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Ambeon - Fate Of A Dreamer CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

3.30 | 90 ratings

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Prog Folk Researcher
2 stars This is another in a seemingly endless line of projects from Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Ayreon). Like Stream of Passion, this is his music overlaid with the lyrics and melodies of a young woman who was largely unknown before his discovery. The comparisons really end there though. Stream of Passion has the feel of a broadly collaborative effort with a range of sounds and plenty of professional musicianship. Also, Marcela Bovio’s vocal range and overall musical abilities appear to well exceed those of young Astrid van der Veen. At the time of this recording she was only sixteen though, so time may tell a different tale.

This album was supposed to be largely instrumental, and a way for Lucassen to work out the capabilities of some new recoding equipment (the name Ambeon comes from the merging of ‘Ayreon’ and ‘ambient’). After hearing van de Veen’s vocals, he added a handful of professional musicians, allowed the girl to add her own lyrics and melodies, and turned this into a full project. The result is pleasant enough, but one that sounds like just what it is – a talented artist experimenting with some new sounds accentuated by appealing vocals and dressed-up with a few accompanying musicians. Wrap that in a pretty package and you have something that Ayreon fans are likely to spend money on as a completion piece to their collections, but probably not much more. One note – the ‘pretty package’ includes lyrics and various musings by the young van der Veen, but considering these are the heaviest thoughts of a somewhat precocious but very young girl, they aren’t likely to provide any deep insights into the meaning of life.

The opening “Estranged” has some nice flute and faint violin from John and Pat McManus, brothers lately of the Irish folk band Celtus and founding members of the 80’s one-hit wonder metal band Mama’s Boys. The remaining music is mostly synthesizer, slow and folksy but largely unremarkable. Van der Veen’s lyrics are rather trite, the lament of a girl at the moodiness of her lover, and while her voice is quite beautiful and melodic, she has a tendency to over embellish at bit. This isn’t really a distraction, but it does emphasize the fact that her style was still at a fledgling stage of development.

The drums and guitar finally appear on “Ashes”, but the drum tracks are digital, and Lucassen’s guitar work appears to have been lifted right off of Universal Migrator. The lyrics – not sure, but it sounds like someone singing about getting stoned. I’m sure I’m wrong about this, but…

On the other hand, I’m quite sure the words in “High” are about losing one’s virginity –

“And now I know it is time to possess your mind whole; and now I know it is time to give away what I saved. And you will take me high, so high”.

Right then. How awkward, unless you are a sixteen year old boy. Lyrics aside, this sounds a lot like some of the more sensual stuff done by the Corrs, or maybe Sarah McLachlan, and isn’t really progressive music in any way, and certainly not metal. On any other album this would be considered R&B-influenced slow-dance music. This is definitely one of the weaker tracks on the album, but probably would have made a club hit as a single.

“Cold Metal” was the closing track on Ayreonauts Only, and shows a bit more of a metal flair with actual drums, singing guitar riffs from Lucassen, and ambient violin tracks interspersed with eerie keyboards. Van der Veen’s voice here sounds like a melding of Tarja Turunen and Kate Bush, perhaps intentionally so. The story I gather is about suicide by tossing oneself under a train. Pretty dreary stuff. This sounds like it’s the same mix as the one on the Ayreon album.

The first of two instrumentals is “Fate”, which starts off with a slowly building, slightly syncopated keyboard riff accompanied by thin violin strands and spacey synthesizer, and again with the digital drums plus a few variations on guitar. This kind of reminds me of Alan Parson’s I Robot at times. The track never really develops into much, and just fades into a slow transition to “Sick Ceremony”, a reference I believe to some kind of ritual drowning –

“She crossed her fingers and apologized to them, then she flew off into the stream - went to the light”.

This just seems like filler, with drum and guitar tracks that sound like they were lifted off “Cold Metal”, and van der Veen over-inflicting on vocals again.

“Lost Message” starts off with a keyboard track and violin that sound a bit like Nightwish, and van der Veen’s voice here is remarkably similar to Madonna circa early 90s. The story is of a winged creature that appears once then flies away, never to return, leaving the singer waiting and longing to see her again. This is fantasy stuff, and more celtic-sounding than metal with the lilting backing vocals and violin.

“Surreal” is a rather sophomoric lament about love and pain, although this one has some pretty decent guitar that includes both electric and acoustic tracks to give it a more romantic feel I suppose, along with the most passive keyboard accompaniment to be found anywhere on the album.

“Sweet Little Brother” tells the Jason Vorhees-like story of a young girl who comes home to find her brother gone mad and chasing her around with a knife. She wrests it from him and kills him with it, and is left with her own demented voices in the end. More decent guitar work and a strong rhythm, but again nothing remarkable. There’s a radio news report track wafting through the background with a reporter describing the crime scene, which interestingly enough happened near Lake Michigan, meaning the fictional crime probably occurred in Chicago. Or it just means that’s the best audio track Lucassen could find for the album, whichever.

The final track, “Dreamer”, is also an instrumental, and quite similar the other wordless number “Fate”, except that here van der Veen offers a few snippets of closing vocals to end the album.

This is certainly not a masterpiece by any means, and after numerous listens I don’t believe it even really qualifies as ‘good’. The instrumentation is decent but average, especially for such strong musicians as Lucassen and Erik Norlander, who are capable of much better work. This may appeal to some who like lyric-intensive songs with a solid female vocalist. But I think this album represented a moment in time when Lucassen was briefly infatuated with Astrid van der Veen’s young voice, and perhaps went a bit overboard in trying to either impress her or to capitalize on her sound. In the six years since, there have been no further Lucassen projects featuring her, and she in fact has moved on to her own band theEndorphins (spelled as one word), whose web site announces that their repertoire is now “extensive enough to provide a full length performance”. Bravo.

I think that two stars are probably appropriate for this one.


ClemofNazareth | 2/5 |


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