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Ayreon - 01011001 CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.87 | 627 ratings

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4 stars After a hard time of personal turmoil, excellent Dutch multi instrumentalist/composer Arjen Anthony Lucassen returns with yet another sprawling rock opera, and unlike The Human Equation (the previous album) this one heads fully back to the sci-fi theme of the earlier records, reprising the tale of Forever of the Stars and Planet Y.

Or so it seems, because on closer inspection perhaps it's all just a facade through which Arjen expresses his feelings as the album has a noticeably darker tone than his entire previous catalog. Gone is the humor and tongue-in-cheek musical and lyrical moments. Gone are the happy and triumphant pop-rock tunes too.

Even the production sounds now very cold and digital, even down to the guitar tones themselves (unlike the full analog richness of Into the Electric Castle ten years back) - which of course supports the plot perfectly, but ultimately leads to a less rewarding audio experience (at least to my ears).

The cast too reflects this, made of lesser known singers than the all-star gatherings on 'Universal Migrator' and 'Human Equation'.

Musically, as many have pointed out, 01011001 shows themes that we all have heard on previous Ayreon albums, so no surprises here and it actually sounds like a wrap-up and farewell record (all in my imagination of course, but bear with me as I ramble on!!!).

So all in all, a much more subdued offering than usual from Arjen, but is it good?

Well, this guy just cannot do bad albums, and even though this one isn't as good as The Human Equation or Into the Electric Castle the flair of the songwriting, the layering of vintage keyboards (Hammond, Moog, Solina, Mellotron, etc) the beautiful vocal melodies, great guitar leads and excellent drumming (once again by Ed Warby) are all still firmly in place, so in the end I cannot rate this record any lower than four stars.

Even when you think this sounds all very familiar, suddenly Jonas Renske's voice (arguably the most technically limited) kicks in and drives the music to a very different place, or Jorn Lande's perfect Coverdale impersonation gives a sonic twist to Comatose, or the AMAZING keyboard solo on Walking Dreams (on a Moog Little Phatty synth, I believe) by the Flower Kings' keyboard player lifts the song to a new level. And of course, no need to praise Anneke further (even though his vocal performance is quieter too).

Perhaps with this toned down album Arjen may have created a record that appeals to more serious minded prog-fans put down by the pomp of previous offerings?

For now, let's enjoy it and see where Arjen takes the saga next...

| 4/5 |


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