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Ayreon - Into the Electric Castle CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

4.15 | 817 ratings

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5 stars Ayreon its musical brainchild Arjen Lucassen lived for a long period in my hometown The Hague, there he played with hardrock formation Bodine between 1982 and 1984. Then he was asked to join another hardrock band, the very popular and known Vengeance. It turned out to be a very succesful move but also a very exhausting experience, embracing sex, drugs and rock and roll in an extreme way. After he had left and got depressed Arjen finally returned to Vengeance in 1992, for a farewell tour, with the good money he started his own project resulting in Ayreon. In 1995 he released the debut album entitled The Final Experiment, featuring excellent guest musicians, from Cleem Determeijer and Peter Vink (both Finch) to Robby Valentine and famous Golden Earring singer Barry Hay. The dynamic and tasteful blend of Heavy Progressive, folk and melodic rock was received very well by the national and international music press, with good sales. From that moment gradually it started to work for Ayreon, and eventually he turned into the best selling current prog artist in The Netherlands!

Looking back at his 10 Ayreon studio releases (between 1995 and 2020) I am still mostly pleased with his third release Into The Electric Castle. Also because I did an interview with him, just before that release, in 1998. At his huge farmhouse in the forests he showed me his extensive vinyl collection, told me about the influences of Led Zeppelin, Hawkwind, The Beatles and Pink Floyd, demonstrated how he worked in his high-tec studio and which instruments he used (from a 12-string acoustic guitar to Nord Lead Mellotron samples). And in his living room was a huge painting that had become the cover of the Into The Electric Castle album, mindblowing, a kind of gothic Roger Dean-like art.

But back to the music on Into The Electric Castle, in my opinion here is the best balance between Heavy Prog, folk and melodic rock, and for me the compositions are the most elaborate. The colouring with a wide range of instruments is very tasteful, from lush vintage keyboards (Hammond organ, Minimoog synthesizer and the ubiquitous Mellotron) and heavy guitar work to the mellow sound of flute, acoustic guitars and the sultry Indian sitar. The tracks frequently alternate between dreamy climates, up-tempo beats and sumptuous outbursts (creating lots of tension and dynamics), topped with inspired contributions by guest musicians Fish, Sharon Den Adel, Damian Wilson, Clive Nolan, Ton Scherpenzeel en Thijs Van Leer. Especailly Arjen his choice to embellish the compositions with different singers is great, it has worked out very well, and although Fish was not always an easy person to collaborate his vocals as The Highlander are wonderful, like the best in his Marillion era!

During my interview with Arjen he impressed me as a humorous, smart and welcoming person. During my Into The Electric Castle sessions Arjen impresses me as a skilled and creative musician, and as an excellent composer, incorporating different musical styles into The Majestic Ayreon sound, an absolute highlight in Dutch prog history, along the best of Dutch prog legends Focus, Earth & Fire and Kayak, wow!

Highly recommended, I am sure it will appeal to many progheads.

TenYearsAfter | 5/5 |


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