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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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Universal Migrator Pt 1 & 2Universal Migrator Pt 1 & 2
Limited Edition
Inside Out U.S. 2004
Audio CD$10.47
$9.00 (used)
Human EquationHuman Equation
Import
101 DISTRIBUTION 2012
Vinyl$20.68
$30.49 (used)
Theory of EverythingTheory of Everything
Inside Out U.S. 2013
Audio CD$13.20
$11.43 (used)
The Human Equation [Regular Edition]The Human Equation [Regular Edition]
Inside Out U.S. 2004
Audio CD$7.93
$3.56 (used)
Into the Electric CastleInto the Electric Castle
Import
Imports 2009
Audio CD$15.05
$16.66 (used)
Final ExperimentFinal Experiment
Special Edition
Inside Out U.S. 2005
Audio CD$9.15
$8.23 (used)
0101100101011001
Inside Out Music 2008
Audio CD$20.71
$4.80 (used)
Actual Fantasy RevisitedActual Fantasy Revisited
Special Edition
Inside Out U.S. 2004
Audio CD$9.98
$8.98 (used)
Human Equation: Special EditionHuman Equation: Special Edition
Import
101 DISTRIBUTION 2012
Audio CD$17.68
$11.99 (used)
Universal Migrator 2Universal Migrator 2
Import
Imports 2012
Vinyl$21.36
$29.40 (used)
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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 | 223 ratings
The Final Experiment
1995
3.21 | 186 ratings
Actual Fantasy
1996
4.12 | 594 ratings
Into The Electric Castle
1998
3.59 | 384 ratings
The Universal Migrator part one: The Dream Sequencer
2000
3.60 | 343 ratings
The Universal Migrator part two: Flight Of The Migrator
2000
4.18 | 979 ratings
The Human Equation
2004
3.86 | 542 ratings
01011001
2008
4.06 | 470 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
2.67 | 36 ratings
Ayreonauts Only
2000
3.66 | 50 ratings
Actual Fantasy Revisited
2004
4.18 | 46 ratings
Universal Migrator Part I & II
2004
3.69 | 49 ratings
The Final Experiment (Special Edition)
2005
3.95 | 60 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
3.39 | 22 ratings
Day Eleven: Love
2004
3.27 | 15 ratings
Come Back To Me
2005
2.95 | 29 ratings
The Universal Ayreonaut
2008

AYREON Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Theory Of Everything by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.06 | 470 ratings

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The Theory Of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by Elsteven0

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. The answer? Wipe the slate clean, and begin on a completely new story, seperate from the space opera of old.

The Theory of Everything is therefore meant to be the beginning of a new storyline, one that takes place in our world, were the Ayreon albums of old took place all over the galaxy (excluding The Human Equation. This is a more "real" storyline revolves around a boy, who has the gift of being able to see every equation on earth. He is an extremely intelligent boy but lacks social skills and is often alone. He's neglected by his farther, who's working on "The Theory of Everything", but ties to enlist the boy for his help when he discovers that his son is an exceptional genius. The boy's mother, however, tries to help him out with trying to fit into society, along with a girl from school.

There's obviously way more to the story than this. This is a Ayreon album afterall, which means that the plot is heavy but quite interesting. There's alot of sides and elements to the story, and while the album is easier to follow compared to some of the previous albums, it is still indeed necessary to have the lyric sheets in your hand while listening to the album.

So what about the songs themselves? The Theory of Everything is Ayreon as we know it, with all the charastics that people have come to know and love. Progressive metal mixed with some progressive rock, synth, orchestrations and flutes. And as always, each character in the story has a wide arrary of singers (more on them later).

What is different about this album though, is the structure. While it is a double album (like most of the previous albums), this time there are only four songs, named phases here, each clocking in at around the 20 minute mark, with the shortest being 21:31 and the longest being 23:29. The songs themselves include various movements and this is where problems sadly start to appear.

The four phases are split into 42 tracks, each track representing each their movement. It's understandable to split an album like this up. It's always a challenge to ask listeners to sit through four 20+ minute songs (just ask Yes), but by splitting it up into 42 tracks, the challenge has actually increased instead of being more welcoming.

The averge track is around one - two mintues long, with a couple that croses the three minute mark (the longest being 3:54) and a couple that goes under one minute (shortest being 24 seconds), but the tracks themselves can be pretty easy to miss. This is one of those albums were if you don't watch your music player, you wouldn't notice if one track ended and a new one began, that's how smooth the tracks seque into each other.

This means that each individual track can't be taken as a song on it's own, when it is part of something much bigger. This is what basicly amounts to have a film on blu-ray, and then asked to pick a random scene from the scene selection screen and stop it before the next scene; it doesn't quite work on it's own.

It also becomes pretty distracting when one of the four full stops comes. For example: the first eleven tracks are the first phase, after which there is a full stop before phase two begins. It further detracts from the overall experience, and praticaly forces you to sit with the back cover of the album, in order to know when the phase stops.

Personally, I used a cd ripping program (can't recall the name as I had someone else put it together for me), and were therefore able to listen to the album as four unbroken songs which immensely improved the album. It just makes the songs feel more natural, and where the individual sections are too short to stand on their own, they almost gain new life when taken as part of something larger.

So it is perferred to listen to this as four unbroken tracks, especially because the music on the two discs are great and actually some of the best Ayreon has ever offered (which says lot considering the previous albums). The quality is almost consistently high throughout the album, with Phase four being the weakest. Beside the ending, it just isn't that memorable and at this point kinda runs out of steam.

But it is never uncreative or boring. There is alot of varierty and memorable melodies on the two disc that has alot of the high quality that we are used to from Arjen. Phase 2 however is the absolute highlight of the record which includes the best and most thoughtout sections. The other three phases suffer a bit for having some sections cut short or apruptly ending when they really should have been explored more.

What is consistent throughout the album however are the singers. The guys and gals on display here do a great job, from John Wettons (Asia) as The Psychiatrist to Marco Hietala (Nightwish) as the boy's rival. Everyone does a good job of conveying their characters, with performances that quite easily matches the highs of the singers from The Human Equation. If you were hoping to her Arjen sing again however, I must disappoint you by saying that he doesn't sing on this one at all! I was suprised myself, but considering the characters and the story his voice would have a hard time fitting in.

Likewise the slew of quest musicians who provide various solos, especially keyboard legend Rick Wakeman (ex-Yes) delivers a fantastic solo on phase two, followed up by another great solo from Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater). Everyone contributes something valuable and it's amazing to listen too.

All this is even more solidfied by the usual excellent playing of Arjen who once again shows that he's got talent, and his drummer-in-crime Ed Warby delivers one of his best drumming on an Ayreon drumming.

The album is a welcome return for Ayreon and reminds us why this project has been so special throughout the years, even though the album loses steam by the last phase and the tracklist doing it's best to butcher the listening experience. I still recommend finding a way to split the album into the four tracks that it's meant to be listened as, as it improves the experience immensley. But still: Welcome back Ayreon you have been missed!

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 The Human Equation by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.18 | 979 ratings

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The Human Equation
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by Insin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally posted to the www.metal-archives.com

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 Actual Fantasy by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.21 | 186 ratings

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Actual Fantasy
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by stewe

5 stars The best Arjen Lucassen's album ever. It took me few years to fully realize this. But, as much as I admire its more famous and grandiose successors, namely Into the Electric Castle and Universal Migrator (especially Dream Sequencer part) and even Star One's Space Metal, Actual Fantasy has certain depths that Arjen never reached again. Perhaps the key of this album lies in its relative kind of modesty and straightforwardness compared to other efforts. Drum-machine, often viewed as a weakness, is fitting needs of this music, doesn't degrade it at all. On the contrary it gives the album its "cold" feeling. Partly because of this sort of simplification, Arjen's stellar guitar work, especially Gilmour-like parts, including great slide guitar, has plenty of space to shine.

Actual Fantasy is Lucassen's darkest, quite fast-paced, melodically most convincing album, with perfect flow, pulsating synthetic rhythmicity and magnificent spacey arrangements. Balanced with no weak places - every song stands out on its own. Gone are constant sudden and predictably unpredictable changes, gone are hundreds of instruments that Arjen practice in his rock operas. On the other hand, tempo within the pieces is quite steady with great build-ups and several intricate moments and twists here and there, with occasional synth/guitar bursts and battles throughout. Three singers perfectly complement each other trading the lead vocals within individual songs. Every single piece has infectious hooks filled with intense, freezing atmosphere sending shivers down the spine. This music takes you on the journey into distant cold deserts revealing post-apocalyptic portrayal of wastelands of human civilization and shady perspectives of tech-future. It makes you reflect about depths of space as well as fundamental philosophy and a bitter fate of humankind. It makes you feel despair and anxiety as well as glimpses of hope and love.

For all those emotions and visions that Arjen has been able to project and deliver to me, I perceive Actual Fantasy as a peak of his creativity and energy and consequently as his masterpiece.

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 The Human Equation by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.18 | 979 ratings

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The Human Equation
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

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
4.18 | 979 ratings

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The Human Equation
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

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
3.60 | 343 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 | 470 ratings

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The Theory Of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by Progulator
Prog Reviewer

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
4.18 | 979 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 | 470 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 | 470 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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