thin to captivate me during over an hour. There will be lots of bombastic moments, great guitar soli and very good tracks overall. "Waracle" is one of my fave although not very personal. But it is difficult to pinpoint one special track from this concept album although that the closing number is brilliant. Poignant vocals and a great guitar solo. A very catchy way to finalize this work.

This album has little to do with "prog" metal. Since I'm not really a fan of this genre, I quite like this album. Not a masterpiece but a pleasant work (almost) throughout its lenght. Even transitional tracks are good ("Swan Song").If you would like to hear how "ELP" would have sounded with a guitar player, do try this one.

As would the narrator say at the end of the album : "The outcome of the Final Experiment has now been placed in your hands".

Three stars.

Report this review (#149898)
Posted Saturday, November 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
Crossover/Symphonic/RPI Teams
3 stars After a career as a guitarist for Dutch bands Bodine and Vengeance and then a failed attempt at a solo album, Arjen Anthony Lucassen started his Ayreon project, chiefly inspired by the rock operas of the late 1960s and 1970s. This project would eventually blossom into a series of rock opera styled concept albums, but it had its humble beginning with The Final Experiment, released in 1995.

The Final Experiment contains both science fiction and medieval themes. It basically tells the story of a blind minstrel named Ayreon who lives in 6th century Britain. After experiencing an apocalypse in the year 2084, scientists make use of something called Time Telepathy and transmit messages back in time to warn people in the past of an impending doom. Because Ayreon is blind, his other perceptions are more acute which allows him to receive these messages as visions.

The concept is interesting and one might conclude it to be overly complex for a musical storyline, but somehow Lucassen pulls it off and keeps it short enough to fit on one disc. By doing this, he keeps this rock opera from doing what so many others have done and that is overdoing it and resulting in much filler. Although I find the story to be interesting and charming, what disappoints me is the music. It seems mediocre for the most part and lacks the development of musical themes that are so prevalent on future Ayreon releases. I sense an equal blend of symphonic progressive rock and prog metal, with many folk elements.

Like most rock operas, this one has its share of guests. These include Barry Hay (Golden Earring), Edward Reekers (Kayak), Ian Parry (Elegy), Jan-Chris de Koeijer (Gorefest), Lenny Wolf (Kingdom Come), Cleem Determeijer and Peter Vink (both from Finch), and other lesser known artists. With a host of guests, both vocalists and musicians, an interesting science fiction concept, and a mix of symphonic prog and prog metal, Lucassen established the winning formula on The Final Experiment that he would repeatedly use in future Ayreon releases.

A nice debut, but musically not as good as future Ayreon releases. If you really like later Ayreon releases, you might find this one pales in comparison. Definitely a must-have for die-hard fans. Good, but not essential. Three stars.

Report this review (#160333)
Posted Thursday, January 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album marks the debut of one of modern prog music's most unifying forces.

However, The Final Experiment is not like 01011001 or The Human Equation. We don't have massive forces of major contemporary prog vocalists and instrumentalists. In truth, aside from vocalists we'll get to know better through Ayreon alone, the only truly well-known contributor to this album is Barry Hay from famed classic rock outfit Golden Earring. The current image of Arjen sitting like a spider at the center of the progressive metal web will not truly take root until Into the Electric Castle. That is not to say that this release is poor because of a lack of famous vocalists. It is, however, much weaker in the vocal categories than later Ayreon albums. Overall, compared to later outputs, this album is much more straightforward rock oriented, with fewer detours into folksy flutes and violins. The music is less heavy on the whole, as well, though there are a few moments of growls and thick guitars. One detracting factor to this record is the presence of filler tracks, something that Arjen does not normally struggle with yet seems to want to include here. It makes the entire release a bit less cohesive and disrupts the flow from song to song, at least to my ears.

It opens with the multi-segmented prologue, including a spoken word section that literally throws the full force of Ayreon's irresistible cheese in your face. The Awareness and Eyes of Time are both drawn out rock songs with nice choruses and some interesting instrumentation. The progressive side of the album finally kicks off with the multipart semi-epic The Banishment. Here we have the first taste of what Ayreon will sound like in a few years' time. Extended instrumental sections create the energy level the act is known for. Unfortunately, the song ends with some poor growling, though Arjen usually knows how and when to insert the sound better. Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy is a quick little tune with a catchy chorus and an ending just like Devin Townsend's Wild Colonial Boy (and by just like, I mean they even are saying the almost same things with the same cadence and tune). Sail Away to Avalon is a generic pop rock song with so much energy it's hard to sit still while listening. Barry Hay takes the vocals (and flutes) for this track, and the horns, although cheesy, create a lasting and catchy track that ranks fairly highly up there among Ayreon songs. Nature's Dance is a quiet, acoustic bit with Arjen himself providing the vocals. Again, the melody is great.

The Computer Reign (Game Over) is a slightly weak track that ends up being pretty unmemorable, mostly because of the following song. Waracle features some intensely powerful vocals, emoting and prophesying and all that about the end of the world and stuff, but it's hard to care about the content when Jay van Feggelen throws his voice into the microphone. This segues hauntingly into Listen to the Waves, a catchy post-apocalyptic warning once more featuring Arjen on the vocals. Here, he provides his classic harmonies for the first time, making this also very much a keeper in the Ayreon discography. Magic Ride is a trippy but mostly average song. Merlin's Will features something of a deep-voiced choir and some Renaissance-era instrumentation over the heavy guitars and electronic noises. The Charm of the Seer and Swan Song do very little for the album aside from push it forward. The energy level droops here, but it is picked up somewhat for the final concluding track, Ayreon's Fate. This song isn't terribly fast paced, and its first half is much stronger than its second half. The vocals are very nice and catchy here, though.

The Final Experiment clearly shows the starting point for the now ubiquitous Ayreon, except the songs are less progressive, less well-developed, and less focused on instrumentation than they will be in the future releases. Fans of Ayreon will enjoy this, but I recommend starting elsewhere, like The Human Equation or Into the Electric Castle.

Report this review (#185994)
Posted Thursday, October 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Like almost all of Ayreon's albums in my opinion, this album deserves 5 stars, because it IS essential, and a masterpiece of the progressive rock genre. This is Arjen's first album recorded as Ayreon, and is a concept rock opera much like the rest of his albums (other than Actual Fantasy, but themes on that one would eventually build up into his later albums).

Much like classics like Pink Floyd's the Wall, and the Who's Tommy, this album takes you through chapters of a magnificent story, a blend of sci fi and fantasy. The album tells the surreal story Ayreon, a young blind minstrel who suddenly receives strange visions of a doomed future from desperate scientists in the year 2084 A.D., who attempt to rewrite history. As Ayreon journeys through the land, ridiculed by his peers, and cursed by Merlin the great seer of Camelot, Ayreon goes down in history as his warning is not heeded, but passed on in legends until they are received later on, by a man in the late 20th century (which turns out to be Arjen himself). In an interesting twist, Arjen's creating of this album, The Final Experiment, could possibly be his warning to the rest of the human race after receiving those messages he speaks of.

The album perfectly combines sci fi, medieval fantasy, apocalyptic fiction and many others, together in a way that reminds you of a play almost! All the songs flow together without stopping, (hint hint... when that happens, you're usually supposed to listen to the songs in order!!)

There's also a really wonderful second disk which is independent of the storyline, but contains different versions of tracks. My personal favourite is the semi acoustic Merlin's Will

Without a doubt, Ayreon is an amazing example of neo progressive rock at its best, combining the best of many genres. The first album The Final Experiment is amazing, and its legacy is felt throughout the other albums, not only instrumentally, but also in the storyline, where the other albums occasionally allude back to it and each other.

Having its medieval influence, this album has a great Symphonic metal touch to it.

Report this review (#199794)
Posted Monday, January 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'The Final Experiment' - Ayreon (6/10)

All journies begin with a single step...And in the case of Ayreon's 'The Final Experiment,' it was a step that shook the progressive world. Until then, the concept of a 'rock opera' had been left dormant since the early 80s, for the most part. And then out of the Netherlands comes a modest man with a great musical vision to change things, and contribute something great to the world. 'The Final Experiment,' while not quite a masterpiece, it is a milestone in modern Prog.

The concept, while a bit corny, is well thought out, and the story sets the stage for future Ayreon tales to be told. In summary, a young medieval Ministrel (named Ayreon) is contacted by humans from the far future to warn the world of it's own downfall. However, things don't go to plan, and a series of misfortunes ensue. The lyrics are fairly decent, but nothing mind blowing. However, they do manage to tell the story quite well.

Musically, the album is very well done. Good songwriting, and amazing song recording (considering it's a debut record.) Songs like 'Eyes Of Time,' 'The Banishment,' 'Merlin's Will' and 'Ayreon's Fate' stood out to me as being great prog-rock tunes. Theres also quieter songs like the beautifully composed 'Swan Song' that bring out the more thoughtful side of Arjen Luccasen's musical ability.

The one thing that could have been changed and improved was if each character in the story only had one corresponding vocalist, instead of a big melange of it all. It made the story I bit needlessly hard to follow, despite the relatively accessible lyrics. Besides that, it was great. Highly recommended for fans of good Prog-Rock, and although this isn't 'hardcore metal' by any standards, fans of Metal should be able to appreciate the quality of this record.

Report this review (#202430)
Posted Wednesday, February 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is the first of my ayreon and related reviews as i start from the first album and so on,the final experiment is a good album so read on,the first song prologue starts very nice and a bit in its gets atmospheric and sounds a good start a brilliant way to start the first ayreon album,next song the awareness starts with acoustic guitar very nice sound and mellow with edward reekers vocals which sound very good and hes on fine form and the background singers mirjam vandoorn and debby schreuder i think they are sound very good and arjens guitar sounds excellent here a good song i will be listening to in years to come and the keyboards sound good to and the drumming sounds good to a great song,next song is eyes of times witch starts with keyboards and the vocals sound good here to who is lenny wolf and he sounds goodand the background singers sound good here just as good as the first song who is mirjam vandoorn and debby schreuder and rene merkelbach and arjen luccassen and the keyboards sound great on this and the guitar sounds just as good and the drumming is good to who is ernst van Ee,next song is the banishment which starts very nice with keyboards and kind of atmospheric very good sound and then comes in a keyboard sound which sounds different and then the song gets going with acoustic guitar and electric guitar which just sounds brilliant to i love the sound this soing also has harpischord in the background and robert soeterboek on vocals and he sounds good here making the song sound good and again the guitar and drums sound good although the drums arnt brilliantly played but there just right for this song and at the 7.20 minutes a good hammond organ bit comes in and sounds just what it needs and keyboards going just as they should and the bass guitar sounds good here and the guitar sounds just where it should and then a bit more in a growl fromrobert soeterboek sounds evil sounding[good] and angry and the guitar screeches and the song ends a brilliant and best on album probably,next song is ye court yard minstrel boy sung byian parry is not my favorite on the album but is ok and at start a bit in has harpischord as whih other bits in song and is probably the most mellow on album,next is sail away to avalon with barry hay on vocals sounds as like the other songs and the background singers sound very good hereand are the ones as before the drums sound the same as before but good sounding and the guitar sounds great and theres a flute part which sounds brilliant and nice to here for a bit even though its only a little this song has feeling as the other songs,next is natures dance with birds at start and a very nice song sung by arrjen and is just deliteful this reminds me of relaxing on a hot day getting a suntan in my back garden i just love this song it would sound good with a smoke or two aswell and a beer relaxing,next is computer -reign which starts very nice with keyboards bass [good sound]with ian parry on vocals and the back ground singers sound brilliant here when they come in and ian parry is on fine form here and the keyboards sound good here but not as good as some of the other songs but the back ground singers make this song i think same goes for ian parry a great song,waracle starts very good with a bit of spoken bit which sounds great and then the more song bit comes in with jan van feggelen on vocals [this is my favorite song on this album]sounds very good and the back ground singers sound great on this one and when the spoken bits come in like kind of singing sounds brilliant and then it gets going again with the background singers which sounds brilliant and has feeling in this song and the guitar part sounds great everything about this song sounds brilliant you must hear this song and then fades out and ends brilliantly excellent song,next is listen to the waves which starts with a kind of heavy sounding bassey sound guitar then comes in acoustic with arjen on vocals and he sounds good hereand this is a good song and has keyboard sound which sounds like a quire in it at times which sounds very good and the guitar goes very well i think in this song as how its played etc a good song and the keyboard parts are very good to,next is magic ride which starts mellowey beaty with arjen on vocals again and he sounds good [hes not a brilliant singer but ok]and the background singers sound good here again this song is kind of mellow and i like this alot as its kind of atmospheric the acoustic guitar bit in this song is nice even though its only a bit,next is merlins will which starts from the last song with leon goewie on vocals and has harpischord in this and this song is a bit more heavier but sounds good and a bit like the other songs a bit but nothing wrong there attall,next is the charm of the seer with lucie hillen on vocals with acoustic guitars and electric to and nice keyboard bits but this is more guitar driven and when the background singers come in they sound good as with the other songs too they sound great singing to the charm of the seer bit brilliant and ends with a nice back ground singer ending it nicely,next is swan song with piano sound on keyboard and sounds relaxing to me with a nice sound of relaxing keyboard other part with it sounds nice [stream of passion would of made this better if they done it on there tour with arjen it has that stream kind of sound]a good song,next is ayreons fate with a mixture of singers singing there part all sound good and the guitar and keyboards sound just how they should and when the middle bit come the keyboards and guitar sound and make the song better sounding and the singers sound very good here and sound like there trying as with all the album and same with guitar bass and drums one of the best songs on the album and it fades out with the background singers sounding like there going back in time and the keyboards sound floating here and then the voice at start of album comes in for a few seconds and ends it all,this ayreon album is a good listen but not the best ayreon album to start with there are better albums like the human equation start with that that is brilliant ,i give the final experiment 3 stars as there are better ayreon albums by far,
Report this review (#205976)
Posted Tuesday, March 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars I vow that ye shall die.

Ayreon's first outing. This album is good, but there are a lot of moments I feel really drag the overall project down.

First off, the singing is great, and the symphonic parts are superb, but some of the music goes off in a blind direction, or for no reason does something that doesn't fit. Especially the growling early on. This is an excellent start to the musical legacy that is Ayreon, but I don't think it lives up to roads paved such as Electric Castle, or the masterpiece The Human Equation.

Get it if you are a fan of Ayreon, otherwise, check out his later releases first. 3 stars.

Report this review (#208765)
Posted Wednesday, March 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars The storyline of this interesting debut by Ayreon has already been told in earlier reviews and that would mean I'd just be repeating. With my personal feelings about the music of this rock/metal opera I will be original for sure since everybody has an own unique taste about music so that's what I will be describing below.

The album starts with a Prologue, a track that's charactarised by a speaking voice in the first half and an orchestral sounding sort of overture in the second half, this half being my favourite and it has some impressive moments. 3,5*.

Second is a three piece song called the Dawning and is by far the highlight of the album to me. Especially The Awareness is a tremendous piece of musical art to me. The first key tones of the songs after a great acoustic guitar opening (The Premonition) are super melodic and give an "awakening" feel to the song. The rest of this track is also absolutely terrific and is to date probably my most favorite Ayreon track ever, or at least one of them. 4,75*.

Eyes of Time (2nd part of the Dawning) is more of a typical Ayreon track where sound, vocals and build up are concerned. Of course these are in most cases great tracks but in my opinion this piece lacks the outstanding class of previous. 3,5*.

3rd and last part of The Dawning is The Bannishment and is also one of the better parts of The Final Experiment. First mini-movement of this epical track is called A new Dawn and has the same sort of impact as The Awareness in the beginning, next bit is called The Gathering and is the part where Arjen's guitar breaks loose with a fine melody line. Next is The Accusation and is the vocal part of the track (Robert Soeterbroek). 4th subpart is The Bannishment and is my fav part of the epic. Wonderful instrumental contributions by Arjen himself as well as Cleem Determeijer. The last section is called Oblivion and has some growling vocals and is where beauty and greatness is concerned the counterpart of previous sub part. Still all together a masterful track. 4,5*.

Unfortunately we have had the very best by now although I must admit the rest of the album is essential for the Rock Opera, but musically and compositionally it falls a bit short. 5th track is called Ye cortyard Minstral Boy and as the title already gives away it's a medieval sounding song. Well done but not very impressive. 3*.

Sail away to Avalon is another one with an orchestral feel (eventhough it's all done on the keyboards). Very nice also this one, bombastic but not going overboard. 3,5*.

Nature's Dance is a quiet, ballad-like track with some odd sounding vocals done by Arjen with obviously a sound transformer. One of the lesser tracks of the album. 2,75*.

Also Computer Reign is a vocally dominated track with some interesting effects but melodywise this isn't the very best either. 3*.

Waracle starts with war sounds behind an impressive organ tone. After this, gloomy vocal and instrumental sounds reminding me of The Necromancer by Rush. Rest of the song doesn't, is more the usual Ayreon, bombastic with many vocal and instrumental passages. Original song this. 3,5 *.

Listen to the Waves is another rock/metal ballad with distorted vocals. Also this one fails to impress unfortunately. 2,75*.

Magic Ride has some background percussion in th beginning that remind me of Casino. Ok, it's just a minor aspect but it's one of those interesting details. And the rest of the song is not really to write home about to be honest. 2,75*.

Merlin's Will is a lot better with great vocals and good melody lines. This track brings the Opera in the right direction again to get ready for the grand finale. 3,75*.

The Charm of the Seer is one of the "minstrel" songs on this album. It sounds a bit medieval though not as obvious as 5th track. 3,25*.

Swan Song is the most ballad-like track of all ballads on this album with a nice keyboard contribution besides the already playing piano. Nice for the balance on the Rock Opera. 3,5*.

Ayreon's Fate is both the last song as well as the first part of this closer. The other sub parts are called Merlin's Prophecy and Epilogue. The middle part is by far the best in my opinion. Another great bombastic track. 4*.

It's another mind breaker for the final rating. I'm tempted to give four stars but then only if I think of the better tracks and that's not really fair I'm afraid. On the other hand the better tracks are also the longer ones so if I would measure in time it's a very close call for the four stars. And there are more reasons to give the higher rating. It's an impressive album for a debut, it's one of the very few Rock Opera's in history and it's a balanced album when we are talking about rougher/softer parts and about vocals and instruments. Where build up and compositional elements are concerned, it's also a great effort. And last but not least: I wouldn't want to call this a non-essential album (which would be the case if I gave it three stars). So because of this all I will decide for the four stars after all despite the fact it's actually 3,5.

Report this review (#221928)
Posted Saturday, June 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Unlike many Ayreon fans, I was first introduced to Ayreon through the very first album, The Final Experiment. As you can already understand, it was good enough to take me further into the Ayreon world, even though this is not, by a mile, the best Ayreon work there is out there.

Ayreon albums are quite complex and feature a range of elements that only a wide array of talented singers and musicians, lead by an exceptional creator, can allow. Thus, one could not expect the first album of this concept ("The First Experiment"!) to be as nicely done as, for instance, The Electric Castle. The concept would be refined as time goes by, just as the singers and musicians hired would also get better.

One other thing playing against this album (or against any other Ayreon album for that sake) is the fact that its range is so large that it is almost certain to touch into at least one genre that the listener dislikes, or feels more indifferent to it (grunt, for me, is particularly taxing).

This being said, the lyrical concept underlying this first Ayreon album was compelling, telling the story of a Middle-Ages mistrel who was given a message from the future, tried to warn his fellows, and then convicted of heresy (side note : strangely, this album coincidentaly came out the same year as the movie 12 Monkeys). It was good enough a setup for the stories to come in subsequent Ayreon albums.

And so The Final Experiment is off to a strong start once Prologue ends. The Awareness and especially The Eyes of Time, with a great guitar finale, show all the signs of an excellent progressive album with neo-prog influences as the melodies and build-up spark off enthousiasm.

Most of the other tracks until Act IV are unfortunately of lesser interest save for a few good moments here and there such as the orchestral Sail Away to Avalon (which is not so progressive in my opinion, but fits well on this album). The softer songs, like Courtyard Mistrel Boy, fail to raise any eyebrows, while the more energetic songs lack clear purpose. I even have major difficulties with a few songs, such as Computer Reign or Magic Ride.

The Final Experiment, in my view, offers its best moments as the album ends with four songs of strong emotional and musical content. Merlin's Will and The Charm of the Seer both impress with their orchestral voices, buildups and melodies, followed by the sad Swan Song which is a fitting prelude to the dramatic final song Ayreon's Fate.

Overall, a rock opera made good by its strong start and finish, plus a few other good moments here and there. Although has a number of weak songs in the middle sections that prevent this album from reaching the level of most subsequent Ayreon albums. Obviously a promising concept still in its infancy.

Report this review (#231258)
Posted Wednesday, August 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It's his debut and you can clearly hear it. It's also my debut into his work (you know, I've tried to be little bit systematical, when trying to grasp all these prog records, intentionally). I know this album for about 16 months now and since, I've listened to it for many times (about 120x) . And after hyped time when I was listening almost nothing else, I moved further and started to listen more of his work, while not so many of his first one (you know, taking few months of rest, balancing it all) and now, I can easily listen to this album and take it as masterpiece. Yes, your eyes aren't fooling you, I'm thinking about this as a perfect album.

While not so crafted like 010101 and Equation, it's good from another reason. It's album everyone can listen to (I remember it's instant catcher, THE gave me quite a rough deal of pain while trying to get into it). I first intended this to be my first review here on PA and in this case, this would result in about 2000 words about how and why this music is so great, pointing out all these positives. Well, just imagine them here (ehm). For example great melodicity. Having all these strong melodies and still maintaining these strong prog metal elements, it's not easy task to do. Another one is story for example, those who know me also knows that I'm always attracted by strong story element, so I especially like concept album (they are mostly worth of admiration). And also theme of this record, combination of sci-fi/ fantasy. Usual in his work, but brand new here in 1995.

5(+), with every part of every song on its right place (except intro track, which is quite dull and boring and last minute of The Banishment - you know why) making together unique experience. This is progress, try to get it like that.

Especially when almost every of these tunes here are easily to remember. This is nothing you'll soon forget.

Report this review (#252614)
Posted Wednesday, November 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album isn't bad. But compared to The Human Equation and Into The Electric Castle I just don't feel that it's very worth listening to. There are a lot of good melodies and ideas, but it's all too raw. Here you could see that Ayreon was a diamond in the rough, but the music just isn't developed enough and AAL definitely had a long ways to go in terms of his composing. This record can be enjoyable, but truth be told I'd have to be really bored and going out of my way to hear something that I hadn't heard in a long time in order to wipe the dust off it and pop it in.

One final question. Why can Arjen Anthony Lucassen never get any decent death metal singers? There are so many good growlers out there, just do a decent casting, for jebediah's sake.

Report this review (#252620)
Posted Wednesday, November 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Arjen Lucassen is quite a phenomenon in recent prog history. His unique blend of musical-fantasy-rock-opera-all-stars-cast-Celtic-folk-pomposity isn't everybody's preferred type of progressive rock, but he's a great composer and arranger and I've find myself enjoying his works quite a lot. He often cites influences from all classic prog rock artists. Marillion, Rush, Pink Floyd, Yes, Tangerine Dream and ELP being the most prominent ones (or did I now list all classic bands).

There's very little metal on this debut, symphonic neo-prog would be a more fitting tag then progressive metal. It isn't very consistent and has too much sticky AOR tendencies. But there is plenty to relish as well. The Awareness is a bombastic blues with a soulful male lead and operatic female vocals. Also Eyes of Time is enjoyable. Yes I confess I like the lead singer Lenny Wolf from Zeppelin-clone band Kingdom Come. It's one of my indulgences really. Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy has a charming Celtic main theme but the vocals are quite grating, especially if you know the version that Arjen later recorded for his Ambeon project. Computer Reign and Waracle are the most powerful songs on the album. The Charm of The Seer is a folksy tune that also would get a makeover on the Ambeon album. Other songs like The Banishment and Sail Away are hurtful for my ears. Professional but empty and pompous. Lots of Yes and ELP influences though.

Except for the following album, Ayreon wouldn't change his formula very much. Only the execution got a lot better over time. With only 25 quality minutes, 2.5 stars will have to do.

Report this review (#259712)
Posted Thursday, January 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars 3 reasons to give this 3 stars - 1. The concept, overblown of course, but this was the beginning of the great Ayreon projects to come. 2. The music - wonderful guitar solos and keyboard ambience throughout are a sheer delight. 3. the vocalists - We have some of the best in the business woith the likes of Edward Reekers (Kayak), Lenny Wolf (Kingdom Come), Robert Soeterbroek, Jan-Chris De Koeijer, Ian Parry (Vengeance), Barry Hay (Golden Earring), Arjen Lucassen (Vengeance), Jan van Feggelen, Leon Goewie, Ruud Houweling, Lucie Hillen, Mirjam van Doorn and Debby Schreuder.

In conclusion, this is a strong debut showing the promise of things to come. It is not a great starting point, turn to the last three albums for that, but Arjen is an accomplished musician with a strong flair for the theatrical, and it is always great to hear those vocalists in full flight.

Report this review (#285431)
Posted Monday, June 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ayreon is a very unique and unusual band in the metal universe that seems sometimes too abstract to be easy to digest or to approach. It took some time and patience to get deeper into this project that takes its main influences from the progressive music of the seventies that can include electronic and folk sounds rather than heavy metal touches. This first album already establishes a sound that is proper and unique to the band even though there are so many guest musicians working on the project. The way the mastermind Arjen Lucassen writes, composes and structures its music is one of a kind. The project has the same concept as "Avantasia" but focuses on science-fiction topics and sounds. The members of the project are well chosen and have technical skills comparable to progressive acts such as "Dream Theater". The sound of this first album of the project has the epic structures and majesty of a mixture of "Falkenbach" and "King Crimson" and the sound and atmosphere of a mixture of "Rush" and "Tangerine Dream".

The whole first album is full of diversity and well arranged details. The record covers a big spectre from acoustic guitars to flutes and from epic female choirs to heavier growls. The enjoyable fact is that Ayreon takes the time to establish an intriguing atmosphere that fits with the story line instead of heading for the technical perfection and complexity. That's an error many progressive bands commit including Ayreon himself with some of his future works. This album here is smooth and has an enjoyable flow. It focuses on the right melodies and coherent structures and that sounds vivid, human and authentic to me. Don't expect three minute long keyboard solos. Arjen Lucassen doesn't want to be the center of the own universe he created. He rather let his guests be part of it and shares the stage with them on almost equal levels.

It's difficult to point out any songs on the record because it works as a whole. Let's mention that the first couple of songs are quite huge and complicated and not easy to digest. I didn't immediately fell in love with them and rather began to appreciate the album towards the second and especially the last third. In the end, the only problem of the album is that after a promising beginning the less impressing and memorable tracks are right in the beginning of the record and it still takes me some time to get into it. But the further the record goes the more interesting the pieces get and the more I get into the whole concept even if there is a clear lack of a truly memorable hit on this album. The powerful and yet quite diversified orchestral single "Sail Away To Avalon" is the closest one to in this kind of category.

Nevertheless, the true highlights can be found in the smoother songs and mostly in the middle or second half of the record. First of all, there are some really calm songs influenced by natural sounds. I could mention the very ethereal atmosphere of the relaxing "Nature's Dance". Another highlight is without a doubt the dreamy progressive rock killer "Listen To The Waves".

Second, there are some more bombastic and fast paced tracks that present another side of Ayreon's universe. The harmonies and the energy of "Merlin's will" and the majestic closing finale "Ayreon's Fate" are the highlights I want to mention concerning this concrete style of the album.

In third place, there are also some truly experimental tracks on the record that give a hint of what the band would try to install on later releases. The best example on this record is the quite modern and electronic approach that is used in the visionary "Computer-Reign".

In the end, anybody that likes calm and inspiring metal albums, conceptual projects or the whole spectre of progressive music from "Amon Düül" to "Frank Zappa" should check out the entire discography of this diversified composer and this record is a pretty great start to it. It's actually amongst the best Ayreon releases and establishes the basis of what would come later with "Into The Electric Castle" and the other parts of the same saga that begins in here.

Originally published on on May 4th of the year 2011.

Report this review (#499364)
Posted Sunday, August 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ayreon's debut album is a decent blueprint for the sort of "turned up to 11" rock opera that the project would churn out over the coming years. Whilst I have to give Arjen Lucassen credit for taking such a cheesy concept and amping up the cheese for all its worth (there's a track called Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy, for crying out loud), the actual execution took a while for me to warm to. Despite the Ayreon project eventually becoming something of a progressive metal powerhouse, don't expect technical intricacy of a Dream Theater-and-beyond level here - we're more in the world of bombastic rock opera than prog-oriented complexity here. Still, if you can appreciate it on that level - like Savatage and Planet P Project getting together and jamming - it's very fun.
Report this review (#623729)
Posted Tuesday, January 31, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars If you hate bombastic neo-prog, 80s-esque metal, and cheesy Wakeman-like concept albums, then you should stay far away from Ayreon. But I happen to like all those things. It's almost a guilty pleasure, but this is a very fun album. Unusual for an Ayreon album, this album features multiple singers "playing" the same character. Highlights include "The Banishment", "Sail Away to Avalon", and "Computer Reign". Lucassen sings on three songs, and they are all very good. I like his voice better than some of the people he gets to guest, it's a shame he doesn't sing more often. If you want "serious art" look elsewhere, but this is certainly a fine addition to any prog rock collection.
Report this review (#2849231)
Posted Tuesday, November 1, 2022 | Review Permalink
3 stars I consider the debut album by Ayreon to be something of a breakthrough in the progressive metal category: The level of majesty, classical music inspiration married with tons of modern synths, great cast of vocals and last but not least, ambitious sci-fi concept topics. All this called - metal opera.

The debut album has a surprising name "The final experiment" which should however not be linked to the status of music on it.

The vocalists on this album aren't as top-rated as it would appear on further releases but that doesn't mean that vocal performance isn't one of the top elements to be heard. There is a variety of sounds, motives and moods with some excellent melodies. I don't care about anything beyond music so whatever lyrics or topics are addressed.

You may be blown away when it's your first Ayreon album; however future releases have better instrumental execution and better songwriting. As each modern rock opera, it is fascinating how many different styles can be melted together, we have for example a folky minstrel followed by an anthemic "Sail away to Avalon" where bass synths but also elaborate guitar arrangements with excellent female/male vocals please many fans.

I rate this album with 3.5 stars - it is a really mature debut album and its level of complexity, sound quality is above a common progressive metal album.

Report this review (#2852005)
Posted Monday, November 14, 2022 | Review Permalink

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