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AYREON

Progressive Metal • Netherlands


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Ayreon biography
AYREON is the vision of Dutch multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony LUCASSEN (ex-VENGEANCE). He formed AYREON around 1994 from the need to create rock operas. His music can be broadly categorised as progressive metal but with themes that range from electronica to folk, symphonic prog and space rock. Lyrically, the stories tend to evolve around fantasy, sci-fi or human emotion. The rock operas tend to involve a series of characters, often represented by a different vocalist and a plethora of session musicians, although LUCASSEN tends to cover the majority of instruments.

AYREON's debut album, ''The Final Experiment'' was released in 1995 through Transmission label, initially as ''Ayreon: The Final Experiment'' with no specific band name. ''Actual Fantasy'' followed in 1996, an album with no specific storyline but a generic concept around fantasy. In 1998, ''Into the Electric Castle'' was released; a double-CD featuring a continuous story of invented characters of different historical eras, with the use of analog equipment giving a vintage feeling. Notable contributions are those of FISH (ex-MARILLION) and Anneke van GIERSBERGEN (ex-THE GATHERING) on vocal sections. The year 2000 saw the release of another double album, ''Universal Migrator'', yet sold independently as ''Part I: The Dream Sequencer'' and ''Part 2: Flight of the Migrator''. Part I focuses on more melodic atmospheres with plenty of electronic passages whereas Part II exhibits more aggressive patterns, closer to classic progressive metal. More guest appearances feature here with highlights including Johan ENGLUND (TIAMAT), Bruce DICKINSON (IRON MAIDEN) and Russell ALLEN (SYMPHONY-X). The same year also saw the release of ''Ayreonauts Only'', a collection of Arjen's previously unreleased tracks.

The departure from Transmission and signing with InsideOut Records was followed by the release of AYREON's 6th and most famous album to date, ''The Human Equation'' in 2004. With the exception of Ed WARBY (drums) who has been with Arjen since 1998, the musicians chosen for this album had never appeared in previous albums. Contrary to previous releases, this album deals with human emotion, including guest appearances from the elite of progressive rock and metal: James LaBrie (DREAM THEATER), Mikael AKERFELDT (OPETH), Devon GRAVES (PSYCHOTIC WALTZ) and Ken HENSLEY (ex-URIAH HEEP) among other big names. InsideOut also re-issued all previous AYREON albums in special editions. The sci-fi concept r...
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The Human Equation [Regular Edition]The Human Equation [Regular Edition]
Inside Out U.S. 2004
Audio CD$8.96
$6.76 (used)
Into the Electric CastleInto the Electric Castle
Import
Import [Generic] 2001
Audio CD$11.01
$9.99 (used)
Universal Migrator Pt 1 & 2Universal Migrator Pt 1 & 2
Limited Edition
Inside Out U.S. 2004
Audio CD$10.68
$7.24 (used)
Theory of EverythingTheory of Everything
Inside Out U.S. 2013
Audio CD$12.47
$10.87 (used)
0101100101011001
Inside Out Music 2008
Audio CD$12.88
$10.98 (used)
Final ExperimentFinal Experiment
Special Edition
Inside Out U.S. 2005
Audio CD$10.75
$9.75 (used)
Actual Fantasy RevisitedActual Fantasy Revisited
Special Edition
Inside Out U.S. 2004
Audio CD$12.86
$7.98 (used)
Human Equation: Special EditionHuman Equation: Special Edition
Import
101 DISTRIBUTION 2012
Audio CD$23.95
$22.95 (used)
Timeline (3CD/DVD)Timeline (3CD/DVD)
Box set
Inside Out / SPV 2009
Audio CD$17.12
$16.22 (used)
Universal Migrator Pt.2: Flight Universal MigratorUniversal Migrator Pt.2: Flight Universal Migrator
Inside Out U.S. 2000
Audio CD$11.49
$9.63 (used)
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AYREON shows & tickets


  • Ayreon's The Human Equation Theater Experience on 18 Sep 2015
  • Ayreon's The Human Equation Theater Experience on 19 Sep 2015
  • Ayreon's The Human Equation Theater Experience on 20 Sep 2015

AYREON discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

AYREON top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.28 | 210 ratings
The Final Experiment
1995
3.18 | 171 ratings
Actual Fantasy
1996
4.11 | 537 ratings
Into The Electric Castle
1998
3.58 | 357 ratings
The Universal Migrator part one: The Dream Sequencer
2000
3.61 | 318 ratings
The Universal Migrator part two: Flight Of The Migrator
2000
4.19 | 913 ratings
The Human Equation
2004
3.85 | 510 ratings
01011001
2008
4.06 | 416 ratings
The Theory Of Everything
2013

AYREON Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

AYREON Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

AYREON Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

1.92 | 20 ratings
Strange Hobby
1996
2.68 | 34 ratings
Ayreonauts Only
2000
3.66 | 49 ratings
Actual Fantasy Revisited
2004
4.16 | 43 ratings
Universal Migrator Part I & II
2004
3.68 | 46 ratings
The Final Experiment (Special Edition)
2005
4.00 | 65 ratings
Timeline
2008

AYREON Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.73 | 13 ratings
Temple Of The Cat *
2000
2.85 | 21 ratings
Loser
2004
3.38 | 21 ratings
Day Eleven: Love
2004
3.25 | 14 ratings
Come Back To Me
2005
2.96 | 28 ratings
The Universal Ayreonaut
2008

AYREON Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Human Equation by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.19 | 913 ratings

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The Human Equation
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

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

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

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 The Human Equation by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.19 | 913 ratings

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The Human Equation
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by FragileKings

5 stars Part 1: Fiction

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

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

Part 2: Fact

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

Part 3: Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 4: Conclusion

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

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

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

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 The Universal Migrator part two: Flight Of The Migrator by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.61 | 318 ratings

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The Universal Migrator part two: Flight Of The Migrator
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by Chalcobalt

5 stars In the early days of my Ayreon endeavors The Dream Sequencer was by far my favourite album of the Universal Migrator duo, while I could not really get into Flight of the Migrator. It may have been too much non-stop heavy riffs thrown at me at once, a compact sound matt impossible to take in and sort out on a few listens. It took a while but after putting the disc on every once in a while for several years, progressively (in several meanings, obviously) it grew and eventually the melodies started to fall into place in my head, and my head accordingly started to dig. These days I regard Flight of the Migrator as one of Arjen's prime compositions. My experience is that this album may require time, patience and extended faith (numerous listens despite it does not makes sense, that is) before substantial appreciation develops.

The music can be described as majestic progressive space-themed metal with very few quiet moments. Melodies are driven by endless catchy guitar riffs, but the keyboard and deep bass layers essentially contribute to the rich, saturated collective sound that I relish so much. The very varied vocals throughout are not standing out, but are still outstanding (if you can recognize that difference) and are very well chosen to suite the bumpy musical landscapes. The cosmic lyrics eminently crown the associations obtained from the music.

All tracks are compelling without exceptions, with Chaos as an especially noteworthy moment. For me progressive metal does not get much better than this. This album is very similar to the progressive space metal side project called Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Star One, which is also highly recommended.

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 The Theory Of Everything by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.06 | 416 ratings

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The Theory Of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

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.

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 The Human Equation by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.19 | 913 ratings

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The Human Equation
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by Chalcobalt

5 stars An album to be blown away by, and increasingly so for every listen. Excellent introduction to the work of Arjen Lucassen, or even into the world of progressive music as in my case.

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

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

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

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

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 The Theory Of Everything by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.06 | 416 ratings

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The Theory Of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by Daggor

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 ultimately a bit of a flop (at least by the standards of Porcupine Tree). What was attempted was not so much a collection of interlinked songs or a huge monolith of prog, but rather a bunch of interconnected musical ideas that tied together around loose musical themes and a single lyrical theme. I've got to wonder if completing this project was on Arjen's mind when he set out to write The Theory Of Everything.

Ayreon has never been the most original progressive metal band out there. At times, this has been one of my big frustrations: Arjen was so enamored with guest vocalists and musicians that sometimes Ayreon records feel more like compilation albums of other bands' works than an actual cohesive musical vision. Eventually, Arjen focused his albums around singers playing parts rather than individual songs, but after 01011001, there wasn't anywhere else to go. So question two is: why did Arjen feel it necessary to resurrect the Ayreon name?

Well, the first answer is that apparently Arjen will never be out of underdeveloped stories to deliver with a sledge hammer upon unsuspecting audiences. I was able to ignore this for the first half of the record, but by the second half it was so over the top (and so lame) that I was getting a touch tired of it. But, secondly, his last solo album sucked. Perhaps he hasn't realized this yet, but somehow going back to Ayreon has resulted in much better compositions. Overall, the characters in his story take more of a back seat, especially in the instrumental heavy opening quarter. This is a very good thing. If there was ever anything that drew me to Ayreon, it was the great mix of psychedelic, space-age synths with tremendous respect for classic prog. Throwing flutes at me early in the first 20 minute song was, at least for me, great. I'm sort of helpless when it comes to the Hammond organ too, and so as far as the classic prog sound palette goes, full marks.

Ayreon isn't, from an influence standpoint, breaking any new barriers here, but I've got to say I really enjoy how they're balancing those influences a lot more on The Theory Of Everything as opposed to past efforts. As for the grand venture in this style of album writing, it'll never be done as well as "Thick As A Brick", probably because that only ended up as a 42 minute monolith of parts after it had mostly been written. Perhaps you can never try to emulate the greatness that a genius unintentionally creates. Overall, The Theory Of Everything dexterously dodges the major potholes that Arjen seems to love driving himself into. If you're not willing to sit through the 20 minute "Phases", I wouldn't much bother, because the individual parts are still pretty disjointed on their own. Still, kudos for exceeding my expectations, and for an album that lives up to Ayreon's potential quite well.

4.25 // 5

Originally posted at www.blackwindmetal.com

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 The Theory Of Everything by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.06 | 416 ratings

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The Theory Of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by GruvanDahlman
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 The Theory Of Everything by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.06 | 416 ratings

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The Theory Of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by ingmin68

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 fragmentation in 42 "parts", evoking probably that too many ideas could have been poorly developed. But right after a couple a spin, I'd say surprisingly due to the large amount of music at stake, this doubt vanished in a great musical listening experience, one of the best of the year and surely in par with the previous Ayreon's masterpiece (T.H.E.). Very cohesive, full of musical ideas and passages, great singers and tons of fun (I heard myself laughing for being treated so well...). No-bore, granted. Enjoy!

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 The Theory Of Everything by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.06 | 416 ratings

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The Theory Of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 The Theory Of Everything by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.06 | 416 ratings

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The Theory Of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by voliveira

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 so many listens mine. Because both spent time without a computer and I could not hear new material from other bands and because , as I said , I was hooked. Since I had only heard two albums Arjen until then, Into the Electric Castle and The Human Equation , I'm happy that my opinions are inclined more to the second than the first .

Due to the division of music I like to think of it as a kind of modern Tales From Topographic Oceans . Yes , I know the setlist of 42 songs was released ( Douglas Adams is proud of that reference) , but they are grouped into four epics just over 20 minutes each . So I prefer songs that are 4 instead of 42 . And anyway , these short songs are intertwined such that you can not think of them as separate songs , but as something greater . And try as he heard one of them ( or even just listen to one of the epics ) , and just can not hear the whole album.

This is one of the points that differentiate The Theory of Everything from the rest of the discography Ayreon, the other being the letters. Aside from The Human Equation, no other album had a lyrical content that fled to science fiction. I will not go into details about the album concept, as other reviewers have already done this role more effectively here, but I can say that I heed not so much a concept as this. My English is not good, my knowledge of this language is sparse, but repeated listens have made me realize several points in history, especially the father and son's relationship.

Good, but beyond these differences, how are the similarities? TTE has everything you've ever heard an album Ayreon: exuberant musicianship, diverse influences and sounds, vocalists and guests very reputed and quality instrumentalists. About vocalists, I knew no further than John Wetton, but by God, they were the best vocals I've ever heard in my life! There is no weak, absolutely no. Each singer has his moment, as well as several duets representing the "dialogues" of history. I am appalled at all these singers, and compelled to hear his bands!

What about the musicians ... let me say just a few names for you: Keith Emerson, Jordan Rudess, Rick Wakeman, Steve Hackett. Some of the supreme deities of prog in one single album. My friend, listen to the Keith Emerson and Jordan Rudess's on Progressive Waves and understand why I say this is the wet dream of every progger and prog moment of 2013! Just phenomenal. That, and of course a lot of Hammond that will let anyone entranced and string instruments and blow. Oh, and a round of applause pro drummer Ed Warby please, it really has an amazing and diverse art and having done earned participation in every album project.

13/10. (Another) masterpiece of 2013!

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