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Arjen Anthony Lucassen

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Arjen Anthony Lucassen Lost In The New Real album cover
3.76 | 274 ratings | 12 reviews | 21% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2012

Songs / Tracks Listing

CD 1 (47:14)
1. The New Real (6:24)
2. Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin (3:36)
3. Parental Procreation Permit (5:03)
4. When I'm a Hundred Sixty-Four (2:30)
5. E-Police (4:07)
6. Don't Switch Me Off (4:06)
7. Dr Slumber's Eternity Home (3:51)
8. Yellowstone Memorial Day (3:31)
9. Where Pigs Fly (3:47)
10. Lost in the New Real (10:19)

CD 2 (43:23)
11. Our Imperfect Race (6:27)
12. Welcome to the Machine [Pink Floyd] (4:45)
13. So Is There No God? (4:41)
14. Veteran of the Psychic Wars [Blue Oyster Cult] (4:34)
15. The Social Recluse (3:55)
16. Battle of Evermore [Led Zeppelin] (5:28)
17. The Space Hotel (3:49)
18. Some Other Time [Alan Parsons Project] (3:27)
19. You Have Entered the Reality Zone (3:24)
20. I'm the Slime [Frank Zappa] (2:53)

Total time: 90:37

Line-up / Musicians

- Arjen Anthony Lucassen / vocals & instruments, production & mixing

- Rutger Hauer / narration (as Dr. Voight-Kampff)
- Wilmer Waarbroek / backing vocals
- Ben Mathot / violin
- Maaike Peterse / cello
- Jeroen Goossens / flute
- Liesbeth De Weer / hammered dulcimer, vocals (16)
- Ed Warby / drums
- Rob Snijders / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Claudio Bergamin

2xCD Inside Out Music ‎- 0587-2 (2012, US)

2LP + 2CD Inside Out Music ‎- IOMLP 356 (2012, Germany) Full album on both media

Thanks to windhawk for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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ARJEN ANTHONY LUCASSEN Lost In The New Real ratings distribution

(274 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(21%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (28%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

ARJEN ANTHONY LUCASSEN Lost In The New Real reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Muzikman
5 stars Arjen Anthony Lucassen has a reputation for producing massive rock operas with guest artists from all over the world that populate the progressive and metal arenas. He has always wanted to do his own solo album while handling all the lead vocals. He also plays nearly every instrument. The time has arrived and so has the two album set Lost In The New Real.

I decided to get the deluxe package to support this fabulous artist. The package includes 2 colored vinyl LPs, (disc one green and disc two blue) and the LP sleeves are covered in magnificent and colorful artwork with the lyrics to every track on the flipside, a 3D postcard of the album cover, poster, 2 CDs, and a T-Shirt. Now this is how it's done folks, you have to offer something special and most certainly this package is. And the icing on the cake is Arjen signed the album per my request when I ordered online. There were 2,000 copies of this particular package for pre-order and it sold out in a few weeks.

I have made it no secret that this man is one of my favorite all time artist while endeavoring to cover everything he has released. I might I add that I have enjoyed all of his output over the years. His artistic vision is a clear path to musical nirvana every time.

So what should longtime fans and prog rock enthusiast expect from this set? You can count on some great music from an artist paying tribute to a lifetime of influences in music, theater, TV, and science fiction - essentially all the contributing factors that make great prog. And with that Arjen has created a Salvador Dali of progressive rock again (think of the deflated clocks painting for instance). It is unmistakably Arjen and I am so glad he decided to handle the vocals; he does a fine job without any help from the normal cast of characters he employs. This is his story to tell so it was only appropriate that he gave it to us with his own voice. Rutger Hauer does the narration (like Vincent Price did on the Coop's Welcome To My Nightmare) on the recording as Dr. Voight-Kampff and Arjen plays Mr. L.

This is Arjen's New Real where Hendrix played the flute, Dylan never got stoned, and Madonna was a virgin, an alternate reality beyond belief. The theme is futuristic and then again very much in tune with today when he sings about cyberspace and being "on" 24-7. At times it's hard to distinguish what is real or imagined anymore in our cyber and reality TV world. He asks the questions "Am I alive or dead, am I man or machine? But then that is the point of this album, what is your reality? It is what you make it or what you believe to be true. Have you seen "Pink Beatles In A Purple Zeppelin" lately? Maybe you have but that could depend on whether you are lucid dreamer, took too much LSD in the 60s, are just delusional and gone mad or perhaps you have a great imagination? Arjen brings your senses to a tipping point one way or another with words and music.

I listened to the CDs and the LPs and it all sounds fantastic, offering an all-encompassing work of art that should not be missed by any music fan. Even though this is progressive rock it crosses the line enough over to elements of rock and pop to please just about any audience, much like one of his most admired bands The Beatles. It's all Arjen giving every ounce of talent he could possibly give to his beloved fans. He is one man that knows that without the music fans he is nothing and he acknowledges that. Arjen has always been open to communicating with his audience and he does so in the best possible way by offering a tremendous group of songs and a good story to chew on for a while. Fine musicianship, artwork, collectable items, what more can a music fan ask for? More artist need to do this. You cannot get a free download of a vinyl LP, T-Shirt or poster. This is one option that works and the artist finally gets paid. He so deserves it.

I think this release is as good as any Arjen has put out and something to be proud of. He does some great covers on this set besides all of his compelling original material, notably the Led Zeppelin classic "Battle of Evermore." This is his tribute to his influences and he doesn't drop the ball like so many people do when covering a favorite artist. He makes it his own, and that is the key to getting the respect of the original artist and your listeners. Arjen never stops creating; I have no doubt he is already working on a new project, not allowing time to enjoy the success of this release. Always looking forward, remaining consistent and creating new music is what this musician is all about. This is a valuable lesson to those reaching for the stars in an industry where it is nearly impossible to get to the top of the mountain. This individual has his own star that is burning brightly with no signs of dimming anytime soon. I am grateful for that.

Key Tracks: ALL

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars And he did it again! Arjen brings up yet another epic where everything is way over 9000. That's the basic element that drives Ayreon's vehicle, everything is cool (the good side of coolness, not the general idiotic one), he has well thought story, melodic element (harmony rules) and Rutger Hauer, my somewhat favorite actor as narrator to this tale of time yet to come.

But don't take me bad dear readers, as with "yet another" I mean as in "yet another Genesis album from 71-76, or any other artist that consistently produces similarly sounding, yet each unique (and great) albums. This is not Ayreon creative vehicle formally, but it can as well be. The difference may probably be in vocal part - handled by the mastermind of this all himself. And I must say that he has fitting voice for this kind of music (not as pleasant as Annie Haslam for example, but this ain't no beauty contest - it works, that's important). Cover tracks are somehow less interesting than "original work", but aren't bad (when compared to other covers, they feel correct, fits in the mood as well).

Works well, sounds well and my brain is satisfied as well

Review by stefro
4 stars In what is proving to be a real bumper year for progressive rock, 2012 has so far seen the release of the much-vaunted the Steve Hackett / Chris Squire union Squackett, the long-awaited second album from San Diego psych-proggers Astra, Ian Anderson's 'Thick As A Brick' sequel, Van Der Graaf Generator's 'Alt', Hawkwind's new album 'Onward', the re-appearance of It Bites, Anathema's 'Weather Systems', a surprise new offering from cult freak-folk outfit Comus and the exciting Storm Corrosion project from Porcupine Tree and Opeth head honcho's Steven Wilson and Mikael Akerfeldt to name but a handful. And things are set to get even more exciting, with releases from the likes of Rush, The Flower Kings, Acid Mothers Temple, Diagonal, Trevor Rabin, Asia, Saga and Can on the way. Happily, we can also include the epic new double-sided concept album from Ayreon, Star One and Guilt Machine creator Arjen Anthony Lucassen, the hard-working Dutch master who may just be one of the 21st century's most important progressive rock artists. Who said progressive rock was dead? This time, however, there is no all-star cast and no band moniker surrounding Lucassen. Instead, 'Lost In The New Real' is the first album to be released under the multi-instrumentalists own name, though what it does feature is the impressively-rugged voice of Dutch actor Rutger Hauer(Blade Runner, The Hitcher, Sin City). Of course, with Lucassen there is usually some kind of wonderfully barmy and far-fetched science- fiction style story involved, and 'Lost In The New Real' is no exception. This time, the album tells the tale of a terminally sick man, a man who is cryogenically frozen in his own time before being woken up several hundred years later to find the world a very different place indeed. Hauer, who re-wrote much of his own dialogue, plays the 'hard-headed' psychiatrist who guides out hero through this strange new world, introducing most of the individual tracks in his own unique style. With Lucassen, ever the musical chameleon, now choosing to showcase his deep love of classic rock and 1970s prog, 'Lost In The New Real' really does benefit from Hauer's croaky presence, the whole affair drenched in a retro feel that stands apart from much of it's creators previous works. Tracks like the excellent 'Pink Beatles In A Purple Zeppelin' give a big hint to the kind of direction the album is taking, yet for the most this really is an exceptional album. Hauer's narrative helps glue the story together in a way perhaps missing on the likes of 'Into The Electric Castle' and 'The Univesal Migrator', whilst Lucassen's use of old school instruments and his own, nicely cracked vocals should make this cleverly-crafted offering appeal to a wider audience than usual, the heavy metal traces now virtually extinguished in favour of a more melodic approach. Describing the actual tracks does, however, seem a bit of a moot point here as each one plays its own part in the story, right down the way it is structured and the style used. The album's second half features covers of songs by the likes of Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, and, once again, they fit nicely into the overall concept. Simply put, 'Lost In The New Real' is something that has to be heard from beginning to end to truly appreciate(and understand). Those looking for a long, complex and unashamedly progressive album to brighten their day should, then, acquire Lucassen's new album as soon as possible. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2012
Review by VanVanVan
3 stars I will freely admit that I'm an unrepentant fanboy of Arjen Anthony Lucassen. His Ayreon project was what got me into post-70s prog, and I still consider The Human Equation to be one of the finest albums of the 21st century thus far. Unsurprisingly, then, I bought this album almost as soon as it came out, and popped it into my cd player for several repeated listens as soon as it arrived.

Unfortunately, my conclusion after about 20 listens is that this is one of Mr. Lucassen's comparatively weaker efforts. Now, that "comparatively" is very important. This is by no means a bad album; in fact, I think there are a lot of artists who would kill for some of the material on this album. Where the album suffers (and I use that term very loosely) is in its consistency. Unlike some of the Ayreon albums that don't have a single bad track on them, there are definitely weak points here. Ultimately, it's those weak links that prevent the album from being the masterpiece that Into The Electric Castle or The Human Equation were, because when Lost in the New Real is good its as good as anything on either of those albums. Overall then, while I have to stress that this album is far from bad or even mediocre, in my opinion it's not up to snuff with some other entries from Mr. Lucassen.

"The New Real" begins with a pulsing bassline under a spoken word section by the album's narrator, legendary actor Rutger Hauer. When the song proper begins, it's in a decidedly Ayreon-esque vein, if perhaps a bit spacier, and all of the vocals are delivered by Mr. Lucassen himself rather than by the ensemble cast featured on Ayreon albums. The real life Mr. L has historically been very hard on himself regarding his vocals, and while it's true that he may not be an Akerfeldt or a Gildenl÷w, I've always very much liked his voice and he's more than emotive enough to make up for any technical deficiencies. Musically, the song presents a very familiar (for Lucassen fans, anyway) mix of metal, psychedelic and folk music, with of course plenty of great melodies throughout. No fan of Lucassen should find much lacking in this excellent first track, and fans of the Ayreon project should find plenty of common ground.

"Pink Beatles In A Purple Zeppelin," on the other hand, while still having the signature "Lucassen sound" is in a decidedly different vein than most of what has appeared on his former projects. With obvious lyrical nods to great musical acts of the past combined with commentary on lack of originality in music and all wrapped up in vibrant, bombastic crossover pop music, "Pink Beatles?" is a stellar track despite being much shorter and less complex than many other pieces in Mr. Lucassen's repertoire.

"Parental Procreation Permit" is another track that sounds it easily could have come off of "01011001." Wilmer Waarbroek, who I will confess I'd not heard of before listening to this album, provides some epic backing vocals that help give the chorus some kick, and a much heavier instrumentation (even including a single growled line) gives the track a metal feel which is conspicuously (given the metal nature of the most of the rest of Lucassen's discography) absent on the album as a whole. Unfortunately, while many of the individual parts of the track are quite enjoyable, when they're all put together it can sound a bit disjointed and at worst even a bit forced. It's certainly not a bad track, but I don't think it quite stands up to the first two.

"When I'm a Hundred Sixty-Four" is another short track, coming in at only about two and a half minutes, and while length is certainly no indicator of quality I have to say that this track in particular just comes off feeling a bit light. Compared to the nuanced first track or even the jam packed second, the minimal folky instrumentation and decidedly twee lyrics just seem a bit underwhelming.

Fortunately, "E-Police" kicks the album back into high gear. With a driving guitar line and excellently combined lead and backup vocals, "E-Police" is packed with great melodic lines and a great chorus that proves Mr. Lucassen can write great pop just as easily as he can craft mammoth prog epics. Its upbeat tempo also provides a great contrast to the next track, "Don't Turn Me Off," which trades in enthusiastic riffing for hypnotic, pulsing synthesizers and drums. An appropriately languid vocal delivery from Lucassen only adds to the atmosphere, but the synths are really the star of the show here. Providing remarkably full sounding background music and wonderfully understated melodies that complement the vocals perfectly, "Don't Turn Me Off" is a song that shows texturing can be just as important as composition, and fortunately the track has only positive demonstrations of that principle. Along with "E-Police," "Don't Switch Me Off" is definitely a highlight in the middle of the album.

"Dr. Slumber's Eternity Home" again falls more on the pop side of the spectrum than it does prog or metal, but like "Pink Beatles?" it's a sterling example of why that is far from a bad thing. With stellar melodies and excellent support from the various string players on the album, the best word to describe the song is simply "fun." Lucassen turns in a great guitar solo on which he sounds like he's having the time of his life, and the whole song is just so infused with energy that it's almost impossible not to smile while listening to it.

"Yellowstone Memorial Day" settles for a decidedly darker tone, with the same kind of pseudo-industrial sound that appeared on the beginning of "Age of Shadows" from the last Ayreon album. Apocalyptic lyrics add to the grim feeling, as do chugging, distorted guitars and some more operatic backing vocals. It's definitely one of the more Ayreon-esque tracks as well, though I really can't say how much of that similarity is lyrical and how much is musical. Regardless, it's a great, heavy intense track that provides all the apocalyptic angst a listener could ever want.

Sadly, "Where Pigs Fly" follows it up with what I would consider to be the weakest part of the album. The song features a passable orchestral backtrack, but I'm really not a huge fan of the lyrics. Meant to express the fact that there are multiple universes in which events could have gone differently (which is certainly a cool idea) it's really just a list of things which are the opposite of the way they are in the real world. Some of them are alright, but there's also lines like "Rocky had no sequels, Arnold never came back, E.T. dialed the wrong number, and Dolly had no rack." In my opinion, that's a far cry from some the truly excellent lyrics Lucassen has written, and it drags the whole track down.

Luckily, there isn't too bad of an aftertaste because the first disc's closing track is not only the best song on the album but in my opinion one of the best songs Lucassen has ever written. Sounding fairly similar to the two "Extinction" tracks from 01011001, "Lost In the New Real" has everything you could possibly want or expect from the brilliant mind of Arjen Anthony Lucassen. Gorgeous string parts juxtapose against metal guitar lines, soaring operatic vocals take the track to stunning heights and the melodic lines feel unbelievably epic. The first six minutes are especially amazing, but the latter half of the track is very good as well, with a much more relaxed and folky feel and a very effective reprise of some of the themes from "Don't Switch Me Off." Overall, this title track is a killer closer for the album proper as well as an amazing progressive track in its own right.

I won't talk about the 2nd disc in as much detail because it definitely feels more like a collection of bonus tracks than it does the second disc of a double album, but there are certainly some great moments to be had there as well, especially in the originals. "Our Imperfect Race" is another very Ayreon-esque track, with great guitar work and synth lines and some very cool vocal moments with Arjen overlaid over himself. "So Is There No God" is a bit of a departure for Lucassen, with a very vintage feel and almost a bit of country twang in some o the instrumentation. "The Social Recluse," too, presnets an interesting and new sound for Lucassen, with punchy guitars that are almost reminiscent of Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath" and some acoustic picking that sounds very different than anything Lucassen's done before. There's something that sounds a bit strange in the harmonic composition of the track, but it works very well, and it's a highlight of the second disc. "The Space Hotel" has, rather unsurprisingly, a very sci-fi feel to it, and musically it probably could have fit in very well on the Ayreon album The Universal Migrator. "You Have Entered The Reality Zone" again has a very classic rock sound, though it's unmistakably Lucassen, with a great combination of distorted electric guitars and synths and whimsical acoustics.

The covers, however, also present some pleasant surprises. "Welcome To The Machine" is practically a deconstruction of the classic Floyd track, and it's exactly what a cover should be: decidedly different from the original and indelibly stamped with the mark of the covering artist. It even seems to make use of the same riff (or at least a very similar riff) as "Parental Procreation Permit," which is very cool and gives the track a much heavier, harder feel than the original. I'm not very familiar with Blue Oyster Cult's original "Veteran of the Psychic Wars," but Lucassen's cover sounds very cool, and if I didn't know better I could certainly believe that it was an original track. The cover of "Battle of Evermore," heretical though it might be to say, I actually prefer to the original, with a much heavier groove and excellent female vocals. I've never heard the original Alan Parsons version of "Some Other Time," either, but I definitely enjoy Lucassen's version, and again, his stamp is so heavy upon it that I could certainly believe it an original if I didn't know better, which isn't something that can be said of too many covers. "I'm The Slime" closes off the second disc, and it's presented with all the bombast and quirkiness that Frank Zappa could possibly ask for in a tribute, and Lucassen turns in an amazing guitar solo as well.

Overall then, the two discs of "Lost In The New Real" truly are a testament to Lucassen's skill as a composer and performer, even if it falls short of being his most consistent album. There are, in my opinion, a few missteps (which is a few missteps more than on most of the albums of his various projects) but when this solo album is good, its easily as good as anything he's done before. If you're the kind of fan who's as obsessed with Arjen Lucassen's music as I am, then this is a necessary buy, but for your average prog-fan-at-large, "good, but not essential" sounds just about right.

3.5/5, rounded down

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Technophobia and an apocalyptic dystopian future revealed in Arjen's masterful project.

"Lost In The New Real" by legendary Arjen Lucassen grabbed my attention for a number of reasons. First and foremost is that I have always had a huge adoration of Arjen's projects such as Ayreon and Star One, both producing some masterpiece albums that I have been completely in awe of. I have, as a result, very high expectations for Arjen's albums, having set the bar so high on previous albums. Arjen as a solo artist is a new direction, but I was hesitant as I have always loved the way he has been able to integrate many artists into his projects; a kind of conglomeration of many vocalists injecting their own inimitable style making his projects so endearing. I needn't have worried as this new album is a sensational project from Arjen, who takes the helm as vocalist and guitarist. He is not alone though with some amazing musicians and a legendary actor in the form of Blade Runner's villain Roy Batty; the one and only Rutger Hauer as Dr Voight Kampff (Blade Runner reference to the replicant detecting device). The actor lends a special quality to the album with his rasping baritone narrations. The music is dense and heavy mixed with symphonic passages of keyboards, and some awesome melodies that will lock into your skull after a few listens.

The album is a full blown concept album with very powerful lyrics that focus on technophobia and the cyber highway to destruction, and along the way the protagonist merges out of the real to the realm of fantasy. Hauer plays the psychiatrist who is attempting to help Mr L come to terms with the new world, having been revived from a long cryogenic hypersleep. The world has changed irrevocably into a cyber space non-reality and Mr L's perspective is shown in the lyrics. Hauer narrates the opening of all the songs on CD1 maintaining the conceptual framework that unravels throughout the album. The songs blend seamlessly together and switch into many styles and vocalisations, from clean vocals and sweet harmonies, to some gravelly rage, according to the mood of the protagonist.

It begins in a blaze of glory with an organic heavy atmosphere on 'The New Real', embellished by an infectious melody that always grabs me, gentle vocals and amazing guitar distortion and violin. 'Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin' is a clever title that captures the psychedelic 60s counterculture perfectly. The opening narration by Hauer is so thought provoking; "why create more music if it was all done before, computer generated noise in millions of games of all kinds and in all formats." The lyrics are cynical and even are sung over a Beatles like melody and with a Lennon like vocal; "every song's been sung before, every notes been played, every chords been strummed before and every melody's been made, they've heard it all by now, nothing left to be inspired by, it all seems so unreal somehow, as I sit back and close my eyes." Ironically the piano run used is similar to an Ayreon melody, and I would say purposely to augment the sentiment in the lyrics.

"Human population is to be reduced to a much safer level," warns Hauer ominously as a pounding rhythm begins. 'Parental Procreation Permit' continues the heavy sound, Arjen sounding terrific throughout, and the music with an Eastern flavour. This moves into a kind of folky violin driven jig on 'When I'm a Hundred and Sixty Four', that reminds me of 'Loser' from "The Human Equation". Hauer says that Orwell was not a bad guy, the internet should be embraced, surveillance police and global activity secretly monitored from digital means is the new real. A steady rhythm cranks along on 'E-Police' that is more straight forward than some of the other tracks, a true rocker with anthemic chorus and sweet harmonies. The scary lyrics are about the E-Police surveillance methods and control; "You're in their files, their database, There'll be no trial, you have no case, Take care, for the E-police are near, They know your name, your interface, You will be framed, you'll be erased."

After this blistering heavy start to the album, it settles into the dreamy 'Don't Switch Me Off' which is very close to the bone, talking about internet addiction; Hauer says, "draw a line in the sand, Fact dash machine, or truth, lies and Youtube, delete your Skypad2 avatar, she's so real, so dangerous, do you want to talk about it."

'Dr Slumber's Eternity Home' is a slice of fun with some nice bright violins and an Ayreon style melody, similar to the music that can be found on "The Universal Migrator" or "01011001". The lead break is excellent on this track, over a chugging riff, and then a banjo strum and a horn bass section. The lyrics are chilling; "Our expert team is here, to serve you, once you arrive, you're here to stay, sleep your last sleep, time to answer your last call, we're overcrowded anyway."

This is followed by 'Yellowstone Memorial Day' with Hauer's golden tones stating that "despite hi-tech discovery man still fights wars, and mankind still fights nature, let me tell you about mamma nature." The bass synth builds with electronic percussion crashes and metal clangs, the music industrial and atmospheric. The metal riff crunches in as Arjen speaks of the earth in ashes, "thousands die in the flames", an apocalyptic nightmare vision. In this vision "shockwaves circle the earth, the unstoppable force, our technology fails to a pointless event", showing a dystopian future with the planet under attack by technological forces and mother nature combining.

Hauer snarls out some more dialogue and then violins strike up for the measured tempo of 'Where Pigs Fly' that makes reference to a number of historical figures and rock stars in a humorous way to unravel historical truths such as, "Darwin defended creation, Einstein travelled in time, Columbus discovered India, And Shakespeare couldn't rhyme." Then there is the verse about rock stars that is quite intriguing, "Elvis was a Vegan, Dylan never got stoned, Alice was known as Vincent and Bowie was just Jones, Madonna was a virgin, and Jimi played the flute." The jigging violin is balanced with spacey synths and a soaring lead guitar break. The lyrics are full of fun pop culture references such as "Darth Vader had no son, Dorothy was still in Kansas, and Clint didn't own a gun, Rocky had no sequels and Arnold never came back." Some of the most humorous and in some ways unsettling vocals from Arjen, as we remember what Michael Jackson said in that infamous press conference, that the historical text books are all wrong and nothing is as it appears, everything is fabricated and controlled by the press and the government is the all-powerful all seeing eye.

Hauer returns with some cynical banter, "what the hell is real, who am I and why not, why don't we smell the roses anymore, why can't we get another shot." The bassline than locks in to one of my favourite songs, 'Lost In The New Real', with that glorious melody and dark atmosphere. Arjen's vocals are intense and the music is industrial as we hear of the protagonist "reaching for the ghosts in my mind, dreaming of the ones I left behind, hopeless there is nothing I can do." The time sig switches to a half time feel and some excellent musicianship. The lyrics speak of being revived from a virtual reality; "why did you wake me up, in this virtual jail, why was I revived, is this all some game? Lost in this maze, locked in this brain, am I dead or alive, with all these wires stuck in my brain, so what happens now?" The dangers of cyber virtual reality are outlined with the confusion of what is real, "in the realm of the make believe, within the limits of my brain, but can I really fool myself into believing I am still me, this synthetic state of consciousness, I am therefore I think, could I dream forevermore without the fear I felt before." The slower tempo with Jeroen Goossens' flute, Ben Mathot's violin and retro synth is wondrous. The music on this track is dynamic throughout capturing beautifully the sense of wonder and confusion of awakening into a new reality, like The Matrix concept. The same Twilight Zone melody as heard in the opening track returns. Then a very heavy distorted guitar blast with some violin in an odd time signature kicks in. The harmonies remind me of retro 70s The Sweet, sounding very strong and then a lone Arjen pleads, "please switch me off" over a pulsating electro bass rhythm. The vocoder effect on the voice sounds spacey and mechanised. Thus ends the first CD and the original album; an absolutely astounding musical journey.

CD 2 opens with gorgeous multi layered acoustic tones and spaced up sustained keyboard pads. 'Our Imperfect Race' is saturated in synths flooding over a spacey soundscape, building incessantly towards the first verse outbreak. The harmonised layered vocals asks poignant questions posed by SETI, of how an alien race would see us, "would they live just us, on a planet like the earth, how would they see us, our imperfect race, what would they think of us, the mess we have made, or are we doing okay?" The sci-fi concept of Arjen's work always resonates with me in the same way as the Star One albums, that pays homage to various sci fi movies, TV shows or novels. In this song I sense nuances of "Contact", "Stargate" or "Close Encounters."

'Welcome to the Machine' is a cover of Pink Floyd's classic and it is done with some very heavy distorted guitar bursts, clangs and a dark pulsing bass synth. I love this version that has an industrial machine like pulse that is so effective. The vocals are kind of like the Pink Floyd's version but the heavy metal crunches are definitely an improvement over the original, along with those spacey keyboard swells, soaring lead guitars and awesome powerful synth heartbeats; a treasure on this album.

'So Is There No God?' is the question that brings to light whether a deity exists, but I am never a fan of this kind of theme being a believer, however I can see the value of at least bringing to light the question of existence and our purpose of being. Musically this has some nice slide guitar and a country rock feel with violins and steel guitar. The pessimist approach towards God in the lyrics is a turn off for me, but from another perspective it may be the protagonist is trying to come to terms to the new real; "there is no truth we don't understand, this game of chance, could it be we are alone, a tiny blip in space, an isolated case, so much is still unknown, the more that we reveal, the more it seems unreal, could it be life is a dream, my private fantasy created just by me, or could it be some scheme, a master plan, that has spiralled out of hand." Interesting lyrics to ponder over.

'Veteran of the Psychic Wars' is a great cover of Blue Oyster Cult's song from "Fire of Unknown Origin", and it has a nice synth driven melody that locks into very powerful drumming and lead guitar flourishes. The feel is more like Ayreon, a post metal approach, and very strong lyrics by Michael Moorcock; "Don't let these shakes go on, It's time we had a break from it, It's time we had some leave, We've been living in the flames, We've been eating out our brains, Oh, please don't let theses shakes go on."

'The Social Recluse' is a steady rocker about a man who hangs out with "virtual friends, let's meet up in 3D space, waste some time playing pointless games, we don't have to talk anymore, this idle chatter it's such a bore, don't even need to know your name, I won't remember it anyway, cos in this virtual realm of my imagination, I make friends without obligations, I live like a social recluse in the comfort of my own mind", but as the protagonist states although he is connected in a virtual life "I've never felt more alive." The lyrics are a warning to how we can become immersed in internet cyberspace technology such as LAN role playing, and if we make friends and become tired of them we can just switch them off; and I certainly relate to this in forums and on facebook where we can make friends in virtual space and discard them as easily as switching off a computer interface.

'Battle of Evermore' is instantly recognizable as the Led Zeppelin classic and it is well executed here with reverence to the original and injecting some new flavours. The 12 strings are joined by violins and great keyboard passages. The female chorus vocals of Wilmer Waarbroek are beautiful, and I swear Robert Plant showed up here, it sounds so similar. The harmonies are incredible and again this is one of the greatest covers of this song in existence. It is an odd thing to hear it on this album but it may be seen as part of the cyber space virtual reality role playing game fantasy environment that the protagonist is locked in, as it includes characters such as The Queen of Light, The Prince of Peace, The Dark Lord, The Angels of Avalon, and Ring Wraiths; a veritable Tolkien world. The ending is mesmirising with Wilmer Waarbroek's multilayered vocals lifting so high, augmented by a bone crunching distorted metal riff; simply awe inspiring.

'The Space Hotel' is not a Flower Kings song, but sounds like it, and it is very good, with a cool synth motif and strong percussion. I love Arjen's storyteller vocals; "it's 6am were about to leave, my heart is racing as I am about to take my seat, what a feeling, so unreal, a cosmic holiday." The space hotel is a place where you can make love in zero gravity, where one can experience amazing experiences, doing somersaults up to the bar, and "see the sun arise 15 times a day, the crystal shine of the milky way, spinning around and raising hell, hanging out in the space hotel." The synths and metal guitars are very effective on this song, that reminds me of Ayreon's 'Amazing Flight in Space'.

'Some Other Time' is a cover of Alan Parsons Project's gem, and it vibrates with retro synth motifs and Arjen's soft vocals, "some other place somewhere, some other time". This melody soaked track is followed by 'You Have Entered the Reality Zone', with an Ayreon feel. The lyrics are potent; "Welcome to sanctuary island, leave your possessions at the gate, rejoin the struggle for survival, a new life begins today, no machines, no computers, no TV, not even phones, no factories, industrial polluters, you have entered the reality zone". In this idyllic paradise without technology the recipients are given the chance to be techno free, a veritable primitive environment devoid of the outside world, focussing on physical reality, the old real, thus a false non-existent paradise. It is populated by Mastodons, pandas, tigers and dolphins.

'I'm the Slime' is a great way to end the journey, covering the weird well known song of Frank Zappa. The odd jazzed up time sig locks in and those bizarre lyrics are sung with deep intonations; "I may be vile and pernicious, But you can't look away, I make you think I'm delicious, with the stuff that I say, I am the best you can get, have you guessed me yet? I am the slime oozing out of the internet" (the original Zappa's lyrics was "I am the slime oozing from your TV set."). The song is a really cynical dig at the obsession with technology and finishes the concept off effectively, perfectly placed on this album.

So at the end of this opus it feels like two different projects merged into one. The Rutger Hauer narration of CD1 and concept disappears on CD2, though the songs are still maintaining themes of technophobia and apocalypse. There are more covers but they are usually improvements on the originals and well worth a listen. The original album on CD1 is masterful by itself, but with these additional tracks on CD2, it really becomes a full immersive soundscape that entrances from beginning to end. I like the way the albums make up an overall concept but it would have been even better if Hauer's narrations could have continued despite the fact that the second CD was more of an additional extra bonus. The album would be impoverished though without these extra tracks as they are so wonderful, especially some of those covers. The whole album works as a tribute to science fiction concepts and it was a master stroke to include Rutger Hauer, such a legend of sci-fi. I was completely captivated by this album and have to mark this down as another triumph for Arjen Lucassen along with some of the masterpieces of Ayreon and Star One.

Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Lost in the New Real' - Arjen Anthony Lucassen (8/10)

Although he is surely best known for his epic prog operas under the penname Ayreon, Arjen Lucassen is a man of many, many, many projects. Apart from his flagship project, he has pursued atmospheric prog metal with Guilt Machine and Ambeon, heavy 'space' metal with Star One and symphonic metal, and symphonic metal with Stream of Passion, and even then, that doesn't encompass all of the things he has led or been involved with. Although it might seem redundant for Arjen to make a 'solo' album when he already has total creative control over many of his projects, there is a certain liberty here that would not have lent itself to established works. Like Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson did last year with "Grace for Drowning", calling "Lost in the New Real" a solo record alleviates many of the preconceptions folks would have had with another Ayreon record. For anyone who had their doubts about it, Arjen's latest creation is a celebration of his distinctive sound, and labels regardless, we have another vast progressive concept album to sink our ears into, courtesy of one of Holland's finest.

Being that Arjen penned this album under his own name, it's actually surprising to hear how closely "Lost in the New Real" resembles an Ayreon album. Compared to "01011001" or "The Human Equation", things are perhaps a little more melodic and accessible this time around, but Arjen retains that infectious sense of progressive sub-genre bending quirk that defines much of his work. Any existing Ayreon fans certainly won't be surprised to hear a sudden folk interlude propped up in the middle of an electronic metal fusion, or whimsical 60's psychedelia contrasted with crunchy metal riffs and the occasional death growl. This is simply (or not simply) Arjen's way of doing things. It's the fact that the styles are all fused together so effortlessly that makes the art brilliant, and it's really no different on "Lost in the New Real". The album's teaser trailer brought light to this fact as well; suffice to say, there's no sense of boredom on either of these discs, although it does help to be open to a wide variety of progressive styles. Metalheads should be prepared for gratuitous amounts of prog, and vice versa, although for any fan of Ayreon, this will be no surprise!

Like several of Arjen's past works, "Lost in the New Real" is a double album, although unlike the Ayreon operas, the discs may be seen as separate journeys in their own right. The first disc is a conceptual piece observing many of the same sci-fi themes and topics as his earlier work. The second disc also has original material, but it is interspersed with covers from some of the classic bands that influenced him. Obviously, the first disc is the one that will sway most of the listener's attention and appreciation, although the latter half of the album is more than mere bonus material. Even the covers carry many of the same themes of technology and isolation, so even though the album-proper may end with the progressive, ten minute monster that closes the first disc, the concept never ends.

"Lost in the New Real" does not tell a story so much as explore a number of topics through a scenario. In this case, a man (presumably Arjen himself) has been frozen in cryogenic stasis, and awoken in the future, to a world he can no longer identify with. Each of the songs that follow explore a different part of this dystopic future reality. Every limit of artistry has been exploited ("Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin"), there is state-instituted population control ("Parental Procreation Permit"), people can live to gloriously old ages ("When I'm a Hundred Sixty-Four") but would prefer to die ("Dr. Slumber's Eternity Home"). It's this sort of irony that makes Arjen's vision of a future so interesting. It's a very familiar vision for science fiction, but it's made compelling by a sense of tongue-in-cheek playfulness. Even when he's singing about the submission of the human spirit to soulless technology, the lyrics are rarely somber and the music never depressing.

At long last, "Lost in the New Real" offers an album where we get to hear Lucassen's signature sound of epic metal fronted by his own voice. He has long been very modest about his voice in interviews, usually preferring to outsource vocal duties to some of the genre's finest- Bruce Dickinson, Hansi Kursch, and Devin Townsend have all sung on Arjen's records at one point. Though he has collaborated with some of the best singers the metal genre has ever seen, there was something undeniably sincere and warm about his scarce performances on the Ayreon records that always made me think he should put more of a confidence and focus on his vocals. Although backing vocalist Wilmer Waarbroek offers some operatic touches to the background, Arjen assumes all lead vocal responsibilities. His voice is very melodic, warm, and without any overt sense of technical wizardry to it. His voice befits the psychedelic style best; even when he's singing in a more metal-edged style, there's something about his voice that betrays a 1960's charm, and given that many of the tunes here are of a more melodic persuasion than Ayreon, it meshes very well.

The first disc is varied, yet wholesome and consistent. Rutger Hauer's (of Blade Runner fame) gravelly narration becomes dry after a couple of spins, but the album-proper is a progressive marvel. The first and last "New Real" tracks are some of the finest compositions Arjen has ever done, fusing dark, spacey ambient music with grandiose metal orchestration and a meticulous attention to the way different instruments are used. "Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin" and "Where Pigs Fly" are also particular winners, each sporting some humorous and thought-provoking lyrical ideas. "Dr. Slumber's Eternity Home" and "Yellowstone Memorial Day" are a little less memorable than the rest, but there is never a sense of the album's flow getting hurt or broken as a result. "Lost in the New Real" is slightly less bombastic than the over-the-top Ayreon approach, and it certainly translates well here. It's the most interesting conceptual idea Arjen has had for an album since 2003's "The Human Equation", and it's clever enough to spark topics for debate, without ever offering a clear solution to the problems.

The second disc- as you may expect- is less impressive than the first. Although there are originals tunes here as well, the latter half of the album is defined by the covers. In terms of the originals, they are generally less spectacular than the tracks off the first disc, still enjoying the same degree of meticulous sound production, but in want for the same cleverness. I never thought I would say it, but the covers are far superior to any of the originals on the second disc. I say this not necessarily because Arjen has chosen tunes from some of progressive rock's greatest icons, but because he often manages to achieve the impossible- taking a classic song, rearranging it to his own style, and sometimes making it even better than the source material. Case and point, Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine" is bastardized into a spacey prog metal rancor beast. There are still the same vocal melodies, but Arjen has fused it with his own riffs. The other covers here are a little more true-to-form, but just as impressive. Blue Oyster Cult's "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" and The Alan Parsons Project's "Some Other Time" are given new life here, given the same care and attention Arjen would give his own songs, to the point where I might possibly enjoy Arjen's version more. Of course, Led Zeppelin's version of "The Battle of Evermore" remains unconquered, but Arjen can't be held to fault for that! The second disc wraps up with Zappa's "I'm the Slime", and for better or worse, it sounds almost identical to the original. I may have preferred to have heard Arjen take Zappa's vision in a new and exciting way, but there's no harm done in the straightforward way Lucassen and co. have paid tribute.

It's an hour and a half journey, and it's one I think most fans of Ayreon will be thrilled by. Although the covers are a great way to hear Arjen playing something that's not directed by his own, familiar vision, it would have been interesting to hear him go someplace with this solo project that was different than what he's already done with Ayreon and Star One. For better or worse, this is another dose of Arjen Anthony Lucassen doing what he does. It's great, emotional and progressive music, and it enjoys some of the finest production you're bound to hear this side of the Alpha Quadrant. With the announcement of a new Ayreon album slated for a possible 2013 release, we may have to wait a while before we hear from Arjen's solo project again. In any case, "Lost in the New Real" may not revolutionize Arjen's style, but it's excellent, excellent stuff. For thought provoking, memorable progressive metal, you need look no further.

Review by CCVP
2 stars For hardcore fans and to the not so much hardcore following

Yes, Arjen Anthony Lucassen is releasing a new album. The mastermind behind the epic and mind blowing project Ayreon is releasing another album, but this time under hos own name, not under some mysterious intergalactic apocalyptic spaceship alias; no, Lucassen decided to release his newest album, Lost in the New Real as himself. Some may not get it right away, but I smelled something fishy right from that point, right from that little detail: deciding to release Lost under a different name from his already numerous projects.

Well, since when I had fist listened to Into the Electric Castle, some five or six years ago, I have been avidly following Arjen's every step, every new project he's on, every new musical idea he's behind and, believe it or not, I have found out that not every one of his projects and musical ideas are exactly brilliant. Arjen, being the intelligent human being he is, know that as well, which is the reason why he has so many projects: he avoids mixing something that he believes may not have such a great outcome as his well established and well-known creation, the Ayreon alias. Because of that, everything that isn't perfect goes under another name, even though the style isn't a million miles away from Ayreon: he only releases his best and most well-crafted creations under Ayreon, leaving the stuff he isn't so sure of to other projects.

Just take a peak at Star One, Ambeon, Stream of Passion and Guilt Machine: they all have something, some musical feature that his main project, Ayreon, has, but he distilled such characteristics, such musical feature for that project alone, with variable results (some end up being better than others, of course), but all being sub- par when compared to Ayreon.

All that considered, I still managed to convince myself that this time it could be different, that there was a possibility that it could be as good as Guilt Machine, that I could be wrong for another time (as I was with Guilt Machine). Turn out I was not; Lost in the New Real turned out to be exactly what I expected: an underwhelming album. This time, however, it wasn't underwhelming because the music was particularly uninspiring, but because the record is utterly pointless. That is because Arjen chooses to mimic himself here, it seems as if he decides to recycle old ideas he had for Ayreon albums that didn't quite made into any of the records.

It is possible to clearly see, with each passing song, how they are similar to previous albums he released, with more or less similarities to either some Ayreon album in particular or to ideas he fully developed on side projects. The way the album is constructed, however, make the two biggest references the Universal Migrator parts 1 and 2, specially if you consider how Lost and both parts of the Migrator album were constructed. Hell, even the opening and closing tracks here are similar in nature to the opening and closing tracks of Universal Migrator part 1. Another reason as to why I find there are so many similarities between these three albums is that all of them are constructed around individual songs instead of being one big piece of music, as it happens with Electric Castle, Human Equation, 01011001 (Y) and Guilt Machine. In spite of that, you can still notice references to the other albums I just mentioned. It feels as a redux, a revision of all he has done so far

For that reason, I feel that most of Lost in the New Real is forgettable and just don't add to anything you already have if you know this man's work. On the other hand, however, I feel that there is an audience for this album: first (and foremost, I believe), there are the hardcore fans, that will buy ANYTHING Arjen releases, regardless of whatever; second, people that don't know much of his work or don't exactly know their way around his considerable catalog of albums released.

Rating and Final Thoughts

If you, as me, love Arjen's work and have listened to mostly everything he has put out, this will pass as something forgettable (excluding the excellent title track), unnecessary and even tiresome at parts, so great is the similarities with Arjen's other works.

On the other hand, of you don't know much of this great man's work or is too much or a hardcore fan to let this go by, grab this album, you will probably enjoy it very much.

Review by EatThatPhonebook
3 stars 5/10

Lucassen's Lowest Point So Far.

"Lost In The New Real" is a 2012 album by multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen, a.k.a. Ayreon, the name of the project his man has been most successful with. Even though it is the same person writing the songs, the result is no way near as memorable as Ayreon's material, when Arjen was capable of forging landmark Prog Metal albums such as "The Human Equation".

Lightly played Progressive Metal has been Arjen's trademark in his music, and apparently still is: the crunchy, distorted guitars are here, but so are the abundant lead synthesizers that give to the music a strong spacey feel a-la-Star Trek. It is no surprise as a matter of fact that there is a strong Space Opera feel, not only in the album's flow but in the lyrics, which honestly can be either incredibly cheesy or kind of interesting, not really for the quality of the writing itself but the concepts/ideas that Lucassen can come up with. He puts in his stories a little bit of silliness, but for the most part, it ends up not being that entertaining, compared to the lyrics of another Prog Metal classic with a Space Opera concept, Devin Townsend's "Ziltoid The Omniscient".

The songwriting is hit-or-miss, some songs can be quite catchy and memorable, other borderline pathetic in their over-synthetic production and cheesiness. Another big flaw is the various inconsistencies of the album's natural flowing: especially due to the fact that this is a concept album, the result ought to be a coherent piece with a good climactic ending and with a solid succession of songs throughout; instead, a lot of these songs seem to be very loosely connected, especially in the second half of the album; plus, the ending is anti-climactic to the extreme, causing the final moments of the album to sound rushed and destined to end with an abrupt bump the album really doesn't deserve to have.

Lucassen is a great musician and has done some great music in the past, but his subject material was a bit risky, meaning that it could have fallen into full out tackiness, and it never really did. But now, "Lost In The New Real" falls in that ditch, something that had to happen eventually. Hopefully, just a temporary visit down there.

Review by progaardvark
COLLABORATOR Crossover/Symphonic/RPI Teams
3 stars The first thing I will say upfront is: if you love Ayreon and are expecting something in that same vein, you're probably going to be disappointed with this album on some level. That was my case with regard to Lucassen's Lost in the New Real. I guess I should have realized that because it was issued under Lucassen's name instead of under Ayreon. Admittedly so, how can one not compare any project Lucassen writes under with his flagship project? It's inevitable to do so and reviews are subjective and rarely incorporate impartiality.

I love the concept this album covers: a sort of dystopian view of a future human race and it's relationship with technology taken from the viewpoint of someone who was frozen 200 years earlier in order to preserve themselves for a time when technology advanced enough to cure this person's disease. Lyrically, Lucassen does an admirable job putting these concepts together; an area he seems to improve upon with age.

The downside to this album are the compositions themselves. There is very little room for instrumental development and the album comes off as an attempt to cater to the more accessible crowd. Furthermore, the music in many cases sounds like it's following a formulaic approach that Lucassen has successfully developed over the years; sort of like a "connect-the-dots" approach to music composition. It really doesn't seem to say anything new. Basically, the album comes off as a cheap ripoff of the more successful Ayreon project. As usual, it is impeccably produced.

The other downside (and this is even explained in the liner notes), is that the album itself is just the first disc. The second disc contains songs that Lucassen didn't see fit to match in with the concept, but still covers similar subject territories. It should have been labeled as a bonus disc and marketed as such. Without reading the liner notes, one could easily find the whole thing a rather disjointed affair. In addition to what could basically be called an entire disc of filler, Lucassen attempts to make a couple of horrible covers. His version of Pink Floyd's Welcome to the Machine is ridiculous; and of all people, I thought he would be the most capable of pulling off a respectable cover of this song since it has the "machine thumping" aspects already perfected on many Ayreon songs.

A mostly disappointing release. Lyrics and concept alone are worthy of four stars. Music composition is worth two stars, so I'll meet them in the middle and give this three stars. It has it's good moments, but is hardly essential.

Review by Progulator
4 stars Lost in the New Real was quite the surprise when it comes to the music. What perhaps strikes the listener most significantly as different is not so much the arrangements of the instruments (which are very typical Ayreon), but the format of the songs themselves. Mr. Luccassen essentially decided to almost exclusively write in a pop format this time around. I don't say this in order to criticize, as if the word 'pop' were a vulgarity (as it indeed is in the prog world at times), but I honestly think it is the best way to describe many of the songs, at least on the surface level. With the exception of "Lost in the New Real," the songs hold to a verse/chorus format fairly strictly, and the track times are fairly indicative of this phenomenon, with ten out of the fifteen original tracks clocking in between two and a half and four and a half minutes. The majority of the others stretch far outside of those time limits.

On the melodic side, Arjen takes advantage of this to make each track essentially focus on a really catchy chorus. I think out of all the albums I have listened to, this is one of the few good albums where pretty much after one listen virtually every single chorus got stuck in my head. I remember going to bed not being able to sleep because my cranium had "Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin" on an infinite loop. This is both a blessing and a curse, since most of the choruses are extremely happy, bubbly, and silly. Beyond "Pink Beatles" you are sure to note a similar effect from songs such as "Dr. Slumber's Eternity Home." Even the choruses that aren't quite so bubbly are still at the highest level of catchiness and are quite effective. I'm not saying that they are my favorite of Arjen's career, but they are catchy, whimsical, and contain a lot of overall fun.

While the choruses are fun and mostly silly, I would say that I really enjoyed the verses. The melodies are solid and Arjen's voice is wonderful in its own right. For all those Ayreon fans who were missing the superstar singer line-up, I for one thoroughly enjoyed listening to the voice of Mr. L (Mr. Lucassen!) for the entire album. Sure, he's not a tenor, but that doesn't mean he's not good. There's something magical about his singing and it goes perfect with this kind of music, actually much better than would many potential guest vocalists. In fact, rather than going to one singer projects Guilt Machine or Stream of Passion, as he has in the past, I'd like to see him keep going back to himself as a singer. This doesn't mean that I don't want to see another Ayreon album in all of its multiple singer glory, because I eat that up, but Arjen has a very enjoyable and personable sound that goes great, especially with his synth-driven melodic prog like "Lost in the New Real." The true surprise, however, vocally speaking, was "Yellowstone Memorial Day." Wow! I couldn't believe how phenomenal/manly Arjen sounds when he sings low and menacingly like he does on the verses! To sum up my feelings on his singing, I'm glad he took the time to deliver us one album which was full of himself.

Let's talk a bit about the instrument performance and the song arrangements themselves. Honestly, while I was less a fan of the pop format of the songs overall as compared to standard Ayreon fare, I was totally blown away by the arrangements. I want to say that this is the best arranging he's done since the Universal Migrator part 1, which is a huge compliment. The arrangements are exquisitely tasteful and meaningfully varied. Arjen majestically blends arpeggiators, chorusy clean guitars, string instruments, woodwinds, and gorgeous analog synths to produce a sonic tapestry that few are capable of (which shouldn't be news to anyone). From the more synthesizer driven prog arrangements of "The New Real," "Lost in the New Real" and "Don't Switch Me Off" to the bardic strings of "Where Pigs Fly," there's a little bit for everyone (I couldn't help but grin hugely at the woodwinds part following the lines "Jimi played the flute"). The true masterpiece of the album, in my humble opinion, would have to be "Lost in the New Real." It is literally a song that has just about everything I could ever want from Mr. Lucassen: brilliant use of synthesizers and mood, ultra melodic and tasteful guitar solos, nice traditional instruments, great grooves in odd time signatures, beefy guitar tones, great vocals, and finally, a fantastic story and narrative that ends in the absolute coolest way. You all know what I mean. It's that moment when Mr. L realizes that his consciousness is, for lack of better terms, disembodied, and at the moment Arjen's voice itself becomes computerized. This track truly shows what a master Lucassen is at combining music with narrative.

To combine the idea of narrative and music, I would say that the catchy melodies aim at delivering the content of the story in the most transparent way. Herein lays the brilliance and mastery of this album: the ridunkulous, comedic, and unashamed way in which Arjen delivers some very cool sci-fi topics. He talks about a lot of really cool stuff. "Pink Beatles" gives us a fascinating glimpse at the future of things like Pandora radio, where it doesn't just come up with playlists of songs you will probably enjoy based on what it has judged as your tastes, but it actually takes the elements of the varied styles you like, blends them in your brain, and produces real music that you will love. Treatments of many topics push the boundaries of silliness, like "When I'm a Hundred Sixty-Four," which humorously discusses the future of extended life or "Dr. Slumber's Eternity Home" touches on the topic of euthanasia in the most comedic of ways. The totally corny but simultaneously awesome multiple universes of "Where Pigs Fly" delivers some of the funniest and most memorable lyrics on the album, such as "Michael looked like Michael" and "Darth Vader had no son." While not all is meant to be unashamedly cheesy (which I love), there are a few more serious tracks, such as the "New Real" songs and "Don't Switch Me Off," the latter hitting on a common sci-fi theme of machines gaining emotions. All in all, Arjen shows himself to be a king among nerds, a truly masterful GM of prog.

So, how about disc two, the covers, and the tracks that didn't fit into the main storyline? I'm not going to go into very much detail, since I've written so much already. I will say that the covers were well executed, especially Zeppelin's "Battle of Evermore" (although I was a little disappointed with the interpretation of Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine"). As far as the originals, they were solid, just like on the previous disc, especially "Our Imperfect Race," my personal favorite from the second disc. Honestly, they all fit into the story thematically, so they don't just feel like extra. I'll stop there though and let you all explore for yourself.

A quick note on the packaging: Arjen delivers the highest quality digi-books I've ever seen, following the same style as with Guilt Machine and the second Star One offering. In other words, not that garbage that Nuclear Blast puts out. These things are made of thick, solid materials and will last a long time. They are incredibly pleasing to look at and handle. Furthermore, the artwork is genius, the perfect mix of retro, modern, and of course, nerd. Check out the documentary on the artwork, which is pretty cool.

Finally, the experience of Arjen Lucassen's latest "solo album" begs the question that has now been raised by three Progulator staff members; in other words, Mr. Cueva versus myself and Mr. Norgren, the former claiming that we are ignorant, while Mr. Norgren and myself continue to call this an Ayreon album. In Mr. Norgren's own words, "it's sad that Arjen doesn't even realize that this is an Ayreon album." If you look across the Aryeon discography, comparing albums like Actual Fantasy, The Human Equation, The Universal Migrator (Pt. 1), and The Final Experiment, you will see that Ayreon has never really had a particular format; everything goes. All of the influences and styles we see here have already been demonstrated on previous Ayreon works. I would argue that there isn't a single song on here that would seem out of place on an Ayreon album. While certain influences have been highlighted here, and while the frecuency of short song format may be higher here than on other Ayreon albums, the instrumentation and style of the songs is not anything that's not been done on previous Ayreon records. As always, Arjen is combining his various preferred styles in ways that are still fresh, just as he has done album after album. Even the storyline on some Ayreon albums has been far less Ayreon than this. Take The Human Equation, for example, which has a meager tie-in to the Aryeon story arc which is only briefly mentioned as the album closes. On the other hand, here we have a deep link to the story of Mr. L which thoroughly embeds Lost in the New Real thoroughly into the Ayreon universe.

The question of "Ayreon-ness" thus lies only in whether or not one considers the defining aspect of Ayreon to be the element of abundant singers. For some, this may be the issue. For myself, it's not. The specific use of instrumentation, the textures, tones, and melodies are what defines Ayreon for me. This doesn't sound like Star One, Guilt Machine, or Stream of Passion, each which have a distinct sense of texture, tone, instrumentation, and melody. However, this album contains all of those elements in the Ayreon style. This is not to Mr. Lucassen's discredit; all the opposite. I looooooooooooove Ayreon and I would trade an Ayreon sounding album for any of his other bands any day of the week. And thus, my variation on the title would be, "Ayreon: Arjen Anthony Lucassen is Lost in the New Real."

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