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Ayreon - 01011001 CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.87 | 628 ratings

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4 stars Review from

After nearly four years the follow up to my favorite Ayreon album had finally arrived. The anticipation for 01011001 rivaled what I felt for new Rush and Dream Theater releases, which is saying something. That said I am very glad I didn't review this album after one listen, because my initial reaction to it was disappointment. It has grown on me now, but not to the point that I would hold it in the same class as The Human Equation, which to me is the best thing Arjen has ever done with Ayreon or any other band.

The opening cut of the album, "Age of Shadows/We Are Forever" clocks in at just over ten minutes and manages to use all of the time effectively. A spacey bit starts the album and then slowly evolves into the brand of dynamic progressive metal Arjen is known for. The first of many talented to singers to be heard is Tom Englund, followed by Steve Lee and Daniel Gildenlow. The song is innovative throughout, and excellent except for the section that incorporates the albums name. That particular section seems unnecessary, and just not as good as the rest of the song. "Comatose" is a haunting duet between Anneke van Giersbergen and Jorn Lande. Probably my least favorite track when I first heard it, it now is one of my favorites off the album. Simple and chilling the song just brings you into the depth of the music. "Liquid Eternity" returns to the overall spacey heaviness of the opening cut, with a deep, thick guitar riff leading things. Like many tracks on the album, this one moves from heavy and crunchy to smooth and atmospheric with little or no effort, and as always the track is led forward by an array of talented and powerful vocalists.

Going out of order a bit I'm going to group the next track, "Connect the Dots" in with the track that ends the first disc of 01011001, "Web of Lies". Both tracks are somewhat different from the rest of the album, which is certainly not bad, however lyrically they seem to have little or almost no connection to the central concept. Many concept albums are written loosely, to the point where many wouldn't know without being told that there was a story there, however Arjen tends to, and did on this album write very to the point lyrics that get across a clear story. Just seems like he should have picked one style or the other, because these two tracks, despite being excellent, just feel out of place.

The remainder of the first disc, "Beneath the Waves", "Newborn Race", and "Ride the Comet" continue the rollercoaster ride where "Liquid Eternity" left off. There always seems to be a strong, powerful voice that will pull your mind away from a lighter section of the album to a heavier aggressive part. However I think "Newborn Race" stands out on the disc as one that is exceptionally good, and one that reminds me of older Ayreon, especially Into the Electric Castle. A range of instrumentals, warm synths, and vocalists creates a perfect atmosphere for a great track.

Although both discs contain plenty of awesome music, I think the second disc of 01011001 gets the nod as the better simply because unlike the first disc it acts as one conceptual unified whole. What "The Fifth Extinction" starts doesn't end until the album comes to a close with "The Sixth Extinction". In between the two there is a ton of killer music. "The Fifth Extinction" continues a common trend on the album of long songs with a wide range of sounds and different parts. "Waking Dreams" contains a female fronted chorus that is one of the most beautiful and stunning moments on the album. "The Truth is In Here" starts with a very Celtic flute intro that is very reminiscent of early Ayreon works. It runs into a very smooth section that documents why despite not being as good as most of the singers he brings on his albums, Arjen is still certainly worthy to step up to the microphone to add his own personal touch to the vocal duties. "Unnatural Selection" features perhaps the most drastic mood change in any song. Multiple keyboards and Tom Englund lead a soft intro into an explosion that produces one of the, if not the heaviest section on the album, and then it all averages out into one of the simply best parts of the album. "River of Time" continues another habit on the album of either very odd drum parts, or simply the deception of drums due to a very rhythmic keyboard part. In this case a very interesting snare part simply rides under all of the verses. "E=MC2" contains one of the best female vocal parts in the album, that continues into a guitar slide you can't help but love. The song also features what is my favorite guitar solo on the album, which is surprisingly played by Michael Romeo of Symphony X fame. "The Sixth Extinction" is the final track, and yet another that clocks in at over ten minutes. It features a shrieking synth lead led by powerful vocals that is one of the most easily remembered parts on the album. Great track and disc throughout.

One of my biggest complaint's with the album is one that actually came from a friend of mine first. I have always considered Arjen an excellent selector of vocalists, and what's more is that he consistently brings out the absolute best in a wide array of singers. However when I think about it, I'm mainly thinking of the male vocalists he's worked with. On the other hand I often do have a tough time differentiating between different female vocalists as his use of them seems a bit less distinct, and the techniques he uses them for tends to be similar. However after taking that into consideration and the complaint that two songs don't fit the album all that well, you are left with an innovative, exciting, consistent, and fantastic album. Lyrically the album is traditional Arjen. It tells a story of a dying or struggling race, and how the remnants of it travel to Earth to help shape the future of humanity there. And along the way Arjen ambitiously ties in the stories from all of his previous works. The lyrics have a lot of cheese, which personally isn't a complaint of mine, but it may turn many serious lyric readers off.

Nick's Rating: 92%

The special and limited editions of the album come with a bonus DVD well worth the extra money. Featured is a long, interesting documentary with most of the artists that appear on the album. My only complaint is that it seems Arjen's ego took center stage during the editing process and much of the documentary focuses on him, and not the actual music, how it was made, and how he interacted with the other artists. Also included is a shorter documentary about recording drums for the album, I found this both very informative, and it gave me a bit of a deeper respect for Ed Warby. There is a CGI movie for Beneath the Waves, which I personally thought was pretty bad. Then there are also several of the guide-vocal tracks Arjen sends to various artists so they can learn the music. These are interesting in that you can see what changes were made from the early writing stages of the album. Finally there is an audio blooper reel from the recording session that is good for a few laughs one or two times around.

Xanadu3737 | 4/5 |


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