Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography



Progressive Metal

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Ayreon The Theory of Everything album cover
4.04 | 665 ratings | 29 reviews | 37% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

Write a review

Buy AYREON Music
from partners
Studio Album, released in 2013

Songs / Tracks Listing

CD 1 (44:58)
- Phase I - Singularity (23:28) :
1. Prologue: The Blackboard
2. The Theory of Everything Part 1
3. Patterns
4. The Prodigy's World
5. The Teacher's Discovery
6. Love and Envy
7. Progressive Waves
8. The Gift
9. The Eleventh Dimension
10. Inertia
11. The Theory of Everything Part 2
- Phase II - Symmetry (21:30) :
12. The Consultation
13. Diagnosis
14. The Argument 1
15. The Rival's Dilemma
16. Surface Tension
17. A Reason to Live
18. Potential
19. Quantum Chaos
20. Dark Medicine
21. Alive!
22. The Prediction

CD 2 (44:55)
- Phase III - Entanglement (22:35) :
1. Fluctuations
2. Transformation
3. Collision
4. Side Effects
5. Frequency Modulation
6. Magnetism
7. Quid Pro Quo
8. String Theory
9. Fortune?
- Phase IV - Unification (22:20) :
10. Mirror of Dreams
11. The Lighthouse
12. The Argument 2
13. The Parting
14. The Visitation
15. The Breakthrough
16. The Note
17. The Uncertainty Principle
18. Dark Energy
19. The Theory of Everything Part 3
20. The Blackboard (reprise)

Total Time 89:53

Line-up / Musicians

- Arjen Lucassen / electric & acoustic guitars, bass, mandolin, analog synthesizers, Hammond, Solina Strings, production & mixing

- Steve Hackett / lead guitar (2:13)
- Rick Wakeman / piano (2), synth solos (13,16)
- Keith Emerson / Modular Moog (7)
- Jordan Rudess / synth solo (7)
- Jeroen Goossens / flute, piccolo, bamboo, bass & contrabass flutes
- Troy Donockley / high & low whistles, uilleann pipes (7,2:6)
- Ben Mathot / violin
- Maaike Peterse / cello
- Michael Mills / Irish bouzouki (2:10)
- Ed Warby / drums, percussion
- Siddharta Barnhoorn / orchestrations

Vocals (and characters) :
- JB (Grand Magus) as The Teacher
- Sara Squadrani (Ancient Bards) as The Girl
- Michael Mills (Toehider) as The Father
- Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) as The Mother
- Tommy Karevik (Kamelot, Seventh Wonder) as The Prodigy
- Marco Hietala (Nightwish, Tarot) as The Rival
- John Wetton (Asia, King Crimson) as The Psychiatrist
- Wilmer Waarbroek / guide & backing vocals

Releases information

Artwork: Jef Bertels

2CD Inside Out - IOMCD 392 (2013, Germany)
2LP+2CD Inside Out Music - IOMSECD 392 (2013, Germany)

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy AYREON The Theory of Everything Music

AYREON The Theory of Everything ratings distribution

(665 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(37%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(35%)
Good, but non-essential (19%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

AYREON The Theory of Everything reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Second Life Syndrome
4 stars The seemingly almighty Arjen Anthony Lucassen has finally released another album from his project, Ayreon. It's been five years or so, and the anticipation seems to have been killing most of the progressive metal crowd. And, why wouldn't it? "The Theory of Everything" is ridiculously star-studded with appearances by Rick Wakeman (YES) and Keith Emerson (ELP), Steve Hackett (Genesis) and John Wetton (Uriah Heep). That is one proggy line-up, but the vocalists are definitely more metal oriented. Ayreon's new album features Marko Hietala (Nightwish), Tommy Karevik (Seveth Wonder/Kamelot), Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil), and JB (Grand Magnus), Michael Mills (Toehider), and Sarah Squadrani (Ancient Bards). That is one killer list of singers, and they really do bring the emotion and expertise. Still, on top of all that, Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) presents an excellent keyboard solo, and Troy Donockley (Nightwish) plays amazing Uillean pipes and flutes. With all of these brilliant musicians on board, "The Theory of Everything" couldn't possibly be a failure.

However, I like to step back and look at things more objectively, especially when you get the feeling that there are just too many excellent musicians colliding here. Lucassen had said that, after the previous Ayreon album, he wanted to reinvent this project. He wanted to change it and create a whole new world. Well, he did just that. This album is still a rock opera, but it is simple. Too simple. When I hear a rock opera, I expect a great story, rife with memorable dialogue and tense drama. "The Theory of Everything" has none of that. I feel that, for the most part, the lyrics are uninspired and even pedestrian at times. They get the story across---barely. This is especially embarrassing as the story is so simple that it could have been written in one sitting. For an album with this title, you would think that we would be exploring some profound universal truths, or at least some philosophical ideas of some sort. Nope. All we get is a story with a plot twist at the end that is so poorly written (incorrect grammar) that the moment was lost on me for a few seconds. Does this mean this album is a disappointment? Not at all.

"The Theory of Everything" shines musically, pure and simple. The passable story is raised up by the incredible musical depth. This album is proggy, but metal. It is folksy, but heavy. Donockley's pipes and flutes really save this album, as they add a personality that would have been sorely missed. That, and the addition of violin and cello, makes for an ethnic metal sound that is hard to beat. Don't get me wrong, though, the input from the other musicians is impressive, too. The keys are sublime, and the riffing metal guitars that appear at points make you stop whatever you are doing and join the groove. I think perfect examples of this are the three parts of "The Theory of Everything", "Quantum Chaos", and "Frequency Modulation". Incredible musicianship and composition are found in these, and nearly every other track. I must also mention "Progressive Waves", as this track contains stunning keyboard work. I think it might be my favorite track.

The vocalists on this album also elevate the lyrical material. Most of the vocals are excellent, but two of the singers stand out for me. First, Tommy Karevik's awesome voice is present, but sadly far too little. I felt cheated at his few lines. There is still a fair amount of his voice, but far less than I was expecting. He is brilliant, and could technically be the best singer in prog today (though far from my favorite). Next, I think the most impressive vocal performance on this album is from Cristina Scabbia. Her heartfelt, emotive vocals are a real treat and completely steal the show.

So, this album feels like a triumph in the end. Not because of the simplistic, seemingly pointless story that is named after the holy grail of all theories (one that would unity all physical laws), but because of the execution of it. Ayreon's new album is nothing short of breath-taking at points, and for those that don't care about story, I could see it topping lists. For those of us that were hoping for something more, it is a slightly flawed, but consistently tremendous musical work.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Ayreon's "The Theory of Everything" is the eighth studio album Dutch songwriter, producer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen. This concept album features as always a cast of many prog legends portraying enigmatic characters that tell a captivating story. This Ayreon project begins a new saga that disregards the science fiction theme of previous albums to embrace a new concept based on a realistic world. According to Lucassen "The Theory of Everything" is "four long tracks divided into various segments", culminating in just under an hour and a half or prog opera theatrics. The segments add up to 42 in total, with Lucassen paying obvious tribute to Douglas Adams' 'Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything' in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" saga.

There are many guest artists to revel in on this album; the vocalists include JB from Grand Magus as The Teacher, Sara Squadrani from Ancient Bards as The Girl, Michael Mills from Toehider as The Father, Cristina Scabbia from Lacuna Coil as The Mother, Tommy Karevik from Kamelot, and Seventh Wonder as The Prodigy, Marco Hietala from Nightwish, and Tarot as The Rival, John Wetton from Asia, UK, King Crimson, Family, and Roxy Music as The Psychiatrist, and Wilmer Waarbroek on backing vocals. The musicians are incredible on this project consisting of the incomparable keyboardists Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson in a powerhouse performance with Jordan Rudess. Genesis guitarist extraordinaire guitarist Steve Hackett makes an appearance. Also on show are Arjen Anthony Lucassen on electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, mandolin, analog synthesizers, Hammond, Solina Strings. He is joined by talented masters Ed Warby on percussion, Troy Donockley from Nightwish on uilleann pipes, whistles, Ben Mathot on violin, Maaike Peterse on cello, Jeroen Goossens on flutes, piccolo, bamboo flute, contrabass flute, Siddharta Barnhoorn on orchestrations and Michael Mills on Irish bouzouki.

Now for the actual contents. It opens with 'Singularity' beginning with soft, minimalist flute and acoustics. A pulsating bassline pumps ominously and then the voices begin. The gorgeous vocals of Cristina Scabbia resonates like an angel; as the Mother she infuses her performance with passion and fire. The Prodigy is the main protagonist, an amazing vocal from Karavik, and Michael Mills is superb as The Father. After a huge conversation about the genius becoming manipulated into a world changing, mind altering mathematical experiment of scientific significance, the music builds into a tense metal riff and soaring synths. At 8:35 there is a violin concerto waltz and this builds to a fantastic guitar solo with delay reverb. There is an atmospheric grinding organ sound and some mechanised effects. The Father sings "down here on my knees, feeling the weight of shame, how could I have done this to you my son, why should I forgive you after all you've done." The Prodigy answers "I was driven and blind, we can still work together if you allow me". The Father retorts "why should I give you a chance why should I trust you now?" The Prodigy replies "if we join our minds then together we can do this, we both want to be the first, we both want to change the world, we can work all night, we can solve this mystery be a part of history".

The chemistry is signified by chemical synth effects. The experiment begins with scientific gobbledygook spouting out like some bad chemistry effect "isolate the gravity, symmetry". 'Progressive Waves' has to be given special mention as it is a huge keyboard solo between Emerson and Rudess; a simply gobsmacking moment of the album. Emerson is brilliant of course and I love to hear his unmistakeable trademark staccato Hammond sound. Rudess on the Continuum is a master in his own right and gets some amazing sounds out of that weird contraption of his. There is a mood change then as the Teacher sings emotionally, "dear friend, my work as done, science had to survive, thank you for your faith." A nice little segment of keyboard The Psychiatrist sings "His mind took flight and his eyes have lost their light, all we have to go on is a note, he changed the world last night working together side by side, his father is the only one who knows". The Mother sings passionately and then an emotive lead guitar break signifies the gravity of the situation as the experiment has gone wrong, entering the eleventh dimension. Some sad violin strains echo the dramatis and then very strong guitar and keyboard melodies join the soundscape. The Girl and The Mother have a duet as they wail over the plight of the Prodigy. A heartbeat bass draws the track to a close and the words "will we ever understand how two different hands styles came to grace this blackboard."

The second epic is 'Symmetry' opening with grand guitar and ethereal pipes until a throbbing synth locks in and some wonderful phased lead guitar motifs. This one has the foreign sound of 'Loser' from "The Human Equation". The deep resonating lyrics tell the tale, "I don't mean to interfere but I see quite a change in you". The tale unfolds where the Teacher implores "We can play a part changing history, our time is near" This is followed by the observations of The Psychiatrist "I have to say it's unusual, such a transformation overnight, I wouldn't have thought it was possible, I don't want to scare you but it can't be right" and the Son replies "A world of endless wonder lies ahead." The synth solo to follow is wonderful sounding very retro and 80s, then an ascending riff of distorted power crunches along till it moves to a fast tempo chugging metal riff. I love this section at 5:10 and the Hammond underneath is nicely placed. A lead guitar solo and Rick Wakeman's keyboard workout follows with grinding organ a constant presence. The aggressive vocals that trade off are so well executed "if you are such a genius it didn't get you very far".

Then the track segues to a droning buzz synth and a slow measured cadence at 7:50. This has a cool spacey sound and then moves into a melodic synth phrase and deep piano tones. The story continues with the regret of the characters shining through "I'm afraid we've got a problem, the side effects have been confirmed, psychosis and delusions, we have to stop the trial today, It's too dangerous, the boy deserves to know what's going on, what have we done?" This section reminds me of another Ayreon project in melody. The lead guitar break is brilliant, followed by more storyline from the Father, an incredible performance by Michael Mills, "I've been giving you a drug, I was convinced that it would help you, can you forgive me what I've done?" There is a nice synth section here that is captivating. Later, the metal riffs thrash along and kick the song up another gear. The Uilleann pipes enter and have a beautiful sound as the Prodigy and The Girl converse about him being able to stay with her. The Mother tries to warn her son with the Father and trade off a segment of arguing about the Prodigy; "He will deceive you, you're being used, don't let him play you, all he wants to do, he wants to be with you". I like the Irish sounding pipes throughout lending a very Celtic vibe and the song transcends into tranquil ambience. At about 17 minutes the music changes gears and the Teacher offers to make a deal, "I am a brilliant chemist, I can replicate your drug but my offer has a price you have to help me," sings Wetton. The Prodigy says count me in, "what do you need from me?" The Teacher explains what he wants. The Hammond grows in intensity as the Mother sings of her pain, pleading for her son to be cautious. An orchestrated passage signifies that the tale is getting darker, and there is a heavy rock guitar-driven section to follow, and the Girl sings "I won't be part of this nightmare, you're out on your own." The Prodigy is left to ponder "what have I done? Now she's gone."

The third multi-movement suite is 'Entanglement', opening with spacey synths, and a deep baritone voice; "do you struggle to adapt, do you feel detached?" The Prodigy answers he feels "like some alien machine, knowing what to feel or what is real". The Girl answers with her beautiful heartfelt tones and the conversation continues with the Psychiatrist; "let's talk about your dreams, can you describe what you feel, do you feel anything at all?" The Prodigy says "I see things that don't belong, there is so much more beyond." A lot of storyline is conveyed by the next sequence; the Mother screams, "I won't let you endanger my child". A cool retro synth workout takes over as a heavy riff cranks along. Michael Mills reaches some incredible high register octaves and then a gorgeous flute solo drifts in. The song becomes very melancholy as the Father whispers hoarsely, "ever since I was a child it all came so easy I never had to try." The violin adds a tone of sadness as the Prodigy pleads to continue with the experiment despite the warnings from his loved ones. The time signature changes to a funky bass and some techno keys that cascade up and down the scale. The lead guitar break is excellent at about 10 minutes and then a heavy rock beat with fast drums and a galloping metal guitar blasts through. Mills screams out as high as he can and then a violin solos over a synth pulse; one of the ambient moments on the album. The poignant lyrics are searching for answers; "Where am I going? How did this happen? My life is unfolding, depressingly average."

I like the time sig and choppy fractured riff as the gorgeous voice of Sara Squadrani chimes in. Some oddly placed violins over a very heavy riff enter and then another techno synth mix like a sequencer is heard, followed by distorted chopped riff and a grand crystal clear synth melody. At 15:30 there is an acoustic sound and this is broken by ultra heavy guitar riffing, an excellent sound, and soon staccato keyboards join. The story continues with "I know why you're here, you're a fellow man of science, our point of view is very much alive." The Prodigy asks to keep it between themselves, as "no one needs to know". The plot thickens and so does the music with layers of guitars and a pulsating synth locks in at 18 minutes. Some wonderful vocals sing "I am so close to the answer but I need your brilliant mind". The track builds to a crescendo as we near the end with grandiose keys, powerful melodies and shimmering Hammond then a final guitar motif. This is a fantastic song full of vibrant energy and incredible vocal performances with accomplished guitar and synth workouts.

The 4th phase opens with waves crashing on a beach and then the deep vocal sings "will we ever get this close again uniting the forces of our universe?" He is answered by Cristina's crystalline tones "it's been too long, I think he's gone." At this point the Hammond enters with a powerful fanfare, and then some delightful electric organ and a grand piano segment. The tale continues as the Prodigy is being immersed in the grand experiment; "Unification of the great and small". The Prodigy says "I just need some more time as the answer is blindingly near." The Girl is worried for his safety and pleads for him to stop. The Son is now confused and is losing touch with reality. An Egyptian sounding melody enters, with some wonderful flourishes on keyboard and Steve Hackett's guitar. Acoustics chime in and the Father's lyrics "is this your work, be honest now, how did you do it, I'm not angry boy, but I really need to know." The Prodigy is sorry but his Rival says he has always been the genius and "he just wants to be like me." This storyline reminds me of the rivalry between those who steal ideas and claim it for themselves seen in many movies.

I like the next section and how the Girl sings "what have you got against him, what did he ever do to you?" The Rival retorts with "I can't believe you're falling for this loser". He says that they should be together and is obviously jealous. At 18 minutes the song culminates in a fiery argument between the main protagonists. The music has reached a crescendo and is nearing the end. A dreamy flute solo and violin serrations are joined by piccolo; some of the most sublime music you are likely to hear. At the end of this I am left just shaking my head in absolute awe at the majesty and beauty of such music; it captures the soul and lifts the spirits.

Overall, this new Ayreon project is a stunning achievement with some unbelievably transcendent musicianship. The vocals are flawless throughout especially Mills, Scabbia and Wetton. It is hard to pick a favourite song as they complete the whole and are inseparable, though CD 2 absolutely shines through as some of the best Ayreon I have heard. To listen to this album in one sitting is one of the more pleasurable musical experiences over recent years. I have loved so much of Ayreon's work over Arjen's long career, and string of masterpieces, and this album is no exception; a masterful musical triumph without a doubt. It grows on my ears on subsequent listens, and especially noticeable are the flute, Uilleann pipes and the keyboard flourishes. The melodies are infectious and begin to grow familiar over a few listens. The storyline is perfect for this project and not as complex as other Ayreon tales. I thoroughly recommend this for all prog addicts; not too heavy, not too light, but perfectly balanced virtuoso musicianship and outstanding vocal performances.

Review by The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I haven't written a review for this website in over 2 years. I wouldn't like to start one after so long for an album that's such a disappointment. But it is sadly the case.

In less than a 2-month period, 3 of the most important progressive rock/metal bands on the planet (and, specifically, on my rock orbit), have released new albums of fully "new" material (more on that qualifier later). Normally, and especially since a couple of years ago, my rather diminished interest in rock in general would have experienced a much needed boost from such a line-up of consecutive releases. And what a list! Here we have the two bands that can be considered "founders" of the whole prog-metal thing, DREAM THEATER and FATES WARNING; and a name that in prog-metal circles commands respect and admiration because of his previous multi-artist conceptual works, Arjen Lucassen, and his main project, AYREON. Three albums by three big names in less than two months, enough to quench any fan's thirst and to rekindle any waning interest in the genre, wouldn't we say?

Reality, though, offered me a much bleaker, desolate picture. Of the three, only one really managed to live up to its name and my expectations: FATES WARNING, a band that was quite the acquired taste when I first heard them long ago, and that still requires some work getting into, but that nevertheless is so evidently full of talent and ideas that it should and will be reviewed somewhere else in a much brighter light. The remaining three? My typical favorites DREAM THEATER, a shadow of their former self (since the days of Scenes from a Memory really), further falling into oblivion with just a few moments and tracks that save them from utter irrelevance, a quintet that seems happy trying to convince fans that they still play it "faster and more technically" than anybody else, something that isn't even true anymore.

The hardest fall of the once mighty is definitely the one taken by the Dutch one-man rock idea called AYREON. Probably (and, maybe in a sad sign of the weaknesses of our genre's most revered "heroes"), precisely because he is the one who actually tried to do more than what he usually does. Curiosity didn't kill the cat in this case: pretentiousness did. The cat tried to be a tiger and ended up drowning in a river of nothingness.

Nothingness. That word defines this new attempt by Mr. Lucassen to submerge us in the oceans of space and time that he has successfully managed to get us into in the past. But while former space odysseys occurred amidst fantastic vistas of the universe and through constellations of stars and actual musical magic, The Theory of Everything seems like the perfect analogy to a trip through the void of outer space, where nothing sticks, nothing sounds, nothing matters.

The main problem with AYREON's new album is that, somehow, Mr. Lucassen seems to have decided to ignore what made his previous albums work. Yes, those were conceptual albums, with entertaining if a little convoluted, but still coherent, stories, with several artists trying to perform some sort of "rock operas" with multiple roles and personnel changes, but at their core, they still were rock (or metal, let's be generic for a second) albums, they still had great songs. Placing any previous AYREON disc on a tray came with a guarantee of at least a few memorable songs and the promise of some really good ones, with the hopeful expectation of at least one or two fantastic tracks per album. The dual album known as The Universal Migrator, AYREON's apex in my opinion, was full of these; the also-dual work Into The Electric Castle didn't trail the former by much; the band's (it really isn't a band but let's call it one for simplicity's sake) original effort, The Final Experiment, was a grower which improved after every listen and that showed its song-writing qualities even from the start; even their most derided album to date, Actual Fantasy, contains many really memorable songs that still speak Mr. Lucassen's favorite language but which are delivered in a very direct approach. Granted, the last two albums, The Human Equation and 01011001, weren't plethoric with memorable songs but without a doubt they showed Mr Lucassen's at his most daring while still maintaining the basic rock/metal allegiance to directness, energy, and accessibility.

He seems to have decided to let that all behind in The Theory of Everything. What he has delivered now is a constant stream of music with no borders, no gravity to speak in space terms, no center to hold it all together and no real direction. The discs are divided in over 20 tracks each, many just existing as an excuse for Mr Lucassen to be able to play all the millions of riffs and combine them with all the millions of effects he had in his mind at least for a few seconds, trying not to waste any single one of them. Sadly, the more of these he uses, the more he is actually wasting them since they become irrelevant tidbits that come and go without leaving any proper impression behind. And what's to be found in-between all these little fragments? Songs totally devoid of any song-like qualities, songs that have no memorable or even discernible choruses, songs that aren't proper songs, songs that also fly in and out of orbit without making the least of impacts in the listener, songs that make no effort in trying to stick in one's mind.

Our good old Mr. Lucassen, obvious fan of Pink Floyd and The Beatles and even Bowie (this last one I mention it by reference), seems to have decided to ignore the quite remarkable rock-song-writing skills of his mentors and tried to deliver some sort of Wagnerian music drama for which his style of music and, apparently, his skills, are quite less than well-suited for. An endless stream of music is beyond Mr Lucassen's rock sensibilities and it shows, even though at moments he actually manages to make some sort of leitmotif (more of a cyclical return in reality) out of the surprisingly good riff that opens the proceedings. Because we can say that much: the album opens with a blast and it really sets our expectations high from the very first bars, sadly only to bring them down to total collapse the longer the disc keeps spinning.

Mr. Lucassen, you have given me some of the greatest moments in the rock/metal side of my musical life, I know it is within you to produce great space-rock anthems that honor your heritage as a disciple of Pink Floyd, and some memorable melodies that speak of your enjoyment of the Liverpool gang. But it would appear to me that you have forgotten that this is rock'n roll (ok, metal) music after all, and it needs to have songs, to have some directness and memorability attached to it. Have you ever been to a jazz or classical music concert? There's zero noise in the audience, people are there only to listen (with the odd society lady always trying to show off her new outrageous dress thrown in the mix for sure). Have you ever been to a rock concert? What you will encounter there is a communal experience of band and audience singing, moving, sometimes dancing, head-banging, destroying things together, in an informal rite that appeals to the need of rock fans to sing their lungs out, to feel the energy in the air, to be reflected in their rock heroes. Rock is about energy. But to do that rock fans need songs, need some sort of tune, need something to remember. I understand that the very structure (or lack thereof) of AYREON as a band renders it the best vehicle for purely static experimentations that don't need audience feedback, yes, AYREON is no live band; but you still are making rock (or metal, whatever), you still depend on a musical language that demands memorability and directness just as a human being needs air to survive. You've never been on the "avant-garde" side of the rock world, and you have proven to be a master at what you do. But now you have gone (or tried to go) too far.

Again, it is curious that of the 4 mighty bands I was talking about at the beginning the one that tried to evolve is the one that most glaringly has failed to do so. Amazingly enough, there have been prog-rock bands that have released no-chorus, no-song endless streams of music with a higher degree of success than AYREON has here, but they started from different places anyway.

The Theory of Everything is thus sort of a theory of nothing. I will recognize the effort and the obvious instrumental talent at display here, and no serious person could give this album one star, because it's still way above that sewer-low level and because it has moments where the brilliance of the individuals (including Mr. Lucassen himself) manages to shine through. But considering the background, the type of experience we are used to with AYREON, the quality of earlier albums, the fall is that much harder.

There's no need to discuss the quality of the lyrics/story. Nobody would ever have bought an AYREON album for the stories only, without some great prog rock/metal music backing them.

This album might be the one where the relative importance of both is at its closest. And that speaks ill for that which we get to experience through the ears. Somebody out there might actually buy this for the story alone.

This mighty deserves a 2.5.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars While I don't find this album to be the masterpiece progressive rock opera that many here have deemed it, "The Theory Of Everything" as a prog album provides the listener with an astounding experience.

And a big surprise is the guest musicians. Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Steve Hackett and John Wetton are here. The last time we had so many veterans of the top 70s prog acts together we ended up with the disappointment called Asia. Arjen Lucassen does a superb job of using their talents not as cheap celebrity cameos but to truly elevate his already splendid music. He even has the audacity to pit Emerson against Jordan Rudess on the track Progressive Waves.

Throughout the album, Lucassen has provided top notch metal tinged symphonic prog that drives his story along. That's where my issues with this album lie. He has created splendid and exciting music, but it is not meant to stand on it's own. It's there as part of the rock opera. Each piece gets into a heavy and exciting groove, but every track is so short that we don't have time to fully enjoy what he has written, and the amazing performances before the music changes completely.

And, unlike many of the great rock operas of the past, "Tommy", "Quadrophenia", "The Lamb Lies Down On Breoadway", and even lesser works like "Snow", Lucassen doesn't tie the work together enough with recurring themes. It often sounds like many short ideas thrown together in a patchwork manner.

Nonetheless, I can't seem to stop listening to this. Another great album in a great year for prog.

Review by admireArt
3 stars This work could easily be reffered as a "Study Guide for the Theory and Practice of the Protocols of Progressive/Rock". It, of course is named " The Theory Of Everything", and somehow, you will listen to almost all of these "tools" of and for composition, in this musical style. To call it only Prog/Metal, will turn out to be unwise, because these "protocols" extend themselves all over the Prog "language". Top of their fields performers, add up for the perfect understanding of this "study guide".

Now up to now things seem okay, BUT throughout the work divided in 4 parts, you will rarely find some kind of personal language, Ayreon's one, I mean. He will deliver tons of references ( from the "Tull" to "the Crimson King" and everything in between), besides the "tones and sounds" of his, very famous colleagues, Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, John Wetton and Steve Hackett, which by the way are TOP players with a very distinguishable "sound", but not exactly top composers. AND this is this project's main flaw. It covers all practical bases, but does NOT offer something NEW to the genre or style, composition wise, besides being a very good work, performance like, that deserves, the now somehow underrated, ***3 PA stars.

In some way the "The Theory of Everything" turn out to be just to be that, "Theory".

Review by kev rowland
4 stars So there I was listening to this album, and I found that I was extremely intrigued by some of the keyboard passages as some of them sounded like Wakeman, but others were a direct Emerson lift, so it got me wondering just who was playing on this. So I investigated and my jaw hit the floor, as not only was Arjen Anthony Lucassen providing some of the keys (it is his concept after all so he can do what he likes), but he had been joined by Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson and Jordan Rudess! Talk about having the heavyweights of the keyboard world involved! To then notice that Steve Hackett was providing the lead guitars was just the icing on the cake, there can't be many times when these guys have all played on the same album. Ayreon has always been renowned for having some of the finest singers involved, and for this one Arjen has restricted himself to just seven, none of whom have previously performed on an Ayreon album. From the symphonic side we have Marko Hietala (Nightwish) and Tommy Karevik (Kamelot), while Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) and JB (Grand Magus) represent the metalheads. There are two relatively unknowns in Michael Mills (Toehider) and Sara Squadrani (Ancient Bards), while the line-up is completed by none other than John Wetton (I haven't got room to list all of the major bands he has been with, so let's just say King Crimson and leave it at that).

No science fiction story here this time, but rather how two parents deal with their savant child and the ramifications of that approach. The double CD set is broken into 42 songs, and is approximately 90 minutes long, and there are some astounding passages of music within this while the vocals are stunning. But, there are times when it doesn't quite come off, and this is mostly when Arjen is trying to force the lyrics to fit in more of the storyline and it is just doesn't seem to scan as well as it should. There also isn't enough melodic repetition of ideas within the whole for it to work seamlessly as a complete piece of music, with many of the songs being very short indeed. While there are times when this is sheer brilliance, I found that when comparing it against Clive Nolan's 'Alchemy' which was also released this year, it doesn't contain the same level of continuity and travel. However, it is still an incredible piece of work and something that I have found myself returning to time and again. I was a little surprised to see that Ian Anderson wasn't involved as Jeroen Goossens has obviously been playing close attention and some of his playing contains exactly the same attack and inflections that one would expect from the master.

Overall this is a big album, with big ideas and a huge sound that is complex and incredibly powerful but somehow just hits short of the masterpiece level. It is still an incredible album all the same.

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I'd be the first to admit I'm usually not the biggest fan of Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Ayreon. The guy himself is an extraordinary talent, but too often for me the project presents the most deadly serious, stuffy, overblown spectacle without a trace of subtlety or sense of humour. The music is overloaded with a paint-by-numbers prog/metal approach, dialed totally up to 11, with an abundance of metal and theatrical kitsch worked in for good measure. Maybe the biggest hurdle for he has always been the over-the-top metal voices, which have never been a favourite type of vocal for me. So long story short, I've found Ayreon more than a little embarrassing.

So imagine my surprise when I found that the latest double album `The Theory of Everything' finally clicked with me. Don't get me wrong, it's still completely full of the above mentioned details, but I think this time I'd been warmed up to the idea by two other works. Earler this year, Clive Nolan's theatrical symphonic masterpiece `Alchemy' was unleashed, my favourite album of 2013, and a little earlier Lucassen's wonderful solo album `Lost in the New Real' truly won me over with it's colour, sense of fun and relaxed vocals from the man himself. Both of those albums seem to have given me an opening to enjoying this one, and although it doesn't reach the same heights for me, it's still impossibly grand and excessive prog music that is extremely satisfying on repeated listens.

A double album on both CD and LP, it's comprised of four 21-plus minute pieces, and although it may look like the Lucaassen equivalent of Yes' `Tales From Topographic Oceans', don't be fooled! It's not exactly the same genre-breaking tour-de-force that album was, but it's still very ambitious, even if it sticks to a similar format and sound that previous Ayreon works offered. The overall concept revolves around a group of individuals involved in the discovery of a complex set of equations with the potential to change the world as we know it, and a web of jealousy, suspect motivations and conflicted intentions unfold throughout the album. Taking in the viewpoint and inner monologue of different characters over a course of multiple time-frames, the story is tensely dramatic, exciting and confronting for the entiretyof the near 90 minute running time.

A frequently orchestral soft metal theatrical symphony might be a quick way to describe all the music here! Some parts of it come awfully chose to the brooding atmosphere of Pink Floyd's `The Wall' and `Welcome To The Machine'. There's brief electronic diversions like late 70's/early 80's Tangerine Dream, many other sections recall prog-metal bands like `Mindcryme'-era Queensryche, but rarely so heavy to ever actually resemble proper heavy metal or overloaded with suffocating technicality. Often the vocal passages have a confident and pleasing AOR smoothness, even recalling the sophistication of the Alan Parsons Project. The instrumental sections offer a truly wordly adventure, with numerous grand orchestral flourishes that incorporate a range of Celtic and even middle eastern themes, and the aggressive darting flute and violin almost aligns the music with the classic Italian bands. Other terrific reviewers on the Prog Archives go into greater track specifics, as well as the concept in better detail, so I'll leave that up to their superior descriptions.

Lucassen has the pull to ask for contributions from a number of legendary progressive musicians for this work. Rick Wakeman offers some lovely piano and Mini Moog solos (honestly, the guy is really in his element here!), Keith Emerson has a brief Modular Moog run, Jordan Rudess a synthesizer passage, Troy Donockley brings classy pipes and whistles, and Steve Hackett unleashes a ripping guitar solo near the end of the second disc. But special mention must go to UK/Asia/King Crimson maestro John Wetton's marvellous vocal contribution. Sounding better than ever, the guy must surely be on something of a roll after his memorable appearance on District 97's recent `The Trouble With Machines'. The high quality of the main vocals are performed by a number of vocalists more aligned with the metal end of music from bands such as Nightwish and Lacuna Coil, I'm sure many listeners will be more familiar with them than I am, but they are all excellent here and more than up to the task of conveying the story and it's different characters.

But as much of a selling point the legends of the genre here will be to some listeners, it's actually the core line-up of players that make the most impact. Ben Mathot's violin, Maaike Peterse's cello and Jereon Goossens' flute/other wind instruments positively dominate, their dazzling playing covering almost the entire show. Same too for Siddharta Barnhoorn's lush and sweeping orchestration, Ed Warby's subtly complex drumming, and of course Arjen himself is an effortless master of numerous instruments, his searing guitar solos, thick atmospheric bass and keyboard washes are all over the album. It's these musicians who should especially be praised and not have their achievements ignored compared to the more famous names present.

Although I probably prefer his lighter solo album `Lost in the New Real' over this (and I'm looking forward to the eventual follow-up!), there's no denying Lucassen is worthy of the status he has in the prog industry. His work with Ayreon is pure heavy concept and big spectacle, everything so painfully and carefully constructed, expertly performed and arranged, and he more or less shares the same kind of ludicrous, bombastic approach that made Rick Wakeman so (in)famous in the Seventies. None of what I said is actually an insult, it's simply giving him credit for a type of prog rock that thrills a great many listeners, who cherish and welcome a new Ayreon album as a truly special event.

Four stars.

Review by J-Man
5 stars Like most of Arjen Lucassen's bombastic metal operas released under the Ayreon monicker, The Theory of Everything had quite a few heads turning before it even hit shelves in late 2013. A list of guest musicians that includes seventies' prog legends like Steve Hackett, John Wetton, Keith Emerson, and Rick Wakeman is sure to grab enough attention, but when one also considers the presence of musicians from Nightwish, Dream Theater, Kamelot, Lacuna Coil, Grand Magus, and many others, it's crystal-clear why so many folks had high hopes for The Theory of Everything. Fortunately, Ayreon's eighth observation lives up to, and even exceeds, these expectations. A breathtaking conceptual masterpiece that easily ranks up there with Lucassen's finest, The Theory of Everything is sure to top plenty of "best-of" lists as the year comes to a close.

For those familiar with Ayreon's previous outings, this one doesn't change things up too much - like most of the other releases, The Theory of Everything is a double concept album that tells a detailed story through the lens of progressive metal music, although there are still a few notable changes. This album feels much more like a single piece of continuous music than other Ayreon albums, largely due to the fact that it is split into four large "phases" rather than individual songs. There are also a number of repeated themes and motifs throughout The Theory of Everything, and although other Ayreon albums featured recurring ideas, this one feels even more unified than Lucassen's previous masterworks.

The Theory of Everything is the sort of record that has grabbed me in a way that very few releases manage to - in addition to feeling memorable after only a couple spins, the music here is detailed enough to make every subsequent listen feel even more rewarding. Lucassen's bombastic approach to songwriting and arrangement has always sounded genuine to my ears, and although some folks will still find Ayreon to be too overblown for its own good, this album is a captivating delight for all fans of epic progressive metal operas. As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't get much better than The Theory of Everything!

Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'The Theory of Everything' - Ayreon (8/10)

Back in 2008 when Ayreon released 01011001, I was taken aback by some of the criticism it received. Although there were those that still applauded Arjen Lucassen's bombast and ambitious scope, many more seemed to discredit the album for what interpreted as an overly familiar approach. Though my opinion doesn't appear to be shared by many others, I thought (and still think) that 01011001 was a masterpiece, a natural culmination to the composer's metal opera cycle. Even so, Arjen's decision to start fresh with a new saga only fuelled my anticipation for The Theory of Everything. Arjen's familiar eclecticism remains, but this latest double-disc opus makes it abundantly clear that we've set foot in a new era for Ayreon. Though this artistic rejuvenation is welcome (and some might say necessary), this latest installment in Ayreon's proud catalogue feels scaled back when compared to the last two masterpieces. Though it doesn't compare favourably to Arjen's best work, The Theory of Everything is a strong foundation for a new progressive metal saga, and I'm interested in see where he'll take it next.

Outside of the atrociously disappointing Dream Theater and the latest instant classic from Haken, The Theory of Everything sparked my anticipation moreso than any prog record released in the past year. Admittedly upon first sitting down to listen to the album in its entirety, I met Ayreon's latest opus with disappointment. Not only did it feature the least impressive cast of vocalists since Actual Fantasy, it had also exchanged satisfying song structures for an onslaught of bite-sized segments, tied together with some semblance of an epic. Though my biggest gripes with The Theory of Everything have remained in part, appreciation grew with the dawning realization that Arjen had taken the risk of making a fresh start. Experienced on its own, The Theory of Everything reveals itself as a treasure trove of compelling musical ideas and passages, even if Arjen's pieced them all together a little awkwardly.

I've seen many people liken The Theory of Everything structurally to Yes' infamous (and equally brilliant) "Tales from Topographic Oceans"; a double album that consisted of four twenty-odd minute compositions. Although Arjen has broken this 42-track spectacle into four 'phases' (or sides), the tracks often feel like self-contained miniature ideas rather than pieces of an 'epic' whole. In bold rock operatic fashion, The Theory of Everything moves away from regular song structures in exchange for a more spontaneous theatrical flow. There is some clever use of recurring motifs sprinkled throughout the album, but for the most part, the musical ideas feel structured episodically. Although the 'phases' begin and end with important plot points relating to the album's concept, The Theory of Everything can feel pretty incoherent if listened to as a collection of four epics. Although I would have easily preferred more concise and focused compositions in the vein of 01011001 or Into the Electric Castle, repeated listens to the album do give the impression that the sheer quality of the ideas individually more than makes up for the perceived lack of conventional structure.

As for these ideas themselves, Arjen has once again outdone himself. Where other aspects of the album may suffer, the segments themselves sound as excellent and as epic as anything in the band's catalogue. There is a greater instrumental emphasis here than on albums past, and each of the four sides are home to epic segments. Ayreon's traditional fusion of traditional progressive metal, electronic, folk and classical music really shines here, and though The Theory of Everything is almost twice the length of your average album, the eclectic approach to instrumentation and style feels consistently fresh and engaging. When compared to past Ayreon albums, The Theory of Everything sounds a little more vintage, more reserved and indeed, less 'metal'. A few rhythmic eruptions like "Quantum Chaos" still earn the album a metal label, but I get the strong impression here that the second saga of Ayreon will see the project cater even more to its prog-based fans.

Hearing about the new cast of vocalists has always been the most exciting part of a new Ayreon album for me. In the past, Arjen Lucassen has had a fantastic taste in the voices he chooses for the characters, 01011001 had two of my favourite vocalists (Daniel Gildenlow of Pain of Salvation and Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian) on it, and The Human Equation featured contributions from Devin Townsend... bloody Devin Townsend! By contrast, The Theory of Everything's offering of vocalists from Lacuna Coil, Ancient Bards, Asia and Nightwish feels surprisingly weak in comparison. While it's still puzzling to see such a lack of prog and metal star power working with Ayreon this time around, the vocal performances are very good, if not excellent. Tommy Karevik (the latest singer of Kamelot) is chosen perfectly for the role of the opera's protagonist, and Grand Magus frontman Janne Christoffersson gives an excellence performance here as well, offering his voice for the role of the 'Teacher'. Otherwise, the vocals here aren't quite as dazzling as I thought they'd be, and I think I'll always bit a little disappointed that The Theory of Everything doesn't feature a more distinguished cast of guests.

Although the vocalists may not have been as dazzling as expected, Arjen makes up for it with an incredible cast of guest instrumentalists from across the prog spectrum. Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess and prog wizard Keith Emerson both stand out for their respective solos on "Progressive Waves". Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman and classic Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett are also featured. This emphasis on classic prog icons for guest appearances, paired with the more reserved musical style are both redolent of Arjen's intention on reinventing Ayreon with this album. Although some things have certainly changed, expert musicianship and stellar production standards remain Ayreon's signature. Although Arjen is prone to use disparate elements like folk and electronica in the same musical phrase, it's blended together brilliantly, and never feels forced, as often seems to be the case with many genre-bending proggers.

The Theory of Everything marks the first time since Actual Fantasy (in 1996) where an Ayreon album hasn't contributed to the overarching Ayreon concept mythology in some way. As 01011001 and the "Timeline" compilation released shortly thereafter made for a satisfying conclusion to Arjen's sci-fi epic, it's exciting to see the man moving onto a new saga. This time around, Arjen has chosen to step away from the overt science-fiction and fantasy tropes, instead choosing to build the story around psychologically believable characters and interpersonal drama. This approach has worked wonders for Ayreon in the past; his magnum opus The Human Equation made for compelling psychodrama in the purest sense, involving a protagonist interacting with personified manifestations of his emotions. In addition to its fascinating high concept, Arjen imbued the plot and characters with a surprising amount of depth for a rock opera. Although The Theory of Everything isn't as interesting a concept as The Human Equation, its story- pertaining to the struggles and moral dilemmas surrounding a mathematical genius- offers plenty of room for Arjen to explore much of the same psychology and relationships. Many tropes on The Human Equation are found again here: the neglectful father, the morally tainted protagonist, the concerned romantic interest. Although The Theory of Everything doesn't offer nearly as engaging of a plot, the psychological depth is once again striking. Each character is fuelled with their own distinct opinions and motivations, and no action within the story is without conflicting moral viewpoints for and against it. With that being said, it's not as compelling of a story as I would have hoped to hear on an Ayreon album. Although the story's potentially paranormal epilogue leaves me excited for where Arjen might take this saga next, the story seems to plod along at times, defaulting on praise or criticism of its hesitant protagonist. To those detractors that have long condemned Arjen's often complex sci-fi creations however, The Theory of Everything's more human approach might come as a welcome change of pace.

It's certainly not a perfect album, and not the masterpiece I was hoping to hear from Ayreon, but The Theory of Everything sounds rich and multilayered in spite of its weaknesses. Although a less impressive set of vocalists and convoluted album structure make for glaring issues, there are so many brilliant moments here that deserve to be heard by any self-respecting fan of modern prog. In spite of Arjen Lucassen's apparent intent to renovate his style, I don't imagine existing detractors of his work will be converted to the man's legion of rabid followers. Likewise, if you've enjoyed Ayreon in the past, the weaknesses here won't otherwise impede enjoyment of the experience. Ayreon has delivered a complex, bombastic, no-holds-barred progressive rock epic with The Theory of Everything, but then again, we wouldn't have expected any less of him anyways.

Review by GruvanDahlman
4 stars Pretentious. Pompous. Overblown. Selfindulgent. Preposterous.

Well, those are just some of the words that comes to mind. And the words are kind. I mean them from the bottom of my heart and with the deepest admiration and love. I mean them as a token of appreciation, as words of praise, because aren't those words some of the most plain speaking when it comes to prog. For people outside the circle it may seem meant to put people off and words to describe the ludicrous excesses of the genre. Not for me. To me the words are the complete opposite and describes the very soul of the music known as progressive music.

I have listened to Ayreon before but I have never really got the hang of it. Sure, it is well played and extremely well composed but it has for me, historically, lacked the pieces that make me cry out in pure bliss. Until now. Ayreons latest album is a tour de force, an epic masterpiece of grandure and grace. I love it because of the words I started the review with and I love it because of the commitment and love to the genre that the music portrays. I love the music because it is contemporary still displaying all the classic elements of prog, mirroring the past as it glides into the present and (hopefully) the future. The elements are plain for anyone who listens. You find classical, folk, hard rock (or metal, if you wish) and everything in between. There's the wonder of the flute and the majestic organ of Rick Wakeman. Actually, I will refrain from namedropping since all participants are outstandingly on key every singe second of the album's entirety.

Though one might think that the four principal parts of the album, stretching over two discs, might be a little overbearing, you will soon find yourself heading down the highway, straight into a mindblowing opera of progressive greatness. The first part is stunning and is followed by equally impressive music in the final three. A vast array of musical emotions and styles are displayed with the recurring themes of the album ever present. It is wonderful and if you at all are drawn to the hard rock side of prog (some will call it metal and mayber they are right, I am just not that at peace with the term) you will probably find a lot to cherish here. Give it a go. I dare say you will not regret it.

Pretentious. Pompous. Overblown. Selfindulgent. Preposterous.

Yes it is and I love it.

Review by Progulator
5 stars It's been five years since the release of the last Ayreon album, 01011001, although Arjen Lucassen certainly didn't slow down after that. Even though there has been hot debate by our Progulator staff as to whether his solo album Lost in the New Real was actually an Ayreon record or not, I suppose the recent release of The Theory of Everything might settle that battle with it's return to full on Ayreon glory, replete with huge numbers of guests despite the fact that Arjen has stated that he was scaling down; and indeed he has, going from around 17 singers on his 2008 album to only (ONLY) ten on this one. For a man such as Arjen Anthony Lucassen, it seems that the bar is always set high, and Mr. L definitely set out to one-up himself on his latest effort. If an Ayreon record was ever over the top, The Theory of Everything certainly is that album.

Arjen's latest record sets off to do rock opera differently than ever before, focusing musically on the big picture, making long-form musical statements from small interconnected movements that present the development of scenes and set the stage for vocalist interactions rather than focusing on the traditional method of verse/chorus; in fact, there is hardly any verse/chorus here at all, which may make it difficult for the more pop-prog oriented fans at first, but in the end provides a more confident seat from which to view the work as a whole. Some may disagree, but in my opinion, while Arjen has always made fantastic rock operas, The Theory of Everything feels like Ayreon's first true rock opera (with the possible exception of Into the Electric Castle) whereas most of Arjen's albums, although presenting an interconnected story, felt more like concept records with songs that could could easily be taken out of their environment and stand on their own. On The Theory of Everything we essentially get four songs of 20+ minutes each, a true prog lover's dream come true.

What caught my attention, however, is the manner in which the pieces unfold; while each track feels contained to a certain extent and presents musical ideas in its own way, there is a strong sense of continuity and non-interruption between songs that makes it very easy to visualize singers moving seamlessly on and off stage and interacting as the story progresses. The bigger gaps between the four pieces give a strong sense of set-changes on stage, the change of discs occurs in the perfect spot in the story for an 'intermission' between acts, while the use of leitmotif within each longer piece and across all four songs is the glue that holds it all together. Although this is very different than what Arjen has done in the past, he pulls off the format nicely; in fact, I would go as far as to say that this sort of format is allowing Arjen to show the most mature compositional abilities of his career, and that is saying quite a lot indeed.

As for the guest singers, what can I say? They're amazing. We see Cristina Scabbia and Marco Hietala offering what I would consider the best performances of their careers; Arjen certainly has a knack for sucking out every ounce of wonderfulness out of these vocalists. Take Marco's performance on "The Rival's Dilemma" for example, where we hear the wonderful low range of the Finnish vocalist's voice that is seldom heard in his other projects, as well as his level of theatricality and expression taken to new heights, which is further exemplified in "Quid Pro Quo," one of the major turning points of the story. Song like "Side Effects" and "The Consultation" feature brilliant performances by John Wetton (ex-King Crimson, UK) where John capitalizes on restraint matched with dynamism, perfectly exemplifying the professionalism required of the role of psychologist, making him the most convincing of all the character roles. And of course, what more can we say about Tommy Karevik (Kamelot, Seventh Wonder)? Like always, his performances range from virtuosic in his use of ad libs on "The Prodigy's World" to heart melting passion as he reject's his father on "Frequency" and later embraces their relationship just before death on "The Note." To put in a plug on the latter piece, Arjen's choice of gritty Hammond with expert control of undulating Leslie rotors makes for a simple, intimate, and powerful choice of instrumentation to back up Tommy's perfect voice.

On the instrumental side we see some huge waves as well. As always, Arjen shows himself as a compositional master on all instruments prog, as well as a formidable player with the ability to always find the perfect note, whether that's on his Gilmour-esque guitar solos or methodical keyboard work, always knowing when the perfect moment to bring in Hammonds, old school string machines, or diverse uses of the Minimoog; while you can always tell where the influences are, the way he incorporates, mixes, matches, and blends a plethora of styles is always distinctively Arjen in the best of ways. Of course, for many fans, particularly those of classic prog, the appearance of legendary icons such as Steve Hackett, Keith Emerson, and Rick Wakeman is the icing on the cake. In most regards, I'd say they lived up to their fame, although I felt that Emerson's solo on "Progressive Waves" could have been so much more. On the other hand, Rick Wakeman's classic Minimoog performances on "Diagnosis" and "Surface Tension" displayed the perfect balance between free soloing and a committed musicality which the piece demands. Hackett's modal soloing on "The Parting" also doesn't disappoint, showing a delicate but improvised sense of phrasing that is recognizeable from the definitive Genesis guitarist. Of course the individual performances are well done, how could they not be when you bring in this caliber of musicians? That said, it isn't the appearance of big names that makes this album great. Their appearance is a nice touch, a sort of linking chain in the history of prog, uniting the past with the present, but it is Lucassen's music and direction that drive The Theory of Everything.

As an entire rock opera, the flow is a rollercoaster of styles, moods and dynamics. Arjen delivers everything here, starting from his Jethro Tull-esque introduction of the main theme, employing doubled Hammond and flute, to it's powerful strings repetition of this theme in the closer, "The Theory of Everything part 3." Hang on to your seat belts, because in between there's about everything under the sun. We witness the John Wetton pieces being heavily dominated by electronics and arpeggiators, while "Alive!" gives us some 80′s pop rock to the tune of Michael Mill's vocals soaring into orbit. "Magnetism" nails down that strong Celtic vibe, masterfully augmented by the playing of Troy Donockley, and "The Breakthrough" gives us a sort of boogie with loads of vocal tradeoffs and the implemenation of some familiar themes from the work. Of course, there's the heavy parts, such as "Quantum Chaos," with its POWERFUL chugging guitars behind arpeggiators and sandwiching sections of sci-fi film-score-like melodic moments. And if there's anything Arjen uses to perfection, it's that Hammond, just about everywhere on the record.

Coming in late in the year, it's hard to ask myself how does The Theory of Everything hold up against the best records of the year. Well, it's a bit to early to be making decisions for the 2014 Proggies, but I most certainly have no reservations when I say that Ayreon has delivered a record that is hard to match in quality and scope. In 2013 there are very few artists that are attempting to do something this ambitious; I must say that in that way this record serves as a sort of generational benchmark, a reminder that 1973 isn't the only place where we can look for rock albums that are over the top, nerdy, and most importantly, enjoyable.

Review by VianaProghead
5 stars Review Nº 491

"The Theory Of Everything" is the ninth studio album of Ayreon, the musical project by the Dutch songwriter, producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen and was released in 2013. As happened with all Ayreon's albums, this is also a conceptual album with each character being portrayed by only one singer. However, being released five years after "01011001" which concluded the original Ayreon's concept story, "The Theory Of Everything" is the start of a new storyline for this project. Unlike their previous albums which took place in a sci-fi context, with the notable exception of "The Human Equation", which takes place in a man's mind, this is a story in the real world, indeed.

Unlike in all previous cases, in "The Theory Of Everything" Lucassen composed all the music and co-wrote all the lyrics with his girl friend Lori Linstruth, making of this his first Ayreon's album in which he shares lyrics credits in all songs.

The concept of the story in "The Theory Of Everything" is a drama about "The Prodigy", characterized by Tommy Karevika from Kamelot and Seventh Wonder, a brilliant mathematician with mental disabilities in the style of the film "Rain Man", whose talents other characters want to use for them and in the style of another film "A Beautiful Mind". Arjen pointed out these films as an inspiration to the story of the album. As all we know, the story has always been an essential element on all Ayreon's albums as an important part of the whole piece. If we compare this album with his previous sci- fi stories, this one is more dramatic and brings a higher dose of seriousness in Ayreon's magnum opus.

The line up on "The Theory Of Everything" is divided into vocalists and instrumentalists. The vocalists are: JB as "The Teacher", Sara Squadrani as "The Girl", Michael Mills as "The Father", Cristina Scabbia as "The Mother", Tommy Karevik as "The Prodigy", Marco Hietala as "The Rival", John Wetton as "The Psychiatrist" and Wilmer Waarbroek is on the backing vocals. The instrumentalists are: Arjen Anthony Lucassen (electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, mandolin, analog synthesizers, Hammond and Solina strings), Ed Warby (drums and percussion), Steve Hackett (guitar), Rick Wakeman (synthesizer and piano), Keith Emerson (synthesizer), Jordan Rudess (synthesizer), Troy Donockley (Uilleann pipes and whistles), Ben Mathot (violin), Maaike Peterse (cello), Michael Mills (Irish bouzouki), Jeroen Goossens (bass flute, bamboo flute, contrabass flute and piccolo) and Siddharta Barnhoorn (orchestrations).

"The Theory Of Everything" has four lengthy tracks divided into various segments, with each track longer than twenty minutes for a total of almost one hour and a half of music. Thanks to smooth transitions the division by the segments is imperceptible. On the album there are no classical preludes, intros, chorus, guitar solos or repetition choruses. Each of the segments is one scene in the story and its melody, style and length are determined by the events and characters in the scene. So, "The Theory Of Everything" must be heard from the beginning to the end, without shuffle or repeat options. Not that the individual segments don't sound good out of the musical context, but "The Theory Of Everything" must be heard entirely, as an opera, because each segment heard outside of the context have a lighter weight, really. There's a great instrumental emphasis here than on albums past, and each of the four sides are home to epic segments. Ayreon's traditional fusion of traditional progressive metal, electronic, folk and classical music really shines here, and though the album is almost twice the length of usual albums. The eclectic approach is consistent, fresh and engaging.

Hearing about the new cast of vocalists has always been the most exciting part of a new Ayreon's album, for me. In the past, Arjen Lucassen has had a fantastic taste in the voices he chooses for the characters. This time, despite the unquestionable quality performance of all, the names aren't as famous as before. Although the vocalists may not have been as dazzling as expected, Arjen makes up for it with an incredible cast of guest instrumentalists from across the prog spectrum. Dream Theater's keyboardist Jordan Rudess and prog wizard Keith Emerson both stand out for their respective solos, not forgetting the presence of Yes' keyboardist Rick Wakeman and Genesis' guitarist Steve Hackett.

Conclusion: "The Theory Of Everything" is an excellent album, extremely fluid, a total breath of fresh air in Ayreon's career. Everything is in top form and luckily it leaves the door open for more to happen in Ayreon's universe. Compared with the other Ayreon's albums, "The Theory Of Everything" is, probably, more progressive and more symphonic with the keyboards dominating over the guitars, turning the album less metal. I never ceased to be amazed by the quality, invention and sheer boldness of Arjen's on Ayreon's project. So, don't be fooled by the list of forty-two tracks. There's a cohesion that binds the album into an impressive and digestible whole. Despite we didn't hear anything new, here we have an incredible talented playing and amazing writing. The artwork is consistent, as usual. The album offers a great buffet with dramatic vocal performances telling a complex story in the rock opera format with a brilliant musicianship.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Latest members reviews

4 stars I used to be very fond of this double album when it was released because of the line-up, music and the length. As time progressed, my opinion has deteriorated someway. 90 minutes is very long to stay focused to an album unless it is very good and cohesive. There is a lot of professionalism in i ... (read more)

Report this review (#2271314) | Posted by sgtpepper | Saturday, October 19, 2019 | Review Permanlink

4 stars After an absence of five years, Arjen Anthony Lucassen decided to bring back his Ayreon project. But where to go this time? Ayreon was originally a character in Arjens previously 6 part space opera (7 if Actual Fantasy is included, the only non-concept Ayreon album), and that story has concluded ... (read more)

Report this review (#1440189) | Posted by Elsteven0 | Monday, July 13, 2015 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 've often wondered, for as brilliant as Porcupine Tree is/was, what their effective influence on progressive metal was. Certain aspects, like the profound emotional impact of Fear Of A Blank Planet really defy imitation, but then there's stuff like The Incident, which was pretty radical, but u ... (read more)

Report this review (#1211398) | Posted by Daggor | Friday, July 11, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars AYREON The Theory Of Everything: 9,5/10 Appreciate so much Arjen's messages on the titles of its musical great works: here "The Theory Of Everything" displays musically what he means for it...a full-optionals prig-rock opus, or opera. When reading first reviews I was perplexed about the fragmen ... (read more)

Report this review (#1105309) | Posted by ingmin68 | Thursday, January 2, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars 10/10 I have to admit : I'm terribly addicted to this album. In a year which, in my opinion, is the best prog year of recent times, Ayreon gained its place in the heart with me with their most bold new work , " The Theory of Everything " . I confess that no other album released in 2013 had ... (read more)

Report this review (#1098551) | Posted by voliveira | Tuesday, December 24, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Having loved Ayreon's last album, I was so excited to hear that Arjen had decided to get this project off the ground again. Not sure whether this was due to his failed projects Guilt Machine and his first solo album, but whatever...I am so glad to see him get this project off the ground again. ... (read more)

Report this review (#1097941) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Monday, December 23, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars An ambitious title and album, AYREON has yet again produced another rock opera masterpiece. After five years since the release of "01011001", the creative genius Arjen Lucassen and the amazing line-up of talented musicians created one of AYREON's best efforts yet: "The Theory of Everything". I ... (read more)

Report this review (#1077920) | Posted by SevDawg | Saturday, November 16, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars When I was reading about this record I got interested because the project seems to be so huge. Four gigantic pieces of music in length and an honerable list of people, among the best in the history of prog is facts hard to neglect. Ayreon is the project of Arjen Lucassen, a competent Dutch mus ... (read more)

Report this review (#1074143) | Posted by DrömmarenAdrian | Friday, November 8, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars In the 'making of' CD, Lucassen says his goal was to make a musical journey akin to those he listened to as a kid. Having listened to the whole album multiple times, I think it's fair to say he achieved this goal. The album is not only musically superb, with many amazing solos, instrumentals a ... (read more)

Report this review (#1073762) | Posted by reelin123 | Thursday, November 7, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I don't tend to write reviews here, but as other reviewers noted, this case requires it. There is no need to review the artistic size of the album. With the cast that Arjen collected, the performance of all vocals and instruments was bound to be virtuoso. There was no other option. I mean.. w ... (read more)

Report this review (#1073704) | Posted by Gendalfas | Thursday, November 7, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars "Genius". "Masterpiece". These two words get thrown around constantly on internet forums and in discussions about Ayreon's albums. This album is no different, but for anybody who doesn't know, here's a little back story... Ayreon is the creation of Dutch multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen, w ... (read more)

Report this review (#1073028) | Posted by Something_Wicked | Wednesday, November 6, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is the first time I write a review of an album , and what better to write about Ayreon and " The Theory of Everything " I not compare this work with previous work of Lucassen , each has qualities and innovations that stand by themselves , which are unique and unrepeatable . The Theory of ... (read more)

Report this review (#1071977) | Posted by Rossanbach | Monday, November 4, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars One of the most anticipated releases of the year is finally here, and despite the enormous pressure of living up to its expectations, considering the legendary status of many of the guest artists, it didn't dissapoint me at all. As a matter of fact, Arjen Anthony Lucassen has produced a master ... (read more)

Report this review (#1069610) | Posted by eddiefang | Thursday, October 31, 2013 | Review Permanlink

1 stars This is the most useless piece of garbage ever produced in the name of prog. No, really. No new material. The same old Ayreon songs over and over again for another one and half hours. If you listened to any other album by Ayreon, consider yourself listened to this one as well. Even Manowar ... (read more)

Report this review (#1068641) | Posted by minikbalina | Tuesday, October 29, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Arjen Anthony Lucassen is surely one of the most able composers and multi-instrumentalists out there. He managed to create at least a couple of very good albums and one masterpiece (The Human Equation), so everyone was very excited about this one. The Theory of Everything is conceptually speak ... (read more)

Report this review (#1062688) | Posted by Mattone | Saturday, October 19, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Arjen Lucassen has achieved something special with this one... With the incredibly large buildup to this album, one would normally expect it to crumble under its own weight and hype. Fortunately, "The Theory Of Everything" is one of those rare cases where the end result actually lives up to t ... (read more)

Report this review (#1061655) | Posted by Shuriken95 | Friday, October 18, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Well another bombastic opera rock by Arjen L. This guy is a genius. How can he combine complexity of themes ,complex ideas with the right song for everyone. So inspired compositions .,so inspired arrangements ..well it took 5,5 years to have this work of art . The right singers,the ri ... (read more)

Report this review (#1060782) | Posted by robbob | Wednesday, October 16, 2013 | Review Permanlink

Post a review of AYREON "The Theory of Everything"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.