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AYREON

Progressive Metal • Netherlands


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Ayreon biography
Founded in Hilversum, Netherlands in 1995 - Hiatus from 2008-2012 - Still active as of 2018

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 n...
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The SourceThe Source
Music Theories 2017
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Into The Electric Castle (Deluxe 4CD+DVD Photobook)Into The Electric Castle (Deluxe 4CD+DVD Photobook)
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Ayreon Universe (Deluxe Edition)Ayreon Universe (Deluxe Edition)
Blu-ray
Music Theories 2018
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Music Theories 2017
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Ayreon Universe [Blu-ray]Ayreon Universe [Blu-ray]
Music Theories 2018
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The Theater EquationThe Theater Equation
Inside Out Music 2016
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Into The Electric CastleInto The Electric Castle
Music Theories 2017
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Theory of EverythingTheory of Everything
Insideout Music 2013
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The Human EquationThe Human Equation
Music Theories 2017
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Universal Migrator Part I & IIUniversal Migrator Part I & II
Music Theories 2017
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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)

3.32 | 295 ratings
The Final Experiment
1995
3.21 | 238 ratings
Actual Fantasy
1996
4.14 | 719 ratings
Into The Electric Castle
1998
3.61 | 460 ratings
Universal Migrator, Part 1: The Dream Sequencer
2000
3.63 | 410 ratings
Universal Migrator, Part 2: Flight Of The Migrator
2000
4.19 | 1120 ratings
The Human Equation
2004
3.64 | 80 ratings
Actual Fantasy Revisited
2004
3.87 | 618 ratings
01011001
2008
4.04 | 583 ratings
The Theory Of Everything
2013
3.84 | 202 ratings
The Source
2017

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

4.23 | 35 ratings
The Theater Equation
2016

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

4.34 | 21 ratings
Ayreon Universe : Best of Ayreon Live
2018

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

2.09 | 28 ratings
Strange Hobby
1996
2.67 | 49 ratings
Ayreonauts Only
2000
4.17 | 73 ratings
Universal Migrator Part I & II
2004
3.69 | 67 ratings
The Final Experiment (Special Edition)
2005
3.95 | 72 ratings
Timeline
2008

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

2.74 | 14 ratings
Temple Of The Cat *
2000
2.90 | 23 ratings
Loser
2004
3.43 | 24 ratings
Day Eleven: Love
2004
3.26 | 16 ratings
Come Back To Me
2005
2.96 | 32 ratings
The Universal Ayreonaut
2008

AYREON Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Universal Migrator, Part 1: The Dream Sequencer by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.61 | 460 ratings

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Universal Migrator, Part 1: The Dream Sequencer
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by SonomaComa1999

3 stars REVIEW #16 - "The Universal Migrator Part 1: Dream Sequencer" by Ayreon (2000):

Dutch multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen's Ayreon project is one of the foremost outfits in the prog metal sub- genre, with many of his albums receiving critical praise on this site. Ayreon is best known for its elaborate rock opera album structure, which are concept albums that for the most part are set in the same fictional universe. Lucassen takes care of pretty much all the instrumentation, with the vocal parts of each character in the story being played by various "guest musicians" that have included icons such as Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson and Dream Theater's James LaBrie.

Ayreon's 2000 album "Universal Migrator" is split into two parts; now one could interpret this move as good marketing on Lucassen's part, but it seems that the music on parts one and two are thematically different. The first part (Which I will be reviewing) features more traditional melodic prog while the latter is more of what we would expect in an Ayreon album with a strong prog metal sound. Personally I prefer the slower, calmer and more intricate tendencies of classic prog, so I was excited to see what Lucassen could do in this vein of the genre. As is the case with Ayreon albums the guest vocalists return, but this time we see each vocalist take up a part in each song. The concept behind "Universal Migrator Part 1" is very interesting; following a war in the year 2084 which wiped out all life on Earth, the surviving humans set up a colony on the nearby planet Mars, which eventually collapses due to a lack of supplies, leaving one person remaining who is the last human being alive. This protagonist enters a contraption called the "Dream Sequencer", which allows one to revisit past lives and essentially live through human history, before he perishes just like the rest of humanity. Each of the protagonist's past lives are catalogued through their own individual songs - from the present day in 2084 all the way down to the dawn of humanity (we go even FURTHER back in time in the second part of the album).

We begin in the present day, where the protagonist enters the Dream Sequencer. I do have to say that I was unsatisfied with how the album started - we get this extended introduction where the voice of Lana Lane (playing the Dream Sequencer) basically goes through the instructions on how to start the machine up. Eventually the music officially begins on the title track; there are obvious parallels between this and the music of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour's solo work, with spacey guitar solos and an ethereal background atmosphere. It's nothing too exciting, but I suppose it serves as a fine introduction into "My House on Mars", where the story begins to reveal itself. We learn about the protagonist's life on Mars, having been raised there from a child and never getting to truly experience life on Earth (at least in this incarnation). Although his father promises to bring him to the home planet, he never comes through as he is killed in the carnage of the war, and the protagonist realizes that he will never see Earth. This is an improvement on the opener; we get some grand musical passages, even though I consider the vocals by Swedish doom metal frontman Johan Edlund (playing the protagonist) of Tiamat to be sub-par. Backing vocals are provided by Nightwish vocalist Floor Jansen (playing the protagonist's sister), but are only provided on the chorus. I will have to say the chorus and the musical interludes are pretty fun and grand, leaving for one of the album's decent highlights. More Gilmouresque guitar parts are featured in the solos, but the vocals largely dominate this track. In fact, the first four tracks on this album are pretty strong in their own right; continuing onto the next piece "2084" we get more information on the war that has essentially led to the end of humanity as we know it, and its exodus to Mars. We start off with a pretty long sinister instrumental opening before the guitar re-enters; so far this album sounds like a metal version of Pink Floyd's "Division Bell" with more vocals and a concept. In the lyrics, we get some allusions to "The Final Experiment" album, as well as the character of Ayreon himself - musically I wasn't too impressed with this song, as it prods along following a painfully slow instrumental opening. I appreciate the use of synth and more traditional prog structures, but so far I have not really been blown off my socks.

The fourth track "One Small Step" changes that. Featuring the vocals of late-70's/early-80's Kayak vocalist Edward Reekers, we finally begin our journey back in time through history. As the song title may indicate, we go to the year 1969, on the morning of July 20 as the world watches American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first humans to ever land on the Moon. The protagonist is a young child who like many others was awake in the wee hours of that day just to watch one of humanity's pivotal achievements. I find this song evocative on a personal level given the background of the concept; this is the epoch of space travel in our world, but by 2084 in the story all that progress and hard work is erased by war. I think that this is my choice song on the album; the lyrics make a needed transition to a symphonic style, with Lane backing up Reekers to make for some very great choruses. We get some interspersed samples of various real-life conversations between astronauts, including Armstrong's famous "one small step for man, one giant step for mankind" recording as he becomes the first human to ever walk on the Moon. Everything about this song is solid; we move away from the Gilmour guitars and over towards this retro 70's sound with chant and a prominent synth solo. As I have mentioned before, I am not too fond of prog metal, so the inclusion of a 70's vocalist and a generally 70's sound immediately intrigues me. Moving on we go back a few centuries for the song "The Shooting Company of Captain Frans B. Cocq" which obviously is a reference to Rembrandt's 1642 masterpiece "The Night Watch". Of course, we saw this work of art the subject of a King Crimson song on that band's 1974 album "Starless and Bible Black" which I am very fond of; we get off to a very good start until we get to the vocals, accredited to Mouse of the band Tuesday's Child. Not only do we get this digitalized and distorted voice, but it sounds like some sort of fusion between John Lennon and Noel Gallagher. Personally the vocals were a huge turnoff on this tune - it isn't necessarily bad musically, and the concept is rather cool with the protagonist now being a part of the crowd immortalized in Rembrandt's painting, which of course is a very seminal moment in Dutch history. The middle instrumental section is pretty good, aided by the presence of the immortal mellotron which is set up in tandem with a guitar solo and a synth solo. My major gripe with this song are the vocals; they really don't match with the time period; if there was ever a time in this song to use a vocalist with a thick Dutch accent, now was the time to use him.

"Dragon on the Sea" brings us to the year of 1588, and one of the protagonist's past lives is revealed to be that of England's Queen Elizabeth I, who is giving her Speech to the Troops at Tilbury just prior to the Royal Navy's stunning defeat of the Spanish Armada. Of course, the title refers to the English naval leader Sir Francis Drake, who led the Protestant English (and Dutch) into battle against the Catholic Spaniards. The Spanish defeat in this battle opened up the gates for British colonization of the New World as Elizabeth realized the abilities of her empire. Lane takes over on vocals once again, and just like the previous song, I am not entirely impressed with the end result. One thing that immediately struck me was the use of Hammond organ - I really liked that, but the vocals are once again a bit of a turnoff. I really have to say that I am enjoying the concept as a history buff, but so far outside of "One Small Step" the music has been mediocre - not bad, just unimpressive. This doesn't change with "Temple of the Cat", which is the track's lone single. We go across to the Western Hemisphere, namely modern-day Guatemala where the protagonist, now a young girl of the Mayan Empire, travels to the Jaguar Temple in the ancient city of Tikal. Lucassen this time recruits Jacqueline Govaert of the Dutch pop rock band Krezip to do vocals here; with the Abbaesque thick foreign female accent, it seems that the music becomes even more detached from prog. Overall this is a very mellow song with its own fair share of flute and dreamy soundscape, but at this point I have pretty much given up on the vocals on this album. Given that this is a concept album that is heavily reliant on vocals, it becomes rather annoying, especially since we saw in "One Small Step" how great this album can sound with the right vocal style.

For the eighth track "Carried by the Wind" we enter this sort of medieval-inspired metal where Lucassen enters the fray on vocals, playing the character of Ayreon and making several allusions to "The Final Experiment". Arjen's voice isn't bad at all; it's a bounceback from the previous three songs, and I sort of wish it were a bit longer. Most of the songs on the album to this point have been in the eight minute range, but the length begins to taper off as we go on. "And the Druids Turn to Stone" officially takes us before the Death of Christ to somewhere around 2800 BC. Damian Wilson of Threshold comes in on vocals to provide fantasy-inspired lyrics on the creation of the monument of Stonehenge in the UK. It is stated that it was actually created by Druids who were transformed into stone to make the monument we know today. I really did not focus as much on the concept at this point as I did the music, which is beginning to improve once more; Wilson is a fine vocalist with a great range and the thematic elements of the music are beginning to return to that classic style that I enjoy. We cap things off with "The First Man on Earth", which features Spock's Beard vocalist and founder Neal Morse as we finally reach the dawn of humanity in 50000 BC to investigate the origin of our species. Once again, we have a competent vocalist who can handle the music as we approach more modern territory. While this song has been regarded as a takeaway on the album, I just am not very accustomed to this newer take on prog, and will simply acknowledge that this is a good song; it does fine at wrapping up our story before the protagonist goes even further back in time in Part 2. The album is book-ended by a reprise of the "Dream Sequencer" instrumental song that we heard at the very beginning of the album.

I have listened to a few Ayreon albums in the past, but those were more of his better-known works such as "The Human Equation." Even as a guy who isn't that infatuated with prog metal, I still appreciate Lucassen's music and contributions to the genre. I really enjoyed the concept on this album, with us going back in time every song - of course, the more recent history stuck out to me, and even the song "One Small Step" was emotionally moving. I see that song as the major takeaway on this album, and a track that I may revisit once again in the future. "The First Man on Earth" and "My House on Mars" are two other standout tracks that are objectively good, while the rest is largely average and mediocre works. One big problem this album has is that it rarely deviates or changes sound; we get largely the same type of melodic prog throughout the entirety of an album which goes on for over an hour. That unto itself makes this album very repetitive, but I was able to fill the gap by researching the various historical passages and the concept itself. There are many other Ayreon albums which are better suited to get you into Lucassen's music; "Universal Migrator Part 1" is hardly one of his masterpieces, even though it is a fine album in its own right. With that all said and done, I will give this album a 3-star (78% - C+) review; definitely an album for Ayreon fans and any generic prog fan as a whole. It is definitely worth a listen for the aforementioned three songs I referenced in this conclusion. It gets rather dull through the middle of the album so do beware.

 Ayreon Universe : Best of Ayreon Live by AYREON album cover DVD/Video, 2018
4.34 | 21 ratings

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Ayreon Universe : Best of Ayreon Live
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Universe' - Ayreon (78/100)

As I first opened up Ayreon's Universe, slipped in the disc and pressed play, I came to the halting realization: I've been a fan of this band now for over ten years. Ten years. That may not be such a long time in the grand scheme, but looking at the way my taste in music has warped and changed in the time since, it's really something to behold that Ayreon's music still holds up as the progressive metal par excellence I remembered it as. I know it's actually been quite a bit longer than ten years too, but it's 2008 that stands out as my personal "year of Ayreon." I can still distinctly remember counting down the weeks until 01011001 was released, with the sort of naive enthusiasm that's only possible when you're fifteen years old and still new to the deeper end of the music pool. I remember reading announcements of the CD release party happening half a planet away in Tilburg (if memory serves) and trying to concoct some wild scheme to raise money enough to make it there in person. Music has remained a central motivating force in my life, but I do miss the days when I'd get hooked on a band like that.

In that sense, Universe feels very much like a sort of homecoming for me as a listener-- and that's not even touching on the significance it must have for everyone involved, not least of all Arjen himself. Universe feels both like a retrospective of Ayreon's career and one of its most triumphant moments all at once. Seeing music live tends to have that effect, but the demanding scope of the material has had the effect of keeping live appearances rare. Between scope and rarity; there's two reasons why Universe (but more importantly the event it captured) feels larger-than-life.

I won't delay with the obvious. Yes, Ayreon's Universe sounds fantastic. The performances are incredible across the board. Most important of all, the rock opera bombast on display really owes itself to a live setting. "Larger than life" in the studio sounds larger still on a theatre stage. There wasn't a lot invested in playing out the story action. Nonetheless you can tell the ensemble's confident enough to have some fun with it; Mike Mills' loopy role as MC comes to mind as a case of good humour in an undertaking that could very well have taken itself too seriously. Who could blame them if they had? Over a hundred people were reportedly involved in the production. There wasn't a ton of precedent to lean on outside the pilot Theater Equation from a couple years back. I've always been boggled by the amount of planning, networking and logistics that must be involved in recording an Ayreon album; that challenge rockets up an exponential curve in a case like this where it's all coming together in a single place and time.

I'm not sure how much distinction there should be made between Ayreon Universe, and the shows. As for the shows themselves, they turned out incredibly, and as much as I enjoy Universe I burn with envy for all those who got to see it in the flesh. I stand by the thinking that the Universe shows will go down as a bold- fonted chapter in the band history. The DVD release itself is competent in all the ways that matter, but lacks the jaw-dropping effect in of itself as a frame for the magic it captured. The visual direction and film editing feels bog- standard for a concert DVD, and the documentarian second disc disappointingly boils down to the sort of mutually congratulatory talking heads segments you get in every special features disc-- not the piercing Ayreon documentary I might have hoped for. The sound design and mixing are immaculate, but that was never in doubt to begin with.

I think Ayreon made the right choice in casting a wide net across all albums. Most of their songs work great as standalones anyway. The fact remains that they had a lot of excellent material to select from; I could repeat saying this because it's as much a burden as a boon to Universe. There were always going to be subjective essentials left off. But for whatever tunes with high stage potential left omitted, like "Journey on the Waves of Time" and "Carried By the Wind", there are bangers like "River of Time" to set things straight. My love of 01011001 was reaffirmed watching Hansi Kursch come on stage. Better still, the live setting breathed a new appreciation for the material on Actual Fantasy and The Theory of Everything; the two Ayreon records I had never been more than "meh" about. I've since returned to them and found new angles I hadn't quite heard before. Funny how live albums can do that.

 Ayreon Universe : Best of Ayreon Live by AYREON album cover DVD/Video, 2018
4.34 | 21 ratings

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Ayreon Universe : Best of Ayreon Live
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator RPI / Symphonic Prog Team

4 stars This show was made possible because of the involvement of 100 people.The musicians are from different Metal bands, some have played with Arjen Lucassen before. Many vocalists were chosen to sing in this almost 30 songs and more than 2 hours of music. This is the first big production in the Ayeron live release with the latest technology, projections, elaborate light show and mixed brilliantly by Arjen himself in stereo and surround. The high definition show showcases the greatest hits of Ayreon with some big Space-Symphonic Metal music with some folk passages. This a collaborative effort, Arjen only played at the end with that energy he is known for. And this is that energy and passion that transpire from every musician during this show. The sound is big, the mix is clear and the picture sharp. The one hour and a half documentary is led by with Arjen and his keyboard player and features mostly interviews with the cast and how Arjen discover them and decided to invite them to this project. The choice of vocalists for each song is spot on and the musicianship is tight with some talented and experienced players. A must for Ayreon's fan and a good place to discover the band.
 Ayreon Universe : Best of Ayreon Live by AYREON album cover DVD/Video, 2018
4.34 | 21 ratings

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Ayreon Universe : Best of Ayreon Live
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by Revelation_Space

5 stars There are somehow no reviews for this yet, despite it now being out for a couple of weeks. I bought the signed, limited edition 'earbook' version of this set, which has already sold out. It comes with 2 CDs, 2 DVDs and a blu-ray of the concert, along with a nicely finished book full of photographs and information about all participants. Well worth the money.

As for the concert itself, it is apparently the first EVER 'official' live Ayreon concert. There was the 'Theater Equation' from a few years ago, but apparently that wasn't a true Ayreon concert. That's a technicality, but either way this is a wonderful set. No less than 16(!) singers and 8 instrumentalists - plus Arjen himself - perform dozens of tracks from various Ayreon albums with great enthusiasm and obvious joy. The singers act out the various parts, having conflicts on stage where the characters are fighting. This is not a rigid concert at all.

The production values are surprisingly high, with an enormous screen projecting animations to accompany the music. The sound balance is fantastic, and the editing and camera work far better than I had assumed they would be. Arjen even gives a heartfelt speech towards the end, where he confesses to being "scared [&*!#]less" by playing live - presumably the reason it has taken so long for them to get up and do this. I haven't watched the special features yet, but there's a documentary about putting the show together which looks great, along with interviews with everyone involved.

I've listened to this concert all the way through at least 10 times now, and it's fantastic, I wish I had been there. If you at all like Ayreon's music you can't fail to love this.

 The Source by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.84 | 202 ratings

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The Source
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

4 stars Modern progressive music icon Arjen Anthony Lucassen returns in 2017 with `The Source', the ninth studio album under his Ayreon project banner. Another double CD sci-fi concept work that has the Dutch multi-instrumentalist joined by a range of vocalists and guest musicians, `The Source' is a return to the stronger heavy metal sound of most previous Ayreon works after 2013's `The Theory of Everything' removed much of the harder riffing (it's certainly a heavy rock opera, but definitely not a `prog-metal' album at all!), but like that same album, Lucasssen has gone all `Tales from Topographic Oceans' again and served up four side-long multi-suite pieces of twenty-plus minutes in length (labelled as `Chronicles' here), and it's one of his most ambitious and varied works to date.

Everyone loves prequels, right?! Well, sarcasm aside, with `The Source', Arjen offers a tale set before all the previous albums, detailing a planet overrun by a computer given artificial intelligence and the protagonists of this apocalyptic story fleeing to start a new life on strange alien worlds, and the challenges that come with that. It's a little silly, but admirably richly realised by ambitious lyrics presented through a range of characters given voice by vocalists from various prog and metal-related acts such as Nightwish, Epica, Edguy, Blind Guardian, Mr Big, Dream Theater and others, as well as boasting musical contributions from players in Marillion, the Aristocrats, After Forever and more. But front and center is multi-instrumentalist Lucassen, a performer of immense skill and variety, and he and his musical companions have delivered another sterling musical and artistic statement.

For `Chronicle 1: The 'Frame', a moody scene-setting premonition delivered by Jamie Labrie introduces the first three track arc. The twelve and a half minute proper opener `The Day the World Breaks Down' is frantic and pounding, a crash of fancy violin-lifted orchestral-like overtures obliterated by relentless heavy-metal riffing, dazzling synth runs and breathless vocal histrionics. The second half coasts into a reflective interlude of bluesy guitar and sparkling piano, that also reminds that the best Ayreon moments are when the various fragments hold tight compact tunes with recurring choruses that serve as stand- alone songs in their own right. Folk-tinged prettiness weaves in and out of `Sea of Machines' gutsy crunch, and the malevolently over-dramatic `Everybody Dies' mixes in everything from Dream Theater-like bombast given a touch of retro- prog keyboards and playful back-and-forth vocal responses (there's definitely a touch of Queen buried in there too), and it sounds like Arjen might have been listening to those rollicking symphonic fanfares of the classic early Italian prog PFM albums!

Despite its bludgeoning mud-thick riffing and rousing repeated chorus, the chiming guitars throughout the opening movement of the Second Chronicle's `Star Of Sirrah' remind of both Pink Floyd's `Sheep' and Porcupine Tree's `Time Flies'. `All That Was' is a swooning violin female-fronted folk ballad with heavier bursts that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Lucassen's Gentle Storm album `The Diary' from 2015, and unsurprisingly with its title, `Run! Apocalypse! Run!' (just look at all those exclamation marks!) is a dizzying maddening sprint of runaway break-neck keyboard soloing, crushing guitars and wailing frantic vocals. This first disc concludes with `Condemned To Live' that mixes in everything from stark vocal contemplations, moody cello and violin backings to its heavy drama.

`Chronicle 3 - The Transmigration' and its opening passage `Aquatic Race' kick off with some hilariously shrieking boisterous multi-vocal choruses frequently reprised throughout, and some snarling metal riffs that remind of Black Sabbath are broken up by dreamier interludes. While `The Dream Dissolves' is mostly a luxurious folk-flecked ballad, it culminates in a glorious synth solo from Mark Kelly that harkens back to the early years of his own band Marillion, and alongside a sleek electric guitar solo from Suncaged's Marcel Coenen, the duo deliver a classic sounding pure Neo Prog climax. Eastern-flavoured vocal drones, operatic purrs and a pinch of Jethro Tull-like flute weave throughout `Deathcry Of A Race', and `Into The Ocean' is a ballsy Hammond-dominated pounding arena rocker that falls somewhere between Deep Purple and the Dio-fronted era of Black Sabbath!

`Chronicle 4 - The Rebirth', `Bay Of Dreams' creeps with pulsing electronic programming and glistening guitars as it grows in power, and `Planet Y Is Alive!' is one of the most amusing moments of the disc, a thrashing blast of crunching drumming and an absurdly delirious chorus (and a spacey guitar solo in the instrumental break from The Aristocrats' Guthrie Govan is lovely)! The reflective ballad `The Source Will Flow' floats with a multitude of dreamy harmonies from several of the singers, the joyous and vocally gospel-tinged `Journey To Forever' is tinged with ringing mandolin among its chugging riffing, and `The Human Compulsion' is a final heavy curtain call for all the performers before the gloomy electronic fragment `March Of The Machines' and its eerie spoken word finale wrap the disc in a surprisingly dark and intense manner.

As always with the Ayreon works, there's a touch of kitsch and amusing over-seriousness that sometimes renders parts of the music a little overwrought and hammy (yet Arjen himself is very amusing and self-deprecating!), but there's such a conviction and attention to detail to the material here, and it's also extremely admirable that Lucassen is so proud of his prog-rock self- indulgences! The reliance on metal elements means that `The Source' perhaps doesn't have the versatility or crossover appeal that `The Theory of Everything' might have had for a wider audience, and on the surface it looks a little intimidating trying to approach its eighty-eight minute length, but constant replays reveal a sweeping, grand work that successfully flows between passages and belts you around the head with its attacking heaviness. Ayreon fans are sure to love it, and its another very accomplished, slick and bombastic masterwork from the reigning king of grandiose metal storytelling.

Four and a half stars.

 The Source by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.84 | 202 ratings

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The Source
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

5 stars Arjen's latest magnum opus "The Source" is actually a prequel of past release "01011001". In a similar vein to Lucassen's past works this colossal double CD album is conceptual and features a plethora of special guests. Each artist portrays an integral character in the story.

James LaBrie as The Historian, Tommy Karevik as The Opposition Leader, Tommy Rogers as The Chemist, Simone Simons as The Counselor, Nils K. Rue as The Prophet, Tobias Sammet as The Captain, Hansi Kürsch as The Astronomer, Mike Mills as TH-1, Russell Allen as The President, Michael Eriksen as The Diplomat, Floor Jansen as The Biologist, Zaher Zorgati as The Preacher, among others. The musicianship is a quality virtuoso lineup with artists borrowed from prog and metal bands and Arjen leads the way with his integral guitar style.

From the outset the album has a much heavier metal feel than other Ayreon works, it certainly rocks but of course there are ballads and haunting atmospheres throughout. There are some wonderful tracks to savour here. Everybody Dies is infectious and Star Of Sirrah has a wonderful spacey soundscape. There are exciting dynamic tracks such as Run! Apocalypse! Run ! And then some beautiful passages like Condemned To Live.

The second CD is the third Chronicle The Transmigration opening with the glorious complex Aquatic Race until Into The Ocean heralds the next Chronicle The Rebirth. Things slow down into ethereal atmospheres with Bay Of Dreams but the pace quickens with the pounding Planet Y Is Alive!

There's so much to enjoy on this album. The music is diverse and ranges from complex time sigs and instrumental breaks to beautiful passages especially with the vocals of Simone Simons and Floor Janssen who at one point brought tears to my eyes such was the beauty of their delivery. This is an emotional album that cries out for the Alien planet that is dying, along with The Forever an Alien race on the verge of extinction. Will it survive the devestation of an apocalyptic future? There is hope but where does it come from? Listen and you'll discover for yourself.

Ayreon never disappoints as far as I'm concerned throughout the visionary catalogue of Arjen. "The Source" is another Masterclass release with towering vocals and powerhouse musicianship. One of the greatest releases of 2017.

 The Human Equation by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.19 | 1120 ratings

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The Human Equation
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by guiservidoni

5 stars This album is spectacular!

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

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

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

 Universal Migrator Part I & II by AYREON album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2004
4.17 | 73 ratings

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Universal Migrator Part I & II
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nş 138

'The Universal Migrator, Pts. 1-2' is a compilation of Ayreon, the musical project by the Dutch songwriter, producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen and was released in 2004. It comprises two albums, 'The Dream Sequencer' and 'Flight Of The Migrator', in only a single package.

The line up of both albums has vocalists and instrumentalists. 'The Dream Sequencer': vocalists ' Lana Lane, Johan Edlund, Floor Jansen, Edward Reekers, Mouse, Jacqueline Govaert, Arjen Lucassen, Damian Wilson, Neal Morse, Mark McCrite. Instrumentalists ' Arjen Lucassen, Rob Snijders, Erik Norlander, Clive Nolan, Peter Siedlach. 'Fligh Of The Migrator': vocalists ' Lana Lane, Russel Allen, Damian Wilson, Ralf Scheepers, Andi Deris, Bruce Dickinson, Fabio Lione, Timo Kotipetto, Robert Soeterboek, Ian Parry. Instrumentalists ' Arjen Lucassen, Ed Warby, Erik Norlander, Michael Romeo, Oscar Holleman, Gary Wehrkamp, Rene Merkelbach, Clive Nolan, Keiko Kumagai, Peter Siedlach.

This is, in my humble opinion, the really and better way to listen to and really appreciate and enjoy this great conceptual musical project. 'The Universal Migrator' had enough content to form a double CD studio album. However, Lucassen decided to sell each CD as two separate releases. Why? Because he thought his fans would be fundamentally divided into two groups, the progressive rock fans and the heavy metal fans. So, 'The Dream Sequencer' was meant more to appeal to the firsts and 'Flight Of The Migrator' more to the seconds. However, to his surprise fans bought and loved both albums, equally. So, he finely decided to release, in 2004, the entire project only in one double CD.

To 'The Universal Migrator', Lucassen made some changes to his previous composition process. He decided to have each vocalist only singing one track, as opposed to almost all rock opera albums where the singers making duets, which is normally used on his albums. For this project Lucassen choose a very impressive group of artists. So, we have Neal Morse (ex-Spock's Beard), Clive Nolan (Arena and Pendragon), Damian Wilson (Threshold), Erik Norlander (Rocket Scientists), Floor Jansen (Nightwish, After Forever and ReVamp), Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden), Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery), Johan Edlund (Tiamat), Edward Reekers (Kayak), Jacqueline Govaert (Krezip), Andi Deris 'Helloween', Ralf Scheepers (Gamma Ray and Primal Fear), Ian Parry (Elegy), Fabio Lione (Rhapsody), Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius), Keiko Kumagai (Ars Nova), Lana Lane, Rob Snijders and Ed Warby (Gorefest and Elegy).

Lyrically and conceptually, 'The Dream Sequencer' has the dark undertones of a man trying to escape the reality of his own death, but the separate songs, each of them, tell a story all their own. On 'Flight Of The Migrator' we visit the planet of an old friend or foe. With these two new studio albums, Lucassen continues creating a universe all of his own, inviting us to join to him in the fun. The two albums have very different characteristics but have only a single concept.

Musically, the first album consists of an atmospheric, often orchestral, ambient variety of progressive rock music, dominated primarily by brilliant melodies. The compositions usually have an ambient light electronic beat, which I've noticed is a signature in all Ayreon's music. This may come as a surprise for many of progressive music enthusiasts and many may shy away from the ambient aspects of the music, but I say that it's a very innovative take on the progressive music universe, and can act to the advantage of the individual songs to open minded listeners. The second disc is the heavy, metallic part of the second album set. Progressive metal lovers find familiarity in the fast solos and riffs true to metal's reputation. This isn't to say that it's just another CD of straightforward metal album, because coming from Ayreon. There's the transcendental creativity that makes it such a novel work of art. Still prevailing from the former album are the ambient and electronic approaches, and the heavy but welcome synthesizers are again part of the sound. The orchestral touches are not discarded, and contribute to the epic of the story and the songs, too.

Conclusion: 'The Universal Migrator' parts one and two in only one package are really the better way to enjoy this conceptual project. It features incredible vocal performances and amazing instrumental playing from all involved, which is a usual trademark of all Ayreon's works. Fans of various genres should listen to this album and all of Ayreon's music to bring themselves to a more adventurous approach toward rock and metal, in the progressive side. 'The Universal Migrator' is a fantastic album that combines perfectly well Lucassen's soft and melodic side with his more heavy side. With this album, Lucassen proves that he is one of the best and most complete artists in the progressive music world, and one of the most versatile composers. He also confirms his capacity to convince some of the best musicians to work with him. I real believe this album will satisfy completely all followers of good music of any progressive genre.

P.S.: If you need more detailed information about both albums, you can see more in my individual reviews of them.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Universal Migrator, Part 2: Flight Of The Migrator by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.63 | 410 ratings

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Universal Migrator, Part 2: Flight Of The Migrator
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nş 137

'The Universal Migrator Part Two: Flight Of The Migrator' is the fifth album of Ayreon, the musical project of the Dutch songwriter, producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen and was released in 2000. The line up on the album is Arjen Lucassen, Ed Warby, Lana Lane, Russel Allen, Damian Wilson, Ralf Scheepers, Andi Deris, Bruce Dickinson, Fabio Lione, Timo Kotipetto, Robert Soeterboek, Ian Parry, Erik Norlander, Michael Romeo, Oscar Holleman, Gary Wehrkamp, Rene Merkelbach, Clive Nolan, Keiko Kumagai and Peter Siedlach.

'Flight Of The Migrator' represents the second part of 'The Universal Migrator', with the first part named 'The Universal Migrator Part One: 'The Dream Sequencer'. 'Flight Of The Migrator' contrasts with its counterpart, featuring a musical atmospheric feeling much heavier and with a very powerful guitar driven metal feel. Both albums were released simultaneously, but separately. He believed his fans would be fundamentally divided into two groups, prog or heavy metal fans. 'The Dream Sequencer' was to the prog enthusiasts and 'Flight Of The Migrator' to the metal fans.

'Flight Of The Migrator' is an album with another significance in Lucassen's almost 25 years long musical career. This is Ayreon's breakthrough album in the progressive metal style, especially because of its unimaginable line up of vocalists. Some of these singers are Russel Allen from Symphony X, Damian Wilson from both previous Ayreon's albums and Threshold, Ralf Scheepers from Primal Fear, Andi Deris from Helloween, Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden and Timo Kotipelto from Stratovarius. The list of musicians on the album is equally impressive with Erik Norlander and Clive Nolan on keyboards, Michael Romeo of Symphony X and Gary Wehrkamp of Shadow Gallery on guitars, and the long time drummer and friend of Arjen, Ed Warby. Needless to say that the progressive rock community was taken by storm when they heard the involvement of all these talented musicians, and thus, 5 years after its inception, Ayreon finally made its name known throughout the world. I really believe that there are some really amazing moments here.

Lyrically, 'Flight Of The Migrator' continues the story of the final living human being, the colonist on Mars, and his decision to go even further back in time. Using the Dream Sequencer machine, he travels just before the Universe was formed, even before the Big Bang explosion that creates the entire Universe. So, he observes the creation of the first soul, the Universal Migrator. It was from that soul that all the others were formed. He follows the soul as it travels through countless astronomical entities, such as quasars, pulsars, supernovas and black holes, and finally he came directly towards our Solar System. The colonist's ambitious by time travelling with the Dream Sequencer, resulted in his death. However, his eternal self receives a message from the Universal Migrator, that he is now the new Migrator.

Musically, 'Flight Of The Migrator' sounds very different from its first counterpart, 'The Dream Sequencer'. As I wrote before, when he was composing 'The Universal Migrator', Lucassen decided to make these twin albums separately, the metal and the non metal albums. Despite this is the metal part of 'The Universal Migrator' there are a lot of many other influences on it like rock and progressive rock, and there's also some power metal in almost every track. It can be confirmed by the list of guest singers when you can see the names of some of the best and most recognized heavy prog metal vocalists of our days. The music reminds mostly of Star One, another musical project of Arjen. The songs in here have actual variety, with beats and rhythms, and interesting instrumental working and all of that high-class stuff that makes an album actually interesting to listen to. The increase in both overall tempo and variety in sounds, there's a lot more guitar work and interesting keyboard arrangements on this album, makes the album an actual treat to listen to and firmly establish Ayreon as progressive metal, instead of the more melodious progressive rock, as Part I was.

Conclusion: With 'Flight Of The Migrator', Lucassen concluded 'The Universal Migrator' project, with the heaviest part of the concept. When I say heavy, I mean heavy by Ayreon's standards, especially if we compared it with the first part 'The Dream Sequencer', this is really a heavy album. However and in reality, Lucassen's music has never been about being musically heavy. He has always strived for making great compositions and beautiful melodies to the highly creative concepts he comes up with. Anyway, 'Flight Of The Migrator' has great compositions and solid performances all around. It still is a very solid release overall with some killer moments, both, musically and lyrically. All tracks are compelling without exceptions and 'Flight Of The Migrator' is very similar to Lucassen's progressive space metal side project Star One, which is also very highly recommended. So, this is a great album and I recommend it to everyone. If you aren't yet a progressive metal fan and you want to start listening to progressive metal music, 'Flight Of The Migrator' can certainly be a great starting point, or Ayreon or any other Lucassen's projects, in general.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Universal Migrator, Part 1: The Dream Sequencer by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.61 | 460 ratings

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Universal Migrator, Part 1: The Dream Sequencer
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nş 136

'The Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer' is the fourth album of Ayreon, the musical project of the Dutch songwriter, producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen and was released in 2000. The line up on the album is Arjen Lucassen, Rob Snijders, Lana Lane, Johan Edlund, Floor Jansen, Edward Reekers, Mouse, Damian Wilson, Jacqueline Govaert, Neal Morse, Mark McCrite, Clive Nolan, Erik Norlander and Peter Siedlach.

It represents the first part of 'The Universal Migrator' project, with the second part named 'The Universal Migrator Part Two: Flight Of The Migrator'. 'The Dream Sequencer' features a musical style quite disparate from its counterpart 'Flight Of The Migrator'. It features a musical atmospheric feeling, with a soft and more melodic sound than that on 'Flight Of The Migrator', which is much more a metal album. However, both albums were released simultaneously.

The performances of all singers on the album are great. Initially, the album was planned to be sung only by women since Arjen wanted it to be as cozy, laid-back, and atmospheric as possible but he wanted a new singer for each song and he couldn't find enough. So, we have Lana Lane the queen of the symphonic rock, Johan Edlund from Tiama, Damian Wilson from Threshold, Floor Jansen from After Forever, Arjen himself and a lot of many more artists, some of them less known talents from the progressive rock world such as Edward Reekers and we have even Neal Morse from Spock's Beard. It's really nice when we have some half-unknown singers because we can focus more on the music and avoid some other things. Arjen himself also does an enormous great work, of course, as a songwriter, a singer and as a player of almost all the instruments on the album. Lyrics are simplistic but always great and fit perfectly well all over the album. The cover artwork of the album is one of the best I've seen, which became a trademark of all Arjen's albums.

'The Dream Sequencer' is a conceptual album, as are all Ayreon's albums, and represents another part in Areon's story. So, if you want to understand perfectly well the lyrics, you better buy the other albums as well. The story of 'The Dream Sequencer' continues the plot found in 'The Final Experiment', starting in the year 2084, when the final world war wiped out all life on Earth. During the final years of fighting on Earth, a number of humans escaped to live on Mars. 'The Dream Sequencer' tells the story of the last human being alive, living alone on the Martian colony. As he has born on Mars and never lived on Earth, he could only experience it through a machine known as the Dream Sequencer. The machine uses a form of hypnosis to travel back in time, and the colonist uses the machine to revisit his own youth living on Mars and eventually views of many other past lives. The lyrics are basically objective accounts of the different time periods that the last human happens to visit. There's a certain moody quality to them, considering the impending extinction of the human race. Each track on 'The Dream Sequencer' revisits one of these past lives.

Musically, 'The Dream Sequencer' sounds different, but it sounds really as an Ayreon's album. It sounds very soft and melodic, and the group that I can easily compared with it, is Pink Floyd. But it sounds much more modern of course. For those who are accustomed to the traditional sound of Ayreon, I can say that it sounds more or less like if Lucassen had taken all the folk and non-metal parts of the previous Ayreon's albums and attach them to the songs, with much more synthesizers added. Most of the songs are long and have a very epic feel, with the exception of 'Temple Of The Cat' which was released as a single. So, this first album contains mostly atmospheric sound escapes and not much heaviness at all, in contrast with the second album. It consists of an ambient of progressive varied rock music, dominated primarily by brilliant melodies. The compositions usually have an ambient of light electronic beat, which is a signature in all Ayreon's music. This may come as a surprise for progressive music enthusiasts and many may shy away from the ambient aspects of the music, but I saw that it's a very innovative take on the new progressive music universe, and can act with the advantage of the individual songs to the open minded listeners, that we should all be.

Conclusion: As I wrote before, 'The Dream Sequencer' is simply the first part of 'The Universal Migrator' and represents the most soft and melodic side of the all working. The album is a grower if you listen to it several times, especially if you are in the right mood, there's much to enjoy on it. 'The Dream Sequencer' is a very atmospheric album, with beautiful Pink Floyd's guitar style and has a great production. If you are a fanatic of space progressive rock with epic elements and film score connotations, this album and this project are made for you. In fact, I believe that this album will satisfy all the followers of the good music, and also the cover artwork is one of the best I've seen. I haven't got tired of it and I really recommend it to all fans of Ayreon and to everyone who likes of truly progressive atmospheric music. In fact, I sincerely believe that this album will satisfy completely all followers of the good music of any genre.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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