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Ayreon - Into the Electric Castle CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

4.14 | 784 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars An amazing flight through space.

Call it what you will - utter cheese, over the top or pretentious, Arjen Lucassen's Ayreon project never ceases to amaze, and on this, his third album, the project will finally find its heading. After experimenting with the rock opera idea on the project's debut, The Final Experiment, the band decided to follow up with a concept album dealing with virtual reality when they released the mediocre Actual Fantasy, and in the realization that the project were better off with the deepest reaches of space, Arjen decided to head back there with this album. The story itself is fairly fun for those who spent too much of their time watching Star Trek or playing Dungeons and Dragons when they were kids, but the music is simply pure bliss to the ears of anyone who enjoys some good progressive metal with some space rock atmospheres and a cascade of multi-instrumental sections.

All the guest singers and instrumentalists really make the album sound as big as space itself, and the spoken word narration in some of the vocals really gives you chills. It sounds like you're listening to an epic film-soundtrack as the keyboards and space sounds pulse in the background while the narrator's computerized voice plays the part of ''Forever of the Stars,'' the overseer of the story. Multiple singers play the part of the individuals involved in the Opera to keep things from getting boring, and the roster even includes ex-Marillion frontman Fish of all people. While Arjen's individual riffs and themes will definitely keep things more on the catchy side the whole album is a simply overwhelming experience, and that's what's great about it.

Even with the concept and the grandeur there are songs that stand out individually, and when they do - they are absolute killers. Things get off to a strong start when the stellar riff that opens the second section of the lengthy Isis and Osiris kicks into gear and just about blows your head off while it does. Sitar solos later in relieve the pressure that the guitars build up and make them all the more rewarding when they're reprieved later. Another standout from the first disc is the incredibly heavy Across the Rainbow Bridge with yet another guitar part that will stick with you long after the album is over. The Castle Hall is a dark and enchanting song which makes the best of its multiple parts to make the chorus incredibly harmonic and still somehow demonically dark while the brief Valley Of The Queens makes use of delicate voicing to make the song very 'touching' as another one of the characters falls fate to the Electric Castle.

While not all of the songs are particularly easy to remember, even after multiple listens, it doesn't mean that the album is hard to get into. Any one of the highly impressive songs will definitely pique the interest of someone who goes in for a listen and the remainder of the songs simply remind you why you put the album on in the first place. Somehow, even though the album is nearly two-hours long, it's a breeze to listen through. It may not be a good idea to try and get right into the story when you first put this album on - that might make you think too much and miss the excellent music that is actually the main reason for buying the album (believe it or not). But it is dense, and like all Ayreon projects, takes many listens to get into.

Overall this one is going to get a solid 4 stars out of 5 for an excellent album which would be the start of a whole line of stories in the saga that have finally come to an end with last year's 01011001. Definitely a good place to start with the astral traveling band and a must for fans of progressive metal - that is - if you don't mind a little bit of 'cheese' as some people may call it. Recommended!

Queen By-Tor | 4/5 |


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