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Star One

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5 stars Review based on official pre-release promo of album

After a short respite into a different side project called Guilt Machine, Arjen Lucassen returns to the familiar ground of Star One. This time out it's called Victims of the Modern Age. It has been seven years since the Live On Earth album was released. It was worth the wait, no surprise there. This is not predictable and quite unlike its previous lineup and sound.

Arjen is brilliant once again, isn't he always? Just when you think he is due for some kind of let down, a project that his longtime fans won't like so much, he puts it all to rest in a heartbeat. Arjen gives his listeners something to enjoy with a few new twists and turns but mainly it rocks and that is the most important factor.

Victims of the Modern Age is another multi-dimensional star studded affair that maintains a theme from start to finish complete with heavy metal guitars, driving spacey keyboards, all the great music you would expect from an Arjen Lucassen project. The theme or concept if you will is not too hard to figure out from the title. What transpires are the ravages of time and the ecological breakdown of mother earth and all its trappings that bring us to our eventual demise as a human race. Arjen has been professing the eventual takeover of our technology driven society and our inevitable demise for a long time ("It All Ends Here'), warning of our self destruction (note the ominous mushroom cloud on the colorful futuristic cover), and the fear of waiting for that one maniacal futuristic god that falls from the sky to push the button and end it all. He is like a modern day Jules Verne writing a script for the future that does not seem too farfetched at this point. Do note in his stories that he always leaves the door open for man to make things right ("24 Hours"), he always did. Let's hope in the present real world we will wake up before it's too late.

Besides the genius of Arjen Luccassen steering his troops into a space metal galaxy once again you have some familiar names that are part of the crew. The ever changing vocal parts and music that matches each unique voice and character, are handled by Damian Wilson (Original Star One crew member, Threshold, Headspace), Russell Allen (Symphony X), Floor Jansen (ex-After Forever, ReVamp), Dan Swanö (Nightingale, Second Sky, ex-Edge of Sanity) and some special guests on the bonus disc including Tony Martin on "Closer To The Stars" (formerly of Black Sabbath).

The first disc is full of energy and fat metal power chords. Tracks like the catchy yet divergent "Digital Rain", "24 Hours" and "Alive, She's Alive, We're Alive" will get inside your head and will refuse to leave. Then the "bonus" disc is just as good as the main CD and continues in the same fashion, in fact I enjoyed it even more. "Two Plus Two Equals Five" is an amazing track. The hypnotic drones of the guitar and deep undertow of the bass and drums pushes the unique "from the bowels of hell" vocals from guest vocalist Rodney Blaze to make it the most unique track on the entire set. You know, I can hear Ronnie James Dio (god rest his soul) singing some of these songs. Just imagine how glorious that would have been?

You have to love the way they wrap this set up with the ELP classic "Knife Edge" (courtesy of Damian, Arjen, Floor and Russell). Arjen and his band do an amazing workup of that song and it's a fitting way to close the curtain on yet another flight across the heavy metal prog universe. There is no getting around it; the more you listen to this music the more it digs its way into the fiber of your soul and cover tracks like "Knife Edge" is just the icing on the proverbial prog rock cake. Time to climb aboard the Star One flight again; it's the only way to fly!

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: 24 Hours, Two Plus Two Equals Five, Victim of the Modern Age

Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck

October 4, 2010

Report this review (#302838)
Posted Friday, October 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Victims Of The Modern Age' - Star One (6/10)

Having grown a bit tired with the 'atmospheric and profound' musical direction he took with Ayreon and his other latest project Guilt Machine, musical mastermind Arjen Luccassen has decided to take his exploits in a different direction once again. Wanting to do something a bit heavier and primal, it seems natural that Arjen would pursue his most metal-oriented project, 'Star One.' Self-professed as 'space metal,' this music is based greatly on heavy guitar riffs, soaring technical vocals, and a sprinkling of psychedelic, otherwordly energy to let it live up to it's label. With his second bout with Star One, Arjen has created a fairly strong release that lives up to his reputation. 'Victims Of The Modern Age' will likely not go down in history as being one of Luccassen's better works, but it is enough to surely satisfy the majority of his fans.

Somewhere up above in the stars, Arjen Luccassen, Odin, and Jimi Hendrix and the like must be looking down on Earth in utter dissapointment. As one might guess from the album's title, the music expresses Arjen's disdain for the current state of things in society. With topics generally derived from dystopic science fiction (a prevalent theme in Arjen's work) there is a generally rebellious tone in the lyrics. While the themes Luccassen is covering here are certainly ambitious to say the least, the lyrics don't really feel up to par. While I found the lyrical content on most of his work with Ayreon to be very clever and effective, the lyrics are generally kept simplistic and contribute little to the overall enjoyment of the work.

In terms of the music itself, things are kept relatively heavy throughout. Driven by crunchy guitars and the thunderous percussion of Ed Warby, it is clear that this something other than Ayreon, despite obvious similarities the two may share. While Arjen is certainly an able guitarist and performer (as has been proven by much of his prior work), the riffs here are quite simple, and generally only serve to contribute to the songwriting. A few skillful guitar and keyboard solos grace the mix as well, but the real musical highlight here are the vocalists, as well as the way they are used in the music. Among the rest of the singers are Russell Allen (of Symphony X), Damian Wilson (of Threshold) and even Dan Swanö of death metal fame. The vocals here are generally very melodic, and many of the vocal lines are drenched in catchniess. The real star here is Damian Wilson, whose brilliant operatic tone works beautifully with the heavier atmosphere of the music.

'Victims Of The Modern Age' may be a good album to rock out to, but anyone expecting a masterpiece will be dissapointed here. While the music is well executed, Star One does not seem to have the same magical quality that many of Arjen's other projects have. The album seems to be what it was meant to be however; a fun and melodic dose of melodic heavy metal; the sort of thing that would be great to hear live someday. A pretty good album nontheless, and anyone starved to hear something from Arjen Luccassen should give this album a good listen.

Report this review (#305790)
Posted Wednesday, October 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Much has happened since the crew of Star One touched down on Earth for a series of concerts in support of the first album, Space Metal. Star One mastermind Arjen Lucassen has since put out two Ayreon albums, created two new projects, and made multiple treks through Europe with Stream of Passion. All this would find Arjen exploring many new musical grounds, and would also allow him to work with over twenty new vocalists. I suppose after awhile it's normal to want to return to familiarity, and to a small extent that's what Arjen has done with the new Star One album, Victims of the Modern Age.

The album sees the return of the debut's star cast of vocalists which includes Russell Allen, Damien Wilson, Dan Swano, and Floor Jansen, and in addition we see a return of the general heaviness found on Space Metal. However there are certainly things that do not return, such as the raw, poppy moments like in the chorus of the songs "Songs of the Ocean" or "Intergalactic Space Crusaders". It's not to say the album isn't catchy; however it's done in a much heavier and darker fashion than on the first album. Victims also boasts some brand new sounds from Arjen, most notably the opening guitar riff to "Human See, Human Do" which sounds like nothing Arjen has done to date.

The synth leads on tracks like "Digital Rain" and "Cassandra Complex" compliments an aggressive guitar style that smacks of the best moments of Deep Purple's career. And while Arjen stepped up to the plate and delivered some of the best keyboard and guitar parts of his career the all-star roster of vocalists lived up to their reputations and gave 110% to the album. Each singer has their own moments to shine, as well as times when they play off one another in harmonious bliss like in the later parts of "It's Alive, She's Alive, We're Alive". In addition guitarist Gary Wehrkamp and keyboard wiz Joost van den Broek provided thrilling solos which are sprinkled throughout the album, and I can honestly say that for all he's done with Arjen I think drummer Ed Warby opened up a new dimension in his playing to compliment the new musical ideas that were thrown into the mix.

While Victims of the Modern Age has a signature sound to it and some familiar voices I think most will be somewhat surprised with how very fresh this album sounds. One of my only complaints about the Guilt Machine album was that much of it sounded like 01 part two, and thankfully that is not the case this time around. I can easily see tracks like "Earth That Was", "Victims of the Modern Age", "Human See, Human Do", "24 Hours", and "It's Alive, She's Alive, We're Alive" all going down as some of the best songs Arjen has ever written. And yes, I realize I just named half the album, it's that good. The bar was set quite high by the first Star One album, but it was topped by fresh songwriting, amazing lead work on both guitars and keyboards, and excellent contributions from every musician involved.

Nick's Rating: 98%

Report this review (#305895)
Posted Wednesday, October 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
3 stars STAR ONE - a project which has prog metal music based on sci-fi-movies in supply. As for that consequently coupled with some appropriate references, obvious at first concerning the cover art and some song titles. The lyrics are consistently referring to diverse wellknown movies like 'The Matrix', '12 Monkeys' or 'Planet Of The Apes', to name a few. Mastermind Arjen Lucassen is bestknown for his project Ayreon probably, which he advertises as his 'mothership'. And Hawkwind is often named by him as a big influence. So the limited edition disc of the first STAR ONE studio production even features a Hawkwind medley with vocal contributions by Dave Brock. Well, some spacey synths and stomping rhythms are reminding of this protagonists - however, the nine songs put on the album's regular edition are way more metal pervaded though, featuring a rather aggressive mood based on heavy guitar riffs all over.

Additionally Lucassen has invited a best-of team of vocal artists - that's for sure - to name Damian Wilson and Russell Allen for example. With Digital Rain they have a promising begin, Ed Warby's powerful drum work attracts attention immediately, which applies to the complete course by the way. Next then the excellent Earth That Was starts off - dominated by a remarkable shredding guitar riff, wooohhhh! - perfectly reduced as for the volume and the punch when it comes to the outstanding vocal parts. The keyboard/synth decoration is worthwhile alone, even comprising some spacey moments in between. Provided with spirit - this one is really pathbreaking!

Apart from that, it's really hard to keep up this high level for the following songs. 24 Hours comes as a pleasant exception though, decorated with a symphonic note and emotive vocals by Damian Wilson. Cassandra Complex and It's Alive - She's Alive - We're Alive are drifting into a more catchy direction where the long track It All Ends Here is dominated by a darker mood and shows a short Pink Floyd inspired section.

Comprising the shining highlight 'Earth That Was' this is a solid album, prominent regarding technical abilities, featuring lots of bombast riffs, skilled vocals, lively keyboard/synth contributions - great musicianship to sum it up. However, when it comes to the compositional impact, the entire album is a bit single-tracked according to my taste. Possibly exposed Lucassen fans will add an additional rating star here. Basically also designated to supporters of Dream Theater, Symphony X, Fates Warning I would say.

Report this review (#308124)
Posted Wednesday, November 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
5 stars A Journey into the cosmic Progaverse is the best Arjen Project for years

Star One's new album is atmospheric, spacey and a fascinating, compelling listen. The synthesizer melodies immediately transfix on the opening track. Those crystal clear synth lines simply blast and there is a shimmering Hammond that segues into 'Digital Rain', one of the genuine Arjen classics. The heavy drums and thrashing riffs crunch over the sustained organ. You have to love this if you are into metal as it delivers full blown crashing guitars and a great invective vocal harmony. The vocals sound like Dio resurrected "Let go your anger, empty your mind, return to your senses?. Cut through these lies, lives are in danger, open up your eyes. Reach for the answer... take the chances and taste the pain? don't trust your senses, you have been blind, digital rain, awaken the sleeper?" Great synth solos and lead guitar trade offs simply kill with power. I love the melody which is majestic, pretentious but totally accessible for metal heads and prog enthusiasts. The vocals are loud and sung with conviction similar to Symphony X. Floor Jansen is always welcome on these Arjen albums, she is brilliant as usual.

The next track, 'Earth That Was' has a very deep grunge metal power riff that annihilates on this. It is relentless and powerful. The vocals are superb again, between accomplished singers, and such tremendous harmonies. The space themes are strong and not subtle... "a fire in the darkness? quest for freedom? a desperate need to find our place in the emptiness of space", there are images of a cataclysmic war and a futuristic Armageddon.

The synth solo is again wonderful, over the choppy metal riffing. The production value is A1 on this. Reminiscent sound of Ayreon's best albums, though much heavier; he doesn't hold back on these opening tracks, and its great to hear the musicians take off in full flight.

I love the droning sounds on 'Victims of the Modern Age'. The theme is "lashings of violence, the sound of symphony sends shivers up my spine, I am singing in the rain? a restless mind trapped in his cage, a victim of the modern age" yes it's an obvious homage to 'A Clockwork Orange' and a very good one. As a fan of the Kubrick film I was delighted to hear this tribute to the 70s film. The beat is steady with dark distortion and downbeat chord changes. There are lines from the film throughout such as "Violence makes violence.. I swear to you my brothers? I'm still singing in the rain"; a real delight to my ears.

The references to "Planet of the Apes" are obvious with the famous oft quoted line beginning 'Human see Human Do'. This is a full blown attack on the senses; a speedy riffing metal banger with Dragonforce style motifs and heavier growling vocals, though not too gravelly. The obligatory lead break is as good as you might expect from these virtuoso musicians. The real drawcard on this though is that incessant breakneck riff and the incredible keyboard lightning fast lines.

A quieter intro after the frenetic chaos of previous is welcome, and begins '24 Hours' nicely. The Queensryche type style jumps out on the verses for a while and then the heavy guitars crash in on a steady slower tempo on the chorus. Damien Wilson is terrific on vocals and Floor chimes in to bring up the octave. There are a number of time sig changes and detours, with a crunching bridge and melancholic synth solo. Wonderful music I can assure you. The lyrics are about a ruleless dystopia, "A crime ridden city, confined within these walls, a place without pity, a place of sin, no rules apply here, among this desperate crowd, once you come in you are never coming out" ;perhaps reference to 'Escape From New York', 'The Matrix' or others you can think of where the world has gone to hell in a handbasket.

'Cassandra Complex' has a dynamic metal riff over a rising synth line. The lyrics are easy to comprehend "you are caught inside a fantasy? I came back from the past, I've come to save our world, times up so we better move fast? Cassandra complex? We can change the future but we can't change the past"; perhaps , '12 Monkeys' springs to mind here. I like how the female and male vocals trade off and answer each other in theatrical style. Some innovative moments on this track too with a riff that follows the melodic vocals in particular mid way through. It is a complex track that grinds along with a bright synth to light up the darker guitars.

A buzzing techno synth line begins 'It's Alive, She's Alive, We're Alive', that really sounds like a metal Gary Numan song as far as the music goes. The melody is infectious and really sticks in your brain. I absolutely love this track and it cemented the masterpiece rating for me as I was already taken with the amazing sounds previous, teetering on the star rating; whether one track was going to drive the nails in, but this hammered that last star on the rating for me. This track features everything I love about prog; creative structure, terrific vocals and harmonies, metal riffs and awesome spacey synthesizers with a plethora of solo performances and trade offs with an infectious melody and innovative lyrics; what more do you want? I love Floor's beautiful vocals on this too.

'It All Ends Here' is a dark crawl metal piece for a while, the drums are steady and accommodate the vocals, and atmospherics. You can hear references to 'Blade Runner' "moments lost like tears in the rain", and a sound like Fate's Warning, Shadow Gallery or Symphony X is prominent. As the longest song, it stays with you and locks into your brain. After it is all over the only thing I want to do is begin the CD again. You can totally immerse yourself in the cosmic ethereal fantasy that is created here.

I will have to hunt down the limited 2 CD edition now so I can complete my listening experience. But for now, this album will haunt my CD player.

My opinion may not make a huge difference here among the 3 star ratings, but I am absolutely blown away by this album, I believe it is a masterpiece from Arjen and among the best he has done only beaten by the incredible Ayreon brilliance on 'The Human Equation' for conceptual creativity and quality. His latest album with Star One is sheer genius on every level. I thought it was a masterpiece on my first listen and then heard it again and again and my love for it grew even deeper. It just resonated with me on a personal level and I was hooked by its sonic magic. 5 brilliant stars!

Report this review (#309950)
Posted Tuesday, November 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars It had to happen, it was written in Lucassen's stars. His tendency to plaster every square inch of his music with overstressed production values had to blow up in his face one day. I just wouldn't have though it to happen in his Star One project, certainly not after teasing us with the news that the album would be heavier. Well, it's heavy yes, but not wild or exciting. For that it is too glossy and indulges in sound bombast that pushes me to the edge of a sonic indigestion.

After the mandatory synth intro, Digital Rain kicks off the album with a cliché but fine heavy rock song. The best reference that comes to mind would be Rainbow from the albums after Dio left the band, meaning lots of pomp-rock and little excitement. And that's all for the song by song part of this review as none of the remaining items add anything to what Digital Rain presented. Some tracks are a bit catchier others not.

The whole idea of this project is to revisit the late 70's heavy rock, but with such a clinical and pompous production it never comes off the ground for long. Little variation, few surprises, nothing new, nothing too exciting but nothing too offensive neither. A satisfying release for fans of the heavier side of Ayreon, but no match for his better work like Into the Electric Castle.

Report this review (#322088)
Posted Tuesday, November 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Monday September 6 2010 17: 52: 02 mail from STAR ONE CONTEST 1-GUESS THE MYSTERY SINGER. So a little bit later the YouTube clip blares through our living room. An unmistakable voice. Arjen has once again succeeded in hiring another master singer. Even my wife knows it immediately "Tony Martin". Tony is the former singer of Black Sabbath, from albums like "the Eternal Idol" and "Headless Cross". So a few minutes later, 18:00 to be precise, my answer is on the arjenlucassen message board. This makes me win this fantastic album.

After the 01011001 album of Ayreon in 2008 and the Guilt Machine Album of last year, this year Arjen comes with his second Star One album. He himself says about the album "This time I decided to do like a Metal Album, you know, and not hold back ?" and indeed that is exactly what he did. A very powerful, very heavy album. His other statement is also true: "I think it is the best I ever did".

Arjen has managed to get back the line-up of the first Star One crew. On drums again Ed Warby, who seems to fit perfectly with what Arjen wants with Star One. Ed also plays on the same drums as for the album "Electric Castle". The bass is this time not done by Arjen himself, but by Peter Vink, who also was on the live album. Peter has a very aggressive sound, which is also clearly audible (and felt) on the album. Definitely a gain. The keyboard solos are not played by Jens Johansson this time but by Joost "Lul" van den Broek (like Peter, Joost can also be heard on the live-DVD). Why he is a "real Lul" I don't know, but he can play great solos and of course fits perfectly with the voice of Floor Jansen (both ex-After Forever). Gary Wehrkamp plays, like on the first album, a number of guitar solos. Among them on, Digital Rain, where the solos of Gary and Joost strengthen each other perfectly. Oh Yes ... and of course Arjen plays all other instruments, guitars and keyboards and he is very good with the "muis". He also sings a song "Last day" on the second CD.

Let's discuss the vocal part of the album, where Arjen is always able to get the best singers together. They are again Floor Jansen (Really High Voice), Sir Russell Allen (Power Voice), Damian Wilson (Clear Voice) and Dan Swanö (Hugh Low Voice). Together they are responsible for the vocals on all the numbers of the first CD, as well as on the ELP cover "Knife Edge" on the Bonus CD. With the use of these voices range, the music is much better than on the Guilt Machine album, with only 1 singer. On the bonus CD there are furthermore 3 guest singers, with the already mentioned Tony Martin on the song "Closer to the Stars". For me, one of the better extra tracks, completely in the style of Black Sabbath. Tony is the only one who is not recorded in Arjen´s Studio, but in his own Studio. Mike Andersson (the lead singer of the Swedish progmetal band Cloudscape) provides the vocals for "As the Crow Dies" and Rodney Blaze sings "Two plus Two equals Five". Rodney Blaze, born in Rotterdam, also sang the song "the Accusation" on the re- issued album "The Final Experiment-Special Edition". He was also present this year on Paaspop in Schijndel with his band "Monster of Pop" and apparently he is a good friend of Arjen.

The album is again based on movies. On the first album the subject was Science Fiction or Space movies, now Dystopian movies. According to Wikipedia, this means: "Massive dehumanization, totalitarian government, rampant disease, post-apocalyptic terrains, cyber- genetic technologies, societal chaos and widespread urban violence are some of the common themes in dystopian movies which bravely examine the ominous shadow cast by future." Arjen has selected 12 movies from the Dystopian Movies top 50 of all time. The number one of that list is "Metropolis", which seems to have been forgotten by Arjen (or let's say that this movie was before his time).

The CD starts with an intro song "Down the Rabbit Hole" (based on Alice in Wonderland), where we fall together with Arjen into the depth of the apocalyptic world. This intro has very much resemblance with the intro "Lift off" on the first album. The intro leads directly into the bombastic and pompous "Digital Rain". This number is clearly based on The Matrix, with Dan Swanö as neo and Damian as Morpheus, Russell and Floor probably as Tank andTrinity. This first number immediately sets the sound of the album, the harmony of vocals, the fight between guitar and keyboard solos, this number has so much power that it gets stuck in your head and won't leave. Then the song "Earth that Was" based on the TV series Firefly. This is yet another heavy number with all the above mentioned ingredients.

The title track "Victims Of The Modern Age" is clearly inspired by the movie "A Clockwork Orange", and in particular the text "Singing in the rain" refers to the raping scene in this movie. In my opinion this number comes closest to the Ayreon work we know, particularly "Into the Electric Castle" comes in mind. Why Arjen choose Dan Swanö's voice becomes clear at approximately 4:30, a better deeper, but also pure, grunt voice there is probably none. The immersive tune causes you to sing out loud "and I'm singing in the Rain".

"Human See, Human Do" starts with a sample from the movie "Planet of the Apes" and then the track bursts into a modern version of Rainbow's "Kill the King". The bass playing of Peter Vink is clearly present at this number and once again great solos from successively Joost and Gary, grunt vocals of Dan and the high sweet voice of Floor makes this song complete.

"24 Hours", based on the John Carpenter movie "Escape from New York", starts with the quiet beautiful pure voice of Damian Wilson. Boy, what can this man sing! Then Russell takes over, making the number a bit more forceful. This repeats itself one more time, after which the number explodes into a typical Ayreon rhythm, when Russell and Floor take over. No additional guitar or keyboard solos on this song, only Arjen playing the guitars and synths. This number has marvelous pace and mood swings. A great song!

That Russell also is able to sing purely, he proves on "Cassandra Complex". The resemblance with Joe Lynn Turner of the aforementioned Rainbow is very close. The atmosphere of the Rainbow album "Straight between the Eyes" from 1982 continues in the entire song. The texts are based on the movie "Twelve Monkeys" with Bruce Willis. The song ends abruptly and moves directly into "it's alive?". This song is about the birth of the apocalyptic child in "Children of Men". A very catchy song where the recurring refrain "it's alive, she's alive, we're alive" keeps lingering for a very long time. Furthermore a typical Arjen/Joost van den Broek ending of the song.

And then we have already arrived at the last track of the first CD "It All Ends Here". The song is based on the most favorite movie of Arjen "Ridley Scott's Blade Runner". It is also the longest and, to my opinion, the best song of the album. This number has everything that you would expect from an Arjen Lucassen number, with a guitar solo by the master himself.

The way the album is recorded strikes me as very clever. The second CD contains the video "The making of", in which Arjen reveals how the album is made. Arjen has the entire album already instrumentally created, before the other musicians and singers come in, one by one. When you hear the perfectly alignment of the voices on all songs, you can hardly imagine that they are not in the studio at the same time.

The album ends very applicable with the detonation of a nuclear bomb, leaving us in a post- apocalyptic world. Nothing is the same anymore after this album.

Report this review (#326871)
Posted Saturday, November 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Arjen Lucassen has done it again!

First with Aryeon and now with Star One, again. Once again he has a star studded cast that includes Floor Jansen, Russell Allen, Dan Swanö, and many more. I am so glad that Dan Swanö is in on this one since he is so good. You can easily hear him on "Victims of a Modern Age" and "Human See, Human Do", where he graces us with his growling talent. This album also has a great mix of both heavy and light metal. Victims is much more lighter than I expected, but that is good since I tend to like lighter metal better.

Another thing I like about this album that is new to me is a prominent woman vocalist. I always backed away from them because I never thought that a higher pitched voice should be in the same sentence as metal. Boy was I wrong. Floor Jansen really adds to the overall feel of the album.

A great example of this is in the song "Human See, Human Do". It shows the great things that come from the contrast between high and low sounds. The chorus is very good, and in the end of the song Dan Swanö comes in and growls for the second and last time on the album. Besides the great vocals there are supreme keyboards from Arjen Lucassen and guitars from Gary Wehrkamp and Arjen Lucassen again. It has a very 70's feel to the song along with more modern implements. The song is based off of the 1960's movie "Planet of the Apes", which you could tell from the line, "We were here first?".

Another song that I like a lot is "Cassandra Complex" which features a great duel between Floor Jansen and Russell Allen, which is very cool. It, once again, has great guitars from Gary Wehrkamp, too. "Cassandra Complex" also has one of the more catchier riffs on the album, so it sticks in my mind, making it more memorable.

One other song with a great chorus is "Digital Rain" which was the first song that Arjen Lucassen wrote for the album. It has great drums from Ed Warby, and at the end it features a cool a cappella section. The last song "It All Ends Here" has a Pink Floyd feel to it, and is much darker, and longer than all the other songs on the album.

Overall this is definitely one of the best albums of 2010 featuring many stars including Arjen Lucassen, Dan Swanö, Floor Jansen, and many more. It definitely deserves the five stars I am giving it, but one thing I would have liked was more growling from Dan Swanö.

Report this review (#336582)
Posted Saturday, November 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Human See, Human Do

Strangely enough, I jumped onto the Arjen Lucassen bandwagon pretty late. Having only discovered him through Ayreon's 01011001, I really only delved into his massive discography in the last two years or so. So after thoroughly enjoying the Ayreon classics and some other side-projects, I was pretty excited for the new Star One album, Victims of the Modern Age. Although I set a pretty high level of expectations for the album, I can confidently conclude that Arjen Lucassen & co. has exceeded almost every single one of them. Even though I can't consider Victims of the Modern Age to be one of the best albums released in Arjen's catalog, calling this anything less than a spectacular masterwork would be criminal. It seems as though it's impossible for Arjen Lucassen to create anything that isn't great, and this Star One album is just further proof of that. If you like progressive metal, power metal, or rock operas, Victims of the Modern Age should already be in your collection!

The music here is a typical Arjen creation, though a bit more metal-oriented and darker than we're used to. If Ayreon played a heavier and slightly more stripped-down style, this would be the result. The songs are also a bit more commercial-sounding than other things Lucassen has done in the past. There aren't a whole lot of progressive tendencies outside of the synth-laden sound and vocal harmonies. Victims of the Modern Age is first and foremost a power metal album, and a very good one at that. There is some expected cheese, mainly in the production, but when the music is this good, it's rarely a problem. Every song is irresistibly catchy, filled with bombastic arrangements, terrific vocal harmonies, and crushing riffs. After the brief synth intro, Down the Rabbit Hole, the album rarely stops and catches its breath again. Victims of the Modern Age is filled to the brim with heavy and melodic riffs, sure to please fans of progressive power metal.

One of the best things about most of Arjen Lucassen's projects is the host of guest vocalists, and the same surely applies to Victims of the Modern Age. With a cast consisting of Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity, Nightingale, Unicorn, Bloodbath, Demiurg, etc.), Russell Allen (Symphony X), Damian Wilson (Threshold, Headspace), and Floor Jansen (After Forever), you're bound to have a terrific vocal department. The instrumentalists are also some of the best in the prog and metal worlds. The drumming from Ed Warby is especially notable.

The production is a bit of an issue, in my opinion. Although the sound is powerful and heavy, it's far glossy and over-produced to be enjoyable. I really wish Arjen would take a bit of a step back in terms of production. This is way too synthetic and pompous for me. Some may enjoy the sound, but it just adds loads and loads of cheese to an otherwise incredible album, in my opinion.


Victims of the Modern Age is a great comeback album for Star One, and another terrific release in Arjen Lucassen's shining catalog. Although the album is over-produced and occasionally a bit pompous, there are so many great things that tremendously outweigh any detriments. If you like Arjen Lucassen's past projects, it'd be awfully hard for you not to enjoy this. Even though Victims of the Modern Age isn't quite a masterpiece, it's awfully close, and surely among one of the best albums in 2010. 4 shining stars are well-deserved here.

Report this review (#336589)
Posted Saturday, November 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Arjen's projects are guarantee of good music!

He has to be one of the most prolific and well recognized musicians in the progressive rock (metal oriented) scene from the past two decades. His works always give elements to create a nice talk and good criticism, and this time is not the exception, however, my main problem here was that in moments I felt that it was just more of the same. I'll explain it later.

After eight years of Star One's first album (Space Metal), Arjen and his colleagues decided to give light to a new child with the title of "Victims of the Modern Age", so this 2010 was a really expected year for those who love his projects, especially Star One. I am a follower of Ayreon, in particular a true lover of The Human Equation, but I also enjoy some of his other projects such as Ambeon or this one.

The album's running time is around 53 minutes and features nine compositions. It kicks off with the shortest one, a one-minute intro called "Down to the Rabbit Hole" with a keyboard that leads you to Arjen's sound; he has actually created a label himself, Arjen's music can be easily recognized. The second track has the title of "Digital Rain". The label of space metal that some people give to this band can be understood with songs like this, also, knowing that sci-fi films have given Arjen inspiration to create music, that label works together with the sound. This song is very powerful, the drums are heavy and vocals reach high notes. What I probably like the most is the sound of keyboards, the way they guide the music, and the listener.

Of course, it is worth mentioning that here you will find several singers, well known from their works in other bands, they are Russell Allen, Damian Wilson, Floor Jansen and Dan Swanö. The third track is "Earth that was", with again a powerful sound made by guitars first, and then by drums and keyboards. Some of the things I appreciate the most in Star One and Ayreon, is the mixture of voices, and how they interplay, no matter if they are male or female vocals, I think almost always they appear in the precise moment. Just before minute three, there is a pretty nice keyboard solo, the thing here is that some notes really remind me of The Human Equation, so here I started to compare the current, with past music.

"Victims of the Modern Age" has a catchy sound actually, the guitar and keyboard that share the same notes produces a repetitive and in moments maddening sound. Though this is the title track, I honestly believe is one of the weakest pieces on this album, I also don't like the growl vocals that appear before minute five, and n the will of create an addiction, this song created only boredom.

"Human See, Human Do" start with some dialogues from a film, and then seconds later the music begins with a strong guitar sound, powerful drums and punch bass, the rhythm is very fast so you better pay attention, otherwise you will miss the track. The first voice is not really what I like the most, actually I would omit it, but then Wilson's and Jansen's ones fix it. Again, the main problem I have here is that some passages take me to some previous Arjen's projects, so in moments I feel it is repetitive and I lost interest.

Next track is more interesting, "24 Hours" creates a dark but sweet atmosphere which easily takes you and maintains you expectant of what's coming next. The vocal work here is excellent and the music helps a lot. It is divided in various passages with colorful moments and sounds that create images and stories in your own mind. This is without a doubt one of the most brilliant moments on this album, or at least, one of my favorite songs.

"Cassandra Complex" is a nice but average track. Now that I am reviewing, I realize that despite the album was well elaborated, I found some kind of discontinuity, because when the music takes me on the top of my interest, it all of a sudden takes me to the bottom. That happened here, after truly enjoying 24 Hours, now I just listen to Cassandra Complex, not really loving it.

"It's Alive, She's Alive, We're Alive" is another good track, well in fact I believe they all are good, of course, some better than others. This song creates a pretty cool mood and that, mixed with the different vocals, succeed. The keyboard sound is also great. And the album finishes with "It all ends here" which also happens to be the longest track. The atmosphere shares some nervousness and tension, so you might feel trapped under the sound, and stay still until it finishes. With this song it is clear that there is no need to be overpretentious or pompous to catch anyone's attention, you only have to choose the correct elements in the correct moments, no more.

Now, I like the album, and musically I believe it deserve four stars, easily, my problem, as I've mentioned, is that in moments I felt it inconsistent and in some others the music took me to Ayreon passages, so i have to admit I though "maybe he is running out of ideas" which is very harsh to say, and I am sure he is not. But well, for that, my final rating will be three stars. It is recommendable, great, but not an album that really excites me.

Enjoy it!

Report this review (#352011)
Posted Monday, December 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Star One is one of the many projects from the incredibly talented Arjen Lucassen, who is also the mastermind behind Ayreon (and other side projects including Guilt Machine, Ambeon, and Stream of Passion).

Lucassen's modus operandi is to write and create music journeys and then employ the best instrumentalists to play and various vocalists to sing the roles of the people in the songs. Star One's "niche" is Progressive Metal coupled with science fiction themes; all the songs on the two Star One albums are all based on science fiction films. Check out "Earth That Was" (based on one of my favorite television shows, "Firefly") and "24 Hours" (based on the cult classic film "Escape from New York").

Star One is nowhere as good as Lucassen's work on Ayreon, which is terrific stuff.

Report this review (#442801)
Posted Wednesday, May 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's Alive!

After an eight year gap comes the second outing from Arjen Lucassen's Star One side project. Reviewing the single disc standard edition.

The Good: This is a quality release and one of the surprise packages of 2010. I can't comment on the two disc special edition, but all the tracks found here are top notch with my favourite being Cassandra Complex. The lyrical themes reflect the spacey feel of the music, each song inspired by a different sci-fi film or TV show including A Clockwork Orange, 12 Monkeys, The Matrix and Planet of the Apes. With a total run time of just over 50 minutes this is a highly accessible and incredibly addictive album, and has a heavier, riff driven style when compared to Ayreon, but still contains the same signature multi-layered, dramatic synth work.

The Bad: Slightly lacking in sonic diversity.

The Verdict: Essential listening for fans of Ayreon, highly recommended to everyone else.

Report this review (#471269)
Posted Tuesday, June 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
3 stars I don't see many differences between the Ayreon usual style and this Star One project of Arjen Lucassen. There's more metal than prog, maybe, but the use of many singers in a sort of rock- opera style is not too different from the Ayreon's things.

The album is good. Heavy and well played. The keyboards play an important role on all the tracks and the sounds are almost the same that can be heard on any Ayreon's album. In brief, remove the folky interludes and the voice of Heather Findlay, calm down a bit the guitars and you'll have a metal version of Human Equation.

The title track, in particular, reminds a lot to Day Sixteen, with the heavy bass replacing the didgeridoo. However, even if reminding in some way of the 80s longhair metal bands like and a bit also to Dream Theater this is the usual good Lucassen.

Not a masterpiece, specially for those are already familiar with Lucassen's projects, not last the Guilt Machine as it's not too different but it's in any case a good prog-metal album with some highlights and the rest averagely good.

The only thing that I don't really understand is why in the CD era one has to fade out a song, specially a title track. Don't you have ideas for the final?

My favourite track is the uptime "Human See, Human Do" which makes me think to the early Motorhead (not for the voices).

A good album to raise up your energy (use it carefully when driving) . But not essential.

Report this review (#517233)
Posted Thursday, September 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Just to chime in with my opinions. They are well overdue. But better late than never.

Star One is Arjen Lucassen's metal project. Lyrically, this is a science fiction based project which gravitates among the stars out in the cosmic ocean. Musically, the music is pretty much out there in the cosmic ocean too. The music has a hard progressive metal edge. But the music also reminds me a lot about what Rainbow did. Besides of the metallic riffing guitars, there is a very strong 1970s hard rock feel over this material. That is a sound I really like.

The material here is very good, bordering to great. A song like 24 hours is really great. There is some other stuff here I am less happy about. I am less happy about this constant metal riffing guitars which feels like an unwanted distraction. OK, this is meant to be a metal project, far away from Ayreon. But the almost industrial metal sounding guitars still feels like they are impeding the melodies and killing them off. A bit more organic guitar sound would have improved this album a lot. That is why, despite of some really great tracks, I do not think this is a great album.

But this is still a very good album.

3.5 stars

Report this review (#519838)
Posted Sunday, September 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Star Trekking

Some 8 years after the début Star One album, Arjen Anthony Lucassen resurrected the name for this 2010 album. When he first started work on the album in 2009, he was unsure at that stage whether this would in fact be a Star One release, but as he began to draw in further sci-fi influences from films, it became clear to him that Star One would be the best vehicle for this work.

The title is taken from the controversial film "A clockwork orange", with all the tracks drawing their concepts from well know classic films. Although the line up retains a number of guests who appeared on "Space metal", the relationship with the first album is less obvious musically, this being a generally heavier set with less emphasis on the very strong melodies which prevailed on "Space metal". That is not to say that this collection lacks melody, but this album shifts into more metallic territories, with pulsating riffs and pounding rhythms being the norm.

The opening tracks have the feel of Ronnie James Dio's time with Black Sabbath and Heaven and Hell, although there is never any doubt that this is a Lucassen project. Even the odd burst of growling or acoustic guitar cannot disguise the distinct tenets which prevail through this and virtually all of his albums.

Personal favourites include the fine opener "Digital rain" (The Matrix), "Earth that was" (Firefly / Serenity) the climactic "24 hours" (Escape from New York) and the title track.

While this is a highly enjoyable collection which should not surprise anyone familiar with the work of Arjen, a word of warning is perhaps in order for those coming to this album via "Space metal". Although the themes are indeed Space related, "Victims of the modern age" is largely devoid of the space influences which graced the first album. The main themes and choruses, while of a high calibre, are not as memorable this time around. This remains though an album which should please those who enjoy the work of AAJ.

Report this review (#557920)
Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars The album has been praised by critics, and, when it came out, there was quite a lot of hype surrounding it.

I can understand the praise this album has received, but I was never as hyped about it as so many other people were, and there were loads of other releases in 2010 that made a much bigger impact on me. I think there are three reasons why "Victims of a Modern Age" became so popular.

Firstly, Lucassen is involved, and that in itself may lead to some pretty high expectations from fans - expectations which were clearly met.

Secondly, the album some quite high profile artists on vocals - namely, Russell Allen, Damian Wilson, Floor Jansen, and Dan Swanö. That in itself is enough to attract some attention, and the combination of different vocal styles does work brilliantly.

Thirdly, there is the music itself, which may be heavier and less complex than what one might be used to from Lucassen's other projects. The music on "Victims of a Modern Age" is probably best described as progressive power metal with an emphasis on heavy and groovy guitar riffs and catchy melodies. The album also features organs and spacey 80s style keyboards, which - although they get a little too cheesy now and then - fit nicely in with the album's sci-fi oriented theme.

On the whole, this is definitely a fine work of progressive power metal, which will certainly appeal to Lucassen's fans in general as well as to fans of Ian Parry's Consortium Project.

(review originally posted at

Report this review (#652167)
Posted Friday, March 9, 2012 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Three solid stars to Star One's all-stars' number two

This second album released under the name of Star One once again feature many of the same people as were present on the first, including Shadow Gallery's Gary Wehrkamp on guitar, and Threshold's Damian Wilson and Symphony X's Sir Russell Allen on vocals. Fans of these bands will probably enjoy this. Like on Space Metal, the material here is once again strong with nice melodies and solos. The sound is somewhat heavier and darker this time around and the choruses are not as disturbingly catchy, but the differences are not that big. There are some songs, like Cassandra Complex, that are very much in the vein of traditional heavy Rock (think Deep Purple).

I find both albums by Star One rather enjoyable and I generally prefer both of them over Ayreon's overblown and cheesy Rock Operas. Still, there is nothing on these albums that I find particularly impressive as such.

Every bit as good as Space Metal, if not better, possibly even the best of Arjen Lucassen's many efforts!

Report this review (#747949)
Posted Thursday, May 3, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Star One is one of the heavier projects of Dutch gifted multi-instrumentalist and composer Arjen Lucassen. After releasing the brilliant Gothic "Embrace the Storm" in 2005, together with his creation Stream of Passion, Arjen busied himself with some mellower side of the prog rock. He released "01011001" with his "home" project Ayreon in 2008, and made a side step with a completely new project Guilt Machine in 2009, which resulted in a not perfect, but quite good "On This Perfect Day". Both projects probably didn't completely satisfied the hard side of his musical personality.

That is probably why Arjen decided to go to his garage and clean dust from the space ship called Star One, stalled there already for quite some time. This ship took off for the first time in 2002, when the trendsetting Space rock album with a very fitting name "Space Metal" was released. Being mostly a studio musician, Lucassen still could not resist the enthusiastic reception of the space metal concept and went on tour with the complete Star One band, featuring 5 (!) vocalists: Russell Allen (Symphony X, Avantasia), Damian Wilson (Headspace, Threshold), sisters Floor Jansen (After Forever, ReVamp) and Irene Jansen (Karma) and Robert Soeterboek (Lana Lane, Cotton Soeterboek band). The old-time Ayreon staff supplied the space ship with all the fusion reaction elements, necessary for the intergalactic propulsion: Ed Warby on drums (Hail of Bullets, Gorefest), Peter Vink on bass and Joost van den Broek on keyboards (After Forever). You can still find the ship log of this flight in the stores. "Live on Earth" was issued in 2003 and contains two CD's and a DVD, full of energizing and in the same time tasteful material.

So, the Star One was refuelled again, the trusted old crew members called in. From the original crew only Irene Jansen and Robert Soeterboek didn't make it this time. Instead, Dan Swanö (Nightingale, Second Sky, Bloodbath, Edge of Sanity) was recruited. I must say, he is not the last one, who gives to this mix a quite heavy sound, with his growls and low vocals. The edgy rhythm guitars, powerful bass and busy drumming give the album an even more heavy metallic sound then the first Star One project. By the way, there are also some nice surprises on the second cd, that comes with the deluxe edition. I would definitely advise everybody to go for that one, otherwise, you will just miss a half of the fun.

Well, the ship could have been made heavier, it was not going very far this time. Just like in "Space Metal", all songs were written after a science fiction movie. But this time, the most of them are the apocalyptic films about a sad future awaiting the Mother Earth. Only two songs deviate from this concept: "Human See, Human Do" (Planet of the Apes) and "Earth That Was" (Firefly). This last one is directly one of the high moments on the album, not in the last place because of the pretty heavy, haunting rhythm guitar loop (ideal for head-banging!) and a really tasteful solo on the synthesizer, signed by the reliable old crew member Joost van den Broek. Bravo, maestro!

The lyrics are not too complicated, but they succeed perfectly to call the right associations at the right moment of the song. This effect makes the whole emotional appreciation of the songs even stronger.

Check the title song "Victim of the Modern Age", written after the classic sci-fi movie "A Clockwork Orange". You just see it before your very eyes again: rainy country side, uncontrollable Alex, breaking in into somebody's house, and you hear the melody from the famous "Singing in the Rain". Of course, it is not in the least the merit of the genius director Stanley Kubrick, who created such unforgettable images back in 1971 (!). But one have to give the credit to Arjen as well, it is very clever how he makes this concept work. Sometimes it is the use of the same lines or words, spoken in the movie. Sometimes it is creating of the just right image, the right association.

Let me tell you about one of the best songs to my taste here, "24 Hours". It is made after the movie "Escape from New York", an unforgettable creation of another super-director, John Carpenter. The slow and mean solo guitar and Damian's dark voice duet during the intro brings us already into the scene of the "crime-ridden city, confined within these walls, a place without pity, a place of sin?". Hearing the line "You've got 24 hours to change the course of the history, just 24 hours to trace our man and set him free" (thank you, Russell, you blow the veins from my body here, nobody could sing it better), I imagine vividly the one-eyed tough guy Snake Plissken, standing there, on the border of the ravaged New York, taking in the instructions, legs wide, head bowed, full of different counteracting emotions: rage, determination and doubt. Funny coincidence, Plissken was played by Kurt Russell, and Russell Allen is singing in this song (well, together with Damian and Floor). I checked the history. Russell Allen was born in 1971 and the movie was released in 1981. So it couldn't have been this movie, that inspired his parents to name him Russell, alas there goes my speculation :-) Or was it still the actor? He played in quite some movies before that one? But let us not wander off the path here.

Another high moment of the record, the heavy prog epic "It All Ends Here" is written after "Blade Runner". It is still one of the best sci-fi movies ever, however made back in 1982. With the first, Black Sabbathical, or doom-like, if you wish, accords, you get inside the future. It's dark and hopeless fate of the Nexus-6 humanoid robots that you are experiencing now. They are built perfect, beautiful and strong, clever and quickly learning, but made to last only 4 years. Because in these 4 years they gather too much emotions, and eventually become almost human. Or even more than human? On one hand, they can become an unfair competition for men. On the other hand, who has right to decide the future of a living, thinking, feeling and dreaming being, no matter that the origin of this being is a factory? The fate is just not fare for Roy Batty, now he has nothing more to loose. And my god, how Roy is played by Rutger Hauer in the movie, unearthly! Listening to the music, you will see him dying there on the roof, a rusty spike in his hand, talking about decaying dreams and "tears in the rain". Arjen, you are a genius, to use exactly these words here! And even more, for the outrageously beautiful solo in the end of the song!

Just a few words about the second CD that comes with the deluxe edition. As I already told, there will be some nice surprises for you there, besides the "Making of" video.

One of them ? another epic, "Closer to the Stars". Very Black Sabbath or Rainbow-like, in their Ronnie James Dio periods. And yes, Arjen has gone to some length here and got a real Black Sabbath singer: Tony Martin. This song is nothing less than a younger brother to the Rainbow's famous "Stargazer". Even some words associate perfectly, it's all about "going home", "children of the stars", "gotta fly"?

I also loved the only one song sang by Arjen himself, it is the sophisticated "Lastday", with a really nice guitar solo at the end.

The last surprise will also be the last song, the remake of the Emerson's "Knife Edge". Being one of the less symphonic numbers or the EL&P's first record back in 1971, it's funny how it stands here on it's own, becoming maybe one of the most proggy songs in the Star One reincarnation. I hope Arjen will go one time and make a whole record full of covers. With his arranging and adapting talent, it will be another "must have", I am sure.

Arjen Lucassen has many talents. Among them there is his commercial instinct and entrepreneurship. Did you follow the contest to guess the movies that inspired the songs from "Victims?" on Internet? If you have time, check on Youtube. Just type in the search screen something like "Star One contest". I guess it invoked quite a lot of attention from the rock and sci-fi fans in the pre-release period, well-done, Arjen!

Speaking of musical influences, they all can be found on various layers of Arjen's music. Some of them are easily traceable, some not. Just let me give you some examples. The title song goes all the way back to Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog", if you let me. The quirky synth tune and sleek and heavy rhythm guitars of the glossy "It's Alive, She's Alive, We're Alive" are clearly inspired by Rammstein.

Yes, The record is full of references, cinematical and musical. Take my advice, buy it and discover them all, and see how it all grows into something unique, something, that will become a reference to generations of musicians to come.

Report this review (#1506247)
Posted Sunday, January 3, 2016 | Review Permalink

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