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Ayreon - The Final Experiment CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.41 | 352 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars This album marks the debut of one of modern prog music's most unifying forces.

However, The Final Experiment is not like 01011001 or The Human Equation. We don't have massive forces of major contemporary prog vocalists and instrumentalists. In truth, aside from vocalists we'll get to know better through Ayreon alone, the only truly well-known contributor to this album is Barry Hay from famed classic rock outfit Golden Earring. The current image of Arjen sitting like a spider at the center of the progressive metal web will not truly take root until Into the Electric Castle. That is not to say that this release is poor because of a lack of famous vocalists. It is, however, much weaker in the vocal categories than later Ayreon albums. Overall, compared to later outputs, this album is much more straightforward rock oriented, with fewer detours into folksy flutes and violins. The music is less heavy on the whole, as well, though there are a few moments of growls and thick guitars. One detracting factor to this record is the presence of filler tracks, something that Arjen does not normally struggle with yet seems to want to include here. It makes the entire release a bit less cohesive and disrupts the flow from song to song, at least to my ears.

It opens with the multi-segmented prologue, including a spoken word section that literally throws the full force of Ayreon's irresistible cheese in your face. The Awareness and Eyes of Time are both drawn out rock songs with nice choruses and some interesting instrumentation. The progressive side of the album finally kicks off with the multipart semi-epic The Banishment. Here we have the first taste of what Ayreon will sound like in a few years' time. Extended instrumental sections create the energy level the act is known for. Unfortunately, the song ends with some poor growling, though Arjen usually knows how and when to insert the sound better. Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy is a quick little tune with a catchy chorus and an ending just like Devin Townsend's Wild Colonial Boy (and by just like, I mean they even are saying the almost same things with the same cadence and tune). Sail Away to Avalon is a generic pop rock song with so much energy it's hard to sit still while listening. Barry Hay takes the vocals (and flutes) for this track, and the horns, although cheesy, create a lasting and catchy track that ranks fairly highly up there among Ayreon songs. Nature's Dance is a quiet, acoustic bit with Arjen himself providing the vocals. Again, the melody is great.

The Computer Reign (Game Over) is a slightly weak track that ends up being pretty unmemorable, mostly because of the following song. Waracle features some intensely powerful vocals, emoting and prophesying and all that about the end of the world and stuff, but it's hard to care about the content when Jay van Feggelen throws his voice into the microphone. This segues hauntingly into Listen to the Waves, a catchy post-apocalyptic warning once more featuring Arjen on the vocals. Here, he provides his classic harmonies for the first time, making this also very much a keeper in the Ayreon discography. Magic Ride is a trippy but mostly average song. Merlin's Will features something of a deep-voiced choir and some Renaissance-era instrumentation over the heavy guitars and electronic noises. The Charm of the Seer and Swan Song do very little for the album aside from push it forward. The energy level droops here, but it is picked up somewhat for the final concluding track, Ayreon's Fate. This song isn't terribly fast paced, and its first half is much stronger than its second half. The vocals are very nice and catchy here, though.

The Final Experiment clearly shows the starting point for the now ubiquitous Ayreon, except the songs are less progressive, less well-developed, and less focused on instrumentation than they will be in the future releases. Fans of Ayreon will enjoy this, but I recommend starting elsewhere, like The Human Equation or Into the Electric Castle.

LiquidEternity | 3/5 |


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