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Ayreon - Actual Fantasy CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.24 | 287 ratings

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5 stars The best Arjen Lucassen's album ever. It took me few years to fully realize this. But, as much as I admire its more famous and grandiose successors, namely Into the Electric Castle and Universal Migrator (especially Dream Sequencer part) and even Star One's Space Metal, Actual Fantasy has certain depths that Arjen never reached again. Perhaps the key of this album lies in its relative kind of modesty and straightforwardness compared to other efforts. Drum-machine, often viewed as a weakness, is fitting needs of this music, doesn't degrade it at all. On the contrary it gives the album its "cold" feeling. Partly because of this sort of simplification, Arjen's stellar guitar work, especially Gilmour-like parts, including great slide guitar, has plenty of space to shine.

Actual Fantasy is Lucassen's darkest, quite fast-paced, melodically most convincing album, with perfect flow, pulsating synthetic rhythmicity and magnificent spacey arrangements. Balanced with no weak places - every song stands out on its own. Gone are constant sudden and predictably unpredictable changes, gone are hundreds of instruments that Arjen practice in his rock operas. On the other hand, tempo within the pieces is quite steady with great build-ups and several intricate moments and twists here and there, with occasional synth/guitar bursts and battles throughout. Three singers perfectly complement each other trading the lead vocals within individual songs. Every single piece has infectious hooks filled with intense, freezing atmosphere sending shivers down the spine. This music takes you on the journey into distant cold deserts revealing post-apocalyptic portrayal of wastelands of human civilization and shady perspectives of tech-future. It makes you reflect about depths of space as well as fundamental philosophy and a bitter fate of humankind. It makes you feel despair and anxiety as well as glimpses of hope and love.

For all those emotions and visions that Arjen has been able to project and deliver to me, I perceive Actual Fantasy as a peak of his creativity and energy and consequently as his masterpiece.

stewe | 5/5 |


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