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5 stars Into the Electric Castle is the best ayreon album ever. That was my opinion until I heard The Human Equation. I really can't choose which one is best. Into the Electric castle has beautiful melodies and singers and so has this album. The Human Equation is heavier and less melodic at some parts (for example 'day three: Pain' with the voice of Mr. Mikael Opeth Åkerfeldt) and I'm still not bored after hours and hours of listening. (okay..I admit ayreon never does with me)

The album consist of a whole lot of famous singers each with very different voice qualities. Even James Labrie of whom I think no one can replace him at Dream Theater and he can never sing in any other band but DT. James Labrie=Dream Theater, nevertheless he sounds brilliant at this album. I'm glad that he added his voice at the album.

Lucassen did another wonderful job with his melodies and guitar parts. When I decided to write reviews myself, I promised not to give 5 stars, only to the Human Equation, Into the Electric Castle and to Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells

Report this review (#29744)
Posted Wednesday, May 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Absolutely marvelous. As good as Into The Electric Castle and yes, sometimes even better. Great music, lyrics and artists. Combined by the master of it all. This is a MUST HAVE!!!! For people who like old symfo or new prog or even folk, this one is the one to listen to.
Report this review (#29747)
Posted Tuesday, May 25, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Everytime Ayreon puts out another album I find myself wondering how he will ever top the release. The Human Equation (THE) is loaded with progressive bliss, everything that one would expect from an Ayreon release and more. During the first listen to THE I found myself having a hard time being instantly hooked by all the songs. I did like what I was hearing but the songs each had so much going on in them that I knew it would take some time to find all the depth in the music. With each listen the songs become more alive and deeper. I find myself enjoying it more with each listen.

THE finds all types of different instruments and vocals throughout the 20 songs. From brief death "grunt" type vocals to classical female vocals, from crunching guitar riffs to flute, strange combinations that just make sense. A great indicator of this is the song LOSER.

I will be surprised if anything knocks this out of my #1 for 2004 slot. This is the best Ayreon in my opinion. Front runner for album of 2004, just awesome!

Report this review (#29748)
Posted Wednesday, May 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's been a long time I haven't heard progressive stuff of this awesome quality... Frankly this is the best symphonic, operistic release since Dream Theater's Metropolis:Pt.2. Absolutely essential, do not miss the chance to listen to the creation of one of the best musicians and composers on Earth, Mr. Arjen Anthony Lucassen.
Report this review (#29751)
Posted Tuesday, June 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I love Ayreon because of two reasons: the music itself and the access it gives me to singers and bands I don't know yet. In both aspects, this is the best Ayreon album yet, and should be part of the selection of any progressive rock fan.

Arjen Lucassen has the great skill to match melodies and lyrics with singers. That way, he seems to bring out the best in all of them. He uses the warm side of James LaBrie's voice a lot, and the screams of Magnus Ekwall are superb. I won't mention all singers although I should - all add something unique to this album. Special mention should go to Arjen Lucassen himself. He often argues he's not a great singer, but he is very aware of that he can do, and his vocals at The Human Equation are outstanding.

The music seems at moments heavier than on other Ayreon albums, but overall the music is more accessible, maybe because of the absence of the space noises that are all through his earlier work.

I have to thank Arjen for this album, and for the new sources of music it has given me. I already bought CDs of Opeth, Mostly Autumn and Saviour Machine, and am thinking of looking for The Quill soon. I will listen to them as soon as I am ready to take The Human Equation out of my CD player.

Report this review (#29752)
Posted Wednesday, June 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Some people have a gift and know how to use it. Arjen Lucassen is one of them. It was already obvious on his first album "The Final Experiment" that we could expect a lot more from this phenomenon. "Actual Fantasy" was a nice CD, but nothing more. The first highlight was without any doubt "Into The Electric Castle", the album with the most variation until now. This landmark should be known to everyone that claims to know a lot about this music style. From then on, every album by Arjen Lucassen was compared to "Into The Electric Castle" and until now no match could be found. There was always the feeling that you heard it before or that it was only a variation on the same theme. I don't want to be detrimental to the later albums, but they missed the little extra that a music lover is searching for. But Arjen wouldn't be AYREON if he wouldn't surpass himself once more.

Of course there are some typical AYREON features in "The Human Equation", and so there should be, because an artist must be recognizable. But there's more, a lot more...

After the beautiful opener "Day one - Vigil" you already get such a typical AYREON song "Day two - Isolation". It could come straight from "Into The Electric Castle". And yet you feel a certain potential and this has certainly something to do with the ideal combination of vocalists. Eric Clayton (Reason), James LaBrie (Me) and Mikael Äkerfeldt (Fear) certainly attract attention. A floydian piece is followed by an unequalled synth solo by Joost van de Broek (AFTER FOREVER).

"Day three - Pain" is the first track that lifts this album to a higher level than "The Castle". Again the choice of voices is great. Devon Graves (AGONY), or should I say 'Buddy Lackey', the singer of DEAD SOUL TRIBE and PSYCHOTIC WALTZ, together with Devin Townsend (RAGE) give this song the little extra with the brilliant musical finds. (#1)

The track "Day four - Mystery" contains the typical AYREON organ sounds and is just a common but very pleasant track.

"Day five - Voices" also kicks off in a very known manner, but once Eric Clayton (Reason) performs his part, the track goes to another dimension. This could be considered as a leading thread running through the whole album. The most intriguing singer is Eric Clayton (Reason). Without him, the album would have been completely different. Also the piece with Mikael Äkerfeldt in this track is a beauty.

The singer with the most differentiation is Agony (Devon Graves). The combination with Mikael Äkerfeldt in "Day six - Childhood" make it another extra special track. (#2)

'Best Friend' (Arjen) does an excellent job singing the track "Day seven - Hope", a song with a very beautiful melody that reminds me a bit of BLACMORE'S NIGHT.

The combination of the voices does a great job on "Day eight - School", but the highest prize goes to the classical sounding bridge together with the interaction between "Pride" (Magnus Ekwall) and 'Reason' (Eric Clayton).

The only instrumental on this album "Day nine - Playground" is a brilliant, nostalgic song. If it was meant to make everybody reminisce their schooldays, then it succeeds completely. Clever piece of music.

Although it's not really a typical AYREON track, "Day ten - Memories" only gets to me from the quiet piece with 'Passion' (Irene Jansen) and 'Reason' (Eric Cayton) on.

The single "Day eleven - love", a most enjoyable track, very well sung by every one but an extra feather on the hats of 'Love' (Heather Findlay) and 'Passion' (Irene Jansen).

The best track on 'The Human Equation' is, without any doubt, "Day twelve - Trauma". Only the beautifully built tension would do, but the real kick comes after 3 minutes and 15 seconds: the vocals of 'Reason' (Eric Clayton) with a mini guitar solo, and after that 'Fear' (Mikael Äkerfeldt) who joins in at the right moment and brings the track to a climax on the right moment with a supergrunt. And that's why grunts were invented. Not to roar for a whole bloody album (really pathetic) but to give that little extra at the right moment. High class!!! (#3)

'Love' (Heather Findlay) opens "Day thirteen - Sign" in a way that no one else is capable of. Goosebump time!!. That's what Arjen's art is all about. Knowing who has to sing when and use the vocalist in a style that is best for him. This is a Heather moment like no other. "Top Notch" MOSTLY AUTUMN. But also the great guitarsolo in combination with the violin deserves to be mentioned. After that the level of the song goes down a bit.

'Me' (James LaBrie) gets a typical DREAM THEATER part in "Day fourteen - Pride", a heavy rock song. But this track is an exception, because on the rest of the album, James sings very laidback and quiet, really the way I like him the most. Superb judgement by Arjen.

The three strongest voices (Fear, Agony & Reason) open "Day fifteen - Betrayed", a quiet track, with a strong chorus sung by Eric Clayton (Fear). It contains a very beautiful middle piece with amongst others the synth solo by Martin Orford. The song ends with an acoustic guitar and a very modest James LaBrie (Me).

The didgeridoo opens the most folky track "Day sixteen - Loser". This exceptional strong track creates a fantastic atmosphere thanks to the combination of folk and metal. It reminds me of the Scottish Highlands, FISH, TEMPEST and SKYCLAD. And once more, the strong figures of "Rage" (Devin Townsend) and "Father" (Mike Baker) get a lot of credits. But the abolute highlight of this track is the organ solo by Ken Hensley. His typical URIAH HEEP organ sound sounds better than ever. Oh, guys, where have all those good times gone? But Arjen knows how to bring back these feelings. This is almost scary. And of course it's one of the songs with the little extra. (#4)

"Day seventeen - Accident" opens again in a Floydian way with a very Bowie-sounding Eric Clayton (Reason). The voice of Marcela Bovio has been mixed to the background which gives a very special effect. A piece of drum'n bass is used, just before the guitar solo and the synth solo by Oliver Wakeman, to emphasize the musical variation. Also a snatch of ZEPPELIN ("No Quarter") passes in review. This track is another tip. (#5).

Quite a lot of instruments are hidden in "Day eighteen - Realization", even some classical ones. This track opens as a Focus song to change into a rock song in real DREAM THEATER style.

Arjen (Best Friend) and Marcela Bovio (Wife) give an explanation in "Day nineteen - Disclosure" but I keep the details for the listener to discover. The same for "Day twenty - Confrontation" that also has a more narrative purpose than a musical character. These are good songs, but no super tracks, but they are essential to understand the concept.

I almost forgot to mention drummer Ed Warby. I can be very brief about him. You were right Arjen. The AYREON drummer is Ed Warby and no one else!

The expectations for the new AYREON album were very high. After the super album "Into The Electric Castle" we had to wait and see if Arjen would succeed in matching or even exceeding this masterpiece. With "The Human Equation", Arjen proves that he can do a lot more than he already revealed in the past. At least five tracks contain that little more. (see the #'s) He certainly has set the limits a little higher for himself. The technique and recording quality are an example for the whole musical world. With his skill to approach the right people and use them for the perfect musical atmosphere, he is capable of making exceptional great albums. He doesn't make it easy for himself in the future. I'm curious to see what his next step will be. But one thing is certain. If your budget allows you only one album this year, then you shouldn't have any doubts: AYREON: 'The Human Equation'!

>>> Review by Jany (9,5/10) Translated by Danny<<<

Report this review (#29754)
Posted Friday, June 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars A winning formula?

I found this quite a difficult album to get into. Arjen Luccasen seems to be moving deeper and deeper into the rock opera world. Looking at the lyric sheet here it looks like something written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.

The guest list on each album is getting longer with the singers on this album being assigned roles to play. This gives many of the songs a conversational feel. The policy of writing in this way is questionable as it means either that the strengths of the vocalist are not fully exploited, or compromises having to be reached with the requirements of the story.

All that said, there are many fine moments, Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn) makes a particularly impressive contribution. The instrumental guests are less both in number and influence, with Luccasen and Warby taking on most of the duties themselves. Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep) contributes a characteristically excellent Hammond Organ solo, and various traditionally orchestral instruments appear throughout.

Musically, I found the album slightly disappointing, the emphasis being placed too much on the story telling. A few more keyboard and guitar solos would have been welcome.

Not a bad album, but I have difficulty recommending it, particularly to newcomers to Luccasen's work. There are better places to start.

Report this review (#29756)
Posted Friday, July 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is an essential progressive rock masterpiece, When I first heard the second track, James LaBrie was singing as he normally does, while the music was very symphonic, and suddenly like an explosion, the raw guitar sound mixed and the double bass pounded into my ear. I felt, as Belen once said,"when I hear it I feel like kicking stuff!" she was referring to another song at the time. Anyway I felt like that, but I didn't kick anything. Instead I banged my head allot and turned up really loud, at the time my speakers were soaked from a rain storm so they blew up. But that's ok,

The rest of the album just got better and better, but I listened to it over and over, from the beginning to the end. Sometimes I see an opera going on in my head, it's quite cool. This album is flawless; every musician does an excellent job.

I had my friends listen to it, everyone loves it.

Special thanks to my best friend for finding another fantastic prog metal masterpiece. The coolest and most beautiful girl on earth. She is a really hot Latin girl, who loves progressive metal, Everyone loves her. Gracias,

check how beautiful she is at

Report this review (#29757)
Posted Monday, July 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Don't waste your time reading my review! Go to the closest CD shop and get this CD! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Enjoy the CD and then, if you have time, read this review. It's a long review. Well, it's actually too short for this double CD and wonderfully crafted concept album. In fact, mine is with extra DVD bonus because I purchased the limited edition couple weeks ago. Again, I'm late compared to most of you as I live in "rest of the world" country.

Based on AYREON official website, the concept centers around a story of a man who is hospitalized (in coma) due to a car accident. Cut off from the outside world, the man finds himself trapped in a strange realm where his emotions- most of which he's ignored for a long time- have come to life to confront him with all the choices he has made in his life. As he is taken from one memory to the next, he slowly becomes aware of all the events leading up to his accident, and realizes that if he ever wants to wake up from his coma, he must find a way out of his prison.

This album is the best ARJEN LUCASSEN has ever produced. It has a blend of rock, metal, space and some traditional music flavors (Scott's music?) and string arrangements. On musical nuances, there are bits of ROYAL HUNT (sorry for those who are not familiar with this band, it's a melodic metal band.), KANSAS, DREAM THEATER (the prog met stuff), PORCUPINE TREE, FOCUS, ARS NOVA and of course AYREON itself. I think, Arjen has put a concerted effort to make this album that comprises collaboration of many talented musicians a reality. Enjoying this album is like experiencing a journey of human life . the music flows naturally with high and low points and the vocal parts are composed in dialogue style. This makes the music much more meaningful when the blend of male and female voice are well presented. This might be typical Ayreon music as it happened also in the "In To the Electric Castle" album. When I received this CD and spin CD 2, I almost wrote a complaint to InsideOut as there are 11 "untitled tracks" prior to "Day Twelve" track. When I checked my friend, Didik Rahmadi, he got the same too. Finally . I realized how INNOVATIVE Arjen is. He made it that way as to ensure that "Day Twelve" track is really at the twelfth track and the whole album ends with 20th track, in-line with last track "Day Twenty". Brilliant!!

DAY ONE: VIGIL is a short track that opens the album; it starts with Arjen's voice followed by female voice "Why are you so concerned? Do you really care or do you feel responsible?" performed by Marcela Bovio (Elfonia) as 'Wife' . The melody part of female singing is really touchy, memorable and set the overall tone of the album. I expected that this short opening track would be followed by upbeat music, typical to prog-met album, but I was wrong. It flows to second track DAY TWO: ISOLATION in a soft music with acoustic guitar and male voice. The spacey keyboard sound accentuates the intro of this track beautifully. The upbeat ,metal influenced, music with simple guitar riffs and organ sound follows the intro. This track is one of my favorites because it's melodious, rich with sounds of multi instruments: violin (reminds me to KANSAS), flute, guitar and keyboard. It has a dynamic melodies as well. Oh .. I love this track very much!

DAY THREE: PAIN is opened with nice guitar rhythm and male voice. The music is simpler than previous track. Great keyboard and metal vocals. The inclusion of flute in the middle has enriched this track musically. It flows nicely to next track DAY FOUR: MYSTERY where the intro is a dialogue singing between male and female, acoustic guitar rhythm at background. The interlude has stunning keyboard / organ solo (reminds me to 70s prog rock); very nice. DAY FIVE: VOICES is opened nicely with violin and flute (reminds me to THIJS VAN LEER of FOCUS) accompanied by acoustic guitar rhythm. I notice that this album uses many acoustic guitar, especially during intro of each track.

DAY SIX: CHILDHOOD is opened with nice solo keyboard, violin / cello at background and great male vocal. The pan pipe used at the end of vocal part (intro) reminds me to acollaboration album between PATRICK MORAZ and SYRINX (hey, Moraz albums should be reviewed in this page. It's definitely prog to the corner!). DAY SEVEN: HOPE is an organ-based music with 70's musical nuances in a modern sound. It flows seamlessly to DAY EIGHT: SCHOOL with metal riffs. Orchestration in the middle of this track is wonderful. I like it very much. DAY NINE: PLAYGROUND serves like a break to me because it starts silently and then followed by nice violin, keyboard & electric guitar sounds. It's an enjoyable instrumental track! It then stops immediately to remark the entrance of next track DAY TEN: MEMORIES with acoustic guitar rhythm and keyboard, male and female vocal dialogue. Disc 1 concludes with DAY ELEVEN: LOVE.

Disc 2 starts with track 12: DAY TWELVE: TRAUMA, a metal influenced track with great keyboard / organ style. It's a combination between metal and 70's prog rock (especially on how keyboard is played). This track is rich in terms of composition in its capability in creating strong musical nuances. It's really enjoyable. DAY THIRTEEN: SIGN starts with a touchy flute / pan pipe with soft and nice female voice, backed with an acoustic guitar fills. The electric guitar solo used in this track reminds me to MIKE OLDFIELD's album. It's a nice mellow track.

DAY FOURTEEN: PRIDE is straight a DREAM THEATER music (LaBrie as vocalist) track with exception of dazzling FOCUS-like flute sound and stunning electric guitar. I don't think DT has ever used flute in their music. This track is excellent. DAY FIFTEEN: BETRAYAL is probably the darkest song compared to others, but it's a wonderful track in terms of melody and composition.

Now comes DAY SIXTEEN: LOSER where it is the best song that I love from this album. It has a strong association with traditional Scotland music (it reminds me to BRAVEHEART movie where there was a wedding party and people were wdancing). Oh my God, this track is absolutely wonderful!!! I like the male singing style and the way acoustic guitar is played altogether with the violin. The solo organ is also very fascinating. DAY SEVENTEEN: ACCIDENT? Is mellow track with some high points in sort of metal music. It then flows nicely to DAY EIGHTEEN: REALIZATION where the silent intro is followed by upbeat tempo with flute and electric guitar take the lead melody. It really reminds me to FOCUS 3 album. It's very nice. The only difference with FOCUS is in metal part. I also like the organ and flute solo afterwards, followed by violin. The relatively long instrumental is then followed by high tone vocals. Amazing!

DAY NINETEEN: DISCLOSURE is a ballad song with a stunning organ and electric guitar in the middle of the track. Disc 2 is concluded with DAY TWENTY: CONFRONTATION where the keyboard intro part reminds me to the nuances of NO QUARTER of Led Zeppelin. But the music is different; it's composed to conclude the whole album as it is indicated to the lyrics "Welcome to reality ..". Concept-wise this track plays the same role as CHILDHOOD's END (of MARILLION's Misplaced Childhood) or FINALLY FREE (of DREAM THEATER's Scene from a Memory). This track is heavily influenced by power metal music as indicated by the speed and drumming style in the middle of the track.

There are two things that bound to any music: 1.) the story that the musicians want to tell the listeners, and 2.) the structural integrity of the music composition itself. This album fulfills the two requirements excellently. I'm not a great fan of AYREON. I only have "Into The Electric Castle" (because there was FISH involvement in the project) but I consider The Human Equation is much better. It's like having a double enjoyment of MARILLION's concept album "Misplaced Childhood". This album has exceeded my expectation. Therefore, I don't think I am too naïve to give a five star rating overall. (Note: Disc 2 is better than Disc 1). Don't miss this album whether you are a prog lover or not. This album is probably the best album of the year. What do you think? Gatot Widayanto - Indonesia.

Report this review (#29758)
Posted Sunday, July 25, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars What a ride.We have everthing here.Incredable vocals by many singers male and female,outstanding musicianship and a concept that will blow your mind.What more could you ask for?It almost has a Roger Waters type of maddness at time yet The Human Condition has parts that cover the full spectrum from almost death metal to romantic pop to full blown prog.A must have no doubt.If we had more liberial pot laws here in the states maybe we could have has great a prog scene as Holland or Sweden.
Report this review (#29759)
Posted Sunday, July 25, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars What a luck. I just got this new Ayreon cd last night 07/26/04 at Aquarius PI (a local CD store). And it's the exclusive one with bonus DVD in it. I played it right the way at home. And I'm still keep playing it again and again until now. And... well, I can say that the whole songs here are excellent. The story about someone in coma is good. Arjen had never done it before. Each character is perfectly delivered by great vocalists such as James LaBRie of Dream Theater, Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth, Devin Townsend and Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery). The music, as always, is amazing. The way he composed is brilliant. Overall, this is an excellent album. But... there's nothing new for me. It's just another concept album. If you ever heard any Ayreon's previous album, Pink Floyd's The Wall, Dream Theater's Scenes from A Memory or even Tobias Sammet's Avantasia, well, this is a similar one. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Recommended or not? It's up to you, guys.
Report this review (#29760)
Posted Tuesday, July 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I would give this album more than 5 stars because it is stunningand breath taking!!!! This album is the best I have heard for a very long time. This is the real [&*!#] we where all like to listen to! I am still completely amazed by this record. Arjan Lucassen proofed that he will maybe be the best composer of the decade! This is an album you will enjoy for whole your live! I bought the DVD version with nice interviews and interesting background information. It is a box with this DVD and a double cd wich last for 50 minutes each. So you have 100 minutes of marvelous music with the best singers (male & female) on it! You can hear influances from Bowie to Pink Floyd from Korn to Yes and Mozart to Genesis! This album is absolutely a must for every prog fan! I know that this is a record that you will be listening to for whole your live and every time you listen to it you will hear new sounds and instruments. With all this great tallented voices all arranged so beautifully by Arjan Lucassen it is a real magical album wich you will enjoy for a long long time!!!
Report this review (#29761)
Posted Monday, August 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
Tristan Mulders
4 stars Ayreon - The Human Equation

After hearing a couple of tracks from this record on Dutch radio station Arrow Rock Radio and already having 2000's "The Dream Sequencer" album, I decided to buy this new Ayreon album. A choice that has been without hesitation one of the best choice I have made recently.

That said, I can (finally) begin reviewing the music on this wonderful album:

-- Disc 1 --

The opening track Vigil is actually one of the weakest tracks on the record, but it is an essential song if looking at the concept of the album. This song ends quite nice with the impression of hearing the main character of this concept album's story crashing his car into a tree (I assume it is a tree, because that is what is shown in a video clip of the song "Love" which is included on the DVD that came with the special edition box).

Isolation is a song that could easily come from any DREAM THEATER album, I came to like it in a while, but at first I thought I was about too much metal, but now I can say that I really love the straightforwardness of this song and especially the ending sequence after the weird keyboard(solo) is great.

Pain is Devin Townsend' song. If you are in a way familiar to Townsend's (solo) music than you might know what to expect here, since he only wanted to perform on this album if he could write his own parts! Yes, we have it all: screaming and singing in one song, typical Devinesque composition in the chorus and a nice built-up in the beginning.

The song Childhood is one of my favourite tracks on this album. It features the warm and tender voice of my favourite vocalist on this album: OPETH's Mikael Åkerfeldt. He portraits the character 'Fear' and somehow I am under the impression that his nice warm vocals do not fit the name of his character, but maybe that is just what makes his character so attractive to listen to, it is seductive towards the main character.

Another song that has the trademark Devin Townsend-sound is the song School. If you not already knew it, you will find out now: you can clearly hear how talented this guy is, he has a unique kind of vocal style, which is not annoying at all! Check out his solo albums recorded with the Devin Townsend Band if you like his performances on this album.

Well, what is there to tell about this album's first single Love.? I can think of only one thing: it is quite a nice song, but definitely NOT one of the best on this record, especially the way James LaBrie (DREAM THEATER) sings on this song is really annoying. The female vocals (ALL of them!) are really nice. What is too bad about this song is that in between the heavy rock parts there are these 'funny' parts, which are not 'rocking' at all. They tend to meander for a bit too long.

-- Disc 2--

Disc 2 starts with the HIGHTLIGHT of the album: Trauma, the most dark and experimental song on this Ayreon album. It features Åkerfeldt's most familiar trademark: combining his warm and tender voice with his brutal death metal grunting. Now for starters, I do NOT dislike his style of grunting and secondly it really fits into his role (Fear) in this story. The growling of his voice blends in with the dark atmosphere of this 10 minutes lasting track. Yes it is actually 10 minutes long, not 8.59 min! This was something quite surprising, but also. simply ingenious: there are eleven five seconds long "songs" as work as a introduction to this song at the very beginning of disc 2, so that the track actually starts of as TRACK 12, alike DAY 12 on the album's cover!

Loser is another experiment which crosses progressive metal with music alike folk rockers FLOGGING MOLLY. There are lots of folk influences included in this song, but the most remarkable aspect of this song is the ending. ¾ of the song is folk rock with a nice rocky vibe to it, but calm compared to for instance the Trauma song. The ending though is completely the opposite: all of a sudden Devin Townsend kicks in at the end with very quick screaming vocals, similar to the chorus of the song Earth Day on his solo album TERRIA. Even if you dislike this way of singing, I think it sounds really great on this album especially if you read along with the lyrics; it really gives the impression that you are listening to an emotional outcry (literally) of the main character towards his father.

The last hightlight of this album is the closing track Confrontation. This song tends to some up most aspects of the album. It has a few atmospheric 'interlude's one might call them, these are mixed between rock sequences as we already encountered in songs like Day 2: Isolation and Day 12: Trauma. The last 2 to 3 minutes are the best part of the song though: this part includes the singing of all the story's characters/vocalists/emotions. They take part in a sort of showdown during which the music is gradually growing quicker in pace and ends with quite a disturbing death metal percussive section accompanied by Åkerfeldt showing the dark side of his voice once more, before the main character, James LaBrie, sings the last notes on this album. But just when you think the album is coming to a beautiful end, LaBrie's voice is abruptly being cut off by the Dream Sequencer (!). Just when we thought we saw the last of Arjen Lucassen's science fiction theories. here he includes a link to his previous The Universal Migrator double album. This took me all by surprise the first time I listened to it.

If it is possible for you to obtain the special edition (either the long DVD box size book version or the small CD size box version) I can recommend you to buy it because it contains a DVD, which features a few nice extra's from the recording sessions of this album, including the video clip for the first single Love (do not expect the best video in the world, but it includes some links with the concept of the album) and a long making-of documentary about The Human Equation which features all instrumentalists and vocalists.

Report this review (#29762)
Posted Friday, September 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars ok so you have listened to a multitude of cds and most are cookie cut to emulate prior efforts of brilliant musicians (i.e. Kansas, Pink Floyd etc). What will stand out with this album is the textures and layers laid down during the production (most noticably lyrically). Often familiar but not a copy of prior works. I really like day 3 from the get. This song encompased what has always drawn me to prog. The only problem I could tag on this effort is that is will require a good to better stereo system to appreciate and a couple hours to enjoy the recording without distractions.
Report this review (#29768)
Posted Saturday, October 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Good, but NON-ESSENTIAL! I must say that i expected more from this album. After reading the names of artists, who were part of this project, i thought it would be great! But as i said, it is good. In my opinion, there should be more solo parts. but i confess...there are many beautiful moments...especially melody. i'm not very conversational, so that's all !
Report this review (#29769)
Posted Monday, November 8, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Imagine the conceptual scope of PINK FLOYD's The Wall combined with the musical atmospheres of albums like Wish You Were Here, The Dark Side of the Moon, RICHARD WRIGHT's Broken China. Add to that influences from metal, Irish folk, and even a bit of Broadway, and you can start to imagine The Human Equation. Somehow, it all blends together almost seamlessly. It's amazing that something like this didn't collapse under its own weight, but I suspect the fact that the burden was spread among so many different artists, and not just Arjen Lucassen (leader of AYREON), may have helped.

The concept is about a man who has fallen into a coma due to injuries in a car accident (you find out more about this as you go on), and while he is comatose, his emotions become personified. The only way he can recover is to join them in facing the issues that have shaped him into who he is. While I don't want to spoil the ending for anyone, I will say that in this way it resembles The Wall--but this man gives recovery and reconciliation a much more spirited try than Pink ever did. Admittedly the lyrics are not as strong as The Wall by any means, and it borders more on Broadway than anything (you could imagine this thing performed on a stage), but I grew up on that sort of thing...and what's more, the music more than makes up for the weakness in the lyrics.

Musically, I think the greatest strength is in the synthesizer and Hammond playing, which is excellent and seems to have drawn quite a bit from PINK FLOYD. Some synth settings are eerily reminiscent of Wish You Were Here, and also a bit of Dark Side of the Moon. The vocals are varied, however. Oddly enough, James LaBrie, whom I could not stand at all when hearing him on DREAM THEATER's Six Degrees of Turbulence (it was bad enough to put me off from the band altogether) sounds good here. I have no idea what he did differently, but whatever it is, it works. OPETH's Mikael Akerfeldt does extremely well. The vocal production is quite different from the brutal style, in-your-face style you hear on OPETH's albums, and I suspect this is because of the attempt to reach out to so many audiences. Still, both his clean and growled vocals are excellent, especially in "Trauma"...and there's a death-scream on the very last song that reminds me of "Karma" on My Arms, Your Hearse. Those expecting mostly growled vocals from him will be dissatisfied, but his clean vocals are excellent. Arjen Lucassen also turned out to be a pretty good vocalist, as well as Heather Findlay.

A few of the vocals didn't work quite as well...even though it does seem he's well suited to the role of the voice of "Reason" (literally!), Eric Clayton's bombastic vocals can get annoying at times, and I'm quite glad they don't go on for longer than they do! I also thought that while the song musically interesting, the vocal performances on "Loser" were the weakest on the album...Mike Baker's performance as Father is rather comical, like something from PINK FLOYD's "The Trial", and that's not too bad. Devin Townsend's screaming doesn't quite work as well as his other vocals on the album.

It is incredibly hard to name favorite songs on this album, as they have such different, unique characters that it almost seems unfair to put them up against each other. Suffice it to say I think this may be one of the best albums released this year. Even though I subtracted half a star for the lyrical and vocal issues I indicated, this is absolutely worth your time, and on a 5-star system I go ahead and give it the 5.

Report this review (#29771)
Posted Saturday, December 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Fantastic, 2004 is shaping up as a defining year for the Progressive and Symphonic Metal genre. In fact in just the last two months three amazing albums (two of them double)have been released to the public, Evergrey's Inner Circle, Therion's Lemuria/Sirius B and Ayreon's Human Equation.

Speaking of the public, my question is when is the public going to get sick of radio and MTV pablum and embrace these great artists? To be sure, they have their fans and keep getting more every day but not like they deserve. I understand The Human Equation is even on display at Best Buy. Wonders never cease.

I'm sure many of you reading this review are familiar but for you newcomers here is a little background. Ayreon is not a band in the normal sense. It is a continuing project of Dutch Multi-instrumentalist and composer, Arjen Anthony Lucassen, not unlike Alan Parsons. This is Lucassen's eighth overall Rock opera and sixth under the name Ayreon. The other two were entitled Star One and Ambeon.

Once Lucassen has written a new rock opera he invites guest singers and musicians to participate. To date he has had ninety-two guest artists participate in his eight projects.

The Human Equation

The first thing I noticed about The Human Equation was that it was mellower than most of Ayreon's previous projects. The second thing I noticed was that it was not as mellow as I had thought. The third thing was that, although I at first didn't think I liked it that much, the more I listened the more I liked it. In fact after three listens I decided it is one of Lucassen's best works, if not his best. After a couple more listens I have decided that it's in the running with the two above mentioned masterpieces for Progressive album of the year.

The Human Equation like all previous Ayreon rock operas tells a story. In The Human Equation we have a comatose man reliving his memories and the events leading up to his bizarre auto accident, slowly realizing only he can wake himself.

For this project we have an unprecedented eleven singers including Lucassen himself. I'm sure you'll recognize some of the names as they read like a whos who of progressive rock/metal.

Guest Singers: "Me" - James LaBrie, Dream Theater "Best Friend" - Arjen Lucassen "Wife" - Marcela Bovio - Elfonia "Father" - Mike Baker - Shadow Gallery "Agony" - Devon Graves - Dead Soul Tribe "Fear" - Mikael Akerfeldt - Opeth "Rage" - Devin Townsend "Pride" - Magnus Ekwall - The Quill "Reason" - Eric Clayton - Saviour Machine "Love" - Heather Findlay - Mostly Autumn "Passion" - Irene Jansen

Guest Musicians: Ed Warby - Percussion Ken Hensly - Hammond Joost van den Broek - Piano/synth Martin Orford - Synth Oliver Wakeman - Synth

Song/Track List CD1: 01. Day One: Vigil [1:42] 02. Day Two: Isolation [8:42]***** 03. Day Three: Pain [4:58]***** 04. Day Four: Mystery [5:37]****1/2 05. Day Five: Voices [7:09]**** 06. Day Six: Childhood [5:08]**** 07. Day Seven: Hope [2:47]***** 08. Day Eight: School [4:22]***1/2 09. Day Nine: Playground (instrumental)[2:15]***** 10. Day Ten: Memories [3:57]****1/2 11. Day Eleven: Love [4:18]*****

CD2: 01. Day Twelve: Trauma [8:59]***** 02. Day Thirteen: Sign [4:47]**** 03. Day Fourteen: Pride [4:42]****1/2 04. Day Fifteen: Betrayal [5:24]**** 05. Day Sixteen: Loser [4:56]***** 06. Day Seventeen: Accident? [5:42]**** 07. Day Eighteen: Realization [4:31]***** 08. Day Nineteen: Disclosure [4:42]****1/2 09. Day Twenty: Confrontation [7:02]*****

As you might expect, being a rock opera there is wide variations of styles between songs but an overall similarity. One constant is the extraordinary performances by the eleven vocalists.

Highlight Songs

ME: "I can't move, I can't feel my body I don't remember anything What place is this, How did I get here? I don't understand what's happening Am I alone"

FEAR: You've been deserted, everyone has left you You know it's always been that wayThose frantic years, the people you neglected Now the time has come to pay"

"Day Two: Isolation" is a long involved multi-part song with vocals by six of the singers, ME, FEAR, REASON, PASSION, PRIDE and LOVE. The singers banter back and forth trying to get ME to give up or wake up while the music runs through several episodes, including heavy metal, psychedelic, even Pink Floydian. Isolation does not end but segues into "Day Three: Pain", where we only have four singers, AGONY, ME, RAGE and LOVE. The music is typical Ayreonesque fare. After a slow ethereal start, bass drums kick in to a medium paced folksyrock number with lead and background vocals.

BEST FRIEND: "Let me take you back To the time when we were chasing all the girls Two maniacs indulging in the pleasures of this world

So much to see, so much to live for Questions to answer places to go So much to be, so much to care for Deep down inside I think you know You are free...come back to me"

"Day Seven: Hope" What a great song, very happy, very upbeat, strong organ reminiscent of carousel music. Two singers only BEST FRIEND and ME.

"Day Nine: Playground" A short instrumental again highlighted by organ or synth, slightly celtic or even Western movie epic sounding.

ME: "Friday night, I had a few There she was, out of the blue Thunderstruck, nailed to the floor I couldn't move, couldn't talk...anymore"

LOVE: "Of all these guys, it's you she desires Secretely her heart is on fire Waiting for you to ask her to dance Go ahead, make your's your chance"

"Day Eleven: Love" Medium paced slightly folk sounding with seven of the lead singers and you can tell, ME, LOVE, PASSION, PRIDE, AGONY, FEAR and WIFE. Great song great singing. I especially like Heather Findley's voice who reminds me of Cadence Night, pretty too. Too bad Mostly Autumn doesn't let her sing more.

"Day Twelve: Trauma" another long complex song, with many variations. Ethereal, electronic sound with REASON (who sounds a little like Peter Steele of Type O Negative) singing leading into a heavy metal and synth interlude where FEAR and AGONY and PASSION take over. When REASON come back the song gets ominous undertones.

FATHER: "Look at you, defenseless and alone See I'm no fool, I always knew you wouldn't make it on your own Cos you're like your mother, well where is she now? You'll end up like her soon, 6 feet under ground, loser"

"Day Sixteen: Loser" nice guy, I'm glad my father wasn't like that. "Loser" is a folksy sounding song with a heavy metal attitude. That doesn't make sense? sorry that's what it is. Listen for yourself. By the way the venerable Ken Hensley of Uriah Heep fame does a great Hammond solo on this one. Got your interest?

"Day Eighteen: Realization" Seven of the singers have short lines accompanying LaBrie in this song. Starts out like an instrumental with all kinds of short solos including a neat flute solo.

BEST FRIEND: "See his mouth, he tries to speak He cannot move his voice is weak"

ME: "My dear friend can you hear me now? I'll try to tell you how I feel"

BEST FRIEND: "I feel the pain inside of you Tell me please what can I do?"

ME: "Listen well to what I have to say I have to tell you of my betrayal"

"Day Twenty: Confrontation" well this is the finale so we get nine of the singers and a grand finale it is, a medium slow heavily orchestrated, heavily vocalized, musical, mulligan stew. Delicious!


Evergrey, Therion, Ayreon, the three extraordinary bands I mentioned that have released magnificent albums within the last three months have one thing in common. Reviewers, fans, critics, it doesn't matter, they all have trouble putting a label on their music or comparing them to other bands. That is because each of them has followed a uniquely different path than their contemporaries. They each make music like no other, within their own personal sub-genre.

If you've never heard Ayreon or Evergrey or Therion, you're in for a treat and so I leave you with this thought, I bought The Human Equation for just under $17 on line. For that $17 I got 20 songs totaling 103 minutes of four to five star music. This figures out to $.85 per song or $.16 per minute. How does that compare with the last Pop, alternative or rock album you bought. The last Pop album I bought was on sale for $9.99 plus tax, for which I got two four star and one five star song totaling 8 minutes and 45 seconds. How does that break down? Why it's only $3.60 per song or $1.23 per minute. Good deal huh!

Of course all this math won't do you any good if you don't like Ayreon's style of music, so I'm going to go out on a limb and draw some parallels to bands you are sure to know. That doesn't mean they sound like these bands, however on some level at some time, there are similarities. Here goes: The Beatles, Styx, Queensryche, Loreena Mckinnett, Jethro Tull, Kansas, Yes, Pink Floyd, The Moody Blues and believe it or not Jesus Christ Superstar(Probably because it's a rock opera).

Report this review (#29772)
Posted Tuesday, December 7, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars 'The Human Equation' is by far the most opera-like Ayreon record. This means that the story is the most important, even more important than the music itself. The lyrics are great, but this record isn't a music-masterpiece. There is just too few space for keyboard- and guitarsolo's! I do care a lot about great instrumental parts, and those are to few on this record; that's why 'The Electic Castle' is still the best Ayreon record for me.

So, why do I still give this record 4 stars. Because this is still a great record in general. It did not fit my needs, but that doesn't make this a bad record for everyone. This is the top of opera-rock, with a great story, much emotion and great singers.

But it makes me realize that I do care much about instrumental parts, and why I'd rather listen to bands like Magic Elf and Joe Satriani. The most instrumental tracks are 'Day 16: Loser' and 'Day 18: Realization', my highlights of the record. But there are to few of these moment when I think 'wow, what a great musicians'.

Report this review (#29773)
Posted Monday, December 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars From album to album, Arjen "Ayreon" Lucassen surprises us with even more elaborated and complex albums. Human Equation is the best Ayreon album to date (in virtuosism) and a fine successor of the opera rock Into the Electric Castle. The story of this double album is about a man who suffers a car accident and enters in coma. Then, day by day, he sees his past life, from the beginning to the day of the accident, reviving good and bad parts of his life. Again, his trip to the past is going to sentence is present condition, like in DREAM THEATER's Scenes from a Memory or OPETH's Still Life.

Technically, I have to say this album is performed by excellent musicians. Has we listen to the first heavy orchestration we notice that evidently, it has a RUSH vein. But we can find a lot of influences as PINK FLOYD's spacey ambiences and guitar solos (actually in Day Five: Voices, some parts sound like the melody of Dark Side of The Moon's first track), GENESIS theatrics (the beautiful melody keyboard of Day Nine: Playground sounding like a track taken from A Trick of The Tail) and CAMEL. There's a lot of variety in this record, as you can see. Lot's of instruments are performed. Adding to the classical guitar, bass, drums and keyboard, we have beautiful epical flute passages all over the album (showing the CAMEL adoration by Lucassen), hammond, violins and cellos. You have many contributors to the vocals besides Lucassen itself, the most known ones OPETH's Mikael Akerfeldt (who incarnates "Fear" superbly by growling here and there, it was an intelligent choice by Lucassen) , DREAM THEATER's James Labrie as the main character, SAVIOUR MACHINE's Eric Clapton, ELFONIA's feminine vocalist Marcela Bovio. And a bit of each one's band is added to the album. For example, Day Fourteen: Pride could be a DREAM THEATER's track, and not a vulgar one should I say!

The double album has many highlights, particularly the melody and intensity of Day Two: Isolation, Day Eight: School which presents us with some intense classical opera parts like they were extracted from THE PHANTOM OF OPERA, the space explosion of the beautiful Day Four: Mystery, the very nostalgic and beautiful Day Nine: Playground which has the backing sound of children playing (like in CAT STEVEN's schoolyard), the emotional heaviness of Day Twelve: Trauma , the middle aged epic Day Thirteen: Sign, the technical and intense Day Fourteen: Pride combined with some beautiful flute intercalations, Irish style of Day Sixteen: Loser and the superb multifaceted Day Eighteen: Realization.

Nevertheless not surpassing RUSH nor having the technical complexity of DREAM THEATER, nor being always exactly original, the combination of these several facts (many influences, instruments and singers) contributes to the majesty and diversity of the album. It has a great ambience (sometimes spacey, sometimes epic and sometimes emotional) from the beginning to the end! There are no weak parts. THIS IS A VERY GOOD ALBUM, I considerer it a masterpiece.

My congratulations to Lucassen who manage himself to captivate so many VIP's of the prog scene in his personal project (this says everything, words for what?).

My Rate: 8,5/10

Report this review (#29774)
Posted Friday, December 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars First Impression:

The first thing to strike someone is the cover. For The Human Equation, that impression was really good. The artwork is amazingly beatiful and wellmade, by Jeff Bertels, and the papercase that held the CD and DVD cases felt like high quality stuff. Also when opening and sweeping through the booklet it felt very thought through. Every page was beautifully covered by artwork, fitting into the song which text was displayed on that page.

The Story:

This was my first work of Arjen Lucassen, so I really didn´t know what to expect. Very soon I understood that The Human Equation was built on some kind of story. Shortly, the story is about a man in a very wierd caraccident. The man (sung by James LaBrie) falls into a coma, and though the doctors cant find and wrong with him he doesnt wake from it. The mans best friend (Arjen Lucassen) and his wife (Marcela Bovio) is sitting by his side at the hospitalbed, wondering why he is not waking up, and thinking about if this really was an accident. Though inside the mans head he is fighting an internal fight with his subconciuns. The different parts of his subconciuns reason (Eric Clayton), love (Heather Findlay), fear (Mikael Åkerfeldt) , pride (Magnus Ekwall), passion (Irene Jansen), agony (Devon Graves) and rage (Devin Townsend) pulls him in different directions, and with time they start to find the reason to the mystical accident... (saince all other characters are named, I though I might aswell mention the mans father, sung by Mike Baker)

The Music:

Now for the most important factor of the album. As I said I had never before heard anything from Arjen Lucassen, so I was really excited the first time I put the first CD into my stereo. Day One: Vigil, so starts with a short beautiful duet between the wife and best friend. Very fast you become thrown into the story, and I took som hours to just listen carefully at the lyrics and read along with them to understand the story. The music itself is in my opinion very good. At many points it is very emotional, and always it follows the mood of the lyrics skillfully. All guitars and basses, and most of the synth and organs are recorded by Lucassen, himself. The drums were recorded by the very skillful drummer Ed Warby. There are also a number of "classical" instruments, such as violin and cellos, but I´ve decided not to take a closer look at them in this review.

Saince The Human Equation is a rock-opera it is very focused at the song. Most songs are built up as duets, or with more characters at once. The songs are often built with two characters singing against eachoether, such as the wife against best friend, or reason against pride. This often gives a very nice effect, and on Day Three: Pain, Devin Townsend makes a powerful entrence as Rage, partly growling. This is not the only growlparts through the album, and I´m not a personal fan of the singing style, but in The Human Equation it works suprisingly good. There are also a number of other character whose singing is worth mentioning. Marcela Bovio as Wife and Heather Findlay as Love sometimes sings together, then and alone these two are the ones who most of all stands for the beautiful singing. They both really gave me goosebumps from time to time! Findlays voice is very soft and kind, and she really fits perfect in the role as Love. Bovio also does a fabilus part as the loving wife. The last I will mention of the singers with a little extra attention is Irene Jansen in the role of Passion. Irene is really one of the most powerful female singers I have ever heard, and you don´t miss any time she enters the song and ads her extra power, and also beauty.


The Human Equation is a fantastic album, and I never hoped for more from it. The music is great, and from time to time the story and singing really moved me. The DVD in the special edition also added it´s little extra star in the corner, and I really enjoyed watching the 65 minutes of extramaterial of filmed material from the recording, the video clip for Day Eleven: Love, and the teaser video. As a conclision to all this, I really think the album is worth every penny I would have spent on it, as long as it hadn´t been a gift for christmas! It is really one of the best alblums I have, and have ever heard! I would give it a 5 out of 5, no boubt. This album will stay near my heart for a long time.

Report this review (#29777)
Posted Saturday, January 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Unlike my other mates, I'm going to be brief. If you want a full review, go see them. It's not my type to write a novel. But to me, this is THE ultimate musical free-for-all masterpiece. It started with Tommy and 35 years get a metal soap opera that pushes towards the limits of concept albums.

I'm not familiar with Ayreon's work in his intergalactic points of view. This is actually my first step in his incredible world. This is high-tech fantasy tales. It's a real revelation for me. Think of it: you jump from metal mashing to Riverdance to Focus to more metal to heavier stuff. Indeed, the metal parts are more present, and some frightening growling from time to time. And speaking of growling, I'm totally against musical violence or stuff pretenting to be related to the Prince of Darkness; so growling is ruining some of the fun for me. But since it's in very little quantity, I guess it's there only to improve the story's intensity. Some pretty intense screaming is also present and it could make you, soft hearted as I am, uncomfortable. But once again, it doesn't last long and do not ruin the album. I mean this type of heavy power screaming is present in nu-rock in a reasonnable quantity. I guess this is 'the flavor of the month'!

I cannot believe this guy doesn't quit the ungrateful world of progressive rock and join the lucrative army of nu-metal. He could fit right away with Linkin Park, Puddle of Mud, System of a Down, Evanescence, Limb Bizkit, Seether or Incubus. The format is different, but if kids could expand their minds a bit...they would jump on this so bad. Because admit it, with a bit of tweaking here and there, many songs here could become radio hits and even a number one. I'm not kidding, a bit of mixing and BOOM! big bucks and a bigger name for Ayreon.

This is by far the most somptuous, extravagant, intelligent, diversified, catchy, addictive prog opera around.

Close to being unreal. It boggles my mind with curiosity, amazement and charm. My deepest salutes to Arjen Lucassen and crew.

The ULTIMATE high-tech amusement of 2004.

Report this review (#29779)
Posted Tuesday, January 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm not the biggest fan of rock operas, but this album just blew me away on the second listen. This is one album where you definitely need to follow the lyrics closely while listening the first time to get the full benefit. The voices are extremely well cast; I particularly enjoyed Heather Findlay (Love), Marcela Bovio (Wife), Mikael Akerfeldt (Fear), and Magnus Ekwall (Pride). Devin Townsend is just insane as Rage. Akerfeldt's clean voice is outstanding, but there's also a good introduction to his "cookie monster" vocals - they are used effectively (and briefly) here. All eleven voices are great and the musicianship throughout the album is outstanding. The lyrics are well done; I especially enjoyed the interplay between Pride and Reason on Day Eight: School. Favorite tracks are Day Three: Pain, Day Four: Mystery, and Day Five: Voices. There's only a single weak track on the album - the sole instrumental, Day nine: Playground. It's pleasant enough, but seems like filler.

This is my first introduction to the work of Arjen Lucassen. I'm very impressed! Arjen's truly gifted with an ability to write memorable tunes and play many different instruments well (I'd like to see him try this live!). And if you don't like his style, just wait a minute... there's everything from quiet string and Celtic-influenced passages to heavy metal, often in the same song.

This rock opera is destined to be a classic, on a par with Pink Floyd's "The Wall" and The Who's "Tommy", perhaps even better.

Report this review (#29780)
Posted Monday, January 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I only bought this album because it has devin townsend on it. His parts, which he wrote himself, show yet again that there are few people in history who can create a piece of music such as Devin. Devin's self-written self-produced sections have an added level of production which the rest of the album lacks... yet, I did listen the whole album, and as an added bonus every other song on this musical is good, and for an ensemble piece that is rare. Ayreon does a fine job of combining classical structure to modern and old-fashioned instuments, and his compositions, although sometimes draining upon first listen, all become endearing and entertaining. I recommend to anyone who enjoys music to attain this album, if only as a way of sampling Townsend's brilliance, if not for the great album as a whole. In my opinion this is one of the top ten albums of the year.
Report this review (#29781)
Posted Saturday, January 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars AYREON, otherwise known as Arjen Lucassen, guitar player extraordinaire, has once again come up with a masterpiece of progressive rock sonic pleasures. It is a feast for your ears, mind, and senses. "The Human Equation" is a two CD set that tells a story that will capture your imagination. This spectacular production is all about the human condition, well, various levels of it. It is a story within a story if you will.

One look at the lineup on this set and you will see that Lucassen's peers respect him by contributing and turning in such incredible performances. Many well-known names in the world of progressive-rock take their part in this, to put it mildly, ambitious affair.

I totally loved this album, period. I really got off on all the excellent instrumentation and the varying degrees of vocalists that Lucassen used to present each segment of the story (numbered 1-20 days). I have to admit, I will never feel my words will do this work the justice it deserves, you absolutely must hear this album for yourself to absorb it all and feel the impact of the words and music. This collection of recorded works stands strong and tall amongst all the rest, and I mean anything that is coming out now. It is without a doubt the best prog-rock album I have heard this year, it will be terribly difficult to top this one, as they do not get much better.

The mix down of this recording is phenomenal. Each vocalist comes in for his or her part with such force and beauty to shape each of the 20 days with singularity and purpose. I found Eric Clayton's voice the most intriguing, he reminded me of Bowie, but a few notches on the lower end of the scale, very powerful and magnetic. The incomparable James LaBrie seems to showing up everywhere lately; he is quickly becoming one of the most sought after vocalist on the planet, and with good reason, he is incredibly versatile and talented. Last but not least, the powerful and moving guitar playing of Arjen Lucassen. After STAR ONE's "Space Metal" project, I never thought I would be saying, at least so soon, that there was a better album from this man. Well the time has arrived, he has reached the top of the mountain, but of course, he will surely find another to climb next time he gets in the studio. Now the challenge is taking this on the road, is it even possible? If anyone can pull it off it would be him, I have no doubt.

There was not a big named prog-rock band that did not cross my mind at one time or another while listening to this album; I am gushing with exuberance and energy after hearing this incredible display of musical virtuosity. This is the ultimate convergence of progressive rock royalty. As soon as I got the press release for this, I said send it! I knew straight away that I was in for a sonic treat when I saw the name that you equate with musical excellence, Arjen "Ayreon" Lucassen... I rest my case.

Report this review (#29782)
Posted Monday, January 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ona Ayreon Album can be separated in two parts: 1)the music, and 2) the lyrics... One of the greatest things of Lucassen, is that he can find the best singers and instrumentalists of the world for one album, and in the next one, he finds another group that sounds as great as the first one (J. Alrund is not on that list). The cahnge of voices on each song makes the music much more interesting to hear, and the female voice is not used by any other group, and WOW!!! I mean wake up... it sounds ten times better than the male voice... Now talking about The Human E. The Wife's voice is amazing, is by far the best singer of Ayreon in this 10 years! Passion and Love didn't amaze that much. This time, the male voice, wasn't good... The only one that really sounds good is Fear, and only we he doesn't scream, the rest, doesn't sound good, because is too much screaming, and when they dont, they doesn't sound good, because they are made to scream. I find this album, much heavier than the ones he made before, but, like it doesnt happen in the U. Migrator, the songs are constantly chanching the sound, from heavy, to really slow and pretty melodic parts, folk and prog parts. I thing than Lucassen is getting much more experience on his music, but also is taking different ways that the ones i'd like him to take, his music is becoming much heavier, and stranger, far away from the Electric Castle, his best release by far... The story, this time, at least, doesnt talk about alliens, castles, migrators, planets,and magic things... this time the story is the best one, and is more conected to the men fealings, soul and life. This time is a much better idea, that doesn´t come from Arjen's illusions and that doesn't feel close to a story that you would enjoy in a movie or a book... What a bad thing that I dont have money for buying the original Cd, because i'd loved to read the lyrics on a leaflet, not on the computer while im listening to the album, and that here in Bolivia you dont get this kind of cd easy, so i spend months downloading good mp3 songs, but I think it was a good thing, I thing that the one that likes prog rock, should definitly get this album
Report this review (#29783)
Posted Thursday, January 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This record lasts more than 100 minutes! The best qualifier of the genre involved would be prog metal rock opera, a bit like the album "Black opera" by Presence. The accent is slightly put on the miscellaneous lead & backing vocals. Indeed, about a dozen of talented male and female guest vocalists personify an emotion or a specific character belonging to the story narrated. The singers do a very good job: James Labrie is excellent and another singer sings like David Bowie! The style of the vocal arrangements, the keyboards and the acoustic guitars slightly reminds me the Styx's "Crystal ball" and "Grand Illusion" albums: however, Ayreon here is more modern, dramatic and slow.

Regarding the music, I think it is very good, but not excellent: most of the tracks are very good, but slightly bombastic and overrated. Seeing the impressive number of musicians involved, I have expected more elaborated and complex tracks before the listening. It took me MANY listenings to acquire the taste, and most of all, you have to uninterruptedly listen to all the tracks in order to have a better opinion.

I prefer the parts when the loud monolithic distorted guitar is absent, so that it does not take all the room! Actually the rhythmic guitar is irritating, monotonous, too sustained and too loud for nothing, thus imposing a too slow overall rhythm.

The angry vocals on Day 3 or Day 16 are pretty irritating: that's completely useless and irrelevant! The keyboards are very simple, although quite present and efficient; they consist in a mix of vintage age more modern keyboards. Flute, acoustic guitar, violin and cello give some personality to the ensemble, sometimes reminding Jethro Tull; there are some pleasant string arrangements, like on Day 8.

I think the weakest point, apart the monotonous rhythmic guitar, is the lack of support of the miscellaneous singers: they often sing without nothing being played in the background, so that the catchy character of the vocal parts is often compromised.

Report this review (#29784)
Posted Saturday, February 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The human equation, is a very progressive record, arjen lucassen`s project has the gift of reunite an excellent cast, in this cd is not the exception, the cast is formed for great voices like the leader voice of dream theater, or opeth, or saviour machine, elfonia and mostly autumn for mention something, the concept of this cd is unique for the last year , and unique in the history of progressive rock, is formed by many prog genres such as folk, metal, symphonic, and tthe meeteng of those genres have the next result: A very very masterpiece of progressive music, really, you have to listen this record and then you cannot leave it, the music, the lyrics, the cast, all is perfect , such as a dream , is like a novella, or a mini history or stuff like that, but all of you guys really have to listen to it, i know this cd will be very good for your own taste.!!
Report this review (#29801)
Posted Saturday, February 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I happened to pick this up quite a while ago, but just haven't had the chance to review it. It is a concept album, essentially about a man who falls into a coma under mysterious circumstances and must decide whether to live or die. There is a major twist at the end, something which has to do with AYREON's previous concept albums. The music is extremely diverse, ranging from death metal to folk to synths to symphonic rock, and with even a little bit of country thrown in. But not mixed, really. Each track ("day") is extremely diverse, and a lot of genre-skipping occurs.

This album actually seems to have a conceptual relation to many prog concept albums: the concept of life-or-death and comas. Tons of concept albums have dealt with this, including GENESIS' "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" (which is actually about the decision between spiritual life or stagnation, since the main character dies in the second track), and THE MARS VOLTA's "Deloused in the Comatorium." The latter is actually the antithesis of "The Human Equation," since while AYREON's character chooses to live, Cerpin Taxt of "Deloused" chooses to go through with his suicide.

I really have nothing more to add to all the other reviews here, which have pretty much everything else covered.

Report this review (#29787)
Posted Sunday, February 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have not heard any of Ayreon's other albums and i wouldn't know what to expect from them as this album has a wide cast of prog friends. My favourites on this album are James Labrie, as i am a huge Dream Theater fan, Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth and whoever the female is who does the vocals on track 1 and track 2. I love her voice and it's nice to see a woman in the prog world.

This is one of the best concept albums out there, a lot of work has been put into this. I love the way each track represents a day and each vocalist plays a character that represents human emotions, building up the human equation i suppose. Its a very interesting album indeed.

This album can be very difficult to listen to as a whole as it has lots of different vocalists, different styles and is 2 discs long! If you like all these styles then it is a masterpiece! its nice to see a large range of musical expression from such a great cast. Very inspiring and this album should go down as one of the most original and special albums ever made.

There are too many great moments to pinpoint on this album, one disapointment i had is that at times this album can be so over the top and dramatic that it can be offputting slightly. It is still very good music but it can be too much at times. The guitar work is incredible, ranging from heavy riffage (the one on track 2 is a killer!), soft acoustic work, there is a lot of depth instrumentally on this album and is great to see some prog idols collaborating together. Hats off to Ayreon for bringing them all together to make such a good piece of music. There is definetly something for everyone here and it is one of the best albums of 2004.One downside is that everytime i listen i get that "Tales from Topographic Oceans" effect, simply because there is far too much here to take in and that it has so much range musically that once i get into one theme, it might only last for a few tracks. Overall This album is a masterpiece, blending influences of all the prog giants. You can definetly here some seventies prog magic on this album, disguised in a modern way.

Report this review (#29794)
Posted Saturday, March 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have been disappointed by every album by this band, until this one came out. the entire first CD is wonderful. I could have done without the second CD, because it is pretty boring. I have added this to my essential list, because the first five songs are awesome. James Labrie does a perfect job, as does the other singers. every singer fit their parts just right.
Report this review (#29796)
Posted Thursday, April 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Show me a double album that isn't ambitious and I'll show you the contractual obligation from hell. Dutch prog-masters Ayreon (really just the multi-talented Arjen Lucassen) tell the tale of a comatose man's life (yes I know you're wondering why so man concept albums are centered on people in comas) through 20 separate but thematically linked pieces of music. Musically, there are many fine moments, but also many times when the diversity of style fails to produce a cohesive composition. As with most works of this length, the momentum eventually fades. Nonetheless The Human Equation must surely rank as one of the finest achievements in the history of prog-metal.

With a host of guest vocalists (Dream Theater's James LaBrie, Mostly Autumn's Heather Findlay, Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt, to name a few) and instrumentalists (keyboardists Ken Hensley and Martin Orford among them) on board, this is a pretty multi-dimensional and confusing affair that takes a while to get into).

Day One: Vigil is just a brief ethereal opener with female vocals that only serves to lead up to the magnificent Day Two: Isolation. With layered acoustic guitar and a Moogy synth opening building up to a monster metallic riff with overiding organ that gives it character, Isolation is an awesome track. The initial vocal parts are gentle, with a number of male vocalists exchanging lines, before a Findlay's voice joins in for he "main" song. The second verse is beautifully flavoured by some violin flourishes and then the song breaks down into a lovely flute section courtesy of Jeroen Goossens, Findlay's vocals return, and a "rubbery" section that's surely influenced by Pink Floyd's On The Run takes over. When the full band comes in the Floyd sounds still continue, even if things seemed to have moved on to a segment from Shine You Crazy Diamond (I think)! The nice keyboard runs on the outro complete one of those "kitchen sink" affairs that actually work.

Day Three: Pain has a great riff, spacey synth, acoustic guitar, flute and violin, but I still don't really like the heavy parts that are so crucial to the song. Day Four: Mystery is another cornerstone of this album. Starting off fairly ordinarily with an acoustic guitar and female vocals the piece takes life when some Moog synth bursts forth. Some stunning synth lines over metal guitars are followed by the organ before the synth returns triumphantly. To me, this song is everything prog metal should be.

Day Five: Voices is basically an acoustic guitar track with one of those tunings that you'd find on Led Zeppelin III. Aside from the Violin and guitar, a flute comes in totally cool pastoral section. The vocals here aren't the best (I'll be damned if there isn't the odd attempt to mimic both Robert Plant and David Bowie during the course of this song!) and I'm not convinced by the hair-rock mid-section either!

Day Six: Childhood is an aching synthy tune with an 80s vibe, and many vocal contributions conveying a disturbing theme of abuse. There is a wonderful synth melody that comes in mid song, although I don't like the shrieking guitar leads that battle it for superiority from then on. Day Seven: Hope is one of my favourite songs recorded in this relatively barren decade, with its lovely warm organ melody, great interlocking bass and even some nice vocals from Arjen! Shame it's such a short tune, but that may be the key to its charm.

Maybe it's because it's a real anti-climax compared to Hope, but Day Eight: School is my least favourite tune on the whole album. Bland acoustic guitar that becomes a harsh metal chorus, a string section that reminds me of something that Cairo once did (Silent Winter I believe) and a ludicrious metal section featuring double vocalists, one of whom (Eric Clayton) has operatic pretensions, doesnt really do the trick for me.

Thankfully, Day Nine: Playground gets us back on track, with some fantastic string leads, although the brief tune seems to be building up to shredder territory before it fades out. Day Ten: Memories is generally a mediocre song, even if I do like the accompanying synths and the lead guitars come in to good effect. Day Eleven: Love is another one of those songs with some great riffs but overly poppy vocal segments, Day Twelve: Trauma is a metal song with some arty bits that don't really work. and I was already turned off by the time the growling started.

Day Thirteen: Sign is a beautiful song with an acoustic guitar and flute intro and female vocals that are reminiscent of Blackmore's Night, it's got some strong strings too, before turning into a rather bizarre, "musical" type song. Day Fourteen: Pride is generally dull 80s metal with a flute interlude that occurs twice, the second time with a powerful synth run in tow. Day Fifteen: Betrayal is pretty awful with more operatic vocals, and a melody that I swear reminds me of Duran Duran, yet this piece almost redeems itself with a delightful synth solo towards the end.

Day Sixteen: Loser has an amazing intro blending Celtic fiddles with heavy metal, following it up some vicious King Diamond like vocals. Day Seventeen: Accident! has a rather Gothic feel for a while and is another one of those pieces which has synth solos of fleeting brilliance. Day Eighteen: Realization is an engrossing mainly instrumental work. It's part Kansas/part Jethro Tull with some lovely pipes and strings, another example of damn good prog-metal ... that reminds me of a Jesus Christ Superstar exchange when three lead vocalists fight for supremacy! Day Nineteen: Disclosure is yet another very enjoyable pop-prog song with great melodic lead lines, and some benign strings underpinning the whole thing, it also ends with some nice organ work. The closer Day Twenty: Confrontation is another one of the metal blends that works, again with a synth section in the middle. Now it may not be easy to absorb this whole prog-metal-opera in one sitting, but I'd have to laud this as the finest progressive metal album I've ever heard, and one of the best overall prog efforts of the decade (so far). ... 67% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#29803)
Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Simply the best album of its type in my opinion.

The lyrics are interesting and the music (i feel) is amazing and beautiful without being stuck on extended guitar or keyboard solo's. (Not that i don't enjoy solo's :P)

The lineup of vocalists in particular is amazing. Devin (Strapping Young Lad among other things) and Mikael (Opeth) add some interesting touches with vocals often reserved for heavier music. The style of vocals also fits together beautifully.

It is definately not an album that works well with the following: a) A single listen doesn't suffice for most people to understand the story being presented b) Listen to for a musical quick hit. Its beautiful and very immersive but its not something that works brilliantly as background music.

Report this review (#29805)
Posted Saturday, May 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars What can I say about this album? First off, it is truly a Progressive masterpiece. Arjen Lucassen has created a style that no one can really cover. Going back to his old roots by having each vocalist perform as a different character (or in this case, emotion), he creates what really seems to be a rock opera. The album has moments of metal madness, then moments of quiet violin and flute. The variety of sound in this album is quite amazing. James Labrie, who normally has a mediocre voice, really puts forth a great effort on this album. But not just Labrie puts up a great effort, but Akerfeldt, Townsend, and Findlay also put up amazing efforts in all of the tracks that they sing in.

The tracks that stand out the most in my mind are Day Sixteen: Loser, which utilizes what I believe to be a mandolin, and some great flute work, combined with metal guitar. Day Three: Pain, is also a very interesting piece. The metal sections and the quiet passages really seems to fit the albums mold. There are no dry spots on this album, every track is essentially perfect, you don't have the same problems that The Universal Migrator had (which was that some of the songs dragged on).

Overall, this album is the best Ayreon work to come out yet. If Lucassen if hoping to top himself again, he is going to have to push the proverbial envelope. I highly recommend the album to anyone who wants to listen to something a little bit different. It gets my highest recommendation, a 5/5.

Report this review (#29806)
Posted Sunday, May 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Arjen has created without a doubt, one of the greatest recordings of music in 20 years and certainly this decade.To simply label this as progressive rock does no justice to it at all,its simply music of supreme power and subtlety that is rarely captured these days.The foundation of The Human Equation is Power Metal and all the other varying elements of music come from it.His selection of vocalists is sensational and the way in which they are captured and placed through the entire recording shows that Arjen is a musicain that is classically gifted.The Human Equation is almost a rock opera that stays true to rock, without reallying on overblown and pompous Orchestral /Symphonic arrangements .The fact that Ajen Lucassen ,is not a major recording artist will probley see ,The Human Equation ,never getting anything like the recognition that it deserves and should.I would recommend this recording to anyone ,especially people who love the music of, The Who,Deep Purple,Pink Floyd,and the classic works of The Beatles.

Report this review (#35649)
Posted Wednesday, June 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Definitely one of the best albums I've heard in a few years. If you liked any other Ayreon thing you would most probably take to this one. For me this is just Ayreon's pearl in the crown. Great melodies, lots of heavy stuff, very much diverse, fine lyrics, superbly produced, great inlay. Hats off to Arjen Lucassen.
Report this review (#40440)
Posted Wednesday, July 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Dutch multi-instrumentalist and songwriter extraordinaire Arjen Anthony Lucassen is the mastermind behind Ayreon, a project he started in 1994. His albums are all concept epics containing a plethora of guest musicians and vocalists.

The Human Equation contains a bit of everything here, subgenres in both rock and metal with folk influences, very progressive, very diversified album as a whole.

The Human Equation is divided into two discs and tells the story of a man who falls into a coma after a tragic accident. While in his hospital bed, we are led into his comatose state of mind where he is struggling with his feelings...and lets just say, emotions are flying very high!

DAY ONE: "Vigil" - (atmospheric, soft, slow moving moment...)

The album opens with hospital equipment beeps. His best friend and wife are at his bed side. One word to describe the moment: worrying! A vehicle engine is started and speeds up just as the beeps are getting faster and faster, the tires scream...

DAY TWO: "Isolation" - (guitar and organ solo included...)

The comatose guy doesn't understand what's going on. "Emotions" start speaking to him. His "emotions" are struggling, pulling him one way or another. The music is varied, at times heavy and at times very soft and dreamy. Organ, flutes, heavy guitars and a multitude of vocalists are all present.

DAY THREE: "Pain" - (nice guitar lick...soft and dreamy in the beginning)

Of course the theme here is all about "pain." Both physical and emotional pain. Flute, acoustic guitar, violin, orchestrations, more voices (and vocal styles) can be found here. Devin Townsend collaborated on this track, both on lyrics and vocals. (Townsend also collaborated on a few more tracks as well.)

DAY FOUR: "Mystery"

The track opens with a siren far in the distance. Everybody is in the hospital struggling to understand what happened? What did he see or what could have caused him to crash into a tree in broad daylight with no other cars in sight? Acoustic guitars in the beginning moving into more rock territory with organ, orchestrations, electric guitars and other keyboards are added to the mix. (From here on...the music on the rest of the album follows the same formula as we have already experienced on the first 4 tracks.)

DAY FIVE: "Voices"

The comatose man hears voices around him. He can't understand or make out what the voices are saying exactly. This is only adding to his confusion, more questions now than ever before and simply no answers in sight. He's trying hard to understand but he simply can't.

DAY SIX: "Childhood"

"Emotions" take him back to his childhood days. We learn about his physical abuse at the hands of his father and what must have been a most difficult childhood.

DAY SEVEN: "Hope" - (I really like the keyboard lick on this one...)

Back in the hospital, his best friend is trying to talk him out of his coma: "Come back to me!"

DAY EIGHT: "School"

"Emotions" take him back to his young school days. We learn that he had a hard time in school, that his fathers influence made him very competitive and that his classmates didn't like him because of it.

DAY NINE: "Playground" - (Instrumental)

You can hear kids playing in the background...the music is most uplifting!

DAY TEN: "Memories"

Back in the hospital, we can hear the machine beeping again. Nothing has changed in 10 days. His wife and best friend are trying to talk him out of his coma again by reminding him of all the good and funny things that have happened to him over the years.


The comatose man remembers the day he met his wife...a good feeling!

DAY TWELVE: "Trauma"

The comatose man remembers the death of his mother. He remembers that he wasn't there to save her. This was a very traumatic time in his life. Track starts slow and soft but moves into very heavy territory.

DAY THIRTEEN: "Sign" - (Very sweet electric guitar and violin lick!)

Back in the hospital, his wife and best friend actually see a tear rolling down his cheek. They think that he is struggling and battling his emotions trying to come out of his coma. Best friend is worried about "what is he thinking?" But wife is thinking that it doesn't matter what he is thinking about. In her view, the fact that he is thinking is a sign that he is still alive!


"Emotions" take him back to a time when he wanted to be an artist but his father wouldn't let him. His father wanted him to be in business. He is struggling again, being pulled one way and another. Deep inside he knew that he didn't have what it takes to be a businessman, that he was not a ruthless person.

DAY FIFTEEN: "Betrayal"

The comatose man remembers the day he betrayed his best friend. He got him fired so he could get the promotion himself! (Talk about not being ruthless enough?)


Father visits son in the hospital. Father calls son "loser." In fact, he tells him "you've always been a loser...just like your Mother!" We learn more about Father, that all of his sons are in jail and that his wives have all divorced him...a bonafide loser himself.


The comatose man is finally starting to remember the accident. He's starting to remember what happened and that he saw his wife and his best friend together, in each others arms! He drove away and everything - all the pain - just came crashing down on him: his abusive father, his own betrayal of his best friend and his wife whom he neglected over the years. So he crashes into a tree...

DAY EIGHTEEN: "Realization"

Now he remembers everything and is wondering what is going to happen now? His "emotions" are struggling again, should he give up, should he fight to survive, is he going to die? What to do?

DAY NINETEEN: "Disclosure"

Back in the hospital, his best friend feels guilty and reveals that after losing his job he was distraught and lonely and found comfort in the arms of his friends' wife. He tells his comatose friend that they haven't done anything wrong, that he (comatose man) was never there for his wife and she needed to be held as much as he himself needed to be held, so they held each other.

DAY TWENTY: "Confrontation"

After hearing all of this, comatose man wants to come clean as well. He imagines revealing everything to his best friend. Once he gets it all out in the open, his best friend tells him that he knew it all along. Finally, his "emotions" want him to wake up now.

The ending is very strange. A computer programming voice reveals a few things. (I'm not going to tell you every little detail now...) But, I like the fact that it all ends with the final words..."I remember!" ;)

The Human Equation is quite the treat, sure to please most prog fans!

Report this review (#41814)
Posted Saturday, August 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars A fantastic album! It may be my favorite album of all time. I think it gives me more goosebumps than any other album I've ever heard. All of the singers are great. Every instrumental part is great. All of the compositions are great. Every aspect about it is great! I'm never bored when I listen to it. There isn't one track on it that I don't like. This album seems to take me on the biggest adventure. There's many corners to the cube. More so than any other album I've ever heard! Many interesting situations. This is a must buy!
Report this review (#41867)
Posted Saturday, August 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Arjen is a genious. This album is proof of that. It is more than just ordinary prog metal Very folky. Arjen keeps the tradition of using analog keyboards and it sound very original. All of the singers are talented, I especially liked Marcela Bovio's voice. I have had this album for months and I never get tired of it.
Report this review (#45673)
Posted Monday, September 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I spent almost my whole weekend with this album, a special package with the behind- the-scene DVD bonus my friend Gatot lent me, and I have to admit that this is another magnificent epic progressive rock opera from Dutch multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen. This is even better. Not only there is a plethora of music styles and a vast array of lead singers and musicians incorporated and participated here, but it also tells an interesting, close-to-reality story -- it follows the internal struggle of Me after a serious car accident that leaves him in a coma.

If it sounds so ambitious, well, indeed it is, only Lucassen successfully made it a stunningly satisfying effort. His capability in concerting such a huge project, with massive coordination challenges, is admirable.

In this double album Lucassen put twenty solid tracks, each of which represents the twenty days Me (Dream Theater's James LaBrie at his best) is in the coma -- with his experience in a strange realm. Supported by drummer Ed Warby and varying guest musicians including Uriah Heep's Ken Hensley on Hammond organ and IQ's Martin Orford on keyboards, he consistently and perfectly delivered a tight, balanced musical adventure. He wove progressive rock, progressive metal, neo-prog, folk, space and classical elements into the softer and harsher (emotionally) moments. In doing so, he still managed to keep himself on track with the original songs.

With so many great melodies as well as touchingly and movingly wonderful moments, though mostly revealed only with more than one listen, this album will guarantee a rewarding experience. It's a must-have for any progressive rock lover.

Report this review (#46481)
Posted Monday, September 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars What a great record.Not a record.This is a trip inside the head of person who is in coma.The music surronding this project is absolutely fantastic.Great voices, great musicians.Arjen Lucassen is a genius.One of the mopst impressive records i listened in my life.It´s so difficult to tell by words what you feel and think when you listen to this absolute progressive rock/folk... masterpiece.Be sure you listen to this album because you will not listening to something has powerfull and intense like this in a long time.It's great.Buy it.
Report this review (#47462)
Posted Tuesday, September 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Allegro Maestoso", that's what we could say in a few words about this concept album by Arjen Lucassen. There's a story in the background of this double CD, but that's not the most important part here, as much of this work seems to have been laid out as a play and a spectacular musical show. Lucassen has chosen carefully 11 singers from the progressive scene and assigned to each of them the perfect part for the timbre ad mood of each of their voice, each singer is an actor in the play, which counts 4 "humans" (Me as the main character, his wife, his best friend and his father) and 7 "emotions" (Reason, Love, Passion, Fear, Rage, Agony, Pride). The play is divided in 20 Days (one for each of the track) where each actor duets with other, countless are the overlapping of two voices in beautiful duets. Listening to the play with the lyrics in hand - the booklet is also carefully crafted, each page bears in the background a day and some small hints about the lyrics being sung - , it's astonishing how carefully Lucassen chose each voice giving its own the perfect part for the timbre it owns, for example, though I don't like Opeth's singer voice much, when it screams, playing Fear he is perfectly in the part! Music throughout has been played entirely by Lucassen himself, helped on drums by Ed Warby and by someone else playing Violins, Cellos and Flutes. As I said, the whole of this awesome work has the feeling of a 100 minutes-long "Allegro Maestoso"; all 20 tracks are really pumping and strong bearing an epic and grandious mark, "Allegro", because they possess a happy mood and "Maestoso" because of the grandious passages. Overall, the work is absolutely good and a must have for all sharing an interest in progressive metal, but in the end there's two things that told me not to give it 5 stars: it's long; it's a feeling I also had with Spock's Beard "Snow"; during the 100 minutes of this awesome effort one can lose the point of the story. Second, too many passages of guitar and keyboard share a common sound and timbre, there is not much variety in composition and sounds throughout the album, though violins, cellos and flutes sometimes break into the scene, few times there's something really different from the rest.
Report this review (#51182)
Posted Monday, October 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The Human Equation" is a rock opera in the truest sense of the word.The songs on these two discs tell the simple story of a man, personified by Dream Theater's James LaBrie, who fell into a coma after a terrible accident. While his best friend (Lucassen), his wife (Marcela Bovio) and his father (Shadow Gallery's Mike Baker) stand around his hospital bed, the man struggles with his feelings, each represented by a different voice. Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt is Fear, Devon Graves of Psychotic Waltz and Dead Soul Tribe fame is Agony, Devin Townsend grunts and growls as Rage, The Quill vocalist Magnus Ekwall shines as Pride, the sweet and beautiful Heather Findlay of Mostly Autumn aptly personifies Love, the low voice of Saviour Machine's Eric Clayton represents Reason and Passion is done by Irene Jansen, sister of After Forever vocalist Floor Jansen and known for her work on Gary Hughes' double rock opera "Once And Future King" and Star One. "The Human Equation" is unmistakably Ayreon, touches of folk rock and seventies hippie influences add extra flavor to the progressive and symphonic rock and metal songs. Overall the material has turned out quite heavy. This is partly a consequence of Townsend's co-operation, as the songs he appears in as Rage - "Day Three: Pain", "Day Eight: School" and the weird but daring "Day Sixteen: Loser" - are the heaviest I've heard from Lucassen. But it's the beauty of magnificently built-up and haunting songs as the epic "Day Two: Isolation" , "Day Four: Mystery" (mark the outbreak of keyboards and guitars after two and a half minutes), "Day Five: Voices" with a sublime performance of Ekwall amongst others, "Day Six: Childhood" with panpipes by Jeroen Goossens, who took care of almost all wind instruments on this album, the varied and contrasting "Day Eight: School", opener of the second disc "Day Twelve: Trauma" and "Day Fourteen: Pride" carried by another impressive performance by Ekwall, that I will remember. You might have noticed that I mostly picked songs from the first disc, a direct consequence of its superiority in quality over the second one. With "The Human Equation", Arjen Lucassen confirms his status as master of the modern prog rock opera.He manages to deliver another high quality effort that is essential for fans of progressive metal.Highly Recommended,4 stars
Report this review (#54074)
Posted Monday, October 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ummm, wow. Probably the BEST Progressive metal album I have ever heard. I mean, others compare but man... this album is damn neither perfect. Conceptually Ayreon had the idea for The Human Equation down pat. Lyrically they make you think just a little in some parts, which is saying something for prog metal really, and the vocalists and soothing and yet scathing, depending on what the theme calls for. And, of couse, they are a metal band so man can they ever play their instruments. I enjoy thing album quite a fricken lot and I recommend it to anyone that has the slightest interest in progressive metal at all. Fantastic.
Report this review (#56601)
Posted Wednesday, November 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars For as far as i'm concerned this is one of the best prog releases of the late decade! Great concept and great rhymes, great feeling! A really good job there, Human Equation is an concept album about a man being in comma after a mysterious car accident. The story takes place in his mind with all his feelings talking at him and by the bed where his best friend and woman worry about him. The story is very interesting and i was scrolling down the lyrics to see what happens afterwards:) Great Great!

Report this review (#58049)
Posted Saturday, November 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
Marc Baum
5 stars The latest Ayreon project from eclectic Dutchman Arjen Lucassen is quite simply, a thing of absolute beauty. A hundred-minute-plus epic of an album is a prog fan's wet dream, and Arjen does not disappoint on this one.

'The Human Equation' is a concept album that tells a story. To quickly provide a synopsis, the story is a simple one: the main character (known plainly as "Me") is invovled in a freak automobile accident and finds himself in a coma inside a hospital. Watching over him are his best friend and his wife. Each song on 'THE' is a day during the main character's coma, and during each day, the man's emotions (Reason, Love, Fear, Pride, Passion, Agony, and Rage) speak to him and among each other in an internal dialogue played out through the guest singers.

The lyrics are simple, yet highly effective. Through a succinct, yet vivid style, Arjen manages to depict his main character as a well-rounded, real human being. This is an album that truly deserves its title; 'The Human Equation' is a HUMAN album. I don't want to dwell TOO much on the lyrics, but I would like to say that the concept of 'THE' really could stand alone as the plot of a movie, and I would have no qualms if said motion picture were to receive an Academy Award--the lyrics really are THAT good.

Yet more so than the lyrics, the real star on this album is the MUSIC. And the music is expected to be good, as there are twenty separate musicians on this album! The album's cover proudly marquees the guest singers as the stars on the album, and indeed they are, but there are amazing performances an here from a purely musical aspect. One simply cannot ignore the music of this album. There are synth solos galore, providing just enough psychadelia to make this a trippy experience. The synths all fit perfectly, and the music is almost reminiscent of early Pink Floyd at times, especially Day Two's synth solo performed by Joost van den Broek (of Suncaged), which reminds very on "On The Run" from the "Dark Side Of The Moon" album, that spaces the listener's mind completely out and culminates in a hugely climactic chromatic run that explodes into the powerful ending of the song.

There are amazing small performances on this album that give it such a boost of character. There are flutes and violins and cellos--even a didgeridoo, and they are all so lighthearted and subtle that these classical style instrumetals fit and don't seem thrown in as pretentious clutter. Ed Warby's performances behind the drum kit is nothing short of spectacular providing thundering, epic rhythms during the many powerful sections and a steady, bouncycontrol during passages of light-hearted musical brilliance.

Now I shall assess the performers that the Ayreon project is famous for--its guest singers. We have a whole new batch of guests, different from the other Ayreon albums (as is tradition), and they are all very good in their own way. I'll go one by one on each vocalist with quick notes on each one.

The cast of characters:

James LaBrie ("Me") - Love him or hate him, LaBrie's job as the main character is very well done. LaBrie brings every bit of emotion in his voice straight from Dream Theater to creat the meek, sometimes tortured "Me," and truly illustrates a whole human being through his voice. This is quite a stellar job by James LaBrie.

Arjen Lucassen ("Best Friend") - Arjen is the mastermind of this whole project and his musical contribution is massive to say the least. He wrote all the songs--genius. He performed ALL guitars (electric, acoustic, and bass), and did a wonderful job at all of them. He also performed a hefty portion of the synthesizers and did a great job there too. Aren't you exhausted yet, Arjen? His voice on the album is nothing amazing (he admits he's no singer), but the job is done well and the melodies are carried professionally and well done.

Marcella Bovio ("Wife") - From Mexico, this newcomer is no mere amateur and is my favorite female vocalist on this album. Her highlight is on Day 13 with the middle verse. Her voice is filled with so much emotion and passion, I find myself blown away and wondering where I can find more from this tremendous talent.

Heather Findlay ("Love") - Another tremendous female voice is the lovely British vocalist Heather Findlay. She grasps the quaint sweetness of her character in such an effortless way. Her vocals on the first half 'The Human Equation' are magnificent.

Irene Jansen ("Passion") - Her voice embodies her character and she puts every bit of Passion in her operatic voice to portray her character in all its glory. Her best performances are on Day Two and Day Eleven.

Devon Graves ("Agony") - An interesting choice for Agony, yet his performance fits perfectly. Devon Graves looks like he'll have this deep bellowing voice, but it's mid- range and powerful, and his performance does his character justice and is overall quite enjoyable.

Eric Clayton ("Reason") - This is the deep voice I love that makes Saviour Machine kick so much ass. I love his voice on this album, and his best performances are on the haunting Day Twelve, and on Day Five.

Magnus Ekwall ("Pride") - This performance is filled with emotion and comes out sounding almost bluesy (with vocal bends and sometimes outright screams). I like his voice very much, but I didn't find it too outstanding.

Mike Baker ("Father") - He only appears in one song, and is extremely effective as the rude, alcoholic father of the main character. Baker's voice is half-pirate, half- Alice Cooper, yet wholly awesome. Bit parts are usually wonderful and Baker's is not an exception.

Devin Townsend ("Rage") - A bit pretentious, Hevy Devy wrote his own lyrics for 'THE.' His performance remains the most unique on the whole album. Fitting for Devin Townsend; he is professional to the core, and I love his contribution to this album just as I love all of the stuff he's done with his own projects.

Mikael Akerfeldt ("Fear") - This Swedish heavyweight is my favorite vocalist on the album, and he provides his trademark clean vocals that would easily fit the best Opeth album. It seems Arjen wrote the part for Mikael, as the melodies appear to be written exactly for Akerfeldt's singing style (as if they were composed for some unreleased Opeth cuts). And of course, even Ayreon cannot escape from the clutches of Mikael's deep, brutal death metal grunts that totally slay and bring goosebumps to the back of your neck. Day Twelve is one of the heaviest songs from any 2004 release and is carried by the haunting voices of both Eric Clayton and Mikael Akerfeldt.

If you haven't bought this album already, do yourself a favor, and find the dough, because you won't be let down at all. If you're a prog fan and you don't own this record with the bonus DVD and the whole shebang the you need to be sent home with no recess. This is an absolutely incredible EXPERIENCE, from beginning to end. Thank you Arjen Lucassen for amazing me with such an outstanding album - "The Human Equation" = big cinema for the ears!


9.5/10 points; 96 % on MPV scale = 5/5 stars

point-system: 0 - 3 points = 1 star / 3.5 - 5.5 points = 2 stars / 6 - 7 points = 3 stars / 7.5 - 8.5 points = 4 stars / 9 - 10 points = 5 stars

Report this review (#60474)
Posted Friday, December 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Human Equation... What can I say? The best album I've heard. Mr. Lucassen has done something absolutely fantastic. In my opinion, the album doesn't have any weak tracks, even though it has two discs. Especially tracks (or Days..) 11 & 12, Love and Trauma are superb.
Report this review (#63866)
Posted Monday, January 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm the kind of person that hates musicals, figure skating, home decoration shows, and rock opera's (eg. Meatloaf). While I knew most of the vocalists on this recording, I was hesitant to pick up because of my aversion to rock opera's. Needless to say I was not only impressed by this recording, I was truly amazed by it. All the vocalists used are great and really fit their parts. Even if you don't pay attention to the roles each singer portray's, the trading off of multiple vocalists within a song works very well and seldom sounds cheesy.

A few vocalists really steal the show; namely Devin Townsend, Mikael Åkerfeldt, Irene Jansen, and Marcela Bovio. Those that know Devin Townsend's music know his trademark screams and they fit his part to a tee since he portrays the emotion of rage. Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth has a great singing voice (when he uses it) and offers a few of his trademark grunts (death metal vocals). While that form of singing prevents me from enjoying Opeth, it actually fits his parts well and are used very sparingly to great effect (coming off like some kind of demented god figure). At times his voice is quite operatic with amazing depth, especially on Day Twelve: Trauma. Irene Jansen has an extremely powerful voice, evident in the song Day Eleven: Love. Marcela Bovio is a newly discovered singer that Arjen Lucassen found in a talent competition. She has an amazingly emotive voice and is featured on his latest project.

The music has parts that are prog-metal, art rock, and prog-folk. The prog-folk sections sound an awful lot like classic Jethro Tull. The prog-metal sections vaguely sound like typical Dream Theater. The instrumentation is excellent, never sounding strained or forced into musical styles they can't reproduce. That's one of the reasons I actually like this rock opera, the music is always high quality and provides a great deal of variety. Interestingly, Day Three: Pain has a simple guitar part that sounds a lot like one of the themes from James Bond.

All in all, this is an excellent progressive recording. Atmospheric, heavy, and folkish all at once. The vocal performances are amazing and the overall presentation is incredible. This recording truly deserves all the accolades that it garners. I would highly recommend this to any prog fan, it truly is a masterpiece on so many levels. Shell out a few extra bucks for the special edition with the DVD. The making of documentary is actually quite interesting.

Report this review (#64025)
Posted Tuesday, January 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Human equation is Arjen Lucassen's defining masterpiece. Human equation combines prog, metal, rock, folk and pop into an album where every song is different and unique in its own way. Released in 2004 after a four year gap from his next most recent works, the Universal Migrator albums. Everyone new that his next album was going to be something special and it was. This album featured the same old strange story line with odd characters and what not which where each played by a different vocalist. The Human equation included many notable vocalists including Mikael Åkerfeldt, Devin Townsend and James Labrie and numerous others. There is also a synth solo from Oliver Wakeman.

The concept: The Concept of the album is that where was a man who had a car crash in broad daylight with no other car in sight. This man played by James Labrie is taken to a hospital where he falls into a coma. A few days later he has recovered from his injuries but he can't wake from his coma and he doctors are mystified. In the man's head there are voices talking to him, reflecting on his life's experiences and from these voices we find out about his life and all the things that have happened. This is just the rough idea but the story is much more complex.

Highlights: Isolation, Love, Trauma, Confrontation (the end of the album leaves you thinking.)

The Human equation is, in summary one of the most varied and enjoyable albums ever made, there is something in it for everyone so check it out. Five stars a masterpiece if I ever saw one.

Report this review (#65936)
Posted Sunday, January 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4 1/4 stars

Easily the finest progressive rock album I have heard from the Netherlands. This is a concept album about a man (James Labrie) who got into a car accident and fell into a coma. He hears voices in his mind all throughout the album. The main artist who created this project is a multi-instrumentalist and sings nice, but he did well on getting a wide number of singers and musicians; it helps not make the album similar in style. Most of the singers are very good, and Mikael from Opeth delivered his best grunt in "Trauma". While Labrie is the singer that sings the most in this album, he probably sings at his best here. Still, it makes me wish there was another vocalist for the main character. The music sounds like a rock opera with dramatic vocals.

1_Vigil: A short track with vocals. It ends with the sound effect of a car crash.

2_Isolation: Loud female choruses, strong synthesizer playing, almost metal-like instrumentation. This is a great song! 9/10

3_Pain: Good soft riff played when the vocals are introduced. Has some death-metal style vocals, and hard rock moments. Nice flute solo. 8/10

4_Mystery: Great track that starts as a vocal-led soft rock track, but evolves into a jam dominated by keyboards and synthesizers. 8/10

5_Voices: Too many Labrie vocals, and too little instrumentation. One of the least impressive tracks in the album. 6.5/10

6_Childhood: Somewhat soft at the beginning until the band starts jamming. 7.5/10

7_A somewhat soft and melodic track at the beginning, but later has a loud screaming part and a symphonic instrumental section. 7.5/10

8_Hope: A cheerful track led by a gorgeous hammond organ melody, and great vocals (especially the Ahhhhh near the end) 10/10

9_Playground: a Happy melodic track that repeats the same melody with different instruments. 8/10

10_Memories: Good female vocalists, rock instrumentation, and acoustic finale. 7.5/10

11_Love : a Ballad that suddently gets unusually rocking at the end. The first disc finishes with female vocalist almost screaming in unison. 7.5/10

12_Trauma: A prog rock track that begins with a great bass riff. Then a mindblowing scream of "you'd better of dead!!!!!!" introduces a metal riff derivated from the initial one. There is heavy usage of keyboards in this track. Very enjoyable! 9.5/10

13_Sign: Melodic song dominated by gorgeous vocals (mostly female). Very classical song 7.5/10

14_Pride: Sounds like a Dream Theater song and LaBrie's voices makes it more obvious. However, there is a flute solo ... so it's not 100% Dream Theater 7/10

15_Betrayal: Has very dramatic vocals, dark tone, and minimal instrumentation until the orchestra takes over in a very uptempo and complex way. This is probably the best moment of the album combined with the amazing synth solo played under mesmerzing synthesizer music that comes after the orchestra bit. 9/10

16_Loser: A folk track with a neat riff and metal moments. Folk/metal!?. The angry screams are controversial , and a bit unlistenable near the end (I got used to it though). There is a hammond solo in this track. 7/10

17_Accident? : A mellow track with some heavy parts. Oliver Wakeman plays synths in this track. 7.5/10

18_Realization: Nothing too mindblowing. However, this is a nice track with gorgeous melodies and energetic rocking riffs. 7/10

19_Disclosure: Same, not very interesting, but it is a harmless good tune. 6.5/10

20_Confrontation: This climax does not disappoint at all! Listen to the No Quarter-like organ, the slow and distorted guitar riff, and the vocals. 9/10

My Grade: B+

Report this review (#66066)
Posted Sunday, January 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
el böthy
5 stars The perfect concept album!!!

Since I knew that concept albums excist I have been seaking the perfect one. And in my search I noticed how difficult this was, because of one aspect...the lack of balance between lyrics/idea and music(instrumentation. No concept album I heard had this balance, if the idea was too good then music not soo much, and the same thing if the music was too good. You see, if there is an excellent concept, probably the best of them all, thats Pink Floyd The Wall...but musically speaking I feel its not up there with WYHW, TDSOTM or Animals. Same thing with Tales from topogrphic oceans, musically it get some times a little boring, yet I find the lyrics to be Andersons best! Then we have an album like Dream Theater´s Scenes from a memory, which has soo rich mucis, virtuoso instrumentation and excellent melodys...but the story? just OK... But I knew there had to be one album at least that has both worlds, idea and music...I´ve found it!

The Human Equation is nothing but a of the very best albums from this of the best albums ever, at least conceptual!!! This is really as good as music gets!!! Great story, great music, great sound (which is a trademark in Ayreon´s albums I have noticed) and...the best vocals ever! Labrie shines thrue out the album as the main character (for all the Labire haters, or just for the ones who dislike his voice this is the album that will make you change your mind). Arjen also sing very good...but what really gives me the goosebums are the female voices, specially when they sing as a choir...superb!!! other special metions are for three metal singers which I normally don´t like that much, but really do an perfect work here: Devin Townsend, Mikael Åkerfeldt and Mike Baker ...after this album i will really dive Opeth an other chance!!! the instruments sound excellent, with some great atmospheres and guitar and key solos.

Well, what can i still say? It´s the best concept albums ever!!!

Report this review (#69372)
Posted Tuesday, February 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Arjens best album, without a doubt.

It took me several listens to absorb this album, but it was well worth it. My initial feeling was that there was too much singing. Well, it IS a rock opera of sorts, after all, so this was probably a silly notion on my part anyway. In any case, I came to truely love the unique contributions of each vocalist and how they all fit together to create the whole picture. The music on here is a fantastic blend of symphonic, prog metal, and even some orchestral rock. I am no fan of the prog metal genre, but I have never felt that they Ayreon albums really fit in that genre (except Flight Of the Migrator, of course).

My first listen to Ayeron was The Dream Sequencer and Flight Of the Migrator. I loved the first, wasn't too fond of the second. After getting Electric Castle though, I was convinced of Arjens skill and talent. This was a project worth following. I'm glad I did, as it led to this masterpiece of an album. While his previous work can be rightfully criticized as too cliche in lyrical terms (and in some cases, perhaps musical as well), I think this album stands out as a total success of the formula started on The Final Experiment. A wonderful concept about the human psyche and the various aspects of a mans personality clashing and agreeing, executed with music that suits it and the various singers, to a tee. Well worth hearing for any fan of the "concept album" or (prog) rock opera.

I give it 4.5 stars because it doesn't quite reach the level of essential when compared to the classics of the 70's, but perhaps in 20 years it will achieve that status. So give it the extra half star.

Report this review (#78609)
Posted Thursday, May 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This double album is a heavy metal opera. And no, I'm not saying that in a form of exaggerated praise, I'm stating what it simply is. It has eleven vocalists, and all are simply superb. I've always been a fan of James LaBrie's singing, and his work is as good as it has ever been on this album. Mikael Åkerfeldt mainly showcases his proficiency for clean vocals as Fear, but they even let him throw in a few death growls, and these are some of the most intimidating I've heard from him.

Eric Clayton (Reason) is very appropriate for what Arjen Lucassen (the mastermind of the whole project) was shooting for. His voice is very operatic, and although some might find it an acquired taste, I find I quite like it, even if it's a little jarring to go from "normal" vocals to his. It's an extremely pleasant contrast, all in all. Heather Findlay and Irene Jansen, two of the three total female vocalists are both quite good, with the former playing Love and the latter Passion. Findlay sings very sweetly and melodically, while Jansen's vocals are filled with energy and theatrics.

Magnus Ekwall and Devon Graves (as Pride and Agony respectively) are both good as well, especially when Pride and Reason sing back and forth to each other. Marcela Bovio (who sings in another of Arjen Lucassen's projects, Stream of Passion) plays the main character's Wife, and her vocals quite appropriately mirror those of Love.

Even the organizer of the Ayreon project, Arjen Lucassen (Best Friend) has a singing part. He has a somewhat reedy timbre to his voice that I liked a lot after a bit of listening. Mike Baker has only one singing part on the album as Father. He sings a cocky diatribe to Me on track 16, "Day Sixteen: Loser," which closes with Devin Townsend's second and final singing part as Rage. This guy is pretty insane, with his furious shrieking vocals.

This album certainly isn't just about vocals, however. There's a stunning amount of instrumental variety to go along with the excellent cast of characters. Arjen Lucasson himself plays all electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitars, mandolin, lap steel guitar, keyboards, and synthesizers. Ed Warby (of Gorefest) plays some excellent drums, while Robert Baba contributes violins and Marieke van den Broek cellos. John McManus and Jeroen Goossens play a variety of woodwind instruments, and there's even a didgeridoo on "Day Sixteen: Loser."

The music is arranged excellently. Even at an hour and forty-two minutes, I never want to interrupt my listening.

The Human Equation tells the story of Me, a man who gets into a car accident and subsequently slips into a comataose state. Me recalls his life and battles his inner demons while lying in a hospital bed, recalling his days of school, his father's abuse, and attempts to overcome his pride and fear while learning that his best friend and wife have seemingly come together romantically, despite Me's state.

Every song on this album is great. I can't really find a single thing wrong with it on the whole, so that's why I'm giving it a perfect score. Buy this album.

Report this review (#78939)
Posted Sunday, May 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the definitive Ayreon album. The Human Equation consists of two near-perfect CDs filled with Progressive Metal, Folk, Rock, Pop, Opera and numerous other genres that seem to flow perfectly into each other upon listening to this release. Out of every Ayreon album, this one has the strongest list of musicians and singers on-board.

James LaBrie gives a great performance, acting as the main character in the story behind the album. Eric Clayton, playing the role of "Reason", is as powerful and noble as you would expect. Heather Findlay's soft-yet-soaring vocals work great for the part of "Love". Opeth's lead singer, Mikael Akerfeldt, utilizes two very different styles of singing as "Fear". At times, his voice is quite powerful -- almost monsterous -- as he uses his trademark growling, but for the most part, he sticks with a more chilling, soft-spoken tone of voice. The lovely Marcela Bovio also sings magnificently, donning the role of "Wife". Mike Baker of Shadow Gallery fame leads the role of "Father" with rockin' attitude. Devin Townsend, with his inhuman (yet uber-cool) growling and screaming really adds a new dimension to the Ayreon experience as "Rage". Arjen himself does a great job as well, along with Irene Jansen, Magnus Ekwall and Devon Graves. This is a FANTASTIC line-up of singers and I would be ecstatic if even half of them were featured on the next Ayreon album.

There's to much awesomeness to talk about with this CD, so instead of going into detail about the things that are right about it, I'll point-out a couple of its weaknesses (because it will take much less time.)

When listening to CD 1, I usually skip over the first track, Day One: Vigil, because, although it is a good mood-setter, I'd rather just go straight into Day Two: Isolation.

Day Six: Childhood is one of my least favorite tracks on CD 1, although after about the 2 and 1/2 minute mark, things start to get much, much better. It's just the beginning to this track that's kind of boring. Still a very song.

Day Seven: Hope, while not a bad song, feels a little out-of-place with it's overly poppy, happy mood. I still like it, but it's not the strongest track. It is a nice change, however, from the darkness of some of the tracks on the album.

Day Nine: Playground is an instrumental, but I feel like Arjen could have done so much more with this. It's quite repetitive and I just think that THE would've benefitted from a more complex, dynamic instrumental than this. But I guess that it suits the album well because it sort of represents the innocence and simple nature of childhood.

The song Day Twelve: Trauma only suffers from one thing: very drawn-out sections of what seems almost like conversation between the singers. I understand that Arjen was using this to elaborate on the story, but I feel like if he had tried to cut down on some of the excess chatter that the album, while lacking some the Operatic elements that it's comprised of now, would be a lot stronger.

The last flawed song IMO is Day Fifteen: Betrayed. Again, this one's pretty boring and I usually skip it -- it's pretty much just talking with some mood-setting keyboard stuff being played under it.

Overall, though, it's hard to fault this album. It's become one of my favorites in the Prog Metal genre and I couldn't bare to give it lower lower than a 4.5, so I'm giving it a 5. Despite its flaws, it is a magnificent album and has helped me to craft my own style of music-writing. I wish more people could enjoy this album the way I do, but not everyone can get past it's Opera influences or even it's Prog-Metal influences. This truly is Arjen Anthony Lucassen's masterpiece.


Report this review (#78950)
Posted Sunday, May 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Not a big deal, I give this 3 stars because it's simply not the masterpiece everyone is talking about. The album is good, don't get me wrong, but not even 4 star good. It's pretentious, has a lot of guests in it, but the melodies just aren't good enough. The first day I had this I listened to this album about 4 times and still had no clue what this album was trying to achieve, and I still don't. Everything seems to be disjointed, sorry fans.
Report this review (#79776)
Posted Tuesday, May 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Arjen A. Lucassen, a masterful composer/musician from the Netherlands (why is it that Europe spawns greater music than America? Answer: Probably the Pot) has been “re- birthing” the Rock Opera genre since early 1995 starting with his first album “The Final Experiment”. I cynically quote “re-birthing” because there never really was any such genre save for such instances as The Who’s “Tommy” album, Dream Theater’s “Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory” (Not really…), and Rush “2112”—but in the end, who really cares anyway? Arjen, here out referred as Ayreon, has not “re-birthed” the idea of Rock Opera (as many reviews and critics have claimed) but has instead fixed and perfected it. His masterful blend of outside artists, outrageous album concepts, and simplistic quest for personal enjoyment make “The Human Equation” an irrefutable four star album.

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

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

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

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

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

Report this review (#79791)
Posted Tuesday, May 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars How nice, how nice... Prog-metal record which avoids patos. Although the sound is sharp and hard, the melod is always on the first place, and the ballad moments are just breathtaking. It is the record you want to listen to from the first to the last sound. Not only music, but also adventure. And the dark history has a happy ending.
Report this review (#80606)
Posted Wednesday, June 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars The mastermind of Ayreon Arjen Anthony Luccasen graces listeners with what is known to be the final opus of the project. Arjen has taken his listener of and adventures through space and time (Into the Electric Castle), creation of life and the universe (Universal Migrator), and now ends this epic project with a concept album about whay may be seen as the most complex concept of all, the human conciousness.

(this paragraph contains spoilers)Arjen casts James LaBrie of Dream Theater as the main character of the concept. Myself (here on out referring to LaBrie's character) is a victim of a tragic car accident. His best friend Arjen and his wife Marcela Bovio are at his side in the hospital. While stuck in a coma LaBrie encounters personified characters of fear (Mikael Akerfelt), rage (Devin Townshed), passion (Irene Jansen), love (Heather Findlay), pride (Magnus Eckwall), reason (Eric Clayton), and his father (Mike Baker). Through myself's coma, he learns of the disappoiting flaws in his character such as insensivity, and the mystery behind the affair of his wife and best friend. Myself then awakens from his coma understanding and forgiving of his best friend and apologizes for how he has wronged those most dear to him.

I should probably talk about the music now. Arjen Lucassen takes more of a metal/rock approach to this album. There is less orchestration (althought still present) in favor of different guitar and keyboard tones. Arjen's final product is a variant rock opera of both light and dark settings that will keep listener instrested throughout the lengthy runing time.

Arjen is the only guitarist on this album, there are no guest appearances by genre favorites Mike Romeo or Gary Wehrkamp. The result is less technical solos in favor of more melodies and rythymns. Arjen's guitar tones are variant all throughout the album. His melodic sense is plausible composing catchy, but unique tunes.

Arjen also takes care of the bass duties. There's not much to say here, an underwhelming performance, but the bass holds the groove. A listener could certainly ask more from a bassist, but recieves the bare minimum of service.

Ed Warby as usual takes care of the drums. His approach on this album is much more relaxed than it was on the second half of the previous Universal Migrator album. Warby stick to the groove, and as usual pulls of some very creative fills. The tone of Warby's drums are perfect. The bass drum hits and the snares are perfectly articulated, due to Arjen's great mixing, but also Warby's rock solid playing.

There are quite a few keyboardist contributing on this album. Oliver Wakeman seems to have the primary keyboard synth roles, along with Arjen that is. Joest Van der Broek and Martin Orford also contribute quite a bit of synth sounds. Ken Hensley takes care of the hammond. The performances are very distinguishable, but each add an essential element to this synth led project.

REMEMBER EMOTION, universal migrator system offline!

Report this review (#80637)
Posted Wednesday, June 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars 3.5 / 4 stars This is my first album experience and it is strange to describe. When i go through the album my feeling is : ...mmhhh and so what? only after a few listen I can realise the beauty of this piece of music.

Yes, I respect the great musicianship, maybe the best reunion of incredible artists on the same album, but maybe this is exactly the reason of the 3.8 stars rating. The artists are so many, that they haven't the right time to show their true abilities. a few artists / a bit more intense work.

Too much attention to the storytelling, in my opinion it would have been a masterpiece if the songs were better balanced. I mean a bit more instrumental part, and a little more soloing (especially guitar) from Arjen. He is able to use that guitar in a marvelous way, way does he have to imprison and confine his sound in that way. this is only my opinion, but from an objective point of view, the guitar work is not so "complete" here.

On the other side, the album is a true novel, a journey in the human mind, through fear and love, and sometimes the lyrics are so fascinating that could make you cry.

Arjen is a genious, without doubt one of the most solid songwriter and concept writer of his time.

Let this album be your second or third experience with Ayreon music, this is a very "strange" point to start with.

Report this review (#81649)
Posted Wednesday, June 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars What the crap is this! I thought when I first stuck in Ayreon's Human Equation CD to find Day One: Vigil with Wife and Best Friend talking to each other. I thought it was pretty weird then song number two came on with Day Two: Isolation and threw me for a loop when James Labrie's voice came floating in as the character Me! I'm a die hard Dream Theater fan and I was thrown for a loop when I was listening to the CD and caught Jame's voice I had to double check my hearing. Though I thought this was weird I continued to go through the CD and found this to now be one of my absolute favorite CDs of all. The story is awsome and the music is even better with the new combination of people he brought in, like Opeth's vocals, Devin Townsend, and others.

Day One: Vigil - 4/5 good begining to the album with wife and best friend talking over it's a good minute and a half for what it is.

Day Two: Isolation - 5/5 the song that threw me for a loop when James came in and is still a good song as he falls farther into his coma to meet all the emotion people! It's good and for all the cast Arjen has he does good and not letting it sound all dialogeish. The song is awsome! Near about 7 minutes the synthesizer remindes me of Pink Floyd on the album Dark Side of the Moon!

Day Three: Pain - 5/5 this song is my absolute favorite song on the entire album! I usually can't stand screaming at all! Gives me headaches most of the time but the way Arjen puts Townsend into the picture with his unmerciful screams (which I usually can't stand) it throws the song into powerful emotion that I absolutely adore and listen to alot! One of my favorites!

Day Four: Mystery - 5/5 good song to listen to and really good when Arjen uses the acoustic most of the way through. Love it, it has a really interesting chorus and whatnot. Freakin' sweet!

Day Five: Voices - 5/5 I love this song! it's so good and just rocks all the way to the top of the hill! The way it breaks out then goes to the darker side and it's just a freakin sweet song.

Day Six: Childhood - 4/5 an interesting song that's actaully really good with great music composition about Me's childhood and how his father was pretty much a f****t and never liked him. This song is good!

Day Seven: Hope - 5/5 this 2.4 minute short song is awsome, about teenage hood as I've always seen it as. But it's just good in every way! Reminds me of high school so much! It's sweet, not much more to say.

Day Eight: School - 5/5 I was thrown for a loop when I heard this song when it broke out with the heavy yelling. When it broke out I totally was not expecting and Arjen once again did a really good job and making the music so I really wasn't annoyed by the screaming as well. He makes it slightly brief but still is very emotional to get the message through the point.

Day Nine: Playground - 4/5 an really good and short instrumental strating with kids on the playground then breaking out halfway through. I like it a lot.

Day Ten: Memories - 4/5 good song, funny lyrics I thought, enjoyable all the same I really liked it cause it put Me in the place.

Day Eleven: Love - 5/5 love this song, made a single, dang freakin' good as well! awsome chorus! I love what Agony is saying the whole time!

Day Twelve: Truama - 4/5 good song, cool music, and interesting lyrics but Mr. Mikael was allowed to growl by Arjen (Arjen asked him to). I love is soft voice but whenever Mikael breaks out his voice number 2 I usually loose all appeal towards his music, though it is short and brief to not totally loose my interests. It's talented yes, and I respect the ability to be able to do that, It's just not in my tastes at all. So I find that degrading and also the scream that breaks it out at the begining, but it's still good.

Day Thirteen: Sign - 5/5 good soft song that has love singing rather lovely in a way. It's good with James coming in and wife and best friend singing together at the end.

Day Fourteen: Pride - 5/5 this song is really, really good with a good heavy beat and power to it! This is just a really good song altogether that rocks and rocks!

Day Fifteen: Betrayal - 5/5 agonizing song that really gets moving towards the song at the end. I love the end of the song the most. With the synthesizer movement that really has a good drumming beat.

Day Sixteen: Loser - 5/5 ha ha ha!!! I laughed so hard during this song! Arjen really threw some interesting lyrics together with some sweet music! And a didgereedoo (spelling?)! The singer is really good too! The screaming at the end could be annoying but it fits the mood of the song to well that makes it more enjoyable though I'd prefer a little different. Still what an awsome song with a crazy solo in the middle....

Day Seventeen: Accident? - 5/5 the truth comes out! But I won't tell you to much about the reason behind the coma..... I've already said to much. But the song is cool with an awsome melody in true prog metal!

Day Eighteen: Realization - 5/5 majority is instrumental but Me wants to break out! So it's pretty good with the vocals at the end but having most of the great musical talent Mr. Arjen puts together really good!

Day Nineteen: Disclosure - 5/5 pretty much a really good song to wrap things up in the real world. Love it because it has really, really good strutcure in the song to it. Best Friend and Wife and Me all talk together to free themselves of all the begining troubles.

Day Twenty: Confrontation - 5/5 holy goodness, what a close for an album! I love this song, even Mikael's totally improvised scream was welcomed. It put in emotion that I liked all the same! Plus the little bonus at the very, very, very end that we all want to hear! Yep, it's pretty cool indeed, but you'll have to listen to catch it!

Altogether this is a Progressive Metal masterpiece! Buy it I would have to say. This album is so worth it right now! I can only recommend and I'd have to say it's a prog masterpiece and you should buy and listen, I hope you wont be disapointed because it rocks!

Report this review (#81898)
Posted Saturday, June 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is a bit difficult to get into when you listen it for a first time. There are some catchy instrumental parts, but you don't really have an impression of a masterpiece. But that was the same, when i've first listened to Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" and especially "The Wall". You could think there are too many unnesecary fillers, that makes the album a bit boring at times. But well, one of the main characteristics of progressive music is that some albums require mutliple listenings to appriciate the music. So I've decided to give it a try... And when I was listening it for the third time perhaps, I've really started to like it. Now, after hearing it several times i really love it! I think that it is an ultimate experience with progressive music. You have everything here! Great musicanship, fantastic vocals and emotions! And what a variety of styles! Pink Floyd, Yes, Dream Theater, Jethro Tull, even The Beatles and... Led Zeppelin (one part of "Day Seventeen: Accident?" sounds just like "No Quarter"!). All that can be heard here! I think that everyone can find here at least one track that perfectly suites his musical taste. I highly recommend it to everyone, no matter what kind of music you prefer!
Report this review (#83718)
Posted Friday, July 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ayreon - The Human Equation,

I bought this album as an introduction to Arjen's wide work. For me, Arjen does very interesting music. Structurally it is not very progressive, the usual system in the songs is the basic pop-structure. But it (the music) has something that lures. Something that fascinates the listener. Arjen has several side projects that concentrates into one genre, at least with 'Star One'. But this piece has something very unique. I am familiar with his previous three albums, but not with the first two ones. Arjen has an ability to combine genres without messing the whole point of the music. This album grasps attention particularly with that ability and shares great feelings. Feelings are very important in music. The music, itself, is great while being little simple, but the idea in this album is not entirely in the music. There are eleven great vocalists, including Arjen, and what they create with their contribution, is something spectacular. It could be little difficult to get into this album despite the fact that the music is very simple. For some people, the length of this whole composition could be too much. There are lots of singing and less instrument jamming, that could get a while to get used to. The tracks filled with vocals is why this album is called rock opera. That, and the fact that there are many vocalists who play a part in a story.

The concepts of this album is very easy to get. It basically can be read straight from the lyrics, or from the website. The story is very cliché, but it works with the music. The human conciousness can be complex, but with this man (Me, James LaBrie), it is quite simple. Non-necessary, brief summary of the story: Guy has ignored his wife, betrayed his best friend. All because of his miserable childhood. His father beat him and never really cared about him. He falls into a coma, because of very strange car crash. He wakes up in his mind and realizes he is surrounded by feelings that takes him into his past. (By the way, when I say "He" or ”The guy”, I refer to the guy in coma.) ”I can’t move, I can’t feel my body, I don’t remember anything”

(The next paragraphs will contain some things about the storyline) Days 1-4: The 'Vigil' starts the album with a sexy cough by Meri Pitkänen. In this short song his best friend and wife are wondering about his fate. Calm, good vocal beginning to the album. 'Isolation' begins with more wondering, but his time by the guy, James LaBrie himself. He is confused. Fear, sung by Mikael Åkerfeldt, comes forth as the first emotion. Little after, a metal riff strikes. The verse is very laid back while being very swift. Great, dramatic vocals from Reason, sung by Eric Clayton, which sounds -some people say- a bit Bowie. Passion (Irene Jansen) and Pride (Magnus Ekwall) does good power singing in the chorus. After the second chorus, good peaceful flutes and the great, awesome Heather Findlay (Love). Oh, I think I love this woman, her voice is so beautiful, soft and tender. I get goose bumps every time I hear the lady sing. Calm, great work in this song. I think the moment where there are some techno keyboards, represents the fact that the guy is so lost in his head. That is the feeling I get from this part. Pretty lame guitar solo followed by wonderful keyboard solo. Great indeed it is, masterfully melodic. Arjen is very good guitarist, I assume, but his solos have not impressed my so far. The final chorus concludes the track. 'Pain' is a hard rock song. It begins with calm guitars and the soft voice of Agony, Devon Graves. Good chorus by Rage, Devin Townsend. The chorus is a good example what this mastermind does the best. Great different types of vocals one on top of the other. This combines a genius totality. The introduction by flutes and violin for (my) Love is great when she comes and tries to stop the collaboration of Agony and Rage. 'Mystery' is very calm track. Acoustic guitars roll and keyboards flow. I'm not a big fan of Marcela’s voice, but she really can sing. Very sharp and high voice. The verse and chorus are pretty dusty and I find this song little boring. The middle parts include good keyboard melodies and some mystery parts. Good song, but not the kind of quality than most of the tracks in the album. The track finishes with good vocal performances, great screaming by James LaBrie. The first couple of tracks is just introduction of the emotions, and how they try to affect to the guy. In ’Mystery’ the Wife and Best friend are trying to figure out why he crashed and wondering whether he knows. Knows what? You will know soon enough.

"Who are these voices, where do they come from? Should we try to understand?"

Days 5-8: 'Voices' begins with melodic guitarring and great cello and flute playing. Pride does a great intro vocals. Magnus is very clear rock singer. Really good cello work in this one. Very soft voice by Me, fine work. Reason wonders what are the voices that the guy hears. Love thinks that they are helpful. Excellent work. The guy is still very confused. This song include a average guitar solo and riffing, and a metal finish. 'Childhood' is my favourite track in the first disc. Very soft and beautiful voices by Me and Agony. Brilliantly beautiful melody. Then full, warm voice by Fear. The emotions take the guy into his poor childhood. Great, beautiful flutes and keyboards. Awesome guitar solo, which comes twice. Really good. This song shares amazing feelings. The song finishes with cello, and the great vocals from Agony and Me. 'Hope' is a happy song with cheerful keyboards. Short acoustic guitar solo. The Best friend is trying to wake him, but he realizes that he can't... Not yet. 'School' is a same kind of song than the previous one with Rage. Again, Devin sings chorus with great ability. Calm verse and metal chorus. After second chorus, nice dramatic, orchestral part. Reason and Pride fights for his attention. Prides wants that the guy kicks some butt, but Reason thinks that he is much wiser. With the song 'Childhood', he begins the journey through his past with emotions as guides.

"It's been 10 days, it shouldn't last this long. The doctor's mystified, nothing's physically wrong."

Days 9-12: 'Playground' is great. Short track with one melody, which is played with different instruments. Very happy melody. Guess he played happy plays. There is one thing that I wonder here. Shouldn't playground come before school? 'Memories' is another happy song with listing up the memories of the guy. Wife and Best friend tries to wake him up by talking and reminding who he is. This song has a good guitar melody. Short pop rock song. The next bit is 'Love'. This is very pop song with some hard rock guitars. The song is about how he and his wife fell in love with eachother. There is much repetition and not much music. Very powerfuly singed chorus, which is pretty catchy too. These are the facts that makes this track a very pop song. 'Trauma' is the longest song in the album. It is about how his mother died and how he feels guilty about it. There are very scary parts in this song with great work from Agony, Fear and Reason. Their vocal collaboration is incredible. Very good grunting by Mikael. Very good song grants what it promises in its name. Though perhaps the song is little dragging. The same tempo flows through the song sounding a bit boring. Good song, but not great.

"Look at you, lying there, defenceless and alone. See I'm no fool, I always knew, you wouldn't make it on your own"

Days 13-16: 'Sign' is a great ballad. Her voice is so lovely. Love does marvelous job, writing and singing the lyrics. So soft, so tender, so beautiful voice. Good guitars and flutes and great violin. The part where his Best friend and Wife sees his tears and fist is funny. I always think of goblins when I hear it. Great, mellow song. 'Pride' reveals his original plans about his career. He wanted to be artist, not a businessman. This song is pure hard rock with great rock guitar solo by Arjen. Flute is a metal instrument said someone. There has been interesting fight between Reason and Pride, but this is the song where they finally unite. Good keyboard flute outro. 'Betrayal' is the song, which tells the story how he betrayed his Best friend. Very good, operatic, full voice of Reason. Very epic sounding track. Great keyboard solo. 'Loser' begins with didgeridoo. This song is folk metal. Great song, my favourite of the whole album. Great melodies, great riffing, great vocals. This song is where his father mock him pretty badly. With that kind of father as a role model it is no wonder he ended up messing his life. Great hammond solo by Ken Hensley. Masterful outro vocals sung by Rage. Very enjoyable song.

"See him fight, he's all on his own..." "I need your help, can't do it alone!" "Listen to me, can you hear me shout?" "Let me out!!"

Days 17-20: 'Accident' tells the story who he ended up crashing to a tree. Very hypnotizing atmosphere, good bass tune. Good, melodic guitar solo followed by fine keyboard solo. Average stuff in the album. 'Realization' is very good track. It include very few vocals and much music. If not the vocals in the end, it would be great instrumental track. Begins with soft flute, but almost immediately jumps into this happy rock. Fine riffing. My friend said that the riff, which comes right in the middle of the song sound so Nightwish. The next song, 'Disclosure' is fine track, but for me, it is the weakest link. It has good melodies and vocal performances, but it is little boring. The final track is 'Confrontation'. Begins calmly, evolves constantly. The ending is great. Tempo rises and all the vocalists say something (except the father) and after the climax there are some weird stuff I don't want to understand. Good finisher.

This is a great album. Long composition, and the fact that it is done by one single man, is something marvellous. A mastermind is not a bad nickname for Arjen Anthony Lucassen. I can't, however, give this album five stars. It is not entirely progressive, as said before. Though the music rarely remind prog, Arjen does great work uniting genres and styles. And somehow, in my opinion, this artist deserves to be here. There is something that makes the music shine. I have this special edition with a DVD, which is pretty interesting. It has story of how Arjen got his singers to work with him and other cool stuff, video from 'Day eleven; Love' and much of Arjen's explanation. I think this was worth the couple of euros more I paid. What I like: The opera, many, great vocalists, which all do excellent work in this album. Combination of musical styles. The use of cello, violin, flutes. The artwork, the cover is great, but the booklet is even better. Things I love: Heather Findlay. She does amazing job as Love. I love Love. So beautiful. The voice is great too. All in all, this is great piece of music. It has everything: Metal, rock, pop, folk, techno, grunting, many great instruments and vocalists, variety of musical styles, diversity, and Heather Findlay. I still wouldn't call this an excellent addition to any "Prog" music collection, but I can't give three stars. This album deserves at least four stars. I rarely give five. This album is an excellent addition to any music collection. Not all people enjoy this music much, but everyone should at least give it a try. I highly recommend this album to everyone, the album is very enjoyable. 4/5 stars.

Report this review (#84745)
Posted Tuesday, July 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars When I first bought The Human Equation two years ago, I really had no idea what to expect, but I was into bands like Dream Theater and Symphony X, and came over a very positive review of the album, so I decided to give it a shot.

As soon as i came home after buying the album, I turned it on, and after the short intro had done its job and Day Two: Isolation came on, I was completely blown away. I listened to the album in its entirety, and could not believe my ears. The music told a story, which one got deeper and deeper into as the album progressed, and the music was as close as one could get to perfect in my eyes, ranging from heavy, metal style riffs played with seven string guitars and pompous symphonic elements to beautiful parts with acoustic guitars, flutes and piano and incredible ambient moods. On top of it all you had a great production, as well as Arjen Anthony Lucassen's unique sense of melody and harmony. The guest vocalists, with Dream Theater's James LaBrie as the lead character, also delivered a great job, everybody sounding as amazing as ever.

Up until this day, I still listen through The Human Equation regularily. I just can't seem to grow tired of neither this nor any of the other Ayreon albums. Definitely a must-have for any fan of progressive metal og prog in general.

Report this review (#85859)
Posted Saturday, August 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars My first and only Ayreon album, and while impressed initially, the more you play the album, the more you realize that it's not quite "up there". I would say a fitting description of what is found here is an album with many great parts, but tehy dont quite equal up to the expected whole.

Indeed, there are very many interesting and intriguing parts that might blow you away upon first listen, but after several repeats, you realize that many parts of the album lack the focus that is necessary. The use of many vocalists makes the album more interesting and gives us a feeling as if we are at a play or a movie, which I think is good. Some of the more "typical" prog metal traits come out, and it tires me because it's been done before. I think that there are about 4/5 tracks here that I really enjoy, and would listen to quite often, but some of the rest of the tracks lack the depth that a band like Pelican has. In scope, the project is very ambitious, but we also have a played out concept and although their are some good tracks here and there, as a whole you dont get that warm tingly sensation one gets when listening to something great.

Report this review (#85963)
Posted Sunday, August 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Once the Dutch Arjen Anthony LUCASSEN brings a history to us, but this time does not bring Castles nor house in Mars, this time is involved in the simple one and by the same complex that the life can be, for this case it shows the life to us of a personage who happens by that he makes that its life takes a somewhat chaotic and somewhat revealing course, so to speak something but near the reality, in which at critical moments things are discovered and others are denied, for this the musician decides to almost completely change the alignment of its members and to migrate towards a streamlined sound libe and the less, in part I want to think so that therefore it asked for the project, about this occasion this multisonorous album brings a trip of sensations and moments to us to remember, simply another excellent taken work and lead with great enthusiasm until his I finish, very recommendable.
Report this review (#88675)
Posted Friday, September 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars It's very difficult to be original in music these days. The success of the innovative rock bands during the 1950's and 60's will probably never be repeated. The thing that made them so successful is because they were different and were able to expand the horizons of music. Progressive rock contributed to this in many ways but even bands like King Crimson, Yes and Genesis where overshadowed by the revolutionary bands like The Beatles and the Rolling Stones who really defined Rock as a genre.

So believe me when I say that "The Human Equation" is as original as it gets now, beyond going one step further into "unknown waters." The concept isn't really unique but that in no ways degrades its effect. The fact that it is a rock opera is kind of cool, but many bands had already make rock-operas at least 25 years earlier. The Who's "Tommy" is one example among many. I think that the fact that "The Human Equation" is a prog rock opera makes it unique, if only a little. That said this isn't even the first by Arjen Lucassen, he had already made many before this.

One may argue that this is the "best" of his works, I tend to agree these days as he spares no expense to create this album. The combination of vintage instruments, metal, amazing vocalists both male and female and my personal favorite feature obscure instruments makes "The Human Equation" my favorite from his catalog I own.

The album is about a guy who has a car crash in the middle of the day for no reason. He then goes through a recount of his life in the world in his mind in which he re-faces all his hardships and torments, as well as some of the highlights. The album is also about him trying to get back into the real world and related matters. This guy is a really mean tough character, like Micky who is part of the art rock team here (hahahah). This side of him is influenced by his tough childhood brought upon mostly by his father. Yes, it is very cheesy but in a good way.

I really, really cannot be bothered going through a track by track analysis right now, maybe later. I'll just list some of my favorite songs here "Pain", "Loser", "Love" and most of all "Confrontation" which has a great surprise at the end.

I really like "The Human Equation" and it deserves its four star rating. Due to its length it can be hard to listen to and the cheese can be so strong that it overpowers you. Apart from that it's great! I'd recommend this album to all prog metal fans, it is an absolute essential for you guys.

Report this review (#89555)
Posted Wednesday, September 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars "The Human Equation" is a good concept album, mixing heavy metal and folkish rock. The story behind is really great, the cast of guest vocalists is awesome, the music is well written and well produced for the most part... but there are too many cheezy and poppish parts to make it a masterpiece. Still an excellent addition to any prog collection though.

"Day One: Vigil" is a short minimalistic intro with gentle vocals - just here to introduce the story with the characters Wife and Best Friend. "Day Two: Isolation" is the song that introduces almost all other characters - the music is a mix of Dream Theater and Pink Floyd, with mellow passages (Fear/Love) along a more heavy main theme (Me/Reason/Passion/Pride). "Day Three: Pain" introduces two more characters - Agony (Devon Graves, great voice, surprisingly gentle for emotions such as pain and agony) and Rage (Devin Townsend, mixing rock, power and extreme vocals in a nice fashion, but his style of singing seems really out of place here). "Day Four: Mystery" starts with acoustic guitar and synths and is mainly a Wife/Best Friend duet again - very pleasant. "Day Five: Voices" starts (and ends) with a cheezy folkish part - the duet Magnus Ekwall/James LaBrie (Pride/Me) doesn't give its full potential, as it will later on on "Day Fourteen: Pride" - but the middle part (Reason/Love/Fear) is one of the best moment of the album, in particular the part where Mikael Åkerfeldt sings. "Day Six: Childhood" is a very quiet song for its most part with impressive vocal performances by characters Agony, Me and Fear, just interrupted in the middle by a rocking guitar solo. "Day Seven: Hope" is a cheezy duet Best Friend/Me sounding like those Pink Floyd songs on "The Wall" that I don't like at all - probably one of the songs I like least on this album. "Day Eight: School" starts with quiet verses from Fear/Agony/Me, interrupted by brutal and irritating choruses by Rage (damn this part sounds horrible on this song) - then the song becomes heavier with the more powerful voices of Pride and Reason. "Day Nine: Playground" is an enjoyable short instrumental - typical mellow Ayreon stuff with keyboards and acoustic guitar for the most part. "Day Ten: Memories" is the other song I don't like on this album at all - very cheezy and poppish, even the melody sounds out of tone. "Day Eleven: Love" is another poppish song, except for the choruses where Passion and Pride sing.

Part II of "The Human Equation" starts with eleven little tracks - a little trick to ensure that "Day Twelve: Trauma" starts as track #12. "Day Twelve: Trauma" is the centerpiece of this second part - it starts like a traditional heavy metal song with the voices of Passion and Agony, but then turns into pure doom metal with Fear/Reason (Mikael Åkerfeldt even uses a mix of clean and growled vocals here). "Day Thirteen: Sign" starts as a beautiful ballad - Heather Findlay really has a great voice - but after three minutes or so the song turns into some Rocky Horror Picturesque stuff when Wife and Best Friend start to sing. "Day Fourteen: Pride" is probably the heaviest song on the album with the three most powerful voices singing (Me/Pride/Reason). "Day Fifteen: Betrayal" follows then with a totally opposite style - quieter with the more frail voices of Fear and Agony, and more symphonic with the operatic Passion and Reason. "Day Sixteen: Loser" is a folkish song - some kind of celtic rock with a lot of folkish instruments - that ends up brutally with Devin Townsend's raging vocals. "Day Seventeen: Accident?" is a beautiful power ballad, one of my favorite songs on this album. "Day Eighteen: Realization" is mainly a folkish instrumental with again a lot of instruments, with just a small sung part in the end (I don't really like that part compared to the rest of the song). "Day Nineteen: Disclosure" is another nice power ballad with mainly the female characters in front (Wife/Love/Passion). "Day Twenty: Confrontation" is the grand finale of the album - almost all characters return to conclude the story, with a melody a bit like Queensryche's "Eyes of a Stranger", a mix of quiet and heavy parts.

Rating: 71/100 (part I - 3 stars) + 86/100 (part II - 4 stars)

Report this review (#97174)
Posted Sunday, November 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Simply beautiful. There's nothing I can say that hasn't already been said. Although the lyrics get a little cheesy at times and LaBrie's character seems to follow a pre-set singing pattern, everything else stands out in this album. LaBrie, Clayton, Akerfeldt, Marcela Bovio, and Arjen Lucassen all have stand-out performances, especially LaBrie and Marcela. Mike Baker, while only appearing in one song, gives such an exceptional performance that he deserves to be nominated in this catagory as well. All the other vocalists were amazing as well, but these people deserve a disgusting amount of props.

Day Four, Day Eight, and Day Sixteen never cease to amaze me.

Report this review (#103433)
Posted Sunday, December 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I discovered Ayreon a few months ago when this album got in my hands. Since then I am buying every album of Arjen, no questions asked.

In my opinion this album is a milestone of modern day prog music all around!

Yes, I know this is a big thing to say but, man, that's how I feel whenever I listen to this album. And if we don't trust our feelings then why are we into prog?

Well to back it up, the album has all the ideas needed: mix of voices, mix of different music styles, concept album, great melodies, great riffs, great performance of all the musicians, simple and complex. As you follow the story sometimes all that you expect comes to you, sometimes it surprises you. Of course, the more you listen to it the more you enjoy it. Some may say that the previous works of Arjen (and of many others that you can find 30 years ago) already did that and maybe in a better way. I will not disagree with you, maybe all of Ayreon works are at the same level. But it's a high level where the only thing that remains is subjectiveness without strong arguments.

I don't like to rate the album song by song cause I think it is unfair for the artist to do it. He provided to us a whole idea and not a collection of stand alone songs. And I don't like either to place this in a specific category cause it limits the way our mind and our heart is functioning as you listen to it. I believe that everyone can enjoy this record along with the previous ones from Ayreon (trust me I already used all of them to many people). Masterpiece...

Report this review (#104123)
Posted Friday, December 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I first heard about Ayreon through iTunes suggestions but paid no attention until I stumbled upon this site. I downloaded a few songs off of some albums and was impressed, but not wowed. Then, I got most of Ayreon's albums for Xmas. I listened to this album first and almost never got to my other CD gifts.

The Human Equation follows the story of a man who falls in a coma after plowing his car into a tree. While in a coma, he unlocks some hidden region of his mind where he confronts his emotions and and memories. Meanwhile, his best friend and wife sit at his hospital bed waiting for a sign of life. As usual, Arjen manages to pick out each vocalist perfectly. Though most of the voices on this and his other albums were new to me, some big names stood out. He roped in Mikael Akerfeldt, Devin Townsend, Mike Baker, and James LaBrie, some of my favorite metal vocalists for this extravanganza.

Everything about this album screams perfection. Arjen's compositional skills have fully blossomed, resulting in the most musical album in the Ayreon catalogue. His lyrics also fully capture emotions. Passion, Love, and Agony often are together; Reason can be swayed by Passion, etc. You come to truly feel this album; I cried as the man revisits his abusive and lonely childhood. When the wife and best friend tell anecdotes on "Memories," I smiled in the same way I do for real anecdotes; it's not a joke, so you don't laugh, but you smile because it's amusing. At other points I was downright terrified; Arjen's slim but powerful acoustic arrangements crate the eeirest atmosphere. Ed Warby rejoins Arjen as apparently Ayreon's permanent drummer, if Arjen's interview on the special edition DVD is any hint.

Now, on to the vocalists. Fans of opeth who prefer Mikael's clean vocals will love this album as most of his vox are clean, though he does some growls. James LaBrie gives what may be his most impassioned performance to date. Those who do like his vocals are encouraged to check this out; it beats a good portion of DT vocals, which I happen to love. Arjen once again uses beautiful yet upsetting female vocals. I was initially dismayed to hear Devin Townsend essentially phoned in his performance, as he did not want to sing other people's vocals. However, Arjen allowed him to write his own lyrics for Rage, and they fit perfectly to the story while still retaining that unique Townsend approach. The real suprise for me was ex-Psyhcotic waltz vocalist Devon Graves. I have yet to hear Psychotic Waltz or Devon's new project Dead Soul Tribe, but I'm going to get anything he's been a part of. Arjen is right on the mark when he says that you'll be reading the lyrics booklet every time Devon comes on, not because you can't understand him, but you are trying to determine who the new vocalist is. He is all over the place on this record; his versatility here could match Daniel Gildenlow's on Pain of Salvation releases.

For the longest time, DT's Scenes From a Memory held my top spot for greatest prog metal release and Queensryche's Operation Mindcrime was my personal favorite. The Human Equation managed to supplant both. The production, the arrangement, the vocals, everything is perfect. As with all Ayreon albums I read along to the album with the booklet to see which vocalist was where. I usually start with the album and keep reading even if I get ahead. Yet, as the story progressed, I stopped because I did not want to ruin the story. I was that engaged to the concept. I cannot recommend this album enough and to those who believe a good prog metal collection is nothing but Dream Theater, Queensryche, Opeth, Fates Warning, and Symphony X (I was in that boat not too long ago), you haven't even started if you don't have this album.

Grade: A+

Report this review (#105078)
Posted Sunday, December 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I was counting the days 'til this was released. I pre-ordered the limited edition because I knew this was going to be great! (I did the same with Space Metal although most claim it is an inferior release; to which I disagree.) Over the past couple of years I must admit that I put this album on the shelf. I just spun it tonight, and was knocked on my ass. Arjen is THE most gifted composer alive on the face of the Earth! To me, it would be blasphemy to break this down to a track-by-track review. This is Arjen's manifesto of the human condition!

BTW, I'm not a DT fan, but LaBrie turns in a magnificent performance. As gifted as the vocalists and musicians on this record are; The Human Equation is greater than the sum of the parts. I wonder how many take some of what the learned from Lucassen and ply it to their own works.

Report this review (#105221)
Posted Monday, January 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Human Equation

Two CDs, a documentary DVD, all packed in a cardboard case, what more can I possibly want? Well, actually, two great CDs, a cool DVD with also cool artwork. I could have given 6 stars.

When I bought the CD, I did not know anything much about Ayreon, what kind of band was it, and where did it come from. Plus, the price was heaps expensive, which made me wait for around 4 months before I could buy the set. I just hoped no one will buy the set before me. So, I went to that same music store everyday for four consecutive months just to make sure no one touches it. In the end, it's all worth it.

I went home, ripped all the tracks to my computer, and then played the first track while looking at the artwork. It was a cool first track, pretty slow actually, for a "progressive metal" album, just like people said. But it is such a nice song, really calming vocal, very simple. Then I continued to the second track, Isolation, which really blew me away from my desk, for about 4 metres. Now that what I call a progressive metal song. A combination of virtuosity, feeling, and progressiveness and other things that make you feel the song. The best thing about the song is the chord progression and the keyboard solo, they are too cool. So then I continued my musical journey with these two incredible CDs. Arjen Lucassen was right, this album is a truly combination of metal, progressive rock, folk, maybe some country, to some more mainstream genres. A song like Love (track 11) is a completely different song to Pain (track 3), which makes this album a really unique album. This is probably due to the variety of musical tastes of the vocalists, and musicians. Several big names, like James LaBrie, Mikael Akerfeldt, Devin Townsend and Heather Findlay took part in the creation of the album.

And just like other epic albums of progressive rock, The Human Equation offers a nice story behind the album. The Human Equation. Portrayed human's life in many different aspects, reflected in the characters of the singers, Fear, Reason, Love, Passion, Pride, Agony and Rage. Of course, also the main characters, Me, his Wife, Best Friend and Father. The story began when the character Me (as me, yourself) had an accident, a pretty strange accident when he hit a tree although no one was there. Since then, he began to think and reflect his life, in conscious or subconscious state. For example in the song "Memories", Arjen Lucassen sang "It's been ten days, it shouldn't last this long, the doctor's mystified nothing's physically wrong". It shows that at that time, the main character was still under a subconscious mind, remembering all the good times he had with his Best Friend. Then it comes when we know that the character Me was actually an unhappy individual, although he was portrayed as a complete person, with a good life. However, he had a bad relationship with his father, best friend and his wife. Then slowly, as the album flows, he fixed these aspects and made his life better. This is a cool story, I reckon, because it reflects some of our life, and yours too, probably.

Now after I finished listening to the songs on the CDs, I asked myself, "How on earth they made this album? And what is Ayreon really? Well fortunately, the DVD explains it all. So don't just buy the CDs, but the set that I bought, a really cool compliment to the great album. Enough talking, buy it now. Or if you have bought it, listen to it again now, just like I am doing right now.

Motion personified alpha - Imoeng

Report this review (#110361)
Posted Thursday, February 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well, what can i say? It beats The Perfect Element, makes Second Life Syndrome look even worse than it is, and very easily rivals Metroplis pt.2. Yes, its that good. Its a masterpice, without question. I would say it is the best prog-metal album ever, honestly.

Interesting, origional and unique are words that come to mind when thinking about this album. Ok, some of it is reminisent of Yes, Kansas and others, but the tone here is incredible. Its exiting, and it varies a huge amount. From the short intro to the last high scream of Day Twenty this album is a magnificent prog journey. Folk, psychedelic, metal, rock are all combined here, it is truly a mesterful work. The emotion that this creates is superb. All the characters are emotions, and each singer does a fantastic job. I mean, Day Ten: Memories will actully bring up memories for you. Day Seven: Hope will fill you with hope and happiness. Day Three: Pain will make you feel the pain and the rage all spilled into that wonderfully heavy, bombastic Devin Townsend chorus. Thats what makes this album so different - it actully makes you feel yourself with its powerful, up-lifting fell throughout.

This is a must have prog metal, or just prog rock album. In my opinion, it should be in the top ten prog albums of all time, as it happens, prog archives rates it about 30 i think.

Get, and go on the most emotional, technically dazzaling, and quite frankly best musical journey of your life.

Report this review (#112364)
Posted Friday, February 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Sure I'm not the greatest prog metal fan, but I trully think this is terribly overrated. There is a mix of various musical styles, most of them don't work for me.

The vocals are good, as you can expect from the various famous singers that sing a note or two on this disc. The lyrics however, are just horrible. It's all sang in some kind of a conversation style, and that really is just plain horrible. The lyrics are very simple and predictable, something I disslike in music, especially if there is singing most of the time (I mean if it were like Camel with a few vocal parts then I could look the other way, but here it's too much).

There is just too much emphasis on the vocals (and thus the bad lyrics) and too little on keyboards / guitars.

Aside from the awesome ending of the second track "Isolation" (with crazy DSOTMish synths) there is nothing really interesting for me.

Sorry only 2 stars for my fellow countrymate and the other artists featured on this disc.

Report this review (#112449)
Posted Saturday, February 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have to give it a 5!

I once loved it but now I've butchered it by listening to it too much. The music is wonderful, the mucisians great and the voices.... oh the voices! Any album with Eric Clayton on vocals is great and any album with Devin Townsend on vocals is great and here they are on the same album. I've got goosebumps all over just thinking about it.

Report this review (#115094)
Posted Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I agree 100%.

"The Human Equation" of Ayreon, is one of the best albums not only of "prog-metal" scene, but also in the rock scene in the last years. Based in a conceptual story about a man and probably his last days of life counted one by one and are explained through different human emotions. Divide in two disc this album is supported in an affluent concept structured, with songs that give the correct sensation to its thematic and to its characters, a great cast of singers and musicians almost unique (it's not easy to have in a same place people like: Ken Hensley [ex--Uriah Heep], Martin Orford [IQ, Jadis], Ed Warby [Gorefest], James Labrie [Dream Theater], Mikael Åkerfeldt [Opeth], Devin Townsend [Strapping Young single Lad] by naming some) and a production of first class.

This work is possibly one of my favorite albums of progressive music, Trust me, because are a little more than 2 hours of music of the highest level...

I have it and I recommend it in a 110%

By: Epsilon.

Report this review (#115384)
Posted Friday, March 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars I got this album because for 4 main reasons.

1. It contains four of my favorite vocalists (Devon Graves, Devin Townsend, Mikael Åkerfeldt, and Heather Findlay).

2. Everyone seems to praise the so-called genius Arjen Lucassen and almost every single one of his projects.

3. The Human Equation is the highest rated album of his and is ranked #3 of all of prog metal.

4. I am a huge fan of certain prog metal bands, and while it is a hit and miss genre to me, the hits are home runs.

I've listened to the album too many times. My first impression was simply nothing. I had listened to the whole thing and nothing had stuck into my head or jumped out at me, so I figured that I had missed something. After all, it is a huge album, containing 20 tracks and 100 minutes of music. Then I listened to it a few more times. Instead of being overwhelmed by the genius behind it, I kept coming to the same conclusion and it was not what I expected at all.

It seems cheesy, insipid, pretentious, and overrated. Stacked with immense vocal talent, I could not believe how it was so unmemorable. Maybe I'm in the complete minority and I lack whatever it takes to appreciate this album, but I really can't see how that's the case. I'll listen to my Psychotic Waltz, Pain of Salvation, and Dream Theater for great prog metal. This sadly didn't live up to any of my expectations.

2 stars for vocals and effort.

Report this review (#116384)
Posted Sunday, March 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am stunned. For whatever reason, I've heard very little about Ayreon and The Human Equation. I took a chance and recently purchased this because someone told me that I might like it. Well, I think it is outstanding. This album grabbed me in the very first listen (not always a good thing) and has continued to thrill my ears on subsequent listens (definitely a good thing).

Unlike a lot of listeners, I have a softspot for double album rock operas such as this. When I consider albums that I consider to be prog masterpieces: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (Genesis) and Snow (Spock's Beard) are two albums that immediately come to mind. The Human Equation may be just as good (if not better) due to the amazing vocalists who all contribute to make this such a special listen.

Eric Clayton, Heather Findlay, Mikael Akerfeldt and Magnus Ekwall are the most noticeable in their performances, while the rest of the vocalists provide wonderful textures to this musical landscape. If I could change anything regarding the vocalists, I would have a little less LaBrie and a little more Clayton and Lucassen.

The entire two-disc album consists of 20 tracks called "days" which comprise the conceptual story. Each vocalist plays a part of either an individual in the story or of an emotion (fear, passion, love, rage, etc.) that grips the protoganist. Arjen Lucassen pulls this whole thing off superbly with each song often becoming a dueling duet as two varying emotions oftentimes pull at the central character. And with every song being loaded with numerous vocalists, there is never a dull moment despite the length of the entire album.

I enthusiastically give this album five stars, but feel that I should point out two minor criticisms. The concept is very unoriginal as it has been done many times before. While the story does have a bit of a twist, the whole man-in-a-hospital-bed thing sure is cliché. The second criticism is almost not worth mentioning, but it is a shameless copy of the James Bond theme used in one of the first couple of tracks. While it sounds good, it is the James Bond theme exactly. Both of these criticisms are really very minor in comparison to the musical smorgasbord that will treat your ears. I highly recommend this piece of art. It has left me stunned.

Report this review (#118297)
Posted Friday, April 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
4 stars A fine album featuring some of Ayreon's best song writing and playing to date, but-- despite the raving reviews-- is not perfect. However, the complaints I have are few compared to the album's highlights, which outshine previous works.

Arjen elevates his song writing ability, composing many songs here that are very memorable and fine show cases for his instrumentalist's talent; however, I think that the vocalists steal the show on this one, probably because "Human Equation" features more star-power than ever before, and a better mix than on previous albums. However, the need for the lyrics to double as narrative do sometimes get in the way of enjoying certain songs, and since the exposition/story telling is often times explicit, it makes for a few boring lulls in between the otherwise dynamic songs. Moreover, the second CD does not make for a satisfying conclusion when compared to side 1; it's bogged down by too much narrative.

As far as vocals go, LaBrie does a fine job carrying the lead, but the big surprise is Marcel Bovio, whose strong feminine voice adds a broader spectrum of melody and chorus to Ayreon's music. For my own part, Townsend and Akerfelt deliver the most memorable performance in "Loser"; their sudden scream/growl duet always puts a smile on my face.

To sum up, "Human Equation" is certainly one of Ayreon's finest, and will likely hook first time listeners as well as dedicated fans. Satisfying and fun to listen to.

Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 4 Lyrics/Vocals: 4 Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Report this review (#119101)
Posted Friday, April 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
4 stars What a story: once Arjen Lucassen played in the hardrock bands Bodine and the very popular Vengeance as the archetypical hardrock guitar player and now is an acclaimed progrock multi-instrumentalist who has created his own and very distinctive Ayreon sound with amazing albums sales and a huge popularity on this site so a big hand for this creative and nice fellow Dutchman!

Today I listened for the first time to this 2- CD set (The Electric Castle is my favorite Ayreon album) for the total running time because earlier I had heard some parts that sounded a bit too prog-metal-like and I am not a fan of that genre. I can to say that I am very impressed by the music on both discs. It's obvious that Arjen has incorporated elements from his favorite bands from the past like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Hawkwind. But he has blended these elements in a very captivating, dynamic and unique way, culminating in the typical Ayreon sound. Although this will not be my favorite album (because of the prog metal elements), to me this 2-CD sounds as his most mature effort delivering 20 compositions that alternate frequently between mellow and bombastic, between folky and progmetal, between dreamy and heavy and we can enjoy amazing soli (on guitar, keyboards and flute), stunning breaks, a pleasant variety, lots of great musical ideas (like the sound of a church organ, a didgeridoo and a classical orchestra) and a wide range of excellent male and female singers (from James LaBrie and Heather Findlay to Mike Baker and Irene Jansen) and famous musicians (like Ken Hensley and Martin Offord) , another typical element of the Ayreon sound. My highlights on this 2-CD set are Day Two: Isolation (very dynamic and alteranting featuring swirling organ, a spectacular On The Run-like synthesizer intermezzo, Gilmourian slide guitar and flashy synthesizer flights), Day Five: Voices (between folky with mandolin, violin and acoustic rhythm guitar and prog metal with bombastic eruptions, biting guitar and wonderful violin-Mellotron waves), Day Fourteen: Pride (exciting with sensational distorted guitar, a super-propulsive prog metal climate and strong work on flute traverse and a fiery guitar) and the very varied Day Eighteen: Realization (an array of instruments like flute traverse, organ, tin-whistle, choir-Mellotron and violin). My keyboard hero Ken Hensley delivers an outstanding, very spectacular Hammond organ solo in Day Sixteen: Loser, this inspired contribution prooves that Arjen is not only a great composer but also an inspirational musician who knows how to create exciting and varied prog. This 2-CD set has not only become one of the highlights in Dutch prog, it's also a worldwide very acclaimed effort, highly recommended!

Report this review (#120680)
Posted Thursday, May 3, 2007 | Review Permalink

Arjen Lucassen always tries to do the best on each recording, and "The Human Equation" is not the exception. Staying away from the main theme of his previous productions about science fiction and electric castles, this dutch genius delivers one of the most sublime pieces ever heard. Making use of elements of almost all the sub- genres of Prog Rock Music, this release joins every single piece of a big puzzle, which is unveiled slowly during each day of this sweet agony.

The story relates 20 days included in 20 awesome tracks; in which a patient in a state of coma played by Dream Theater's James LaBrie sees how each one of his feelings, all of them performed by a different singer; involve him into a sequence of happenings that catch you and take you into the deepest place of his mind.

As I mentioned before, the musical diversity developed through the whole album is simply exquisite and is some kind of different from Ayreon's previous albums, but it conserves that Heavy Metal sound on it.

The casting; which contains such big names into Progressive Rock as Mike Baker from Shadow Gallery, James LaBrie from Dream Theater, Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth and Devin Townsend and the great surprises such as the Mexican pride Marcela Bovio from Elfonia and Eric Clayton from Saviour Machine (just for name the ones who stand out the most) make of this album a listening delight and a perfect masterpiece. This is a simply must have.

Report this review (#121606)
Posted Friday, May 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Because of the high rating on, I purchased this CD.The rating was right on the money. Great stuff!

The very talented guest vocalists, the diversity of the music and the great story make this one of my favorites. This is probably the best concept album since Queensryche's "Operation Mindcrime".

For any prog metal fans wanting new material, I highly recommend this concept double-CD. Just looking at the guest vocalists and instrumentalists would give anyone a clue as to the quality. The composition and production are top notch and send this to 5 star status!

Report this review (#122482)
Posted Thursday, May 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Ayreon's Human Equation is one of the most overtly progressive albums I've ever heard. Very seldom do I quite understand what the phrase "prog for prog's sake means" but here I believe it fits perfectly. The whole ordeal is so bombastic and insincere that I really can't stretch any enjoyment out of it. The only part of the affair I hear any sincerity in comes from the amazing cast of vocalists lined-up to do this project. Even vocalist who are usually mediocre (LaBrie, Devon Graves) contribute top-rate performances

The album has three types of songs on it: - Songs with some cool licks - Bad, boring songs - Ok songs much too flashy and cheesy for my taste

I think the attempt to develop the rather poor concept really led to the album's downfall. As a collection of 50 mins worth of tracks, severed from the concept, I think this could be a rather good 3 1/2 star album when in the correct mood. However, it's not. For the first few listens I really enjoyed this album, but from then it's been a steady downhill ride. I keep giving this album another chance due to the high praise it receives from many of my colleges, but as of now I fail to see the genius they have found.

Report this review (#122798)
Posted Saturday, May 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I find it funny that Progarchives warns you when you choose to rate an album 5 stars, because "not every album you like is a 'masterpiece." Well, I would like PA to change it to "Unless you are reviewing Ayreon's The Human Equation, not every album you like is a masterpiece." LOL

If you are even thinking you might be interested in prog metal, you need this album. Heck, even if you hate prog metal, you need this album. It will change you. It is in a sense, "perfect." I hate to say that because obviously, nothing is perfect. Except this album. It is the example that all prog metal bands should look to. It is perfect.

Buy this, play it. I guarantee you that you will like it. There isn't anything not to like, to be perfectly honest. Please, do your self a favor and get this. You will not regret it.

Report this review (#122910)
Posted Sunday, May 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Human Equation is Ayreon's most ambitious project to date. It features a lot of James LaBrie, among many other greats such as Mikael Akerfeldt and Devin Townsend. The album is a progressive rock opera that tells the story of a man that gets into a car accident and goes into a coma. The album is a double disc, split into days one through twenty. Each day represents a different emotion, and unfolds more of the story. Now onto the music: This album features many styles, including folk music, metal, pop, rock, and even some classical influences. All the songs are composed to exhibit the vocalists' best ablilties. For example, Akerfeldt usually sings either soft melodies or death growls (both are his specialty). LaBrie usually gets the main melody, and Devin gets some great scream moments in, especially in Loser. This disc really sets the standard in progressive metal. You will hear elements of some of the bands represented by the singers. In other words, you will get great rock moments reminiscent of Dream Theater, great heavy metal moments the likes of Opeth, and so on. This album has something for everyone. It took me quite a few listens for it to sink in, but if you lock yourself in a room, turn the lights off, and just listen straight through, you'll be in for a real treat. It will be hard for Ayreon to top this one.
Report this review (#124167)
Posted Thursday, May 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I first thought Ayreon would be just something high-pitched and melodic power jingle, i still thought give it a try and the Human Equation sounded the most interesting one, and the most progressive too :p The vocal work is mostly magnificent and the album has so many layers in it so it will surely need some time to grow on me. Many aspects of it also strongly remind me of The Who's rock opera Tommy. Also the story is kinda similar, from a perspective of a person, who is totally unaware of his surroundings. The flute parts also reming about Jethro Tull. The record begins with Virgil, a short and soft intro, nice, but not anything particulary special. Then we hear the car crash and the story begins. Isolation works as an introduction fot most of the vocalists, pretty good and one part is clearly from Dark Side Of The Moon. Multi-layered and will give a positive image still at this point. Pretty basic guitar solo, not anything special, though the lead guitar sound also reminds me of DSOTM. Pain, has a gloomy and cool intro with nice vocals from Graves and Devin's screams are just pure perfection. Also Finlay's short bit as love works pretty well. Overall a great piece of music . Mystery begins with acoustic guitar and kinda boring verses. It is also one of the stongest 'Tommy' songs on the album, still a bit flat piece. Voices, another one with the ole' acoustic. The beginning is a bit cheerfull with violin, flute and stuff. Truly a Jethro. Pride's vocal lines are quite basic but Reason and Fear have pretty good stuff. Short, simple and melodic guitar solo stands up properly and overall this is ok, but not more. Ends with Jethro. Childhood has a very proggy keyboard opening, and the song is basically a simple ballad with violins and soft vocals. Hope is a short one, but it has a very cathy melody and the keyboards are pure classic. Lyrics are more brighter and..'hopeful'. I like, just like those short and beautiful acoustic pieces on Tull's Aqualung. Then we go to school, again the acoustic and soft voices, then goes Devin and shows his ultimate Rage, the man is simply a genious. The instrumental part is like from some epic viking stuff, Bathory etc, bit out of place but brings quite twisted athmosphere, which is just good. Passion and Reason show their lungs and we return to acoustic with Townshend's commandments. Short time in the Playground with children playing. This is the only instrumental song on the album, it has a good violin but still it's not so necessary. Memories it's not so memorable, it has the good basic stuff on vocals and epic guitarring but nevertheless, something is missing. The first part of the album ends with Love, which i didn't like so much at the beginning. Still it's kinda poppish and stuff but in some wicked way, i like it. Great vocals from everyone, i expecially like Passion's and Agony's co-operation.

The second part of the album begins with Trauma and Reason's preaching. Another 'Tommy' song, with strong Passion stuff and excellent groans by Åkerfeldt. Sing, nice flute at start, the violin is a bit cheesy, but overall a nice ballad, still nothing special. Pride, a bit heavier song, with LaBrie's vocals that are pure Dream Theater. The flute is like straight from the hands of Ian Anderson himself. Lucassen is not a guitar god, at least not in this record, but still tears a few suitable solos, including the one in this one. Then we have Betrayal, with the nice opera by Reason and nice violins but not much else. But ah, then we have Loser, with the didgeridoo intro. I also just love all that celtic stuff. Vocals are good and this song has balls. Also Devin's screams, pure excellency. The wicked keyboards are just prog. After the previous masterpiece, Accident is a bit boredom, nothing much to say about that. Realization has nice organ and one of the best flutes on the album, pretty good one, though the vocals don't cause an orgasm. Two more to go, Disclosure has a short bit of good keyboards but that's all, a kinda flat one too. Then we have only Confrontation, which is a bit better than the previous but not among the highlights of the record. But still, a fairly good closer for the album.

Even as the album has very different kinds of quality, as a whole, it's still a pretty genious work. Musically i'd give it a 4, but because of the brilliant concept, it woul actually be even 4½ stuff, 'right.

Report this review (#136567)
Posted Thursday, September 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The Human Equation is an absolute masterpiece progressive concept album (rock opera). The album consists of 20 songs spread over 2 discs. The concept is a story relaying the various human emotions felt by the title character (sung by James LaBrie) who following a car accident is left in a comatose state. He is attended at his bedside by his wife (Marcela Bovio) and his Best Friend (Arjen Lucassen). Each of the various emotions are sung by a different guest vocalist, including Heather Findlay as Love, Mikael Akerfeldt as Fear, Devon Graves as Agony and Devin Townsend as Rage. The songs mostly alternate between the thoughts inside his head and the conversations between his wife and his best friend. It is an emotional story of love and betrayal and forgiveness.

To fully understand this concept album it is highly recommended that you follow along to the lyrics with the CD booklet. Within the CD booklet each of the various vocal parts is clearly labelled as to who is singing which parts. This is definitely an excellent aid for following along and gaining an understanding of which emotions he is dealing with. Many of the songs are duets with alternating male and female vocals. The female vocals on this album are absolutely gorgeous. Word of warning: there are some death metal growls sung by Agony and Rage which have a cringe inducive factor, but quite frankly in my opinion, these death growls are actually appropriate in order to convey these emotions of Agony and Rage and the amount of death growls is very small so they shouldn't put off the listener too much.

All in all, this is one of my favorite albums of all time. I suppose that one of the things that I like best about it is that the concept is clear and about real life situations. There is relatively nothing abstract about the concept and it isn't a sci-fi fantasy concept (I like these too, but they can tend to be a bit cheesy). Happy listening!!! I hope that this review has been of some help to someone who hasn't heard this album and is looking for an excellent concept story/rock album to add to their collection.

Report this review (#143038)
Posted Tuesday, October 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Impenetrable cheese.

I was (and still am) a big fan of 'Into the electric castle' - it was cheesy but most of the time it was the good kind of cheesy, I couldn't help but smile every time I heard the hippie say "we're on an amazing flight in space" and there was that whole old school prog vibe going on most of the time. In the human equation we find what is worst about modern progressive metal, the over the top vocals with operatic vibrato, abrasive nu-metal guitar tones, noodly shred solos, silly synthesizers and the insincere concept album with lyrics without a hint of subtlety - am I being overly harsh on this album? - probably but I think it needs to be said and this is the way I genuinely see things.

I plain don't like this album, I never even got past the first disc and I don't see many redeeming factors in it but this is just my personal opinion that happens to be at odds with the majority, this probably comes from my background in liking extreme and technical metal as well as prog. If you are lactose intolerant or a fan of extreme metal then you probably wont like this album, if you are a fan of DREAM THEATER or SYMPHONY X then I could see there would definitely be a lot to like here.

Report this review (#145539)
Posted Thursday, October 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars yeah i know it is one of the 'best ever prog metal albums'.......but it just not as good as many other prog metal albums the musiciaship is nice nothing more than that too many quiet songs and theres no blasting guitar solos or strong istrumental tracks and the songs sometimes are boring...melodic but not exciting besides i think this album is mainly for opera like progressive metal
Report this review (#147472)
Posted Saturday, October 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the best album i have heard in the last 5 years, i had a previous experience with Ayreon that didnt impressed me much (Universal Migrator) but for years i have been enjoying other Lucassen's side projects like Ambeon, Stream of Passion or Lana Lane's secrets of astrology on witch he guests. Human Equation was a revelation to me, i didnt expected Arjen could actually pull of a double concept album that was consistent and interesting throughout the hole 100+ minutes of play time, i must say i think this album is almost flawless, there are no filler tracks whatsoever, everything flows well as a whole and the diversity displayed here is amazing, call it folk, progressive, metal, pop, blues, rock, opera ... everything is displayed here and to my surprise it doesnt sound forced or out of place, everything, every instrument, every vocal is well thought out, the production is top notch, the singers impressive (even the much criticized Labrie is great here).

My favorite tracks are Isolation, Trauma, Accident and the amazing closing title Confrontation witch develops really nicely from a calm start to an intense metal-like double kick drum rhythm while most of the cast of singers display their vocal abilities.

Report this review (#148389)
Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars I'm surprised this is the top rated Prog Metal Album on PA. The music here isn't bad, but it's average PM at best. There is this one instrumental track (Loser) with some Celtic sounds to it which is kind of interesting, but that is honestly the highlight. The lyrics here are atrocious. Now, some bad lyrics are hilarious and epic, but these are just painful and forced, trying to have some merit. The track with James Labrie (out of all the people to have as a guest star) is especially unlistenable; the vocals not even conveying the meaning of the bad lyrics about "School". Seemingly, a highly overrated release, and I'm not sure what so many like about it. I'd bet if this band focused on the instrumental part of their music and wrote the lyrics to accentuate the music, not the other way around (or make an instrumental album :D) then they could make some great music.
Report this review (#151564)
Posted Saturday, November 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Another concept album from this skilled Dutch musician. As usual there is a myriad of great guests for this recording. Just to name a few : Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn), James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Marcela Bovio (Elfonia) and Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) for the vocalists and Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep) as well as Martin Orford (IQ, Jadis) on the keys. Heather and Marcela do belong to my favourite female prog vocalists and it is extremely pleasant to have them both featured here.

A great line-up. But again the concept is VERY thin.

This album has a deep influence from "Floyd" during some tracks of the first disc. It was already noticeable in his prior project "The Universal Migrator. During "Isolation" all the facets of "Ayreon" are proposed : metal riff, aerial keys and FULLY Floydian atmosphere. It is one of the best song from this double CD.

What I dislike particularly on "Pain" are these growling "vocals" from Mikael Åkerfeldt. Even if I can bear some of the "Opeth" offering, I could not really enter into these type of vocals (except during the fantastic "The Drapery Falls").

"Mystery" is a good song with Banks oriented synth work while the folkish "Voices" start almost like "Friends" from "Led Zep "(on III). The folkish atmosphere will be substituted with a metal one after three minutes. While "Childhood" offers some ambient but dull mood. It is saved by some good guitar work.

"Hope" brings us back to the folkish even medieval sounds. It is maybe due to the special keys sound here. Not my fave. Same sort of folkish flavour as well in the next and short "Playground".

The first part of this double CD is not really memorable IMO. Pleasant, that's all.

The second CD won't be very different. It starts with the long "Trauma". Some growling again from Mikael Åkerfeldt and a rather dull song after all. Some folkish mood again with "Sign".

My favourite song is "Pride". A heavy-rock one. It features brilliant flute play which will automatically remind the hardest Tull side. But it last less than five minutes. And the West end (or Broadway) musical tendency of "Betrayal" is not the best of this album (but it is not the first time that I noticed this influence on Arjen song writing).

It is remarkable to notice how one musician could influence the musical style of "Loser". I'm of course talking about Hensley and his great organ solo. Fully in-line with his epic days with the Heep. Apart from this excellent solo, there is really nothing fussy about this track.

The role of "Reason" is sung by Eric Clayton. He almost sounds as "Bowie" on each of his appearance. This is not to annoy me. Just listen to "Accident" (but there are other ones of course). A strong closing number is more than welcome. "Confrontation" is also one of my fave from "The Human Equation".

This album is far from the masterpiece status IMHHO. Too conventional, predictable. Same sort of weak concept all over again. A good album, no more. A shorter, condensed version might have worked better.

Three stars.

Report this review (#155225)
Posted Wednesday, December 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
The Crow
4 stars The Human Equation is a splendid album... But a bit overrated, because it's not the perfect masterpiece a lot of people says, in my humble opinion.

The first thing I noticed when I first heard this album was its variety... Arjen Lucassen has not a clear style in his mind, he just picks a lot of influences and styles, and he mixes it all in a good way. Here we can find some extreme metal passages, neo-progressive, folk, hard rock, electronic influences... And of course, the style of the song depends of the singer who appears in it. Some folk passages are related with Heather Findlay, the harder passages are with Devin Townsend and Mikael Akerfeldt, the heavy parts come with Irene Jansen and James LaBrie... And this is just the best thing this album has, the incredible group of singers we have here. For me is a kind of dream hearing James LaBrie, Mikael Akerfeldt, Devon Graves and Devin Townsend singing in the same song... This is a wet dream for every prog-metal lover!

The instrumental work is also great... Arjen's keyboard and guitar work was really hard, and the good results are here. Ed Warby is also efficent in the drumkint, but not spectacular, while contributions like Martin Orford and Ken Hensley on keys are really well received.

Ok, but the album has its flaws... In two discs it's difficult not to find some not so good tracks, and The Human Equation is any exception. Some parts of the albums are not so great, and it makes the hearing of the album a little dull sometimes, while you desire the next great track comes. It's a pity... Longer doesn't means better sometimes.

Best songs: Isolation (great opening, good keyboard solo), Pain (the best track of the album, with an incredible chorus courtesy of Devin Townsend... It's obvious he is the composer and recorder of every part he participated, his style is obviously here), Voices (good track with folk influences and great guitar riffs), Love (funny 3/4 rythm song), Trauma (another highlight, with the typical Akerfeldt grunts...), Loser (different, and a really inspired track, with great singing from Mike Baker and Devin Townsend, and a marvellous 70's Ken Hensley's hammond solo...), and Accident? (Devon Graves is outstading here...)

Conclusion: Arjen Lucassen deserves all my respect for this great work... He put his soul and a lot of hard efforth making this album, and the results are great. Not perfect, with some less inspired tracks, but still worth a good listening. If you are into prog-metal, this is a good choice, but beware of its variety... And of course, if you are interested in hearing some of the best metal singers today, this is the perfect album.

Report this review (#157530)
Posted Thursday, January 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Oh what a surprise i found when i first listen to Ayreon. The Human Equation was my introductory cd on Arjen Lucassen and his sound, and it was a very good beggining. I first got to say that this may be one of a top ten conceptual albums, the story is catching from the beggining to the end. It's divided on to cd's: both are great but there are some differencies. Cd1 is a little bit more soft than Cd2, there are beautiful passages on both.

The story is divided by days, each day with a little title that follows the story, an interesting story. Well, on the instrumental part it's damn good also, the guests that participate on the album are top musicians and singers. Each guest is a character from the story, we have also instrumental guests.

Story + instrumentation = a great album, plus guests... a wonderful album. But what if we take the guests out? It probably still be a great album but not a wonderful one. I think that's the weak point of The Human Equation. It depends a lot on the guests and if we virtually take them off, the greatness of the record will fall. Ayreon as a collective band is perhaps the only bad thing on the album.

This album is close to a masterpiece but it still misses something. My rating: 4 stars and a half.

Report this review (#160607)
Posted Saturday, February 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars After being slightly disappointed in the Universal Migrator, I wasn't sure what to expect on Ayreon's next release, The Human Equation. I was rather surprised and quite impressed with Arjen Anthony Lucassen's next incarnation on the Ayreon express. Like Into the Electric Castle, this one is another full-fledged progressive rock opera with numerous characters all portrayed by different guest vocalists. What is different, is that it isn't another science fiction adventure, but rather more in line with a human psychological story.

The story is about the narrator, referred to as Me (portrayed by James LaBrie of Dream Theater), who lies in a coma in a hospital bed after experiencing an automobile accident. Each song on the album is a day during the coma, with the 20th day being the day Me awakens from the coma. Each song deals with the pains, hopes, struggles, and betrayals of Me's life which is played out in his mind while in this comatose state. Often multiple emotions duel against each other in Me's mind. It's quite a complex storyline, but not complex enough to fly over my head. There are nine other characters that are involved, some being emotions, others actual people in Me's life. The concept is quite ingenious and very original. The other characters are portrayed by Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine), Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn), Irene Jansen (Karma), Magnus Ekwall (The Quill), Devon Graves (Dead Soul Tribe), Marcela Bovio (Elfonía), Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery), and Devin Townsend. Indeed, a fascinating cast of vocalists.

In addition to his regular drummer, Ed Warby (Gorefest), other guest performers include Joost van den Broek (After Forever), Martin Orford (IQ), Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep), and Oliver Wakeman. The music is more heavier than on Into the Electric Castle and also is more acoustic than other Ayreon releases. A number of guest musicians performed on violins, cellos, various flutes, panpipes, recorders, bassoons, and even a didgeridoo. The music is more tighter than on prior releases and has a more overt theme present. Like other Ayreon releases, this one tends to be labeled as prog metal, but it's still the usual Ayreon mix of symphonic/psychedelic prog and prog metal.

Definitely a masterpiece to my ears and a much needed improvement over the haphazard Universal Migrator. I still think Into the Electric Castle is my favorite Ayreon release, but The Human Equation is a very close second. One of the best releases of the new millennium. Easily worth five stars.

Report this review (#161565)
Posted Monday, February 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
1 stars Some time ago talking with someone about progressive bands of these days I mentioned that I really like Dream Theater. Then he strongly recommended me that I should listen to Ayreon. Then I bought The Human Equation. After listening it several times I didn't find it good enough. Later reading the high rated reviews that it has in this web site I tried again. Unfortunately my opinion hasn`t changed. I find that the music has too many variations changing all the time from one mood to another not reaching a climax, one moment sounds heavy and the next sounds like ordinary pop. The story: a love triangle in which the woman and her friend are talking around the poor guy who is lying in a bed in the hospital is more suitable for a soap opera than for a concept album. Sorry but in my opinion this is not progressive metal. One star
Report this review (#163101)
Posted Monday, March 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
1 stars This is my first contact with Ayreon, and one of my more intimate contacts with what we call progressive metal. All the musicianship is astounding, the writing is pretty complex. There are even some really warm melodies and powerful arrangements. The atmospheric sections and the folky-classical segments gave it a new layer of variety, and I must admit some of those folky moments are really phenomenal. And, as though a euphoric sickness, wrought of love for the album had taken hold of me, I couldn't stop laughing the first time I heard this album. This is comedic gold. But, in case you didn't see the rating attached to this review, the euphoria had nothing to do with love, but rather pity. Or something like that.

In fact, if mister Lucassen announced the Human Equation is nothing more than a piece of satire, mocking the stereotypical progressive metal group, I would say, Was that not obvious enough already? The first piece of the holy tri-head of foolishness on this album is the story. A narrative tale in music is extremely tricky business, and very tough to pull off. If it's not a vague and artistic meaningful plot of nonsense à la The Lamb, then the story better be damn good. And here on The Human Equation, the story is vomitrociously awful. I wish all vocals were in a language I didn't understand, so that I could begin to take the album seriously. In short, what happens is this: our protagonist is trapped in a coma. Others and himself suffer throughout the album, and he wakes up in the end. A harmlessly decent plot, perhaps? Maybe if it wasn't plagued by ridiculous phrases, pointless side-stories, and awkward wording. Not to mention the annoying clichés.

The second head is the vessel for the hilarious story. Dream Theater have been harshly criticized for LaBrie's ridiculously over-the-top singing, but on the Human Equation, he's accompanied by a troop of equally irritating singers - of both genders. I will admit the female vocalist is warmer, but the others sing with a transparent cold precision. I find it difficult to describe. It's as though they're speaking in a phony accent, or acting without enthusiasm. They destroy any subtlety, and sing without class. Maybe I'm a bit biased because of the dreadful lyrics they're articulating. However, I can't deny the silliness of the singing. Hollow and without feel, they hit the notes perfectly. I wouldn't be surprised if Lucassen announced he employed robot versions of real singers, either.

And lastly, the least prominent of the godhead of comedy, is the metal. The metal on this album is so drearily conventional, so painfully expected, so mundane. It's unsophisticated, easy-to-head-band-to, double-bass-drum abusing, power-chord-raping trash. I feel nothing unique in this, and often I can overlook that and enjoy the music regardless. But here, it stands so obvious, so plastic and regurgitated. I can't help but criticize this work for its lacklustre display of familiar themes. There is no unique style. I apologize for being so brutally frank, I mean no harm to the musicians or composer, but I cannot deny my opinions. I'm proud to be the first collaborator to give this album one star. And that one star is only for the excellent folk sections.

This is indeed a masterpiece of progressive metal.

Report this review (#163121)
Posted Monday, March 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is a concept album that tells a story.....and the music is excellent in places.....but I am not a big fan of the whole vocal style that goes on and on at times.....It has characters singing back and forth to each a musical.....I can see why some would really love this album....and why others cannot get into it at all....I can listen to it and enjoy parts of it....but overall I am not a big fan....
Report this review (#165775)
Posted Saturday, April 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars I love Ayreon and all of Arjen Lucassen's musical projects with all my heart but The Human Equation, while a good enough album has always struck me as being overrated in terms of Ayreon albums. It's not his weakest album by far, but he can and has done better both before and after The Human Equation. I feel that this album can be mostly lived without, with the exception of the songs Day two: Isolation, Day six: Childhood, Day ten: Memories and Day sixteen: Loser. That's 4 out of the twenty songs that The Human Equation gives us, which is ultimately why I feel that overall I can only give the album 3 stars. It's worth having even if you're not the type to buy all the albums by the artists you like, but this shouldn't be the Ayreon album that you use to have your first experience with Arjen's music.
Report this review (#173591)
Posted Wednesday, June 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
5 stars a bonafide prog masterpiece

After reading the reviews on ProgArchives, and watching some of the clips online here, I was drawn to this album and how grateful I am to be introduced to it. In a word this is masterful!

Every moment, every track, every conceptual idea that permeates this album is a tour de force of progressive conceptual brilliance. Arjen has pulled together some of the best artists to present a jigsaw puzzle of emotions and elucidations of the mind of one who is in a coma due to a horrific accident. The story is so solid and potent it would be criminal to release too much of it here. Suffice it to say, it is powerful and unforgettable.

In every track we are presented with a day in the coma of the victim - what is going on in his mind? What is he hearing? what is he sensing? All his regrets, bitterness, lost hopes, longings for love and life are captured beautifully in these tracks. All styles of prog are also presented from symphonic, eclectic to manic prog metal and even a touch of foreign sounding prog (Loser).

The album presented in 2 CDs is a chronological perspective of a mind that has been clouded by remorse and tragic circumstances, so we, as a listener, are drawn into this world and it can become an overwhelming experience if we allow it. For example on CD1 , in the emotive 'Love' we hear about his deepest desires and we feel for him; In 'Pain' we hear how he has been betrayed, In 'Childhood' we hear of his torment at school. The best track of CD1 is 'Love', beautifully sung by Mostly Autumn's Heather Findlay and others to support her. Irene Jansen as 'Passion' does a great vocal on the album too, usually in 2 harmonies - very Gothic and sinister.

CD2 begins with the barnstorming thrasher 'Trauma' that lights up with vocals from the incomparable Mikael Åkerfeldt and Devin Townsend. 'Sign' is a nice touch with a soft vocal from Marcela Bovio. The booklet is wonderfully produced and tells a story itself in simple pictograms and artistry. 'Betrayal' gives the story more depth and the showstopper is 'Loser' sung with passion by Mike Baker. Its simply great! 'Accident?' brings us back to how it all happened - was it an accident? We find out the truth and why.... this leads to the awesome finale with 'Confrontation' and all the artists have a turn in their own eclectic style, the musical virtuosity is second to none.

Its a rock opera of sorts but more like Spock's Beard's 'Octane' (similar story) or a Pink Floyd concept album (The Wall) than an opera. The concept is strong and the vocals are delivered par excellence. James LaBrie is sensational as 'Me' and special mention to Arjen for his role. This album could easily be made into a movie length DVD - the thing runs for a whopping 102:14.

Did I mention the music? It is as dynamic as you are likely to hear - scintillating keyboards and amazing guitar solos throughout, backed by pounding drums with varying time signatures.

Don't take my word for it, buy it and see for yourself - this album is the best album of 2004 and will go down in history as a bonafide prog masterpiece.

Report this review (#181416)
Posted Tuesday, September 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The voices in our heads

If there's one thing I'm always a sucker for it's really good prog metal. If there's another thing I always fall for (but am sometimes disappointed by) it's a good concept album with a solid story that somehow doesn't take away from the music itself. If there's one thing the world of prog metal is known for it's albums that go way over the top, and Arjen Anthony Lucassen is one of the guys who likes to do just that. His spaced out stories of adventure have brought us through Electric Castles, through the minds of people all throughout time, and even to the beginning of the known universe. His space operas have appealed to many, but it's always been a very specific audience. With The Human Equation Arjen takes a turn down an unfamiliar road and goes instead for people, emotions and the human psyche. A dramatic twist indeed. Somehow, this combined with the familiar Aryeon sonic attack makes for a drop-dead perfect progressive metal album.

One of the biggest draws to the album has to be the story. Although Arjen has done some crazy stuff before this one has to take the cake. There's no apocalypse and no castle halls, in fact, the story takes place entirely in one room (well, and in one guy's head, but that's beside the point). The characters each have their own voices again, much like The Electric Castle but this time they're playing a different breed of character. The three main characters include: the man in the coma (Me as voiced by James LaBrie of Dream Theater), his wife (Marcela Bovio of Stream Of Passion) and his best friend (voiced by Lucassen himself) - the other characters are the main character's different emotions and feature an array of superstar voices including Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth), Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery), Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad) and many others. The story takes place over 20 days and each day is a separate song, making for a very interesting mixture. I won't get too much into the story itself, because that's what listening to the album is for.

All the songs work well in tandem with one another, some act as pieces to a whole while others are meant to stand out on their own. Ironically, some of the best songs on the album are the shorter ones (ironic because we're talking prog here). None of the songs are over 9-minutes, true, but it's some of the truly quick ones that really take the cake. Take for example the instrumental Playground - a beautiful tune led by flute that lasts for a mere 2:15, but feels like a lot longer (in a good way), or the quirky Loser with it's didgeridoo opening and interesting vocal lines (an Alice Cooper impression by Mike Baker).

Somehow, everything about this album just works. If you like progressive metal in any way, shape or form you'll find yourself loving this one. It may take a few listens to really let the music sink in, but what double album doesn't. Eventually you'll find yourself on the edge of your seat when me speaks for the first time (in the real world) and says to his best friend ''Listen well to what I have to say, I have to tell you... of my betrayal''.

Very much worth many, many repeated listens, this is undoubtedly the ultimate Ayreon project (to date, anyways). A wonderful album for (as I've said many times already) anyone who likes Prog metal in any way. 5 voices out of 5! it doesn't get any better than this.

Report this review (#181529)
Posted Tuesday, September 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Spoiler warning!- if have not heard this record, do not read this review.

When i first heard the name Ayreon and that various famous prog artists participated throughout the records of Arjen Lucassen's project, i tought this might be good. This was my first Ayreon experience, and, to be frank, the first time I listened to it, I didn't think it was THAT good, so I played it one more time to see if it was just me, or the record was just not as good as other bands. It was just me, the record was amazing. This is Ayreon record (except from the part in the end...). It is about a guy who falls in a coma state and cannot wake-up, so he keeps arguing with his emotions, and remembering stuff from when he was young, that is until he brakes his shell and wakes up after 20 days of sleep. There's also the story about the wife of this man, and his best friend (who had an affair with the Wife). The album goes through a lot of song-styles such as mellow songs, jazzy ones, folk-metal, and symphonmic type of songs. It is an Ayreon must-have. thus my rating is 5/5.

So, Blackwater floyd, salutes you.

Report this review (#182612)
Posted Tuesday, September 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Arjen Lucassen is easily the most pretentious man making music today so it would make sense that his finest effort is also his most pretentious. As a self proclaimed metal composer Lucassen seems to think that extended solos and ungodly concept albums make him incredible. Maybe, but probably not.

Let me start by saying that I actually enjoy this album. I've probably spun it forty times and it's always an enjoyable experience. At the same time I can't give it an objective review filled with overwhelming praise. It took me a while to realize what my problem with the record was as it seemed to have a lot of the elements of prog metal that I really enjoy. After some contemplation, I realized that ultimately, the album is a perfect example of the bloat that plagues a good deal of modern music. 11 vocalists, nine instrumental musicians (not counting Arjen), 102 minutes of music, and a concept worthy of a novel.....That's quite a recipe for disaster.

It has to be mentioned that Arjen controls the expansive nature of the music with skill. Few other individuals would be able to make this type of album listenable, but at the same time, few would be foolish enough to try. The album comes off as disordered and superficial. There is a lack of real emotion and energy past some solid attempts by three or four of the vocalists.

The final negative element of this composition is the lyrics....dear god. Normally I could let it slide, but in a concept album/metal opera? The music is very lyrically based, and unfortunately, each song stinks of cheese.

Now on to the positive points. The concept is interesting on the first few listens, the instrumentation is top notch, and the skill of the vocalists ranges from above average to spectacular (Devin, Mikael). Despite this, I can't, with good conscience, give it more than a three. Its as flawed a masterpiece as I've ever seen. It seems to me as if ambition got the best of Arjen....maybe he can hold back a bit more next time and really produce a fantastic album, but then again, he may never learn (cough*01011001*cough).

Report this review (#188754)
Posted Monday, November 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Arjen A. Lucassen's Ayreon, an opera of man, their creators the Forever and their plight to save themselves from extinction has been told throughout the Ayreon collection, but never in such a beautifully subtle way. The album is the story of Me, whom, after seeing his wife and his best friend together, proceeds to attempt suicide by crashing his car. While in a coma he battles with his emotions, all portrayed by different accomplished singers, on a number of circumstances; all while his wife and best friend battle with guilt and sorrow over his situation. Throughout the story Me, the main character, relives his life, gets closure from his neglectful father, receives forgiveness from his best friend for Me's own betrayal, and finally forgives his wife for cheating on him. Only in the last few moments of the CD is it revealed that the entire story was a computer program in The Dream Sequencer, a machine that can project simulations of life while the user lies motionless inside, for a Forever, one of the creators of mankind and of whom lost their emotions eons ago. The story ends as the Forever says, Emotions... I remember. Revealing that after living a humans life and going through happiness to rage to sorrow, the Forever have finally regained their long lost emotions. By far the best Ayreon, and even Arjen A. Lucassen's album to date; with a fantastic storyline, and an amazing line-up of musicians and vocalists, this CD should be one of the favorites of any progressive metal fan.
Report this review (#190601)
Posted Thursday, November 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars A rock Opera masterpiece!

This is one dozy of an album, with so many highlight songs, but it is not about separate songs, no.... It is about the whole album as one cohesive piece. And it does that, brilliantly. This is one of the best albums to come out in years, and deserves to be listened to by any sort of prog fan, it has so many different types and genres in it, from prog rock, to thick screaming metal, to Irish heavy jigs. So many different melodies, and so many different emotions in one disc. This album is a journey through so many feelings. Each emotion that the character feels, so do you. This is one of the most encompassing and dark albums I have ever heard. It channels the feelings given off by all the great Rock Operas in the past. It treads new ground. I give this album a 5/5. It is epic.


Everything, this album should never be split apart, but taken as a whole.

Report this review (#195054)
Posted Friday, December 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars This supposed masterpiece by Lucassen proved to be a tough nut to crack for me. I owe it for a long time now, listen to it occasionally, sometimes surprised how good it still is but most of the time put off a bit by the many overblown tracks this doubler possesses.

Disc one is the best example of what I mean. There is one outstanding track on here being the second: Isolation. The rest is too vocal for me. And then I emphasize "for me". Because I do understand why many consider this a masterpiece. If you are a vocal oriented music lover this rock opera/concept album is definitely a treat. But I'm not a fan of this kind of albums. I also declared this with Clive Nolan's SHE and actually this is more or less the same idea. Lucassen wrote this mainly for vocalists which is not always the case with his albums. But anyway, this explains my love for Isolation, the most instrumental track of Disc 1.

Disc 2 is the better of the two, at least for my taste. Again this is no coincidence because on several tracks there is enough attention for instrumental music. Loser and Pride are the ultimate highlights for me, also of the entire double album. (Where Pride is concerned: this track is very much "Into the Electric Castle" style and this happens to be my favorite Ayreon album). But the rest spoils much of the fun for me. In Arjen's discography this magnum opus takes in a modest place if I have to make my personal ranking list. But I have to say it again: objectively at least a near masterpiece, for me personally only 3* I'm afraid (3,3)

Report this review (#200813)
Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
1 stars I know im going to get alot of heat for this review but at the same time, there are people on this website who gave Opeth's Morningrise a one star rating so I guess we are all wrong.

I think I might possibly be the only person registered on this site who cannot find a single second on this album that justifies the amount of hype and adoration it recieves. For a person as extremely talent as Arjen is music wise, it blows my mind that he has no comprehension on how to properly use vocalists. When I was first told of this album by a metal record shop owner and who made guest appearances on it I was actually excited and intrigued enough to buy it, on impulse. That was probably the single worst mistake I ever made as one of the last few CD buyers on this earth. The fact that you've managed to have some of the greatest metal vocalists of all time on your albums should be enough to make you want to utilize their potential to the fullest. But that is not the case with Arjen "Ayreon" Lucassen.

He thinks its progressive, ground-breaking and just plain cool to have the likes of James LaBrie and Mikael Akerfeldt sing for 8 seconds each on 1 song, then dispose of them like yesterday's trash. This is the same reason why Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree fame absolutely refuses to be featured on an Ayreon album. Also the storylines, at least on The Human Equation, seem to be a little (or way) over the top. I think the appeal of this album and for this band in general to prog fans is the fact there are about 25 seperate musicians performing on this record. Sure, that is quite the accomplishment. But why does it still sound so hectic and unorganized? Someone with the ability and talent of Lucassen should have been able to at least make it all sound like an actual peice of music, not a soundtrack to a bad Stephen King movie, but with Sean Conery playing the leading role (Like seriuosly, what is the deal with that awful Sean Conery voice over work? Its beyond ridiculous!)

Take the bands SepticFlesh and The Ocean Collective for example. SepticFlesh's latest album Communion features a total of 136 (One Hundred and Thirty Six!) musicians, including a full orchestra and a 32 person choir. Yet, it all sounds like it was meant to be that way from the beginning. Nothing sounds out of place. The Ocean Collective's lastest release, double album titled Precambrian, was also another massive project. This one, also like Ayreon, features multiple vocalist. The only thing that sets The Ocean and Ayreon appart is the fact that one band knows how to make multiple vocalist music fit all mesh together in one solid sound, the other doesnt.

I will forever be waiting for an Ayreon instrumental album, until then, they will remain as the single most over-rated band in prog metal history.

Report this review (#201387)
Posted Sunday, February 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
5 stars 'The Human Equation' - Ayreon (9/10)

I can remember the first time I listened to 'The Human Equation.' It was a quiet evening, and I was busy looking up new music to get into. Reading about a band called Ayreon, my interest was suddenly peaked. A band that used elements from a multitude of different genres? Guest vocals from Dream Theater, Devin Townsend and Opeth? I had to check it out.

My first taste of Ayreon was through 'The Human Equation.' Since then, Ayreon has become one of my all- time favourite progressive artists. 'The Human Equation' has everything you would expect in the typical prog masterpiece, and more. There are elements from folk, classical, electronic, gothic, avant-garde and metal, laid atop a heavy progressive backdrop.

This album is incredibly ambitious. Harkening back to the night first listening to 'The Human Equation' in full, I was addicted. It was the musical equivalent of a 'book you can't put down.' As a work that's almost two hours in length, it's definately alot to swallow; but I was enveloped in both the storyline and music, and needed to finish the saga before I headed to bed.

The plot (provided you have a cast of characters list, and the lyrics in front of you) is relatively easy to follow, considering it's mass complexity and style. In summary, the majority of the 'musical play' takes place inside a man's head during a coma, where he speaks with different emotions; different facets of his character and being. In the real world, his best friend and wife look and watch over him, both with dark secrets of their own. It's a deeply psychological trip, and would make for an excellent film script, if the opportunity arose.

'The Human Equation' is very popular among prog fans, and there's no wondering why. It's a masterpiece of modern prog, and shouldn't be missed! Five stars.

Report this review (#206449)
Posted Wednesday, March 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm actually surprised that this is Ayreon's highest rated album on Progarchives. This album is Very good... but I certainly think there have been better Ayreon albums.

The Human Equation is a progressive metal psychodrama that takes the listener through the world of an unconscious man's dreams as he copes with the various manifestations of emotions within his head. Rather than continue with the medieval pilgrimages, progressive metal space odysseys, or amazing star-powered adventures into fantasy that were on his previous albums, Arjen decided to change something for once... which is good, I think. It's always good to have a change once in a while. While I think his space odysseys are much more interesting, we are in need of an album like the human equation to balance it.

The storyline is much more like a Pink Floyd The Wall type of story, in that it's a rock opera that speaks of an ordinary person's extraordinary adventures in his life... rather than extraordinary things happening in surreal environments like Rush's 2112. Just my opinion in saying that the epic space odysseys are way more interesting, but it's not like this story doesn't capture your mind as well. Each emotion is represented by a vocalist with Dream Theater's James LaBrie singing as Me, the main character of the story. Me's father, wife and best friend are also portrayed, and best friend is also the Hippie from Into the Electric Castle as well as Mr. L from 01011001, to link those albums together. Actually this album is probably the most independant of any other Ayreon release. Some might argue Actual Fantasy is, but there are many themes in Actual Fantasy that are later built upon in subsequent releases. There are only 2 real connections between this album and the rest of the Ayreon saga, and that is the best friend being the hippie/Mr. L and the very ending, where it's revealed that Forever has been observing Me's emotions through the Dream Sequencer as part of an experiment. This ending both disappointed me and intrigued me... as I love it when things are linked together... but I hate endings that are very anticlimactic and random.

As for the music, it's very diverse and unbalanced... not that that's a bad thing. Each song has different influences, there is just so many things to hear on this album, progressive electronic, there are some heavy parts, progressive parts, acoustic melodies, folk music, and all that good stuff. It's very impressive, like all other Ayreon releases.

The reason that this album gets a 4 instead of a 5 is the fact that it's melodies are not very memorable... they are incredible, but after I've listened to it, honestly I can't remember what I just heard with the exception of Day 16: Loser, and Day 11: Love... the ending (because I just heard it) and a progressive electronic section in the beginning. The album is definitely an amazing progressive metal album, but Ayreon has done better in the past.

By the way, the second disk put the beginning of day 12 in 11 small tracks in order to keep up the track numbers with the number of days that passed in the story. On my iPod, I just combined all the mini tracks into one.

Report this review (#214274)
Posted Thursday, May 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well, I guess there isn't much to say about this album, as everyone has already rated and reviewed it. Go and buy it, chances are you'll love it, thought you might turn out to be one of those who actually dislike the album, (Yes there are a few). The album is pretty classic Ayreon style (Unlike The Electric Castle wich is pretty unique), but at it's best. It has the mellow moments and the metal moments that every fan likes, plus an incredible amount of memorable passages and melodies, and lirically its more "friendly" than previous one, still it remains a sci-fi album, even thought 99% of it seems not to. I don't see the point in going track-by-track with this one, you'll already find a great number of reviews with it and most of them will tell you the same. That's about everything I have to say about this particular album, the top PM album on this website, a true masterpiece: The Human Equation.
Report this review (#224384)
Posted Friday, July 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars OK, double CD. That's fine and with Ayreon's energy, also inevitable. His contribution to prog metal is great. Enough crap talking,let's go to Human Equation.

This is concept album, that means story in Ayreon's case. He has a big experience with fantasy theme, maybe sci-fi ones, it's difficult to say. This one is different, it's more mundane, earthling story. Something which can happen to any of us, but (obviously), there are things which are little bit out of normal, it's so called paranormal.

Day 1, Vigil - Little bit beeping which first does not make much sense. Nice intro, I like woman vocals here. Then we hear riding car and sound of brakes. But, what is strange, no crash. Brakes are just about to end their effort of saving, but there's no final, stereotype sound. That's nice.

Day 2, Isolation - Greets us with (for me) well known voice. Great work Arjeen, having so many vocalists here at once. I'll not talk about lyrics, they're clearly to hear. And we all know that we listen to story about man in coma state of mind, after he (did he?) had a crash accident. Which is mystery, maybe he were abducted by aliens and tests were done on him. But accident sounds more real. But voices in his head seems less, don't they ? 5:31-6:40, typical Ayreon. My brother even told that it sounds like "On the Run" by PF. Quite a, yes.

And so on. I could easily continue and write here down all "days" (tracks), but I suppose it's not necesssary. You can imagine them by yourself, if you are interested.

5(-), I like Ayreon, concept albums, multi-vocal projects, sci-fi and this kind of Metal.

Report this review (#231395)
Posted Thursday, August 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars I am somewhat going to dissent with the majority here and assess The Human Equation as my least favourite Ayreon album to date (if we disregard Actual Fantasy). This is not to say that The Human Equation is a bad album - it is not - but here Lucassen was not inspired as much as he was when he did Into the Electric Castle or The Dream Sequencer for instance.

Departing from his traditional science-fiction concepts, Lucassen here develops a more human, psychological storyboard about someone who suffers from coma after a mysterious car accident and who is visited in his hospital room by various emotions. Story-wise, I thought Lucassen pretty much reached the top with his incredible story on the Dream Sequencer, but this divergence on The Human Equation works very well no matter what.

The Human Equation is a lot more heavy and metal than it is mellow. Unlike Into the Electric Castle, which was very versatile, and unlike the two parts of Universal Migrator which were focused respectively on atmospheric moods and bombastic metal, this one lies somewhere in between as it does have some mellow parts to help build the energy bursts, but mostly tends overall to heavy and metal ambiances.

So, over this double CD album, there are of course a number of good moments, such as the almost 9 minutes long Isolation to start off, the finale of Childhood, the keyboards-backed vocal pitch exchanges on Betrayal, the powerful closer Confrontation, or especially my favourite track, Love, at the end of the first CD. Actually, this one has grown into one of my favourite Ayreon songs. Great vocals and perfect musical buildups propping up an inspired melody.

And this is where a too large part of this album finds its weakness. No matter if the musicianship and production is as flawless as on any other Ayreon work, uninspired (and uninspiring) melodies plague The Human Equation too often and for too long segments. I must also say that I never had much esteem for extreme metal stuff such as grunting or growling, and whereas Lucassen did manage to arrange some growling segments on previous albums which I thought were fitting, here there are just too many for my taste and they're annoying, notably on the second CD's opener Trauma, a longer song that never ends quickly enough for me.

All in all, an album showcasing a great array of varied, good prog vocalists and musicians, performing as well as they were asked, but conducted by a composer who did not happen to be at his inspirational best. A nice-to-have perhaps, but there are better prog metal works out there. Happily, this lapse was only temporary as Ayreon's subsequent project, 01011001, happened to be a sublime, undervalued revival.

Report this review (#241935)
Posted Monday, September 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Arjen Lucassen decided, after releasing quite a few sci-fi-oriented albums, to live that thing to closet for a while. The Human Equation is a stunning and very psychological journey into brains of a man, where different emotions and important persons from his life battle. The story is pretty decent and has enough energy and variation to keep it really interesting until the end.

Perhaps the most interesting thing in Ayreon is the multiple singers. And here the cast is especially impressive, as most of my favorite singers are heard in this album. James LaBrie fits well to the leading role as 'Me', and his singing here might be one of the best in his career. My personal favorite is 'Reason', who is sung by the mighty opera voice of Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine). Epic as always. Also Mike Baker (RIP) lent his awesome voice for one track. Other highlights are furious and shocking Devin Townsend as 'Rage', Mikael Åkerfeldt as 'Fear' and Marcela Bovio as 'Wife'.

The instrumental side isn't that much varied from previous Ayreon albums as the renowned singing cast. Joost van der Broek's solo on day 2 is really rocking, and other synthguys do good as well. The influence from folk-rock is present a lot more than in any other Ayreon cd. Jeroen Goossens plays flutes with quite similar style to Ian Anderson's which is nice to hear. Arjen, of course, wrote most of the stuff here and I have to say that the structural and melodical aspects are also superb.

There is no weak or bad song on this record, with the possible exception of 'Playground' which is too folky and repetitive to me. From the rest, its hard to choose the best ones as they all have some great elements. The most obscure one, 'Loser', even got to MTV, which is pretty weird when you consider that the song is made of folk, heavy metal, Mike Baker, Devin Townsend and a didgeridoo (?!). Other highlights include 'Childhood' with its beautiful harmonies and 'Trauma' which is a really haunting song that grows as it progresses. 'Pride' has maybe the best intro in here and its a rocker song. Devin Townsend shines in the huge chorus of 'Pain'. And 'Confrontation' is the epic finale of the piece, with most of the singers in it. A nice closing act, with a totally Arjen-like ending.

One question rises to mind when listening to this album. Will there ever be such a fine cast of talented singers on a same record? I truly hope that the concept of a prog-opera will not die now as Ayreon-universe finally came to its conclusion in 01011001..

Report this review (#257310)
Posted Tuesday, December 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Human Equation is another great album by Ayreon. The mood of the album is a bit different than the other sci-fi oriented albums. The story that is told is more of a psychological one. The beat is a bit faster and heavier than his others. There are a few weaker songs on the album,but they are still very good. the vocals are very good, and i think the best of any Ayreon album. There is a great blend of male and female voices that work together to create an excellent atmosphere.

All in all i would give this album a 4.5 out of five stars. This would make an excellent addition to anyone's music collection.

Report this review (#258663)
Posted Thursday, December 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars I just couldn't understand all the positive reviews that Ayreon albums have received. I definitely consider myself a fan of progressive metal so maybe my previous choice of The Universal Migrator was just an unfortunate mistake? Let's hope that The Human Equation will put this artists music in a whole different light!

Well to tell you the truth I did like this album a lot more than the Migrator-albums but there were still a couple of things that didn't work. On the positive side both the story and the compositions showed me a more mature Lucassen at work here.

What I really don't enjoy is the whole role playing where every vocalist plays a part in the story. The whole experience makes me think about opera and I'm still not sure whether or not it actually works on a metal album but I'm quite certain that it didn't work for me here. I also noticed that I haven't revisited this album for a very long time since my first week after purchasing it. I think that the reason for that is that The Human Equation lacks a centerpiece that I would be looking forward to revisiting.

Well all in all it's a good album that I'm sure fans of Lucassen's work will enjoy but the work doesn't have a genre transcending quality to it that will peak an interest from fans of other progressive rock genres. So it's by no means an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.

**** star songs: Day One: Vigil (1:33) Day Three: Pain (4:58) Day Five: Voices (7:09) Day Six: Childhood (5:05) Day Seven: Hope (2:47) Day Eight: School (4:22) Day Nine: Playground (2:15) Day Ten: Memories (3:57) Day Eleven: Love (4:18) Day Thirteen: Sign (4:47) Day Eighteen: Realization (4:31) Day Nineteen: Disclosure (4:42) Day Twenty: Confrontation (7:03)

*** star songs: Day Two: Isolation (8:42) Day Four: Mystery (5:37)Day Twelve: Trauma (8:59) Day Fourteen: Pride (4:42) Day Fifteen: Betrayal (5:24) Day Sixteen: Loser (4:46) Day Seventeen: Accident? (5:42)

Report this review (#259987)
Posted Friday, January 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars The Human Equation is generally acknowledged as Ayreon's masterpiece. His songwriting is very diverse and found a good balance between melody, power and not too much bombast, though that remains a relative thing when it concerns Ayreon. This album really struck a chord with me when it was released and it got me into a short but intensive Ayreon flirt. This album has quality material but I've quickly grown out of my Ayreon amazement when I discovered more interesting prog matter. Anyway, it was fun while it lasted.

My main grudge with it is the rock-opera styled approach. Throughout the album there are beautiful moments, but more often then not they are ripped apart by bombastic intrusions. All vocalists take up their role in this play with enthusiasm and dedication, but the sterile glossy production takes away much of the power. Added up to the bombastic puzzle of themes and solos, finales, duets, trios, quartets and other sorts of gangs, the big sound of this album is just too much of bang really.

The best songs sit on the second CD, with Sign, Pride and Loser as the obvious highlights. It's been a few years since I gave this a spin and initially I had my mouse pointer hovering over the 4 star button, but upon listening to it again, 3 stars sounded more appropriate.

Report this review (#262409)
Posted Monday, January 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Too much brilliancy... maybe too much...

When I first heard this project I felt a lot overwhelmed by the whole concept. Maybe two discs is too much and the amount of guest players and the variation of the music is quite impressive, so maybe this album is not for an outsider or someone who has not "get" prog metal.

Once said that, I feel that the album is too much eclectic to be considered as an exclusive "prog metal" album. It has a lot folk-eclectic-heavy prog elements that merges into a complete new thing that sounds great and you can really dive in and enjoy the journey. But, be prepared, maybe is too much to digest in one sitting.

Some people said this is cheesy but I don't agree with that. The story flows with a lot of great singers who develops a different character each and have talks about many existential things. In some vein, this can be categorized as a "Christian Rock Opera" but in a good way. The music works for the story and the guest player work for the songs. There's metal themes and some ambience and folk little spaces for the story to breathe more. I won't mention all the guest players because they are a complete army. I'm happy with the participation of James Labrie (from Dream Theater) who is the key roll in the story, but all the characters made a great work in their each part.

I think the creativity is evident. Having violins, cellos, flutes aside of keyboards, mellotrons, hammonds, heavy guitars and some growling vocals, you have to be very good to merge all that in a good form.

So, I won't detail each song because it will take too much time. My advise is that you come and try this album only if you are already familiarized with long themes and epics. If you like prog metal, you HAVE to hear this. If you like folk and prog rock in general, you can give it a try. A masterpiece, maybe, but for the doubts I will leave it in four stars. Sometimes I feel exhausted when I end the album? so, maybe is great but too much. This is an album that any prog fan needs to listen to before they die.

Report this review (#265064)
Posted Tuesday, February 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars I have never gotten the fascination with this record, and after going through it again recently, I still don't. Despite having some great singers, some of whom are in my favorite bands (Townsend, La Brie, and Akerfeldt , most notably), "The Human Equation" is a big flop.

I cannot quite put my figure on what it is that bugs me about this record, but the songwriting is just very mediocre. There are not many memorable melodies, and there aren't as many great instrumental hooks as on good Ayreon CDs like "The Dream Sequencer" and "Into the Electric Castle." I even got this CD smack dab in the middle of my Ayreon phase, and it still did nada for me. I remember thinking at the time what a huge disappointment it was. Years later, it has not aged any better. In fact, it has probably aged badly, as some of the few songs I actually liked back then now seem pretty ho-hum.

Overall, I find this to be fairly mediocre, and a record that only diehard Ayreon fans should own.

Report this review (#267373)
Posted Sunday, February 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is an excellent CD! Two discs with music keeping you intersted through more than a 100 minutes of rock-opera. Plenty of synth breaks with differing synth voices - neat and tidy tunes build up the experience and some very catchy ones remain in your head after you have listened. Some of the tracks have the medieval jaunty feel that appear on other compositions by Lucassen. I enjoy the interplay between the male and female singing - you have to like the vocals or else this would not be for you. I can hear lots of stuff that reminds me of Focus. At least one riff is very like Sabbath and there is a bit of Growling by the Opeth front man. There is also a bit of Floydy influence drifting in at several points, and part 13 reminds me of Steve Hackett. Overall a very good effort and should be in a prog fans collection - is this essential, I reckon so,
Report this review (#270439)
Posted Monday, March 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars MAN, what's this?

Okay I like it a bit. Actually it is quite original in places. I think music is no longer something people make up their own mind about but are told what to think by other people on internet discussion boards and websites . I WAS expecting to hear a metal band with Genesis/Yes influences, and for your information I didn't really want to hear that but that's what I've come to expect. I was actually pleasantly surprised.

There's a lot of gothic/prog/metal out there with dark sounding folky female vocals and violins, this is a bit in that vein. Often these bands have machine-like and very electronic sounds in the flavour, and there's some of that here.

Anyway if there was something I didn't like about this album is that it's so heavy-hearted and negative, like, for example, the song 'trauma' there's lines like 'Your mother died the day your father ran away' and '(screamed) your better off dead'. It all seems so melodramatic. The album is full of lyrics about some depressed guy and about all his problems like arguments with his father and feeling like a 'loser'.

Also, is that a didgeridoo on the song 'Loser'? (yeah, there's a song called loser - maybe these guys can write lyrics for nu-metal bands like Korn and Linkin Park).

Well if you like a big dramatic rock-opera emo album with analogue seventies 'sci/fi' synths and big vocal harmonies this is the one for you. By the way it's too long. The guy should have killed himself about half way through.

Report this review (#279419)
Posted Monday, April 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars 8/10

"The Human Equation" is Lucassen's masterpiece.

Wow. Just wow. I just listened to this album 4 times, but that's enough to realize that this is a masterpiece. The Human Equation is for sure Ayreon's (Lucassen) most ambitious and fine album, and for sure one of the best progressive metal albums ever,and it would even in my opinion go down in prog history.

The Human Equation is long concept album divided in twenty songs, also called "Days", and two cds. Lucassen, Ayreon's mastermind, invited for this album a huge amount of famous and excellent guests including James Labrie, Mikael Akerfeldt, Devin Townsend, Devon Graves, and many others, including a minor but excellent role performed by Shadow Gallery's singer Mike Baker.

The story is focused on a man ("Me", portrayed by James Labrie), who just came into a deep coma, where he is sorrounded in his mind by all his inner feelings ( Love, Fear, Pride, Agony, Rage, Reason, Passion) that force him to think about his previous life and how he got into the coma. Meanwhile his best friend, portrayed by Lucassen himself, and me's wife, portrayed by an excellent Marcela Bovio, are next to him in the hospital bed, feeling guilty for what happened, since they think it is in part their fault.

The twenty days flow perfectly, and each song is a prog metal gem, with a massive use of different instruments ( the digeridoo in day sixteen is unbelievable) and moods: in fact, many times it isn't metal at all.

The first cd is my favorite: songs like "Isolation", "Pain", "Childhood", "School", and "Love", have completely changed my way of appreciating and listening to music. But the second Cd isn't at a lower level: even here some songs are unforgettable, like the last two, "Disclosure" and "Confrontation", or the great and provocative "Loser".

Anyway, each song shines in it's own way, so this album can really be considered perfect, with maybe a few weak moments, but its still an essential release for any prog metal fan.

Report this review (#285198)
Posted Sunday, June 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've been a bit of fan of Ayreon for a while now, so I'm slowly trying to get all their albums. And this one is a must have.

Out of my 2 favourite albums (the other being 010101101), this is one of them, and it is very hard to choose a favourite, because I love them both so much , but I think as an album this is better, but I still prefer the other (as you will see why with my review of that album).

Having said that, I think this album really showed what Arjen is capable of, composition & performance wise. The instrumental sections are to die for and the line up of vocalists is just amazing.

This album is also quite lengthy, being near 2 hours long, but to be honest, when

As you all know, this is a concept album, dealing with a man in a coma, who has to deal with reality, his past & his emotions all attacking him while he is in a state of suspended animation.

This is a must have masterpiece. It's one of those albums that I knew from the first listen that I will love this album for many many years to come.

Day 1: Vigil - Good intro. Great vocals. 8/10

Day 2: Isolation - Amazing vocal performances. The instrumental section is just mesmerizing. 10/10

Day 3: Pain - Impressive vocals. One of the better chorus'. 10/10

Day 4: Mystery - One of the best songs on the album. Great chorus and some great dramatic performances. 10/10

Day 5: Voices - Great vocals. Good arrangement and some nice instrumental work. 9/10

Day 6: Childhood - The instrumental sections are quite cheesy with the pan flutes (that always remind me of Karate Kid movies). Pretty nice song though. 9/10

Day 7: Hope - A nice jaunty tune. Very relaxing. 9/10

Day 8: School - Devin's vocals really surprised me. Amazing arrangement. 10/10

Day 9: Playground - A beautifully arranged instrumental. 9/10

Day 10: Memories - The lyrics are quite funny. A beautiful wee song. 10/10

Day 11: Love - Classic Ayreon at it's best. Amazing chorus. 10/10

Day 12: Trauma - What an epic. Love Mikaels screams in this song. Quite a dark moment for Ayreon. 10/10

Day 13: Sign - Beautiful arrangement. Very multi-dimensional. 10/10

Day 14: Pride - Amazing vocals from James & Magnus. Pretty kick ass song. 9/10

Day 15: Betrayal - Nice and dramatic with some nice instrumentation to liven the mood. 9/10

Day 16: Loser - Nice almost Irish jig sound to the main riff. Great vocals?especially from Devin. 10/10

Day 17: Accident? - Nice, slow and dramatic. 9/10

Day 18:Realization - Some pretty cool instrumental work, allowing the instruments to represent emotions, a very Eternia thing to do. Pretty epic. 10/10

Day 19: Disclosure - Amazingly arranged with some great vocal performances. 10/10

Day 20: Confrontation - It wouldn't be Ayreon without an epic ending, and boy is it epic. And spoiler, the whole story was just a dream from the Migrator?ha fail.

CONCLUSION: Their most perfect album, and an amazing cast of vocalists. If you haven't heard of Ayreon, I think this is the perfect start.

Report this review (#304222)
Posted Friday, October 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Of all the albums in the ProgArchives top 50, Human Equation seems to be one of the clear imposters--one of those albums that really sticks out from the rest (and not in a good way).

One warning sign that I've read in numerous reviews is that way too many of the 5 star ratings involve a statement such as "I've only listened to this 3-5 times, but that's all I need to know that it's a masterpiece." I just have trouble giving too much confidence on reviews such as these, because ratings may be artificially inflated.

Don't get me wrong--I have nothing against this album: I just don't see it as a masterpiece in any way. There certainly is a place in prog for overblown, pompous, even comically ridiculous projects, and that's where Human Equation fits in my book.

There are plenty of highlights--and there certainly ought to be some in 100+ minute piece!--such as instrumental ending to Isolation, the playfulness of Realization, and nicely-done ending. However, the music is too often limited by the vocals, as guitar solos are thrown in more because that's where they are expected to go rather than based on any higher direction regarding the musical impact. I appreciate the addition of other musical genres, such as the Irish-jig section, but they are mostly in the generic, familiar, and less progressive sense.

Most importantly, nearly throughout this album, I'm continually trying to push the tempo in my's simply plodding in numerous places throughout. I suppose that may be important if you want to emphasize extended vocal wailings, but in my opinion it really draws things out much longer than necessary.

Overall a well-produced, somewhat creative, utterly overblown, and definitely overlong album. It appears there will always be a place in prog for these projects, but certainly not always in my collection.

Report this review (#316969)
Posted Saturday, November 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Emotions ... i remember "

The multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassem is well known for his various projects, of which the most famous is the Ayreon.I heard their sixth album, "The Human Equation " and I can say that just is not good: it is one of the greatest works of progressive metal ever!

As always, Arjen has more guest stars: James Labrie (Dream Theater, duh ..), Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth), Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery), Devin Townsend, just to name some.The concept is somewhat different from the records earlier:while they invested in the fantasy and science fiction, this one tells a story more "real"-a man who suffers an accident and falls into a coma, and, while his wife and his best friend are on your side, inside your mind he is confronted by his own emotions.

The style is very varied (although this is the only album of Ayreon I've heard yet). I think that each guest brought his band's style: you find the heavy and melodic prog metal bands like Dream Theater and Opeth, but there are big and spacey Floydian influences as well as folk rock, among others.

There are no weak songs, though I am disappointed with "Day Twelve: Trauma". I think are the snarling Akerfeldt.The other songs are bright, with no weak moments.

Anyway, 5 stars without doubt! A brilliant masterpiece!

Report this review (#356344)
Posted Saturday, December 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Along with his side projects Star One, Guilt Machine, Ambeon, and Stream of Passion, Arjen Anthony Lucassen's primary musical project has been Ayreon, a series of CDs dating back to 1995 with The Final Experiment and ending with 2008's 01011001.

All the albums in the Ayreon catalog have been incredible and worthy of their own place on "Top Albums" lists, but The Human Equation is simply one of the finest albums ever produced.

It tells the story of a man in a coma after a car crash, interacting with his emotions after the betrayal he experienced when he caught his best friend kissing his wife. What makes this particular album unique is that each of his emotions is anthropomorphized and given a specific vocalist ? eleven vocalists are employed, singing the parts of "Reason," "Love," "Pride," "Agony," etc.

The 2-CD concept album never gets old or tedious because of the eclectic styles that Lucassen is capable of creating.

At times, the music reminds you of something from Pink Floyd, then it sounds like Genesis, and then it sounds like a wonderful mix of Yes with Dream Theater. The artists that Lucassen recruited to sing and perform on this album are all amazing, and the his production genius is amazing.

Report this review (#442800)
Posted Wednesday, May 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars This is the one AYREON album that fans seem to rate the highest. I would imagine the guest vocalists alone make this a favourite among Metal fans with Akertfeldt,Townsend, Clayton, Graves, Baker and LaBrie on board.Then throw in some amazing female singers like Bovio, Findlay and Jansen and that's a tough lineup to beat.The instrumentalists seem to take a back seat here but that part of this recording is top notch as well. I like the title of Easy Livin's review that says "A winning formula ?". My thoughts exactly. The only album from AYREON I rated 4 stars is the one that veers away from the formula and that's "The Universal Migrator Part 1", the rest all follow the same blueprint and i'm just not a fan. It's like i'm listening to a musical with different singers playing the various parts and singing the lines.Then there's the backing female vocals which are always prominant and of course being a concept album the focus is on the vocals not the instrumental work or the music for that matter. Still after saying all that this is worth 3 stars because of the performances alone.

Phideaux might be my favourite on here with the song "Hope". It's just a refreshing section after all that has gone on before. "Pride" is another highlight with the heaviness and excellent guitar solo. I like the synths too that come and go.The end of the final tune is great with those passionate vocals that start before 6 minutes. Obviously i'm in the minority here with the 3 stars but consider that this is a project that just doesn't do it for me. Of interest is the fact that Devin Townsend wrote the lyrics for "Rage" on three different tracks while Heather Findlay wrote the lyrics for "Love" on one song and Devon Graves wrote the lyrics for "Agony" on one track. Arjen wrote the rest.

Report this review (#463123)
Posted Thursday, June 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Human Equation is a masterpiece in both music and concept.

The album is about a guy ('me') who is in a coma and the music is all part of the world he is stuck in, as he lies in his hospital bed. All the singers either represent his emotions or people close to him and they are there to help figure out how he got there. They're not real but are controlled by Me's subconscious, and it's this that makes the genius of the album. As it progresses the songs chronologically reflect his life before they lead up to the finding the truth about his coma; all buried somewhere in his mind. Not only is it a good concept but it's really easy to follow.

The music is superb and very diverse to keep it interesting, and every song is memorable. There's no reoccurring musical theme unlike most concept albums, but it means that everything just moves on and it flows nicely. There's prog metal, folk, folk-metal, just plain prog, and symphonic/epic parts, just to name a few musical styles off the top of my head. There's even didgeridoo. The singing is brilliant and all the characters play their parts well and help to make the album rich with emotion. I especially like the voice of Arjen ('Best Friend') for some reason and Devin Townsend's screams which induce goosebumps. There's only one instrumental in this album so listeners must be aware that this is vocally heavy and requires concentration to follow the story, like a movie. But there's enough instrumental parts to keep balance though.

Overall it's a perfect album which makes me doubt whether any other album is worthy of 5 stars. After listening to the whole 1 hour 40 minutes without pause (which is how it should be listened) I didn't feel that any other music could live up to what I had just heard. When I approached this album I was skeptical as to whether I'd enjoy it or not. I had only heard Ayreon's first album which I thought was over the top and mediocre. But after deciding I liked The Human Equation it seemed that Ayreon had definitely matured from silly spacey stuff. The only flaw in this album, and my deepest fear, is that I may get tired of this album if I give it like 10 more listens. The Human Equation probably won't last as long as other less-conceptual albums but while I'm still enjoying it I'm happy to say that I highly recommend this. 5 stars.

Report this review (#534733)
Posted Tuesday, September 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Human Equation is yet another great double CD album from the Ayreon project.

For those uninitiated, Ayreon is Arjen Anthony Lucassen's project and at least six or seven albums (depending on how you view the Universal Migrator) have been released under that name, all of very high quality. Usually Lucassen has a variety of guest players and vocalists accompanying him on each album, a sort of a who's who of progressive rock and metal.

Well, this album delivers star power in the person of James LeBrie (Dream Theater) who appears throughout the album and several other notables such as Devin Townsend, Heather Findlay (ex-Mostly Autumn), Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth).

More importantly, it delivers in the songwriting and performing departments. The Human Equation combines a vast range of styles, from Celtic folk combined with death metal screams to Jethro Tull-ish flutes mixed into Dream Theater prog-metal and Pink Floydian soundscapes.

Best of all, even as double CD album that reaches over 100 minutes it doesn't get tired. The storyline is compelling and unlike a number of concept albums, it is very easy to follow along with. Each track delivers something fresh and exciting.

As this is a concept album, each singer is assigned a character. This gives the whole thing a bit of a rock opera feel. This could have detracted from the individual talent of each artist, but Lucassen uses them wisely and creatively. LeBrie, in particular, is given softer pieces in contrast to his usual material in Dream Theater - and surprise, he sounds great!

Overall: Ayreon's The Human Equation was one of my favourite albums to listen to in 2004 and I would still recommend it to anyone interested in the band without hesitation.

Report this review (#563494)
Posted Sunday, November 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
5 stars I haven't reviewed this album until now, but I think it's the best progressive metal concept album ever released, also because it's not "just" progressive metal. So if you are a mono- thematic listener who likes only that subgenre be prepared to be disappointed, as this very complicated concept contains at least folk, symphonic and even a bit of neo, plus of course the metal.

The concept is about a man in coma after a car crash and his emerging back to life while the relevant persons of his life go to see him in the hospital. The story is quite complicated as the things will be revealed very different from what they initially seem. More complex than any Roger Waters' nightmare.

Each character has its own voice, as often happens with Ayreon and in general all the projects involving Arjen Lucassen, and there are many remarkable guests: just look to the lineup on the top of the album's page here on PA. One for all the former Mostly Autumn vocalist Heather Findlay but also Michael Akerfeldt, James LaBrie between the many and even a keyboardist like Oliver Wakeman who interprets a solo on "Day Sixteen: Loser" with a surprising Emerson's style, despite to his family name.

This appears to be the 129th review of the album and this is why I didn't attempt my own one until now. There's almost nothing that I can add to what is already said. I just want to underline that if you want to spend about a couple of hours listening to excellent music and following an excellent and amazing story this is one of the best albums that you can find.

Not properly a rock opera and not just an album but surely a masterpiece. The last remark that I want to make is the use of growl on the already mentione Day Sixteen. It's one of the rare songs in which the growling is functional to the song and not just a standardized way of singing metal.

I think it's a masterpiece. It's surely one of the albums I've listened to more often during the last years, and I'm not a prog metal fan.

Report this review (#606118)
Posted Monday, January 9, 2012 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars The higher the number of famous people you put on an album the better it is, right? No, I'm afraid not!

After the Space Rock of Universal Migrator part one and the Power Metal of Universal Migrator part two, Ayreon went into Folk Metal here while at the same time returning to the Rock Opera format of Into The Electric Castle. Like Into The Electric Castle, The Human Equation too is a frustrating listen for me as there are many aspects and elements here that I like very much while there are others that I dislike. Making a double album work is very difficult indeed, and making a Rock Opera work is even more difficult. Folk Metal itself is very challenging; when it is good it can be fantastic, but when it is bad it can be horribly and awfully bad. Arjen's attempts are sometimes very successful here, but he also falls into many traps along the way. I thus have deeply mixed feelings about this album. I have given it several chances over a long period of time, but even if it did grow on me a little after some initial disappointments, I have to say that I remain unconvinced in the end.

The instrumental aspects of the sound are mostly quite brilliant on this album. I mostly love the many Folk influences and there is a very nice and well-balanced mixture of acoustic and electric instruments and of warm, organic sounds, on the one hand, and cold, electronic ones, on the other hand. Most of the time at least, the cellos and violins, and the flutes, pipes and whistles, mix quite wonderfully with the electronic keyboards and heavy guitar riffs. There are parts that sound like Jethro Tull. The production is absolutely top notch and the album title and sleeve picture are great and absorbing.

The resources for a making great album were clearly here, the problems I have with this album lies elsewhere: Arjen just doesn't know when to stop! The idea to include no less than 11 lead vocalists (including Arjen himself) each playing a role of his or her own is simply preposterous. The storytelling is perhaps less intrusive here than it was on Into The Electric Castle due to the prudent avoidance of narration, but the fact that the many vocalists have all been given roles to play emphasizes the Rock Opera nature of the project that makes it such a difficult listen for me. The many different voices give the music a fragmented feel. There are just too many vocalists and too much vocals in these songs. The music is filled with vocal dialogues which detract from the strong instrumental aspects.

As with all Ayreon albums, the main selling point is in the many famous guests. This time Dream Theater's James LaBrie provides a strong vocal, and the voice of Devin Townsend is great on Pain (one of the strongest tracks). Saviour Machine's Eric Clayton sounds very much like David Bowie. Among the instrumental guests we find Oliver Wakeman, Uriah Heep's Ken Hensley, and IQ's Martin Orford. Great people indeed, but as usual I would rather hear them in their own musical environments.

As I said above, I very much like the Folk Metal aspects of this album. But on the track Loser it goes horribly wrong! The latter was even made into an atrocious music video. This is absolutely cringe-worthy. In the end, The Human Equation is just too long for its own good and some parts could easily have been cut.

Many good features here, but in general this is overblown and overrated

Report this review (#751134)
Posted Wednesday, May 9, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars A bit too heavy, too theatric, and too discordant in terms of album flow. To have such divergent dynamics--often within a single song--is, to my ears and mind, too much to handle, not enjoyable. Getting the number of widely diverse artists to participate on this project is truly an admirable achievement, I'm just not sure it was all necessary--or that it all contributes to the flow and cohesiveness of the whole. Really, it's an album of 20 totally disconnected songs each trying hard--too hard--to showcase some pretty talented guest musicians yet, in the end, only pretending to have some kind of integrating concept.

A great Broadway production. Here, it's over the top.

Report this review (#837584)
Posted Saturday, October 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Crossover Prog Team
4 stars This is a modern concept rock opera on a huge scale. The double CD only just manages to cram it all in, this is epic on an epic scale. Arjen Lucassen has really out done himself this time as the different singers and musicians create something magical. I mean, for starters look who is involved in this project with Arjen, who as well as providing Electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, analogue synthesizers, Hammond, Mellotron and additional keyboards also sings the part of 'Best Friend'. He is joined on vocals by Devon Graves (Dead Soul Tribe) as 'Agony', Devin Townsend (SYL) as 'Rage', Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) as 'Reason', Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) as 'Fear', Magnus Ekwall (The Quill) as 'Pride', Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn) as 'Love', Irene Jansen (Karma) as 'Passion', James LaBrie (Dream Theater) as 'Me', Marcela Bovio (Elfonia) as 'Wife', Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery) as 'Father' with the following musicians: Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep, Various) ?Hammond, Oliver Wakeman (Nolan & Wakeman) ? Keyboards, Martin Orford (IQ, Jadis) ? Keyboards, Ed Warby (Gorefest, Various) ? Drums, Joost van den Broek (Ayreon) ? keyboards, John McManus - Low-flute, tin-whistle, Jeroen Goossens ? Flute, Robert Baba ? Violins, Marieke van der Heyden ? Cello. You can see already that this is something that is out of the ordinary.

When this rocks it does that in spades, but there are areas within this are that are pure beauty. This is a prog album that is setting new standards when it comes to imagination and construction. It is an album that is compelling, but each theme leads seamlessly on from the one before. This is more like a symphony ever changing and developing than a series of songs telling a story and the result is that the listener is truly transported into a new world.

I have been listening to the double CD, but it is also available as a deluxe edition containing the double CD, a DVD and a book. Inside Out have put a lot into this release and I can see why. This is setting new standards for concept albums ? superb.

Originally appeared in Feedback #79, May 2004

Report this review (#1048404)
Posted Monday, September 30, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars An album to be blown away by, and increasingly so for every listen. Excellent introduction to the work of Arjen Lucassen, or even into the world of progressive music as in my case.

Just like Ayreon releases probably and hopefully always will be, this album is bombastic, to-the-top melodic and instantly ear- catching. Song-driving heavy guitar riffs are always layered with deep bass and several lines of whatever keyboards and strings, sometimes even to the point where it is difficult to distinguish the guitar. The way Arjen use different instruments together to make it all sound amazing is a main reason why I enjoy his music so much, especially on the heavy and fast bits. You'll also find quite a few wonderful intricate solos on various synths and keyboards, while guitars are generally sweeping and emotional in addition to just as wonderful.

The album contains a high degree of soft and mellow passages comprised of mainly acoustic and folk-inspired melodies. Since these parts are (also) so well composed and performed, they offer a perfectly weighted contrast to the metal. There are absolutely no boring parts. It is also very difficult to define one genre for the album because it consists of a widespread mix of musical styles.

The lyrics here are naturally contributing to the feeling of being carried away by the music, although I generally pertain to the mindset that lyrics seldom can lift bad a bad track, nor sink good music. The vocals are however of more importance, and The Human Equation is surely not disappointing in that aspect either. I enjoy the involvement of a fantastic vocalist range since it means both that the album become so much more dynamic, and that I will never ever get tired of it (and of course also since it is required in the concept stories of Ayreon..)

It is just as difficult to name a favourite track on this album as it is to name a favourite Ayreon album, but one of my recently noticed highlights are the first instrumental minutes on Realization. All the tracks are remarkable as individuals, but it is at a listen to the whole album as a unit it converges to a masterpiece.

Report this review (#1287539)
Posted Saturday, October 4, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars Part 1: Fiction

Sometime in the very recent past, Arjen Lucassen, using the theory of non-linear time and a device not unlike the TARDIS, visited my profile page on PA and my CD collection at my house and said, "Peter, I am going to make an album just for you and people like you. I see you are a fan of traditional metal but have been discovering more recent progressive metal artists. You prefer good singers who can use drama and affect subtle emotions in their voices to the shouters and the growlers; however, I see that you have recently begun to enjoy Mikael Akerfeldt's death growl vocals and you like singers with power. You also like the theatrical singers like Geoff Tate. You used to be a fan of some female vocalists long ago but not so much in recent times. Alright, I have an idea for a rock opera which I think you will enjoy and I know of some people whose vocals you will really appreciate, male and female."

"You are a big fan of concept narratives like The Wall, Operation: Mind Crime, Subterranea, and Scenes from a Memory. I think you'll like what I have in mind. I see you also really like neo-prog these days and have a special affinity for Celtic music. You like flutes and acoustic guitars as well as metal music; you can appreciate intelligent rock and pop; you love catchy melodies and vocal harmonies; recently you have found you can appreciate synthesizer much more than before and violins too; and I see you mentioned on PA last week that you like classic Uriah Heep. Okay. I am pretty sure that when you here this album that I am going to make, it will blow you out of the water. Now I am going back and have it ready by 2004. You have already found it here in 2014. Now order it and enjoy."

Part 2: Fact

The Saint Elias Mountains are the highest mountain range in North America and the second highest peak on the continent is found here. Mount Logan stands 5,959 metres high and is said to possibly have the largest subaerial mass of any mountain on the planet. The massif rises 3,000 metres above the surrounding icefields and supports an icefield of its own 25 by 10km in surface area. There are thirteen peaks above this icefield, eleven of them over 5,000 metres elevation. I am going to use Mt. Logan's topography as a metaphor for listening to "The Human Equation".

Part 3: Review

"The Human Equation" has reminded me of Mt. Logan quite simply because the emotional experience of listening to this album the first time and the second time has been one big high from start to finish with several peaks elevating me to the highest levels of music enjoyment. It would not seem unreasonable to me to rate this album referencing Mt. Logan's elevation by awarding it 5.959 stars. I have in my CD collection some very few albums that I have enjoyed so much that I would give them six stars if possible. "Any last requests?" "Yes, please allow me to listen to Ayreon's "The Human Equation" one last time.

Yes, I am a sucker for a good concept narrative album. Though I don't listen to it often because of the time necessary to run it from start to finish, Pink Floyd's "The Wall" is always an emotional ride like watching a favourite movie. More recently, Dream Theater's "Scenes from a Memory" became a close second favourite concept narrative of mine, and the excitement and suspense I felt after the first listen two years ago still filled me again when I listened to it most recently a couple of months back. Now Ayreon's "The Human Equation" has hit me with the same impact. Powerful music, strong melodies, an array of instruments and a cast of superb vocalists and musicians, this album was like reading a good book where I loved the moment I was in and was excited to hear what was going to happen next.

The story is basic enough. A man is in a coma in the hospital and his wife and best friend visit him and talk together. He mysteriously crashed his car into a tree on a lone road in broad daylight. During his twenty days of coma, he speaks with his emotions: Fear, Love, Reason, Passion, Pride, Agony, and Rage. We learn that he came from a broken home and overcame bullying at school by becoming a bully himself. He and his best friend both got jobs at the same company and were both in line for the same promotion, but it was his friend who was the better candidate. Our protagonist sabotaged his friend's promotion prospect but felt great guilt. We also learn that he saw his wife in the arms of another man, his best friend, though they both claim that it was only a consoling moment he witnessed. During his time in a coma, he reviews his life and his betrayal of his friend, and in the end decides that he must survive his accident, awaken, and confess to his friend and make things right. The story reminded me a little of that movie with Harrison Ford where he wakes up with amnesia and tries to put his life back together, discovering that he was a real prick before his accident. The best friend betrayal reminded me of "Ghost" and the surprise ending made me think of "Vanilla Sky" for some reason.

Though the story itself is a bit unoriginal, the cast of singers playing their parts and the music make this such a wonderful album. The first track introduces the scene in the hospital and the sound of a car approaching the instant of the crash. The second track had me from the start with James LaBrie (Me, the protagonist) and Mikael Akerfeldt (Fear) in a sung dialogue and then the flute and wonderful synthesizer solo (very Pink Floyd "On the Run" at first). From LaBrie's first words I was reminded of Nicholas in "Scenes from a Memory" and I thought how appropriate his voice is for this character.

Before the third track, "Pain" had even finished, I was loving it so much that I added it to a playlist I'm constructing of recently acquired favourite tunes. There I was feeling like singing along to the chorus without even knowing the words yet. If this were Mt. Logan, I'd already be on one of the summits.

Usually when an album has such a good start, I expect that there will be a song or two that won't be very thrilling. "The Human Equation", however, continues with songs that feature surprise elements that seem to have been added just for my personal taste. Listen to the Jimmy Page guitar and the beginning of "Voices" which gets a dose of violin in that special Led Zeppelin / Tea Party sound and then flute like Jethro Tull. The keyboard melody of "Hope" reminds me of the Byrds' classic Rickenbacker guitar melodies. Just before I came home from the train station the first night I heard this, I walked right past my house out to where the road went between two dark fields and I played this song two times more, dancing on the dark street. I can't recall the last time I felt so compelled to dance to a song. Track 16, "Loser", with its Celtic guitar and flute also had me dancing. How good that music felt! And even this morning as I try to finish typing this review, the chorus to "Love" is in my head after having only heard it twice. It reminds me of a cross between Meatloaf's rock operas and a chorus by classic Sweet.

The second disc delivers more great music without losing pace. "Trauma", "Sign", "Betrayal" and "Loser" are all immensely enjoyable, but it's "Loser" that comes out as possibly the true summit of the mountain for me and has received several replays. Combining didgeridoo with Celtic guitar and flute and then an eruption of heavy metal guitar to a jig, this song is just one incredible joyride. Me's gloating, self-righteous, and sardonic father is well portrayed by Mike Baker; however Devin Townsend's throat-shredding scream "NEVER, NEVER, NEVER" in the last part of the song to the heavy metal jig was like the most delicious ear candy I had heard yet. I had to stop listening to the album here because I simply could not digest any more of this phenomenal music in one day. I listened to the whole album through the next day and when it concluded I felt as though I had just watched the most incredible movie I had seen in ages.

Part 4: Conclusion

Now I have heard the album twice and listened to several songs from three to perhaps ten times more. If you've ever heard people say, "This music feels like it written for me," well then that's just how I feel. From beginning to end, I follow the story, eager to hear the lyrics, to hear each person's voice as a singer and as a performer and actor. There is so much to the music and all the styles and sounds are so well integrated that it doesn't feel like a hodge podge of styles thrown together just to have diversified music. I have chosen three songs as must haves for my playlists, but there are several others that have been played again independently. The only drawback is that there is over an hour and forty minutes of music, so a good slice of time is required to listen to this all the way through. I have had to listen to disc one on the way to work and then disc two on the way home. Additionally, I received this disc along with a few others, including Steven Wilson's "The Raven that Refused to Sing" and Evergrey's "In Search of Truth" and both are eclipsed by this incredible package of music and drama.

A visit to Mt. Logan and its thirteen peaks would be an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience, but "The Human Equation" is ready for me to hear again as soon as I am ready to push play.

My apologies for the super long review. This is my 100th review on PA and I am really so pleased to have an album to be this excited about for this milestone. Out of five, I give it 5.959 stars, rounded down to five stars for this site.

Report this review (#1291148)
Posted Monday, October 13, 2014 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars For me listening to any AYREON album is little like going into a cheese shop. Arjen Lucassen really knows how to extract the absolute sappiest of power ballads and to me seems like a nurturer of 70s AOR / Pop rock bands like Styx into his musical equation. More often than not I am a little put off by his constant infatuation with the power ballad style of musical expression but there are times when his creative juices get flowing and he proves he is capable of something powerful and dynamic. The sixth album THE HUMAN EQUATION is one of those moments and yet another concept album / rock opera where each character is portrayed by a guest starring singer. Lucassen employs the talents of an army of vocalists and instrumentalists to create a musical rotisserie of vocal styles, musical motifs and narrations of a character called Me who is left in a coma from a car accident. Each song consists of one day spent in the coma and represents the spectrum of emotions and memories from his life that are played out by the musical cast. Unlike most AYREON projects, on this one Lucassen had help in the lyrics department from Devin Townsend who pretty much contributed the lyrical content and performance as Rage.

The music is in the vein of the usual AYREON style of part folk, part electronic and part metal. On HUMAN EQUATION there is also a lot of Irish jig music incorporated as well. This was my very first exposure to AYREON and I have to say that I have not been overly impressed with what i've heard on other albums. So far this seems to be the best album that i've heard. With all the praise that has revolved around this I was expecting it to be a perfect album but I find that the album is a little boring on Disc 1. The first several songs are just too folky and lack any bite. I'm not really engaged until track 7 with 'Hope.' Luckily this double discker picks up from here. I find the real treat is on Disc 2. This is where all the creativity and excitement unleashes itself. Songs like 'Trauma' and 'Loser' are utterly brilliant and really the whole disc keeps my attention with so much more going on than Disc 1. Overall I find this album to be partially worthy of the hype surrounding it but as with most AYREON albums it seems too long with some less than captivating material finding its way onto the track listing. I would probably give Disc 1 a 3 star rating while Disc 2 gets a 4.5 so for the whole kit and caboodle I award THE HUMAN EQUATION a whopping 4 stars.

Report this review (#1294538)
Posted Monday, October 20, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars Usually when one thinks of progressive music, or specifically metal, one of the names they come up with is Dream Theater, a band with a reputation of being pretentious because they are overly technical to a point where their songs sound like them endlessly showing off. Well, Ayreon manages to be even more pretentious, and far less technical, with proggy moments but not whole songs -- they need to show off more. Their style is not exactly what comes to mind upon hearing the words 'progressive metal.' But what could be more prog than a concept album? The element of a storyline (and Akerfeldt) is the only thing keeping me from drifting off near the latter portion of this 100+ minute ordeal. At least the plot prevents the album from being boring. Few of the Human Equation's plentiful twenty songs have a hard edge to them either, and the ones that do are balanced out by agonizingly soft, cheesy ballads and pop-influenced songs.

So what is the Human Equation? Isn't it classified as progressive metal? No, that hardly seems accurate: it's a rock opera, highly vocal-based and completely annoying. Arjen Lucassen has recruited some high-profile vocalists for this effort; James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Devin Townsend, and Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth) stand out on the list of no less than eleven singers. This vocal domination would be a bigger problem than it is if the singers didn't usually perform well. The exceptions to the general quality of vocal delivery are Irene Jansen (singing as Passion), who utilizes awful Styx-like harmonies (which, I might add, is another incredibly cheesy band), and Eric Clayton, singing as Reason, who just has a really annoying voice. But these two are exceptions to the rule, and everyone else performs well enough. The major issue with the vocals is that you don't need a choir to play on a (supposedly) metal album. Each vocalist sings overly dramatically and 'in front' of the rest of the music, putting the focus on them ' necessary for this album but awful and irritating all the same. The Human Equation is simply overcrowded with guest vocalists, and this is the main source of its pretentiousness. It sounds like a musical. Like show tunes.

The over-abundance of singers leaves little room for the rest of the music to develop. The instrumental portions are forgettable and, while eclectic, strikingly not metal. There is little technicality, much of the album devoted to cheesy balladry or acoustic and slow parts (Love, Memories, Sign, Disclosure). Transitions between parts of the songs are sometimes jarring and poorly done; good riffs are few and far between. Some of the songs have a folk edge, bringing in flutes and similar instruments, and spacey keyboards are used frequently and well. When it sounds like a song's instrumental break is actually starting to go somewhere entertaining, the tracks disappointingly end or revert to vocals. Overall, the musical composition is mediocre, though the album has its moments in the rare instrumental breaks when someone will spit out a passable solo -- which tend to be the album's highlights (see Day Two: Isolation and Day Four: Mystery). The song Day Sixteen: Loser has to be mentioned -- it's not necessarily good, but it's an interesting piece. The Father sounds like a theatrical villain' it's not surprising Arjen is adapting the Human Equation for the stage. Loser has strongly Irish vibe, followed by Devin Townsend screaming over the song's folksy riff, juxtaposition if there ever was such a thing.

As much as I've bashed the composition of the songs, the Human Equation's conceptual and plot-based elements redeem it somewhat, saving it from being a being nearly worthless. Is the album completely overblown and pretentious, and does the 'concept album' idea contribute? Yes. Is the plot mildly entertaining? Also yes. Ayreon's only non-sci-fi album, The Human Equation revolves around James LaBrie, playing the role of 'Me.' He has experienced an accident under mysterious circumstances, causing him to fall into a coma. He journeys through his past, each song representing one day, until he realizes that he witnessed his wife cheating on him with his best friend. He had crashed his car in anger and despair, the reason for his coma. Not the most original thing ever' the coma idea is one that sounds suspiciously familiar.

Contrarily, the story is told very clearly relative to some other concept albums, as long as you keep track of the characters and pay attention to the lyrics (lyrics shouldn't be difficult considering most delivery is clean singing). As pretentious as the vocals are, it is doubtful that the story could have been told the way it was without all eleven singers involved. In general, the intensity of the music and the subject matter of the lyrics fit together well enough (Love is an incredibly cheesy and cringeworthy ballad and the lyrics are about exactly what the title suggests; Pride is a stormy, heavier piece and the lyrics reflect an angry argument between LaBrie and Pride). The 'plot twist' of LaBrie's wife and best friend's affair is hinted at ('I don't think he knows'), and as LaBrie's internal struggles and the dialogue of the wife and best friend combine, the two plot lines are woven together, ending with forgiveness on all parts. A much more metal thing to do would be to have a Human Equation Part Two based around LaBrie seeking revenge, but obviously that's not happening. Not that I would want to listen to a potential part two of this piece of crap anyway.

To put it quite simply, the Human Equation is overrated. The effort and ambition put into this is respectable and appreciable, but in the end, it's really not a masterpiece. It is musically weak, though not without some good instrumental breaks, and too vocally dominated. While the storyline saves the album to a degree; it is not exactly genius, though told creatively and clearly. I would not recommend this to a fan of progressive metal, but maybe a fan of the rock opera could find some value in this. I dub Ayreon 'cheese rock.'

Originally posted to the

Report this review (#1424038)
Posted Friday, June 5, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is spectacular!

The timeline, the characters, the songs divided in days, the artwork, everything feels like it is exactly where it needs to be. The concept is all around in a way no other Ayreon album was able to do. And for the main character, LaBrie works perfectly.

The music is kind of accessible within progressive metal, but that doesn't mean it isn't challenging in its own way! Some odd signatures here and there, weird structures all around, and an overlapping of instruments that feels, surprisingly, in place.

When you finish listening, just when you're about to find out this is apart from Ayreonverse, you... Well... Give it a listen yourself. This is Ayreon's masterpiece.

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Posted Saturday, November 4, 2017 | Review Permalink

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