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Ayreon - 01011001 CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.87 | 634 ratings

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The T
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars If there is an artist featured in this site that almost never fails to deliver, that one is Arjen A. Lucassen. Of all his AYREON albums, not one of them would receive less than 3 stars from me, and most would actually reach the best possible rating. The Dutch's career has been one of continuous work and amazing albums, never releasing a sub-par effort even when he did (ACTUAL FANTASY, though weaker than its conceptual brothers, still has better music than many prog-metal bands out there).

So it's no surprise that "01011001" is another success in a long line of excellent records. Coming off the heels of fan-favorite "The Human Equation", this album had very big shoes to fill. Lucky for us, the end result is as good (or even better from my perspective) that its famous predecessor.

Most everybody will know by now what AYREON's music sounds like. Don't expect any dramatic changes in style. What you have here is progressive-metal with a strong space flavor, a lot of 70's prog- rock influences, a little bit of classic like THE BEATLES or BOWIE, with a small dose of classical musical touches here and there, and a big amount of PINK FLOYD. Arjen manages to blend all these styles with some folk melodies and dances, enhanced orchestration, and unusually large casts of singers to create the AYREON sound, a sound that is so unique to him that is quite difficult to mistake his music for somebody else's.

The music in itself is hardly complicated. Most every song in the album follows traditional structure and harmonic rules, many are riff-based, rhythms are rather normal 4/4 and there's hardly any technical wizardry. What is amazing is that, with such, let's say, "traditional" elements, Lucassen achieves, album after album, the unlikely: to create a collection of songs that never sounds repetitive, boring, that always has something for everybody, and that is atmospheric, spacey, cosmical enough to make us fly with him while we enjoy it. For that's what AYREON's albums sound like: a trip through space and time, a voyage through history being carried by the wind at a speed much slower than light yet celestial enough to let us see that burst of energy.

In "01011001" AYREON has the usual line-up of musicians: Arjen Lucassen playing mostly everything, Ed Warby of GOREFEST fame behind the drum-kit, and a bunch of guests playing solos. Regarding that, let me just say that, while Sherinian's and Romeo's solos are instantly recognizable, is Tomas Bodin's (of THE FLOWER KINGS) one in track 2 in the second disc, "Waking Dreams", that really steals the show for me. His amazing scales and figures, followed by Lucassen soloing himself in guitar, make one of the best moments in this outstanding record.

The story is, as always, very cohesive and coherent. Inspired by Lucassen's own previous ideas, the picture he paints for us, one of impending doom and ruin for the planet and the species, may not be his most immediate one, yet, arguably, is the one that tackles with a greater dilemma (maybe only behind "The Human Equation"). Lucassen tries to fuse all his albums into one in terms of story and he manages to do it even though at moments it feels forced.

Stylistically, "01011001" lies somewhere between "Into The Electric Castle" and "The Dream Sequencer". There's not much of the pure-metal of "Flight of the Migrator" to be found here (even though this album contains probably one of the heaviest tracks in AYREON yet) and there is a bigger emphasis on choruses and hooks than in "The Human Equation". Lucassen has surprises every now and then, and the final song, "The Sixth Extinction", takes the shape of a true musical halfway down.

A final word about the cast. The group of singers here is one of the best in all Lucassen's albums. Just let me mention the bigger names: Englund of EVERGREY does a fairly good job, as does Gildenlow of PAIN OF SALVATION, without ever shining. Jonas Renske of KATATONIA delivers probably one of the best performances with his dark, menacing voice, rounded-up with his death grunts near the end. His voice gives the music a sense of atmosphere only matched by that of the female vocalists, especially Floor Jansen of AFTER FOREVER and Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-THE GATHERING). The power metal voices of Hansi Kursch (BLIND GUARDIAN) and Jorn Lande (of several bands including MASTERPLAN) add to the metal experience. There's two more vocalists worth mentioning: Phideaux Xavier, mastermind of the band of the same name, with a very effective soft tone, and Ty Tabor, of KING'S X, probably the weakest singer in the group. Of course, Lucassen wouldn't be true to his roots if he hadn't included a few numbers for himself to sing, something that we can't complain about as his voice, a little bland and soulless, is overly effective and sedative, ethereal and narcotic.

All in all, another success by one of the best "bands" in progressive-metal, another brilliant album by one of the genre's true master artists, and an essential album in any prog-metal fan collection. For progressive-rock purists, you may also find a lot to enjoy here, maybe not in form, but in spirit, as Lucassen really carries the torch of a long-gone decade in his music.

The T | 5/5 |


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