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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), Devo...
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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)

3.34 | 333 ratings
The Final Experiment
1995
3.20 | 269 ratings
Actual Fantasy
1996
4.15 | 789 ratings
Into the Electric Castle
1998
3.61 | 515 ratings
Universal Migrator, Part 1: The Dream Sequencer
2000
3.63 | 462 ratings
Universal Migrator, Part 2: Flight Of The Migrator
2000
4.19 | 1206 ratings
The Human Equation
2004
3.60 | 100 ratings
Actual Fantasy Revisited
2004
3.88 | 667 ratings
01011001
2008
4.03 | 643 ratings
The Theory of Everything
2013
3.84 | 256 ratings
The Source
2017
3.61 | 65 ratings
Transitus
2020

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

4.29 | 51 ratings
The Theater Equation
2016
3.71 | 22 ratings
Electric Castle Live and Other Tales
2020

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

4.31 | 40 ratings
Ayreon Universe : Best of Ayreon Live
2018

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

2.02 | 29 ratings
Strange Hobby
1996
2.66 | 53 ratings
Ayreonauts Only
2000
4.23 | 73 ratings
Universal Migrator Part I & II
2004
3.71 | 71 ratings
The Final Experiment (Special Edition)
2005
3.96 | 74 ratings
Timeline
2008

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

4.00 | 1 ratings
Sail Away to Avalon
1995
4.00 | 1 ratings
The Stranger from Within
1996
2.74 | 15 ratings
Temple Of The Cat *
2000
2.93 | 24 ratings
Loser
2004
3.46 | 26 ratings
Day Eleven: Love
2004
3.29 | 17 ratings
Come Back To Me
2005
2.95 | 33 ratings
The Universal Ayreonaut
2008
3.60 | 5 ratings
Talk of the Town
2020

AYREON Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Transitus by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.61 | 65 ratings

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Transitus
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars Tenth studio album for the historic Ayreon project by Arjen Lucassen, the tall NERD of the Netherlands most loved by those who love prog. After the last great live dvd focused on the celebration of Into the electric castle, the Dutch mastermind returns with a concept divided into two discs, managing to give new creative life to his music so rich in disparate atmospheres and a sound sector that includes the usual group of well-blended illustrious singers.

Having clearly abandoned the conceptual continuity of the sci-fi plot that has accompanied fans for two decades, with Transitus Lucassen decides to narrate in music a story set in the setting of the Victorian era, a period with more than a shadow and which lends itself to a dramatic and gothic plot with inevitable concessions to the transcendent. In between is a love story between a white man and a black woman, Daniel's sudden death and accusations against Abby. As it was for ITEC, in Transitus we find a narrator at the beginning of each song (in total there are about twenty), this could displease those who hate such tricks, but in the long run the invasiveness of the storyteller (actor Tom Baker) it takes a back seat and is not very disturbing, on the contrary it helps to follow the unfolding of the concept (reading the booklet and the comic with the texts, however, remains essential)

The disc begins without half measures, "Fatum Horrificum" is a ten minute opener that does not fear prolixity (after all, Lucassen's music is just that, avoiding any easy compromise). The narrator introduces the first characters, the nineteenth-century esoteric atmosphere slowly takes shape with operatic vocalizations, followed by a lysergic interlude, choruses in Latin and, finally, some flashes of progressive rock. In "Daniel's Descent into Transitus" we are catapulted into a "strange dimension between heaven and hell", the sound remains dark and largely symphonic, after all the concept does not include a disturbing spatial background but the "return of the past" as a center of attraction for fears unconscious. Without this sort of limbo between the world of the living and the dead, the plot would have no backbone, everything revolves around this found by the Dutch mastermind and the name Transitus was suggested to him by none other than his classicist brother. With "Listen to My Story" the album begins to fuel and it is a pleasure to hear the voice of Simone Simons conversing with that of Karevik in a winking but still square track and with the right groove . The concept moves to 1883 and the protagonist Daniel has to ask for help from a mysterious angel: "Two Worlds Now One" is a ballad that would not disfigure in the first chapter of Universal Migrator. To report the first moments of the well-valued Cammie Gilbert, voice of Ocean of Slumber as Abby (we will never cease to praise Lucassen for his ability to give opportunities to more and less known singers in the mainstream). After the bucolic tones with flute and harpsichord of "Talk of the Town" - a song that however also incorporates a metal component capable of supporting the voice of Paul Manzi (Arena) - and Karevik's highlight (which enchants in "Old Friend" accompanied by simple piano notes), it is the turn of one of the most successful moments of Transitus. We are talking about "Dumb Piece of Rock", a genuinely rock hit as usual interpreted in a brilliant way by Michael Mills' falsetto, who in this case plays the role of the robot from The Source, to become an animated statue, as not even in the best dreams of Pygmalion. Let yourself be conquered by this piece, it will not be a new "Loser" or "Ride the comet", but it has all the credentials to have an excellent live performance. The first disc closes with two songs with a contained length of time. "Get Out! Now! " invites to moderate headbanging, with notes of hammond, pimp rhythms and a shouted refrain. Also excellent is Joe Satriani's solo, pure pleasure, and Dee Snider's voice is unmistakable. As in other tracks on the tracklist, the last seconds give a decidedly over-the-top a cappella closure. Finally, "Seven Days, Seven Nights" is a short farewell that invites you to insert the second CD in our player and continue listening to Transitus.

The second disc is more articulated and includes 13 songs, but no suite. We begin with the choral "Condemned Without a Trial", a song not exactly memorable, which however manages to make the atmosphere full of pathos as it is linked to the dramatic turning point of the concept, which sees Daniel sailing in waters that are not exactly calm to use a euphemism. The mimetic value of Lucassen's music reaches its peak in the subsequent "Daniel's Funeral" with lyrical female voices imitating the presence of ghostly ghosts (remember that Marcela Bovio plays the part of the Furies): "Trauma" from The Human comes to mind Equation, but the context is different, moreover the song in the finale sees a decidedly comforting lightening. The ball passes into Abby's hands and in "Hopelessly Slipping Away" Cammie Gilbert is applauding: another (slow) memorable piece on the album, no doubt. Arjen Lucassen even if a brilliant person sometimes sins of excessive self-referentiality, so a filler can also happen here and there, we must not be scandalized. "This Human Equation" is the perfect example of a track that misses the mark and doesn't need much evidence from Simone Simons (more catchy than ever) and Gilbert's grunts to save the piece. "Henry's Plot" is a short interlude before the longest track on the second CD, "Message from Beyond". The concept is tinged with yellow and the music consequently takes on a cautious and interlocutory trend. The voice of the Valkyrie Amanda Somerville stands out in an all-female mosaic with muffled atmospheres; the track also includes another textbook guitar solo by Marty Friedman. "Daniel's Vision" is a commercial for Karevik's melodic voice, with a touch of autotune and the synthesizers so dear to Arjen; even the short "She Is Innocent" has no real internal development and serves only in the economy of the concept to increase the level of empathy towards Abby, unfairly blamed for Daniel's death. The tracklist continues, therefore, with songs with a tight playing time: we find Somerville in "Lavinia's Confession", while in "Inferno" not to disfigure is Johanne James, the legendary drummer of Threshold (in force at the English combo since Hypothetical), who sports a clean and powerful voice, even daring some scratchy high notes. The concept closes with a final triptych. In "Your Story Is Over!" the furies and the angel of death played by Simons reappear, re-proposing a musical atmosphere, not at all dark, if anything theatrical. The voice of the storyteller for once does not occupy the first moments of the following "Abby in Transitus" (but plays her role in the middle of the song): the circle seems to close and the tones become muffled, only to rise again in "The Great Beyond", a grand finale with the parterre of guests to propose vocal plots of sure impact. Definitely a rewarding ending.

Once the album is over, it is difficult to objectively judge this work by Ayreon. More plays are needed, in fact, to get an overall picture of Transitus and be able to remember the position of the various tracks, the unraveling of the concept and the cameos of the various guests. There are some fillers but overall the disc is more than discreet, even considering some secondary aspects. Transitus was supposed to be the showcase of the Karevik-Simons duo but in the end it became a concept with the most unpredictable coordinates and with several pleasant surprises. Nothing to complain about the production, Ed Warby's absence on drums did not affect the quality of the music proposed and Music Theories Recordings will certainly be happy with the product packaged by Lucassen and future sales, especially in northern Europe.

No false step therefore for a project that continues to amaze after 25 years from its birth.

 Universal Migrator, Part 2: Flight Of The Migrator by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.63 | 462 ratings

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

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars Fresh from the great success of the double cd Into The Electric Castle, Arjen Lucassen decided to follow a slightly different path for the subsequent work of Ayreon. The Dutch musician was clear how the basic story of the new album should be based on a science fiction saga, but Lucassen was deeply divided whether to favor the more metal aspect of Ayreon's sound or the softer and more atmospheric one. To cut the bull's head, he therefore decided to make two separate albums, to be released separately, so as not to displease anyone, but united by a single plot and a single concept: in the first part, The Dream Sequencer, he would develop the more melodic and atmospheric soul of Ayreon, while in the second, Flight Of The Migrator, he would have focused on the harder and properly metal vein of their sound. Here, we will deal precisely with the latter.

The story picks up where the first part ended. In the first disc, we learned that Mars had been colonized by Earthlings, but the Earth was now lifeless following the last world war. Even the Martian colonizers, however, were now succumbing and there was only one survivor left. The latter, using a Dream Sequencer, a machine that through hypnosis was able to travel back in time, had learned about his past and had seen his previous lives, also learning that he was the first man on Earth. The second part begins with an even further journey backwards made by the protagonist, to the origins of the universe, even before the big bang, when there was still a situation of primordial Chaos. He thus assists in the creation of the first soul, the Universal Migrator, who in turn divides himself into millions of other souls who will go to inhabit different planets. Following the soul directed towards the Earth, the colonizer makes a cosmic journey that will take him between pulsars, quasars, black holes, supernovae and wormholes. Having gone too far back, however, the Dream Sequencer system fails: the machine tries to wake the Martian colonist from his state of deep hypnosis, but fails and cannot prevent his death. However, a voice invites him to awaken, because he would be the new Migrator, thus becoming clear how he could have been the first man on Earth.

As we have anticipated, the sounds of Flight of the migrator are decidedly more metal-oriented than the first album and therefore it is natural that the line-up takes this into account: even here, Lucassen mainly deals with guitars and basses, while Erik Norlander mainly deals with synthesizers; however, unlike the first part, behind the skins Ed Warby is preferred to Rob Snijders, while all the singers and soloists come from the metal scene, with respect to which, objectively, Lucassen has managed to put together a truly stellar cast. Compared to The Dream Sequencer, the only ones that we also find in the second album are, together with Lucassen and Norlander, even Lana Lane (wife of the latter), who takes care of the choirs, as well as Damien Wilson in the second song, while for the rest we are witnessing a decisive reshuffle.

A little 'all the songs are significantly enriched thanks to the skill of their interpreters, also providing ample space for numerous solos, both by the duo Lucassen-Norlander and by the many guests present. Basically, however, Lucassen tries to recreate great atmospheres (and in this the strings conducted by Peter Siedlach are also fundamental), perfectly rendering what is imagined as a sort of cosmic journey, developing a sort of space metal, that is a further evolution of space rock in a metal key (which the Dutch musician will then resume in the future by creating a special project, Star One). The disc opens with an instrumental, where there is only the speech of Lana Lane who introduces the beginning of the story: the band is projected immediately, however, towards a series of fugues and virtuosic digressions with fast rhythms, which all in all represent nothing particularly memorable. The second track is different, Dawn Of A Million Souls, which opens with keyboard chords with an almost epic flavor: it is, in the opinion of the writer, one of the most beautiful songs ever written by Ayreons, which immediately contributes significantly to raise the level of the album. The contribution of two Symphony Xs is remarkable here: Russel Allen on vocals is simply perfect, while Michael Romeo is produced in a prolonged solo absolutely thrilling. An articulated and exciting piece, which perfectly introduces the atmosphere of this cosmic journey. And in fact, here is another great voice, that of Ralf SCheepers (Primal Fear) guides us on Journey through the waves of time, a song with beautiful melodies, which also stands out for a splendid hammond solo by Norlander. The beginning of To the quasar is somewhat dreamy and atmospheric, which Andi Deris of Helloween is very good at leading to more aggressive sounds. The next song, Into the black hole, is even more articulated, where even Bruce Dickinson appears behind the microphones: the beginning of the track is majestic and grandiloquent, but this one presents several changes of tempo and atmosphere, enhanced by a great performance by the singer of the Iron Maiden and the splendid choirs of Lana Lane. Among the solos, there is an appreciable contribution from Clive Nolan (Pendragon, Arena). Almost moving that, in the midst of so many great names, that of an Italian singer (probably unthinkable a few years earlier), Fabio Lione, is also included, testifying how Rhapsody (today Rhapsody of Fire) had managed to create a solid base of admirers all over the world, exporting the metal made in Italy even beyond the national borders. Lyon sings great on Through the wormhole, undoubtedly one of the most successful songs, which again uses the choirs of Lana Lane, while the solo parts are reserved for Gary Wehrkamp, superb multi- instrumentalist of the Shadow Gallery, who gives a taste of the their qualities with both guitars and keyboards. The journey continues with Out of the white hole, with a Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius) in great shape and with To the solar system, entrusted to Robert Soeterboeck, certainly the least successful singer of all those present, but who certainly does not look bad. The saga ends with The new migrator, at times symphonic and at times fast and aggressive, played by Ian Parry of Elegy (who will somehow take up science fiction themes in his Consortium Project).

In 2004 justice will be done to the entire concept, with a reissue including both albums. Of course, it is also true that the differences in sonority between the two discs are in fact evident, having been conceived specifically in this way. Certainly, however, with Flight of the migrator, Lucassen managed to put together great artists who, despite coming from significantly different styles, were able to offer the best of themselves, with truly appreciable results, so much so that they still play today as a fresh record and which can be heard very pleasantly. This leads us to argue how, to date, despite the presence of several Lucassen projects, this album probably remains unsurpassed, in the context of his copious discography, in terms of sound impact and expressive power, well mixed in a suggestive and of high level both for technique and for the quality of songwriting. Nice record, which represents an ideal meeting between metal and science fiction.

 The Theory of Everything by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.03 | 643 ratings

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The Theory of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars Arjen Anthony Lucassen has already blessed the world with at least two absolute masterpieces (The Human Equation, Into The Electric Castle) and a couple of brilliant albums.

The tension regarding The Theory of Everything was therefore at its maximum when it was announced to be released a year later, with perfect punctuality: a cast of highly respected instrumentalists (with a prevalence of keyboard players) and a group of vocalists limited in quantity compared to the standards of the latest albums but certainly not in quality. The concept departs from the plot of the previous albums and distances itself from all the recurring figures in force so far, going to deal with a young prodigy (The Prodigy, played by Tommy Karevik, phenomenal vocalist of Seventh Wonder and then of Kamelot) and of the ensembles narrative plots that bind him to his father (The Father, played by the excellent and misunderstood Michael Mills, greatest revelation of the album) to the rival (The Rival, Marco Hietala), to the teacher (The Teacher, JB), to the psychiatrist ( The Psychiatrist, played by none other than John Wetton), to a girl (The Girl, whose voice given by our local Sara Squadrani) and to her mother (The Mother, another great Italian like Cristina Scabbia). Of course, since the various artists are mentioned, also the performance of the multi-instrumentalist Lucassen (this time particularly focused on keyboards) and the always amazing Ed Warby on drums, a well-established couple at the base of this sparkling project. Not even to mention are the usual fantastic arrangements!

The theme goes from being the science fiction of the previous albums to being more focused on the psychology of the characters, approaching this album as a concept mostly to The Human Equation. And this is the title that several times seems to be almost directly mentioned in some sound and lyrical choices, but never redundantly, so much so that this is an album that indisputably knows about Ayreon but which also offers something new, especially from the point of view. view of the structure. In fact, this aspect of the album is quite unusual: four suites of more than twenty minutes in length structured in an average of ten movements each, coinciding with the division into tracks of the double disc, for a total of forty-two tracks (a number which refers to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, certainly not by accident). The duration of the individual "pieces" is therefore very limited, with several pieces less than a minute and rarely longer than the three. Considering the very small participation of vocalists, it is understandable that Arjen has thought of inserting more instrumental sections than he was used to, with various movements that are solely instrumental and in any case dialectical sections between the various protagonists rather compressed. This is also due to the continuous change in sound, atmosphere and theme of the suites, which are presented as an eclectic collage of a lot of heterogeneous music at the most. This creates a mosaic effect that gives life to Lucassen's most varied and probably sonically rich work, but also generates a certain sense of haste in certain moments particularly, with many ideas just sketched and in any case never too thorough. Which can be good because, in fact, the offer becomes very vast, but perhaps at times too frenetic and in some cases not fluid and natural enough. From the sound point of view, the most total eclecticism reigns, with atmospheres so predominantly heavy but also often electronic (in some cases the peaks of the Ayreon career in this field are reached), up to piratical melodies and ethnic instrumentation, folk sequences such as never, fairytale orchestral sections and music worthy of a Hollywood soundtrack.

Among the salient moments we could mention Progressive Waves from the first suite, which offers what is perhaps the most memorable instrumental section of Arjen's career with two myths of the keyboard to enrich it, Keith Emerson and Jordan Rudess. Then the very short Surface Tension from the second suite is unforgettable, thanks to a Rick Wakeman who once again affirms his superiority. Then, from the third phase of the album (which I prefer), the perfect Side Effects must certainly be remembered, with one of the most touching vocal interpretations of recent years by Wetton, Mills and Karevik. Finally, the last suite contains a pearl like The Parting, with ingenious rhythmic cells, a noteworthy performance by Scabbia and Mills (especially by the latter, which reaches the stratosphere with sensational highs) and a sensational guitar solo by Steve Hackett. But it would be criminal not to mention pieces like the three title tracks, or Love & Envy, with its Day Seventeen atmospheres: Accident, The Consultation, The Rival's Dilemma, Fluctuations, Transformation, Collision, with the most evident electronic influences of Ayreon's career , or the synthetic paradise of Frequency Modulation, the filmographic orchestrations of String Theory, the female vocal plots on the acoustic texture of Mirror of Dreams, the exciting dialogues of The Visitation, the frenzy of The Breaktrhough, or the pathos of The Uncertainty Principle, just to cite only the pieces well above the average. The remaining others, except a couple of very short interludes such as The Argument 1, A Reason to Live and The Argument 2 (presumably inserted to reach the numerologically significant quota of 42), suffer from the only flaw of not being totally perfect, for a reason. or that other ... but on average they remain excellent songs.

Listening to The Theory of Everything you can ensure an immersion of cinematic memory in the art of a man who never seems to stop having something to offer, including music of great evocative depth and full of freshness and energy, inserted in an unexpected and enriched structure from the vocal performances of exceptional level obtained thanks to a few but excellent vocalists recruited this time by Arjen, as well as from the contribution of historical instrumentalists who deserve a hat even for the legend contained in their name. We are faced with one of the most interesting concept albums ever and one of the most successful albums of recent years. Arjen Anthony Lucassen, once again, does not disappoint, with a well-kept music, an engaging plot and an exceptional taste!

 The Human Equation by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.19 | 1206 ratings

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The Human Equation
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by prog_traveller!!

5 stars I will talk about one of the most successful and sophisticated rock works ever created, created by one of the most beautiful projects ever put up in the history of music, the Ayreon project. Arjen Anthony Lucassen has always used the most valid and prepared people, not the first fool he finds on the street, to create these works that mix metal, progressive, electronic, folk, classical, ethnic and other genres with great elegance and epicity! In "The Human Equation", the sixth album of the project, dated 2004, all this is assimilated with even more attention than it had been given in previous works. What immediately catches the ear is a finally dignified recording quality, while in the previous works it was not always excellent. The topics covered also change significantly: no more science fiction or space stories, just a strange accident and the coma period of 20 days (each track is a day) crossed by the protagonist during which various emotions and visions are repeated to him. have characterized his life. Once again the cast is excellent, the vocalists first and foremost. James LaBrie of Dream Theater is the voice of the protagonist but notable is also the presence of Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth with his voice as warm as it is introspective but let's not forget Devin Townsend and the late Mike Baker. As usual, the harmony between the musicians is unique and cohesive; It is not at all easy to assimilate musicians perhaps with something in common but also from very different bands and create an opera where everyone plays with great respect to the others, without neglecting their own musical tradition. In fact, we hardly, indeed never, hear two instruments from very different cultures playing out of tune ... a background synthesizer does not clash if combined with a violin solo and in the same way a flute does not play badly in the background of a distorted guitar. ! In joining the sounds it seems that the good Lucassen has reflected at length on the sounds used: "Does that sound fit in that moment of the song or album? Yes or no?" you will have asked yourself several times, so much so that you can't even see the shadow of a hair out of place!

As already happened in "Into The Electric Castle" the work makes use of two very intense CDs that require patience to be listened to but once listened to they are appreciated which is a marvel for the most passionate listeners. The masterpiece songs are mostly found in the first cd but also the second one is characterized by epicness and perfection! Beautiful atmospheric intro "Vigil" with the noise of the car that swerves to sanction the individual's coma. Masterful "Isolation" with that central electronic part very Pink Floyd style and a really perfect synth solo without forgetting the metal rhythms and the flute and violin parts. Very reflective "Pain", atmospheric and delicate in the verses, harder in the chorus where, however, the guitars are well supported by the keyboard background and by the disconsolate and sad voices of the vocalists; beautiful part acoustic guitar-violin-flute exceeded half. "Mystery" delicate part with the acoustic guitar, then great technical work of synthesizers and hammond organ, the best instrumental part of the whole record! "Voices" is a moving song capable of alternating folk stanzas of acoustic guitar and violin and more evidently metal chorus. "Childhood" is more melodic, with softer synths and a Jethro Tull-style pan flute in the middle, as well as a pretty good guitar solo in the end. Lively and cheerful "Hope" supported by a sunny hammond organ. "School" alternates acoustic verses and stronger but at the same time atmospheric choruses; the central symphonic part is not bad. Also wonderful "Playground", with a beautiful violin solo as the protagonist. "Memories" plays on alternating acoustic stanzas supported by a synthesizer and a stronger chorus. Great closure for the first cd thanks to "Love": opened by a mandolin, acoustic verse and harder and more symphonic chorus with emphasis on female voices.

And immediately you feel the need to put the second CD in the player, because you are not satisfied with what you have heard in this first situation! And here is "Trauma" which combines Pink Floyd style psychedelic parts, metal parts, symphonic parts, complex guitar turns. In my opinion, the least beautiful piece of the album is a bit disappointing, an acoustic ballad with a nice flute at the beginning, a nice violin solo in the middle, even a harpsichord, I think this piece is close to mine revaluation. Intentionally more pulled "Pride", certainly the hardest song on the album, with a not indifferent reference to the best Dreams (the one with "Caught In A Web" is a comparison that comes to mind) probably due to the very determined voice of James LaBrie and here the speech I made before re-emerges: the flute part that we find in the middle of the song might seem out of place to some ears but the intelligence with which it was inserted at the right moment makes it capable of perfectly binding with the sound of the song; and also the synthesizer turn in the final is really valuable! Let's talk instead of "Betrayal": I too underestimated it a lot but now I am very open to its particular atmosphere; that keyboard background gives it a full-bodied and epic sound and the beautiful synth solo expressly tells us that this is not just any song! And you ask me ... what is the strangest song on the record? Surely I would say "Loser", an unusual folk-metal song! The verse is accompanied by a mandolin, the chorus instead features distorted guitars like never before which a violin is superimposed on ... and then we are really delighted by a hammond organ solo of rare beauty!

But the best of this second cd is for me "Accident" in which the protagonist, after retracing past emotions, reviews the moment of the accident. A dreamy, more reflective track, opened by electronic sounds and characterized by delicate guitar arpeggios that flow into a harder riff in the chorus and after the second chorus a fine guitar soloist is followed by an equally valuable synthesizer solo. But in "Realization" they really feel all the colors! Only in the finale is sung, while until after the middle of the song everything is instrumental and is marked by the strong alternation of styles and instruments: always lively rhythm, complex riffs and tempo changes in full prog-metal style; beautiful part of the flute before the moment perhaps the most particular of the whole record: the same melody is played by different instruments in succession: a violin, a flute, an organ, even a bassoon ... things that have never been seen before! Here we are really on another planet, we think! Only such a multifaceted musician can have all this fantasy! On the other hand, the penultimate "Disclosure" is more delicate, with a melody that is certainly light and able to be listened to with pleasure; the melody of the previous song is also resumed. Masterful closing with "Confrontation" which marks the awakening of the protagonist; delicate guitar touches in the verses leave room for heavier riffs; the reprise of the electronic riff of "Isolation" was also an intelligent choice.

And that's it. The Ayreon project has reached the highest point of the adventure with this album. I think this is certainly a point of example for the future of prog but which is unattainable! The flying Dutchman can try to replicate this masterpiece if he wants to: he will certainly produce a masterpiece (as he knows how to do) but I doubt he will be able to do better than that!

 01011001 by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.88 | 667 ratings

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01011001
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars And it was time to put the pieces of the mosaic together. Summarizing a plot that - with the sole exception of "Actual Fantasy" (1996) - has run through the entire work of Anthony Arjen Lucassen over the years. After having narrated the deeds of generations of men through the centuries, "01011001" shifts the spotlight behind the scenes of the representation, where the fate of the Earth is decided. This time the protagonists are the others, the inhabitants of planet Y, those "Forever" who already ten years ago had made their appearance in the last room of Electric Castle. To give them a voice, Arjen was certainly not satisfied with the first ones that happened. An elite of vocalists, selected from the best performers of today's scene, gathered in his presence. Compared to the last studio release, the cast is once again revolutionized: in addition to Lucassen himself, only Floor Jansen and Anneke Van Giersbergen had already engraved their seal at the bottom of a previous chapter in the story. On this occasion there are aligned personalities of the caliber of Bob Catley, Jorn Lande, Hansi Kürsch, Steve Lee, Daniel Gildenöw, Jonas Renkse, Tom Englund, Magali Luyten. The first, decisive - and totally successful - decision of the Flemish giant lies in the management of such a great vocal heritage. Instead of assigning a single predominant protagonist to each song, gradually relegating the other participants to supporting roles, Arjen prefers to mix the cards at his disposal and indulge himself in the composition of duets and overlapping vocals - needless to say that the sound benefits from it, and how, not only in terms of variety, but also and above all on an emotional level.

The compositional approach reserved for the "terrestrial" point of view is different. The four songs that detach themselves from the thread of the main narrative never rely on more than two first actors, resizing the scope of the choirs in favor of a relatively more immediate and linear form-song. The selection of the protagonists consequently focuses on a smaller cast, which includes the presence of characters not always familiar to the metal environment: in addition to the stars Simone Simmons and Ty Tabor, the lesser known Liselotte Hegt (ex-Cirrha Niva , today alongside Kristoffer Gindelöw in Dial) and Marian Welman (voice of Flemish rockers Elister), as well as American composer Phideaux Xavier and Dutch hip-hop (!) singer Wudstik. The coherence with respect to the rest of the tracklist is however guaranteed by a solid and unitary songwriting, in full Ayreon tradition. So only one question remains awaiting an answer: will the contents live up to the name? The only way to establish this is to insert them in the reader and begin the journey to the planet 01011001.

Back on planet Y. Memories flow into the memory of a race on the verge of psychic extinction: "Beneath The Waves" evokes with undisguised nostalgia the now lost times of smiles and tears, uncertainty and the unknown. Gildenlöw and Catley open the way with polite ease and the good Hansi begins with a punctual and decisive intervention that fits in the middle of the climax of vocal plots, but the best is reserved for the finale, when the chorus raised to the skies by the histrion Lande and from a very inspired Floor Jansen raises the piece among the compositional peaks of the first act. It is one of the happiest moments of a songwriting that does not seem to want to allow itself the slightest hint of bending. "Newborn Race" does not disappoint expectations: the electronic harmonies dissolve to make room for an increasingly decisive acoustic component and the groove of a very versatile Ed Warby, unleashed on the skins. From the vocal point of view, the piece sees the undisputed predominance of the male component, with total exclusion of the girls' club. It is time to make a decision to save the future of a soulless people. A new seed, a new hope is thrown into the cold of infinite space, in search of new worlds to fill with a life that can rediscover the warmth of emotions. But will this be enough to change the fate of a people condemned by its own triumphs? Is it really possible to create a new life, to replace the gods, to change destiny? Facts will decide - the time for questions is over, now is the time for action. The seeds of hope dart across the galaxies on the choruses of "Ride The Comet", dominated by an irrepressible Hansi (it was a piece that he didn't feel so fit), while a sumptuous Magali Luyten makes herself the author of a break to scream. The now skyrocketing tension is suddenly broken by an all too familiar computer sound: abrupt return to the blue planet, to follow the silicon romanticism of Simone Simmons and Px Xavier. Sterile relationships born behind a PC screen, false feelings, human shells hypnotized by a multimedia toy, as seductive as it is vacuous and superficial. And as the curtain falls on the first half of the opera, once again the question comes to mind: was it worth it? 65,000,000 BC: a meteorite collides with a planet ready to welcome the alien life seed. The giant reptile population that inhabits its surface is sacrificed in the name of the Forever's future. The apocalyptic march of "The Fifth Extintion" is a harbinger of imminent catastrophe: only the refrain - once again illuminated by the best Hansi - pierces the suffocating clouds of darkness raised by the devastating impact. The cast returns to the stage in full force to announce the dawn of man, greeted by the exuberant solo of Sherinian, the cradle of a fresh and vital symphony of strings. Step by step, the evolution of the new race is guided in the shadows by the invisible alien intelligence. Contended between the subtle vocalizations of Renkse and the luminous interventions of Anneke, the hazy "Waking Dreams" prepares to trace the furrow along which human history is destined to proceed.

Humans: one of them has already seen, already knows how the story will end. In his dreams he wore the clothes of the blind minstrel Ayreon, he witnessed the end of the world through the eyes of the last man. He knows the true nature of the children of the Earth, knows their destiny and shouts it to the world - "The Truth Is Out There". But who would ever take his words seriously? Who would hesitate for a moment to dismiss them as the ravings of a madman? In vain the visionary Arjen (and who else if not?) Will try to show the truth to the zealous Liselotte - his caretaker, nurse and jailer - while the airy flute of Jeroen Goossens will accompany the mind up to the time of "The Final Experiment". Humanity slowly walks its path. Too slowly: hunger and disease condemn it to an existence of suffering. The newfound emotions have proved to be a double-edged sword, and pain too easily overpowers happiness. But maybe there is a solution, maybe there is a way out. "Unnatural Selection": accelerate evolution, reveal the wonders of technology, teach the secrets of science. Will it be enough? A pessimist Lee responds to Englund's heartfelt plea: intervening could lead the new breed on the same path as Forever - a mistake that must not be repeated. However, the prediction will prove to be wrong: in fact, things will go much worse. The harsh and pressing question and answer between Catley and Lee accompanies the nihilistic journey of mankind, and just as Hansi and the ever more intoxicating Lande celebrate the extraordinary power of his heart, the man is preparing to pronounce with his own lips the his own condemnation - the newfound passions will lead him on the path of self-destruction.

Is there no hope of salvation then? Indeed, one route still remains: in a duet destined to remain in the annals, Hansi Kürsch and Bob Catley prepare to play the last card. Reverse the flow of time, go back to the past, change history before the point of no return is passed. "River Of Time" brings to light the more folk side of Ayreon, to the point of touching the romantic grace of the Blind Guardian ballads. The classic riffing of the Lucassen school goes alongside the evocative winds of Goossens, while a two-voice chorus steals the mind without raising the tone too much. Meanwhile, someone on earth is preparing to attempt the impossible. The resolute Welman and a surprising Wudstik project the last, desperate request for help back in time, to the tune of "E = MC²". Accompanied by the six strings of an enchanting Romeo, this hardly reaches the dreams of a blind minstrel in the court of King Arthur ... But the outcome of his mission is well known.

2085: "The Sixth Extintion", the last chapter in the history of the world - the armageddon evoked by men. Voices of condolence helplessly comment on the end of humanity, sentenced in unison by Renkse's furious screaming and Floor Jansen's apocalyptic vocalizations. All is lost: the end of the Earth is the decisive lesson for the inhabitants of planet Y. A new awareness winds among the people of the stars - Renkse, Catley, Lee and Gildenlöw take turns at the microphone in a crescendo full of pathos; finally, it is up to the lips of a sublime Landes to pronounce the final sentence: turn off the machines, it's time to die. Joost van den Broek takes possession of the ivory keys and chisels a tumultuous solo from which the Forever farewell hymn hovers, proud and resolute. All the voices come together to take leave of life, while a last sprout of hope is entrusted to the spirit of the wind. But that's another story ... the story of "The Universal Migrator".

A mere description in words will never do justice to the genuine beauty of a work of this stature, and we are aware of the limits of our exhibition, both from a formal and a content point of view. It has been said that Lucassen's style does not go out of the way of its own tradition, but rather tends to take some of its typical traits to extremes. The keyboards in particular flex, especially in the first part, towards electronic sounds with strong psychedelic accents, leaning towards a somewhat muted departure. Beyond the first track, which is extremely immediate and even redundant, the opening words are certainly not striking in intensity or vehemence. The first disc thus configures a progressive crescendo which reaches its peak in the excited "Ride The Comet" - such a solution could disappoint the expectations of the most impatient, who may need multiple listening to get involved in such musical poetics. The second disc is partly dissimilar in nature, decidedly more unpredictable and irregular. The purely metal component becomes darker, folk excursions begin to offer themselves with greater insistence, often offering an epic accent which - needless to deny - owes not a little to good old Hansi Kürsch. Songs like "The Fifth Extintion", "Unnatural Selection" and "The Sixth Extintion" tap into the full potential of the army of champions summoned by the provident Arjen: it would be unfair to reward one performance rather than another, since each of the performers adds a spark personal and certainly decisive for every piece, every rhyme, every bar. After all, the dedication that Lucassen has reserved for any slightest nuance is maniacal - the arrangements are almost perfect, the vocal intertwining of an impressive refinement, the production to say the least crystalline. Every note, every rest and accent is at the right point. It is useless to show how the subdivision of the two discs ends up mirroring the scenarios outlined by the texts, on this occasion more crucial than ever. After all, the recipe is the same as always; but the quality of the pieces, indeed, of the entire work, taken as a whole, is such as to force demanding comparisons with the best productions of the Dutch composer. Perhaps, at first, "01011001" could be believed by some to be "a good album". The invitation is to insist, to deepen the ratings, to dwell on the details. Only then will the masterpiece be revealed.

 Universal Migrator, Part 1: The Dream Sequencer by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.61 | 515 ratings

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

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars We are in the twenty-second century. The entire human race was wiped out by the atomic wars in the year 2084. Only one man survived the catastrophe, the only one left of an expedition focused on colonizing Mars. Air reserves and supplies of food and water are now limited and the red planet, arid and inhospitable, makes the colonist's agony unbearable. The end is now imminent, but there is a way to make it less painful: the "Dream Sequencer", a particular recreational device capable of making the mind travel through time and space. Refusing to die of hunger or thirst, the settler decides to go beyond the limits of safety in programming the "Dream Sequencer". The resulting virtual journey takes the name of "Universal Migrator". The disc begins as the colonist prepares to embark on this latter experiment.

Arjen Lucassen changes face, after the success of "Into the Electric Castle" and offers us a record that is profoundly different from the previous rock opera. This album, composed in tandem with the second part of the concept "Flight of the Migrator" (giving life to a single science fiction epic called "Universal Migrator"), is what the composer himself defines "a melodic and atmospheric journey throgh time. ". The metal influences are set aside in favor of dreamy and futuristic rock atmospheres, in which the protagonist of the story will retrace the entire history of human evolution back in time. The influence of Pink Floyd makes itself felt right from the start, permeating the entire disc with slow keyboard carpets on which the Dutch composer's guitar expresses itself flawlessly. To this is added Arjen's love for Celtic music and the strong use of electronic sounds, creating a particular sound poised between past and future.

Like every album of the Ayreon project, even in this "The Dream Sequencer" we find a long line of "guests", including Damian Wilson (Threshold), Neal Morse (Spock's Beard, Transatlantic), Lana Lane, Floor Jansen (After Forever ), Johan Edlund (Tiamat). Tired of the structural complexity of "Into the Electric Castle", Arjen in this case opts for a concept in which the singers / characters do not interact with each other but in which each piece corresponds to an era explored by the colonist through the dream sequencer, described by only one singer at a time. From the child who, astonished, watches the moon landing on television, played by Edward Reekers, to the Mayan priestess, beautifully interpreted by the singer (unknown to me, I apologize) Jacqueline Govaert to the awareness of the first man on earth, or Neal Morse , this record flows in all its beauty.

In conclusion we are certainly not in front of a work of the caliber of "The Human Equation" or "01001101", however the musical quality of this record is undeniably high. Those who have already appreciated Ayreon in other works may be disappointed by the formal simplicity of this "The Dream Sequencer" but, once these prejudices are overcome, they will find themselves in the presence of an excellent record.

 Into the Electric Castle by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 1998
4.15 | 789 ratings

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Into the Electric Castle
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by prog_traveller!!

5 stars Arjen Anthony Lucassen. This is the name of the genius. Few have managed to resurrect the "rock opera" genre like Lucassen, even reconverting it to modern times with this "metal opera", even if the Progressive Metal label is very close to an album like "Into The Electric Castle", since we find influences from various genres, such as folk, 70s progressive rock, electronic music (dictated by the massive use of synths), classic heavy metal, for example. Even on a conceptual level, the creation of an imaginary world so well set and that is reflected so well in the music is a successful feat for few. We find Tolkien influences, ancient mythology of various cultures, science fiction, inspiration from B series films and so on and so forth. Not to mention the atmospheres: epic moments, medieval moments, baroque moments, acoustic moments, more introspective moments, all merged into a multiform cauldron overflowing with highly original ideas.

A mysterious voice calls eight characters taken from different eras of history, in this case epochs of turmoil. Their mission is to reach the Electric Castle, overcoming all the difficulties and trials that come along their path, and discover what is hidden inside. Everyone advances hypotheses about this strange place, which the rumor indicates as "place outside space and time": the Scottish highlander thinks it is hell, the Indian of India a spiritual journey, the knight the Avalon Island where the Holy Grail is kept, the ancient Roman the Elysian Fields, the Barbarian a cursed place, the hippie an imaginary and fantastic flight into space created by the joints that smoked, while the Ancient Egyptian thinks it is the beyond the grave, that is the room of Isis and Osiris. The man of the future, on the other hand, reflects on the diversity between the types of space and time traveled. The eight reach the decision tree, where the voice forces them to decide which of them will die. The barbarian speaks of his glory, a reason for optimism that pushes everyone to continue, except the highlander, who claims to have lost his honor and does not want to continue the journey. He fought for principles and carried their bloody banners, buried the dead, even children, plundered crops and scattered ashes on the fields: he lost his honor. Thus, while all the others joyfully enter the tunnel of light, he collapses to the ground and expires slowly. The seven thus arrive at the rainbow bridge, "so resistant, and at the same time so fragile", as the mysterious voice affirms. Here the Roman and the knight indulge in thoughts of lost loves. The journey continues smoothly to the garden of emotions, in the presence of the costello, whose bastions rise gloriously, as if to contrast the insignificant dimensions of human beings, overwhelmed by such majesty. The hippie awakens from his trip, full of joy for his cosmic dream that seems to have come true. The Roman and the barbarian fight over who will have the role of commander of the mission inside the castle, while the man from the future orders them to remain united. The Indian and the Egyptian allude to an emotion and a strange sensation that hovers in the garden. The Egyptian, listening to this presentiment, gets lost in the meanders of the garden, victim of the spell of this place, and, dying, asks to be buried in the Valley of the Queens.

The six finally reach the castle: they enter the great hall, where the barbarian and the knight must face horrible ghosts and demons. Meanwhile, the hippie, the man of the future, the Roman and the Indian, climb to the top of the Tower of Hope. The Indian is swept away by the stormy wind and blown away, while Death makes her voice heard. Reunited again, the five come to the mirror, where each one has to confront his own despair and his own past, striving to come out of it intact from the confrontation with himself. With difficulty, the spell of the fairy mirror is broken. The man of the future thinks about the sad destiny of man, victim of his technology and his unstoppable science, which will slowly decree its end. The five find themselves in front of two gates: one gold, the other rusty, one opening over the abyss towards death, the other towards safety. It is up to them to determine which of the two gates leads to the right path. The barbarian arrogantly states that the right choice lies in the golden gate and, crossing it, falls into the abyss, dying. The mysterious voice reveals its identity: it is a supernatural and eternal being who defines himself as "of the stars", in fact he is called "Forever Of The Stars". He reveals that it was his lineage to create man and populate planet Earth as a kind of experiment. The aim was to study the human emotions and dangerous passions that his lineage had long lost. He claims that he too is tired and far from home: the experiment is therefore concluded, the gate opens, the circle closes. Each one, back in his own time, gives himself to some reflections: the hippie says that it was the most wonderful of trips; the man from the future is not sure if this really happened, as his memory was implanted in him by a computer; the Roman claims that the experience helped him find himself, while the knight thinks he has found the Holy Grail within himself.

A large number of guest musicians are used on this album, while Arjen Lucassen, multi-instrumentalist (he plays all the guitars, the bass, the mandolin, the mellotron and the minimaog), uses for the whole album of the drummer Ed Warby, who temporarily constitutes the only fixed base of the "band". For the various parts of synthesizer, piano and organ he avails himself of the help of a slew of keyboard players: Rene Markelbach, Ton Scherpenzeel, Robby Valentyne, Roland Bakker and Clive Nolan. There are also many singers, one for each character in the story: they are Fish (ex Marillion, the highlander), Sharon den Adel (from Within Temptation, the Indian Indian), Damian Wilson (ex Rick Wakeman, from Threshold and from Landmarq, the medieval knight), Edwin Balogh (ex Omega, the ancient Roman), Anneke van Giersbergen (from The Gathering, the ancient Egyptian), Jay van Feggelen (ex Bodine, the barbarian), Arjen Lucassen himself ( the hippie), Edward Reekers (ex Kayak, the man of the future), Robert Westerholt and Gorge Oosthoek (respectively from the Testament and Orphanage, the voices of Death) and Peter Daltrey (ex Kaleidoscope, narrator).

After the narrated introduction intro ("Welcome To The New Dimension"), there is the first real song, "Isis And Osiris", featuring the magical mandolin, a great interpretation of Fish and majestic synth solos. The sitar interlude is also beautiful, giving that extra touch to perfect this wonderful suite. The second suite is "Amazing Flight", wonderfully arranged, beautiful especially in the finale, where the great Thijs Van Leer of Focus intervenes with his magic flute, to create the atmosphere of rare beauty. "Time Beyond Time" is a more melodic and introspective piece. "The Decision's Tree" is one of the most beautiful pieces on the album, with the usual monumental Fish declaiming with his deliberately marked Scottish accent, among the choruses sung in chorus. Also wonderful is "Tunnel Of Light", with its simple arpeggio another well constructed sung part. "Rainbow Bridge" is a beautiful piece where various genres come together, such as acoustic and hardrock. "Garden Of Emotions" is a very varied song, where the most prominent voices (the barbarian and the ancient Roman) are heard. The absolute pearl is undoubtedly "Valley Of The Queens", with a voice that melts the heart, the synthesizer as sweet as the flute and a creepy arrangement. "Castle Hall" is another nice energetic piece, at times more metal, with great riffs. There is also a lot of synthesizer "Tower of Hope" and the choruses sung in chorus intertwine well with the chitarrone. "Cosmic Fusion" even has a part of growl, while in "Mirror Maze" we find more visionary atmospheres, with choirs on acoustic guitar that even recall Crosby, Stills & Nash. "Evil Devolution" is a quieter song, with violin and cello parts. "The Two Gates" is another masterful piece, in which Edwin Balogh sings like a god. After the interlude narrated with the vocoder of "Forever Of The Stars", there is the ending "Another Time, Another Space". It is a finale that, as in all great rock operas of such grandiloquence, leaves us perplexed, not so much for the music, but for the contents. However two CDs full of great music.

1998. Into The Electric Castle: record of the year, in my opinion! What more can we say, if not that it is an absurdly beautiful album, that either you love it or you hate it, that it is a work worthy of the great masters, that it is a multi- faceted album, that it is an unrepeatable stroke of genius? This is perhaps one of the most extraordinary fruits of the 1990s.

 The Source by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.84 | 256 ratings

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The Source
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars The Source is the eighth, album of the Ayreon, a project conceived by the very nice Arjen Lucassen and the bearer of very high quality as well as records of absolute value.

FIRST CHRONICLE: THE FRAME

We are located on the planet Alpha, the Andromeda galaxy, inhabited by our human ancestors. The President (Russel Allen), opposing the opposition leader (Tommy Karevik), entrusts full powers on the planet to a supercomputer called The Frame, in order to be able to solve insurmountable political and ecological problems. Obviously the computer, much more intelligent than the inhabitants, decides that the only way to solve the problems is to destroy humanity by extinguishing the entire race. The inhabitants of Alfa despair and the President realizes that he has made a false step. Some villagers such as the diplomat (Michael Eriksen) and the councilor (Simone Simons) believe that there is still hope, as well as the captain (Tobias Sammet) who proposes to use his Starblade spaceship to take some inhabitants to a new world in order to to be able to start over. Meanwhile, the Prophet (Nils K Rue) predicts that they will start in earnest by foreseeing a sea of Alpha-like machines and a mysterious castle. Finally, the Alphas come to the conclusion that there is no hope of saving their world.

The Day That The World Breaks Down opens the work with these premises and with the highly anticipated second performance in 4/4 of James Labrie's career (the first was in Human Equation), who is here entrusted with the role of the historian. The song, with its more than 12 minutes in duration, is the longest of the opera and has a massive and rather easy theme, with the usual intrusive keyboards typical of Lucassen and a sound that cannot be more Ayreon. Karevik real showman with Simone Simons and Tommy Rogers excellent wingmen. Central part entrusted to Tobias Sammet and Hansi Kürsch who defend themselves well, truly spectacular the choral part that sings the binary numbers together with the whole following prog rock phase that enters with disarming simplicity and a Russel Allen totally at ease. There is also time for Michael Eriksen and it is a real triumph; the only thing the song lacks in is that it is a collage of excellent moments without having a strong ligature like a refrain, which you do not miss but would have raised the level even further. Floor Jansen, the biologist, ends the hostilities. Sea Of Machine, the sea of machines predicted by the Prophet, is a piece that opens with wind and string instruments, structurally rather simple and with the various singers still well juggled in the acoustic and non-acoustic parts. When Arjen hits the chorus there is none for anyone, and so it is, try to get it out of your head if you can. From the dream phase we move on to the conclusions of the Alphas with an authentic triumph called Everybody Dies, in which all kinds of amenities and follies follow each other: the mood is musical, light-hearted, there are quotes from the medieval melodies of Final Experiment and a lot of progressive metal , an authentic masterpiece with continuous jolts and full of details, one more successful than the other.

SECOND CHRONICLE: THE ALIGNMENT OF THE TEN

Ten individuals are chosen to leave Alpa aboard the Starblade; TH-1 (Mike Mills), a robot who has remained loyal to the human race, goes with them to help them try to start over from a distant world, an aquatic planet located near the star of Sirrah. Heartbroken, the ten pay their final greetings to their loved ones and set out for the Starblade through apocalyptic chaos; reached the spaceship by a miracle and ready to leave, the obvious feelings of guilt take over for having been selected and condemned to live while the rest of humanity is forced to stay and die.

Star Of Sirrah has the difficult task of keeping the level up after one of the high points on the whole album. Obviously the good James is entrusted with the task of opening the dance and a good sense of curiosity and even restlessness is created. Then when the rock-breaking riff is revealed in all its bombast, the game is done and the magic returns. Another chorus fits perfectly and another singing carousel managed to perfection. The strength of these pieces is the ability, in their simplicity, to be unpredictable and to always offer a good number of surprises: proof of this is the excellent bridge, masterfully fitted and with a notable solo part. All That Was recovers another of the fundamental aspects of Ayreon which is the folk and the melodies with the strings that have contributed so much to make her fortune; simple and acoustic piece in the first part, then electric in the central and final part, absolutely excellent, airy and beautifully placed in a tracklist that, for now, does not cease to leave even the most experienced listener speechless. Run! Apocalypse! Run! he must inevitably accelerate hostilities and therefore a good speed metal is served in which hallucinating vocal lines follow one another and a wonderful central progressive part; the chorus is obviously fully centered and perfectly captures the drama of the moment. Condemned To Live concludes the first part of The Source starting in an acoustic way and with an excellent mood, we expect the violins to enter at any moment and we are certainly not denied, the LaBrie - Rogers pairing holds up everything to perfection and brings home a high moment of very high quality. The opening on the distorted is in grand style and the main theme is masterfully maintained; here Eriksen and Rogers make us dream and Simons too! The following instrumental part is a scream and the finalone Karevik - Jansen is creepy. THIRD CHRONICLE: TRANSMIGRATION

After escaping from Alpha, the surviving humans are injected with a drug developed by the Chemist (Tommy Rogers), called Liquid Eternity but better known as The Source. The drug is able to make their bodies able to live underwater and communicate telepathically; moreover, life expectancy increases so much that they are practically immortal. The journey to Sirrah takes several years, so they put themselves in suspended animation and, in their sleep, they dream of the beautiful world that awaits them. When they wake up after their journey, they cry, knowing full well that during all those years of travel their planet together with all their loved ones has become history. However, the new world fills them with new hope.

There is also a special choir in the album, which is placed to represent the crew of the spaceship; the singers here are four, Wilmer Waarbrock, Jan Willem Ketelaars, Lisette Van Den Berg and Will Shaw. Aquatic Race opens precisely by them and turns out to be a very good piece supported by an excellent chorus and a good alternation of soft - distorted moments. The instrumental bridge is a bit telephoned as it totally takes up the line of the chorus, but it is still pleasant and does not disturb at all. How much do The Dream Dissolves and its beginning with the flute remember Human Equation? Lucassen's supreme masterpiece recurs often and it is absolutely not a bad thing, on the contrary, we speak of short, harmless self-quotations that will certainly tear a few smiles as well as a few tears. The piece is entrusted to Simons, Jansen, Eriksen and K Rue and is handled quite well despite not being a demanding score. Deathcry Of A Race raises the bar a little with a leading melody devoted to the East; Allen and Sammet placed at the beginning make their foolish figure and the figure of the Preacher appears, entrusted to the talented Zaher Zorgati of Myrath. The bridge is absolutely stellar and complete with lyric singing alternating with Arabic; In the meantime, Tommy and Floor have taken a taste for it and once again close another great song. Into The Ocean places a hard rock riffaccio in the opening and starts with an irresistible mood, verses entrusted to Allen and Eriksen; the top, however, can be reached with the chorus entrusted to Hansi Kürsch, so out of his schemes as to be fantastic! The song form here is quite classic, but we point out the excellent bridge sung by Karevik and the worthy conclusion entrusted to Nils K Rue.

FOURTH CHRONICLE: THE REBIRTH

Humans and TH-1 begin building their new home, which they call the Bay of Dreams; now they all live underwater because Sirrah's sunrays are deadly. Some of them are worried about the future, some hopeful; the Prophet predicts that they will indeed continue and advance the human race but also that the future will be dark and bleak. Communicating telepathically, and now feeling more united than ever, the survivors then decide to name their new planet Y; as a side effect The Source relaxes their minds and makes them forget their previous existence on Alpha. They happily let this happen and, with guilt and sadness that slowly disappear, they look to the future doubtful, fearing that they will still make past mistakes and with the fear that drugs could change and make them lose their humanity. The Prophet predicts that their spirits will become empty but that the second coming of the universal soul will make them total and full once again. Meanwhile, the TH-1 left alone and aimless predicts that it will grow and become the new Frame to start the cycle all over again. The age of shadows will begin ...

Bay Of Dreams is an electronically opened song that turns out to be pleasant but not at the hallucinating level of the previous compositions; it is a passage passage, with some dissonances and that ends just right when it is about to grow. Absolutely different speech for Planet Y Is Alive !, which hits another target perfectly and has an irresistible beat in the beat once again sung by the excellent Hansi. Nothing is thrown away here: from the verses to the musicality of the piece, and what about the bridge? The guitar solo that comes out of nowhere is something that will make many six-string empiricists hang on the instrument, truly amazing. The refrain is then resumed and ends. The Source Will Flow represents the second small and final drop in the quality of the work which, for plot reasons, offers a drugged and addicted piece that is lifted by James LaBrie and Simone but still remains a "normal" song compared to the rest. Journey To Forever returns to the musical and still serves perfection on the table: acoustic verse then distorted, chorus on the chorus that refers to the gospel and sparkling joy and happiness from all pores, fantastic. Your cd player will make the groove on this track by dint of repeating it, guaranteed. This can be considered the final song of the work, as the following The Human Compulsion and March Of The Machines exist for lyrical and plot needs; the first is very nice even if abrupt and short, while the second is practically an outro obviously on track.

The production offers that weird current trend of wanting at all costs to make almost metal if not actual metal records sound pop. Everything is very clean, crystalline, the guitar is there but it is behind and you have to get some ear to that closed "poc" of the snare drum; nothing transcendental and fortunately the final result is not affected in any way.

In conclusion, the magic has finally returned to the Ayreon household and it is back with what Arjen does best. The Source is finally a guitar album, very heavy and with all the elements that made the series famous present in a massive but never banal way. The device is this time built to perfection and has only a couple of dips towards the end of the second record that are not particularly heavy or disappointing in any way. The Source is genuinely everything Ayreon fans could have wanted and maybe more; many, accustomed to the level of a certain type of Arjen's records, expected a good record and the usual good record, but here one touches the masterpiece. Time will tell us if it really will be and if it will be worthy of being remembered as Human Equation; certainly, however, we can say that it ranks very high in the discography of the project, it is up to you to decide in what position.

 The Human Equation by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.19 | 1206 ratings

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The Human Equation
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by Isaac Peretz

5 stars Ayreon was a band that took me a good time to get into. At first they sounded like Dream Theater with many vocalists but after giving some of Ayreon's best works multiple tries I started to appreciate them more and more. At first, their albums look intimidating: Most of their works are long, two-CD concept albums with multiple featured singers from different bands. Lucky for me though, I'm a Flower Kings fan, so I'm pretty used to that type of album format. All this orchestration is led by Arjen Lucassen.

Anyways, while I can't say everything he has done is spectacular (nothing to be disappointed about), I definitely can say his best works pack quite a punch. The Human Equation is without a doubt one of his two master works, the other one being Into The Electric Castle (my personal favorite).

The Human Equation tells a story across two CDs and twenty tracks, each track symbolizing a day. Pretty much close to everything you've heard in progressive metal can be found in this album: Mellow ballads, happy ballads, technical riffs, headbangable riffs, different vocal styles that benefit from the wide spectrum of vocalists present, and a very consistent balance of these characteristics through the one hundred minutes of music.

Can definitely say this one has grown on me a lot. This album, along with Into The Electric Castle, are the two only Ayreon albums that deserve a five star rating.

 The Human Equation by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.19 | 1206 ratings

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The Human Equation
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by TCat
Forum & Site Admin Group Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars Ayreon is a progressive metal project by multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen. He is the only constant member of the project, however, he often uses many well-known vocalists and artists from around progressive circles to put together some elaborate and amazing rock operas. The Human Equation, released in 2004 is one of his best. It stands out from his other work as being the first album where Arjen centers the story/album around real life and not fantasy as he had in previous albums. That is a big advantage for this album as it is a lot easier to relate to it.

So, the tag Progressive Metal fits to his music, but be aware that Arjen also uses a lot of Neo, Symphonic and Classical Progressive influences in his music, and he utilizes them quite extensively. The album The Human Equation is a perfect example of that, it is a varied and emotional album dealing with the main character being in a coma for 20 days after an automobile accident and dealing with his own emotions and personality. There are several musicians involved in the making of this album including Devin Townsend (as Rage), Heather Findley (as Love), Mikael Åkerfeldt (as Fear) and James LaBrie (as "Me", the main character) just to name a few. Most of the vocals are clean vocals except for a few rare occasions when it is important to the storyline. The music is quite variable and dynamic and so are the vocals. The voices can be quite emotive at times, just like you would expect in such an emotional tale.

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about this album because it is one that any progressive fan should already be familiar with. One thing you have to say is that there is plenty for all progressive fans of any sub-genre should love. The album has been reviewed many times already in the Archives, but it has been awhile since the last review, so I thought I would help remind everyone out there that this album exists, it is one of Ayreon's best. It shows Arjen at his songwriting and performing best. Personally, for me it just barely misses the masterpiece mark, but it is still one that I come back to quite often. The problem I have with it is the concentration is too centered around the story and the lyrical aspect of it all, but that is not to say that there isn't a lot of excellent instrumental passages here, because there is. I feel like because of the importance of the story and the characterization involved that development tends to suffer in many places throughout the album. But, this is not a reason to avoid this album, because, for many, that may not even be an issue.

The biggest plus of the album for me is the amount of variety and dynamic change throughout it all. You never have to worry about getting tired of any one style or sound as so many genres are touched upon here quite well and it is literally one of those albums where everyone will find things to absolutely love about it. I feel the strongest tracks are the heavier and most emotional ones such as "Day Two: Isolation", "Day Eleven: Love", "Day Twelve: Trauma", "Day Sixteen: Loser" and "Day Eighteen: Realization". For those that love a lot of drama, emotion and dynamic in their music, this is a must have.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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