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Ayreon - The Theory Of Everything CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

4.04 | 609 ratings

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5 stars Arjen Lucassen has achieved something special with this one...

With the incredibly large buildup to this album, one would normally expect it to crumble under its own weight and hype. Fortunately, "The Theory Of Everything" is one of those rare cases where the end result actually lives up to the incredibly high expectations of the public.

The idea behind this album seems to have gone something like this: Arjen Lucassen, ready for yet another new project, asks himself: "Why don't I take everything that everyone enjoyed about my 3 most successful albums, and combine them all into a masterpiece of epic proportions."

...and that's what he did. Simply put, this album is as if Arjen decided to take the colourful, proggy aspect of "Into The Electric Castle," the complex emotions and incredible vocal cast (both as singers and as characters) from "The Human Equation" and the mystifying sense of tension and atmosphere from "01011001" and put them all in that great big hippie melting pot of his.

The story of this album is the easiest of any Ayreon album to follow, yet also the most dramatic. The characters are complex and far from one-dimensional, each complete with their own conflicts and motivations. You tend to feel deeply for these characters, who have been beautifully represented by their vocalist counterparts. This brings me to what truly shines about "The Theory Of Everything" - the outstanding lineup. Put simply, Ayreon finally has its own sound. The guitar/violin combination is powerful, backed up by subtle flute undertones and (what I consider to be) some of the best synth work to grace a prog metal/rock album in quite some time. Whether this is Arjen himself or the synth-master Rick Wakeman himself (who is confirmed for having a larger part in this album that just a simple solo) doing this is still uncertain, but either way, kudos are necessary.

The vocal talent is also some of Ayreon's best. Tommy Karevik pulls off a brilliant job contrasting the "dreamlike" and "awakened" states of the protagonist, both Cristina Scabbia and Sara Squadriani truly show their passion in the relationships with their "significant other" in their roles of "The Girl" and "The Mother", and Marco Hietala brings forth the true intricacy and irony of his character, "The Rival." Also playing their parts to the fullest are JB, who commands authority with kindness as "The Teacher" and John Wetton (well known around these parts for his place in Asia) brings a certain amount of thought and intricacy to the surface in his role as "The Psychiatrist."

However, there is one truly standout performance on this album which I feel deserves some very special mention, and this comes from what many would have considered to be "the underdog" of an album made up of rock/metal superstars.

That is the performance of Michael Mills in his role as "The Father."

Very few of the listeners to this album will have ever previously heard this name, being the frontman to an incredibly underrated and unknown band "Toehider." However, by the end of this album, I was astounded at just how much emotion this one man could have put into this performance. Mills knew this was his big chance to get into the open, and boy did he take it! Not only would I call his performance one of the best that Ayreon has ever had, I would actually be tempted to call this one of the best vocal performances I've heard, period.

Anyone remember the way people's minds were blown when Geoff Tate reached that high note on the well-famed "Queen Of The Reich"? Well, Mr. Mills decides to hit that note a few times throughout the album, and then surpass it. I didn't truly notice though, until his performance on the song "The Parting," which quickly became the highlight of this album for me. On said song, he hits one of the highest notes I've heard from a male vocalist, sustains it, then cleanly completes it in a way that I'm sure will get most vocal enthusiasts' jaws hitting the floor. Needless to say, I've found one of my new favourite singers of all time.

Also, I guess it's worth mentioning that on the track "Progressive Waves" their is a keyboard solo trade-off between Keith Emerson and Jordan Rudess, which brilliantly complements the title by showing off the two unique forms in which the keyboard has developed itself in the prog world - the experimentation of the classic prog period and the virtuosity of the modern prog period.

Overall, this album is definitely one of the (or perhaps even THE) best albums to come from Arjen. Everything, both musically and lyrically is excellently written and performed, and there is almost no filler to the album at all, unlike a lot of Arjen's other works that sometimes tended to end up being too long for their own good. You end up getting addicted to the story, and you grow to love all of the characters, even the ones that primarily act as foils.

Overall, this album is one I would recommend for any prog fan - it has touches of everything: symphonic, folk, classic prog rock, prog metal, and some brilliant synth work throughout.

I'd give this album a personal rating of 4.7 stars. While it isn't absolutely pitch perfect musically, it's definitely up to the Ayreon standard (which, if you ask me, if pretty high) and the vocal performances more than make up for that anyway. Could easily end up being the best of the Ayreon discography, and the definitive Ayreon experience. However, whether or not that will happen, only time can tell.

Shuriken95 | 5/5 |


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