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Ayreon - Into the Electric Castle CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

4.14 | 784 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars I have a mixed feeling about "Ayreon". A good debut album and a somewhat deceptive follow-up one. I was rather interested in discovering this "Into The Electric Castle" project thanks to some great prog musicians / vocalists who agreed to participate.

And IMO, this is the major attraction of this double CD set. Fish, Thijs van Leer and Clive Nolan are persons that I particularly appreciate. They definitely put their marks on this work (especially Thijs and Fish).

I could not really enter the storyboard of this "conceptual" work. Eight characters from different time eras interacting with each others might appeal some listeners but I am not truly convinced.

Even if "Ayreon" is referenced in the prog-metal genre, this effort is more in the neo vein ("The Decision Tree"). There are even some symph instants thanks to the short "Valley of the Queens" which almost sounds as a "Renaissance" track. Of course, there is a metal flavour here and there ("The Garden Of Emotions") .

I do not particularly like the vocal introductions of several songs. Cloning Jeff Wayne's project "The War of the Worlds". But this was the model and "Into The Electric Castle" is far from being able to compete.

Of course, the imprint of "Fish" in his "Highlander" role is very good. He appears on several tracks ("Isis & Osiris", "The Decision Tree", and "Tunnel Of Light".

My preferred moment (can't even talk about a whole track) is when Thijs holds the flute during the last section of "Amazing Flight". Fully Tull-esque and very powerful.

The whole of the first disc is not unpleasant, but I am looking desperately to identify a masterpiece such as described in several reviews. Musicianship is excellent of course, that's not the problem. I guess that it is only a matter of song writing. To be able to capture your audience for almost two hours needs a very strong story to which the fan can identify themselves (like Rael or Tommy). It is absolutely not my case here. It is too much spread about time and space to have an even close sense of unity.

In these circumstances, over hundred minutes of music is quite long to absorb. My quest for a highlight will be vain, I'm afraid. Some pastoral fluting during "Valley of the Queens" aren't sufficient. Especially that it is followed by one of the weakest number of this album. The soulless "The Castle Hall" only saved by a good and folky part at the end of it.

I particularly dislike "Cosmic Fusion". Not due to the good synth work from Scherpenzeel ("Kayak", "Camel") but to these vocals, pretending to be scary and actually being quite ridiculous. The end of this album is also generally weak which only reinforces my opinion that it could have been easily cut down to a one CD version only.

"The Two Gates" easily confirms this. AOR-ish and tasteless. And what to say about "Forever Of The Stars" and its computerized vocals. Unbearable. Fortunately, the closing number "Another Time, Another Space" is partially recovering this. But not completely.

I won't say that this is a weak album. Average would better fit my opinion. Five out of ten probably. Because of the good performance of some guests, I will upgrade it to three stars. But that's the max.

I guess that such a project might have been a good live experience. But Arjen never plays "Ayreon" albums on stage. Too bad.

ZowieZiggy | 3/5 |


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