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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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Theory of EverythingTheory of Everything
Inside Out U.S. 2013
Audio CD$12.47
$10.05 (used)
The Human Equation [Regular Edition]The Human Equation [Regular Edition]
Inside Out U.S. 2004
Audio CD$6.18
$8.98 (used)
Into the Electric CastleInto the Electric Castle
Import
Import [Generic] 2001
Audio CD$16.79
$9.99 (used)
0101100101011001
Inside Out Music 2008
Audio CD$12.97
$9.97 (used)
Universal Migrator Pt 1 & 2Universal Migrator Pt 1 & 2
Limited Edition
Inside Out U.S. 2004
Audio CD$10.68
$5.64 (used)
Actual Fantasy RevisitedActual Fantasy Revisited
Special Edition
Inside Out U.S. 2004
Audio CD$12.86
$7.98 (used)
Final ExperimentFinal Experiment
Special Edition
Inside Out U.S. 2005
Audio CD$12.86
$11.59 (used)
Human Equation: Special EditionHuman Equation: Special Edition
Import
101 DISTRIBUTION 2012
Audio CD$19.94
$18.94 (used)
01011001 Press Release01011001 Press Release
Import
Imports 2009
Audio CD$7.55
$17.66 (used)
Universal Migrator 1Universal Migrator 1
Import
Imports 2012
Vinyl$26.09
$31.90 (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 | 213 ratings
The Final Experiment
1995
3.20 | 175 ratings
Actual Fantasy
1996
4.12 | 544 ratings
Into The Electric Castle
1998
3.59 | 365 ratings
The Universal Migrator part one: The Dream Sequencer
2000
3.60 | 325 ratings
The Universal Migrator part two: Flight Of The Migrator
2000
4.19 | 906 ratings
The Human Equation
2004
3.84 | 513 ratings
01011001
2008
4.02 | 420 ratings
The Theory Of Everything
2013

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

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

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

1.92 | 20 ratings
Strange Hobby
1996
2.68 | 34 ratings
Ayreonauts Only
2000
3.68 | 54 ratings
Actual Fantasy Revisited
2004
4.24 | 49 ratings
Universal Migrator Part I & II
2004
3.70 | 49 ratings
The Final Experiment (Special Edition)
2005
4.00 | 65 ratings
Timeline
2008

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

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

AYREON Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Theory Of Everything by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.02 | 420 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
4.02 | 420 ratings

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The Theory Of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by GruvanDahlman
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Pretentious. Pompous. Overblown. Selfindulgent. Preposterous.

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

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

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

Pretentious. Pompous. Overblown. Selfindulgent. Preposterous.

Yes it is and I love it.

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 The Theory Of Everything by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.02 | 420 ratings

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The Theory Of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by ingmin68

5 stars AYREON The Theory Of Everything: 9,5/10 Appreciate so much Arjen's messages on the titles of its musical great works: here "The Theory Of Everything" displays musically what he means for it...a full-optionals prig-rock opus, or opera. When reading first reviews I was perplexed about the fragmentation in 42 "parts", evoking probably that too many ideas could have been poorly developed. But right after a couple a spin, I'd say surprisingly due to the large amount of music at stake, this doubt vanished in a great musical listening experience, one of the best of the year and surely in par with the previous Ayreon's masterpiece (T.H.E.). Very cohesive, full of musical ideas and passages, great singers and tons of fun (I heard myself laughing for being treated so well...). No-bore, granted. Enjoy!

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 The Theory Of Everything by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.02 | 420 ratings

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The Theory Of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'The Theory of Everything' - Ayreon (8/10)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 The Theory Of Everything by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.02 | 420 ratings

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The Theory Of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by voliveira

5 stars 10/10

I have to admit : I'm terribly addicted to this album. In a year which, in my opinion, is the best prog year of recent times, Ayreon gained its place in the heart with me with their most bold new work , " The Theory of Everything " . I confess that no other album released in 2013 had so many listens mine. Because both spent time without a computer and I could not hear new material from other bands and because , as I said , I was hooked. Since I had only heard two albums Arjen until then, Into the Electric Castle and The Human Equation , I'm happy that my opinions are inclined more to the second than the first .

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

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

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

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

13/10. (Another) masterpiece of 2013!

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 The Theory Of Everything by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.02 | 420 ratings

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The Theory Of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by arcane-beautiful

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

Now Arjen's reason for stopping the project was due to the criticism on Ayreon's last album "01011001." Now personally, this album is one of my all time favourites, but some harsh words from critics who claimed the album to be "the same old thing". Hurt by these comments, Arjen decided to put the Ayreon project to bed...but now he's decided to wake it up, and it's ready, awake and an album is here for us to listen to.

Now, Ayreon's biggest quality is the ability to take some of the greatest talent in music. And I have to admit, I was rather surprised at who he got. With big names like John Wetton (King Crimson, Asia) Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot, Seventh Wonder) and Marco Hietala (Nightwish, Tarot), the vocals really shine, with each vocalist surprising me and impressing me multiple times throughout. The biggest shock was seeing Michael Mills name on the credits. Being from a rather unknown band called Toehider, who I've just recently gotten into these past years. I knew this dude was a good singer...but...wow...people need to check the talent this guy has. JB from Grand Magus also has one hell of a role in this album too. One of the slight criticisms I had with this album (same I had with "The Human Equation") was the lack of attention focused on the main character. The Prodigy (as played by Tommy Karevik) is really one of the top vocalists for this album, but sadly he really doesn't get a big enough part, which is a shame. I do think allowing the other vocalists time was a good idea, but a bit more focus on him really would have fleshed this album a lot more.

The musical line up is also a lot bigger than it has ever been. Bringing in some help from Jordan Rudess, Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, Steve Hackett, Troy Donockley and some other famous faces. I have to admit, with this help, musically this project hasn't been stronger. In fact, this also may be Ayreon's heaviest album to date.

Story wise, it's a rather odd one. Based around the trials and tribulations of a child prodigy, the album does have a pretty strong and encapsulating narrative throughout. I have to admit, some of the lyrics aren't the best in the world, but as you listen and enjoy, you get hooked. Also, no spoilers, but a rather surprising twist can be seen at the end...which in all fairness, I really liked.

Whenever I saw the track listing for the album, I was surprised slightly. 4 big suites! My first impression was...'is this going to be some sort of "Tales Of A Topographic Ocean." Luckily it wasn't. Unlike Yes, this album doesn't seem too over indulgent...in fact, it's pretty to point, which is one of the reasons I actually liked the suites being split into separate tracks. Now, I wouldn't have minded 4 long tracks, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the separate tracks.

In conclusion, I am rather mixed with this album. By far this isn't the best or worst effort from Ayreon...but at least it's something different. While the music and vocals in this album are absolutely stellar, the songwriting isn't as strong, due to the lack of hooks and songs that where in the previous albums. Still a great album from Arjen, and proves that what he thought was getting old is still sought after, and whatever he decides to do next, there will always be an audience for Ayreon.

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 The Theory Of Everything by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.02 | 420 ratings

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The Theory Of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by J-Man
Prog Reviewer

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

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

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

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 The Theory Of Everything by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.02 | 420 ratings

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The Theory Of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four stars.

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 The Theory Of Everything by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.02 | 420 ratings

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The Theory Of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

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

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

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

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 The Theory Of Everything by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.02 | 420 ratings

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The Theory Of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by admireArt

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

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

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

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