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Ayreon - Into the Electric Castle CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

4.14 | 784 ratings

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5 stars Review Nš 96

"Into The Electric Castle" is the third studio album of Ayreon, the musical project of the Dutch songwriter, producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen and was released in 1998. Being a concept album, as are all Ayreon's albums, it tells a science fiction story with characters influenced by science fiction movies. There are eight main characters, each one sung and played by a different vocalist from different times and locations. The eight characters are the Highlander, the Egyptian, the Indian, the Knight, the Futureman, the Barbarian, the Roman and the Hippie. So, "Into the Electric Castle" follows the lives of eight characters from different epochs in history who meet in a lost dimension. They find themselves in a strange place, guided by a mysterious voice which tells them that they must reach the Electric Castle if they want to survive. Characters die in the different songs for all over the story of the album, building the suspense about who will reach the gates in the end of the story.

The line up on "Into The Electric Castle" is divided into vocalists and instrumentalists. The vocalist are: Edwin Balogh ? The Roman, Sharon Den Adel ? The Indian, Jay Van Feggelen ? The Barbarian, Fish ? The Highlander, Anneke Van Giersbergen ? The Egyptian, Arjen Anthony Lucassen ? The Hippie, Edward Reekers ? The Futureman, Damian Wilson ? The Knight, Robert Westerholt and George Oosthoek ? The Death and Peter Daltrey ? The Voice. The instrumentalists are: Arjen Anthony Lucassen, Ed Warby, Roland Bakker, Robby Valentine, Erno Olah, Taco Kooistra, Jack Pisters, Rene Merkelbach, Clive Nolan, Ton Scherpenzeel and Thijs Van Leer.

"Into The Electric Castle" is in general considered Ayreon's second best working after "The Human Equation". As most of Lucassen's fans already know, he never intended for this album to be anything other than a masterful working, because he really believed that the vitality of his Ayreon project depended upon it. After the previous Ayreon's album, "Actual Fantasy", which sold below expectations, Lucassen sought to deliver a top quality recording. If the album had not been a success, Arjen said he would have no longer continued Ayreon's project. With this in mind, he created the concept and music for a progressive science fiction epic and gathered some of the best vocalists around. Arjen picked each of his singers so well that the releasing of this story, through lyrics and music, is really stunning. Not only the vocalists are great, but they real become, each with their roles, delivering a performance that is vocally impressive and emotionally involving, something you wouldn't expect from a relatively cheesy science fiction story.

The music itself is splendid, heavily layered with synthesizer textures to give it a space rock opera feel. All songs incorporate a variety of styles, from progressive metal, to 70's rock, to folk and to synthesizer pop. The songs vary in complexity and heaviness, but they're all pretty catchy. The music evolves with the mood, adjusting itself to each particular singer and to the tone of the lyrics. It almost seems like you don't need the lyrics, as the music displays more emotions than of the lyrics do. As a conceptual album, it needs to be listened to straight through to really get the sense of the story line. However, many of the songs can be listened to individually, and every song is absolutely great. How often do you come across a song where blues guitar is interrupted by acoustic space-rock as in "Amazing Flight", or from the majestic synthesizers that open "The Garden Of Emotions" to the catchy chorus of "The Castle Hall"? So, "Into The Electric Castle" is filled to the brim with great melodies that demonstrate Arjen's ability to write great songs in many different styles, including progressive rock, metal, fusion, folk and others. It features some great heavy guitar stuff and beautiful synthesisers solos. Another great thing about the album is the use of real violins, cellos and flutes, as opposed to using synthesizers to produce decent, but nonetheless fake imitations of the real instruments.

Conclusion: "Into The Electric Castle" is a great and bombastic progressive rock opera. It features some great heavy guitar working and very beautiful synthesizer solos. But the most remarkable on it are the different vocal performances. And we can't forget the artwork on it, too. It's really special and superb, as usual on every Ayreon's albums. As we all know, Lucassen isn't necessarily the greatest guitarist ever, but he manages to write some amazing songs here, with an impressive sense of tone and musicality. Whether his lines are acoustic lines reminiscent of the 70's progressive music, he writes with feeling and a sense of purpose. The keyboard work is just simply good. There's an incredible use of the entire musical atmosphere, a variety of synthesizer tones, and some of the best keyboards leads around. And finally, at last but not the least, the vocals complement perfectly the music. However and anyway, it's the glorious sense of musical composition that makes this album a great listening in the end of a working day.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 5/5 |


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