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Ayreon - Actual Fantasy CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.21 | 259 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

3 stars Ayreon's second full length output is a quite unique piece of music from this project. For the first and last time, the Dutch mastermind Arjen Lucassen decided to not invite a high number of guest musicians but did something like a solo project where he played all instruments and invited one main singer as well as one supplementary vocalist. The project feels more like a band in here and this album sounds quite homogenous. It's also the project's shortest full length release and gets quickly to the point. Everything sounds coherent and seems promising. To keep it short, the new project's project happens to be a band project. That's a pretty original statement, isn't it?

But the final result is by far not as brilliant as it could have been. The songs are all very long and surpass all the six minute mark apart of the short introduction. I feel that some of the tracks are artificially stretched and are not varied enough to justify such a length. That wouldn't be much of a problem if the songs had at least a great atmosphere, a gripping passage and some catchy elements but that's just not the case. The songs are mostly calm and slow paced and copy the progressive rock acts of the seventies without reaching the subtle intensity of calmer bands such as King Crimson, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream or Gentle Giant. "Abbey Of Synn" for example could have been a solid opener if it would have been about five minutes long as everything is already said at this mark. The album closer "Forevermore" has the same problem and instead of finishing the record on a great note, the grand finale turns out to be a quite pointless and mellow stumbling towards the end of the line. The single "The Stranger From Within" shares the same fate. The shortened single version sounded like a tribute to the commercial progressive music of the late seventies and early eighties in the key of Yes and was rather catchy but the album version is twice as long and offers not much more than the short version. Progressive fans might find some interesting musical details from time to time but especially the metal fan section of Ayreon will quickly be turned off by the numerous unnecessary lengths. Let's also add the revisited edition of the album doesn't add anything appealing and actually sounds less coherent than the original release.

There are still a few highlights that keep the record away from sinking into boring mediocrity. The rather modern and catchy "Computer Eyes" is a good effort, the diversified "Beyond The Last Horizon" unites progressive passages, some thrown in metal riffs and catchy hooks and offers everything Ayreon usually stands for and "Back On Planet Earth" has an interesting story, atmosphere and some refreshing heavy passages. The latter is easily the best and most dynamic track on the record and stands out.

In the end, this release has been an interesting experiment from Ayreon and offers something we haven't heard before and afterwards from him. The project sounds like a band in here and offers a rather short and homogenous record. The songs are though artificially stretched and lack of energy, atmosphere and originality so that the final result is Ayreon's weakest release. Many promising ideas and attempts have not led to a satisfying, intriguing and coherent release. While progressive music fans could like this calm tribute to the past of the genre, metal fans might quickly get bored and should skip this album to continue with the great "Into The Electric Castle" which marked the band's stunning breakthrough where Ayreon also found its own style.

Originally released on on August 18th of the year 2011.

kluseba | 3/5 |


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