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Ayreon - The Human Equation CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

4.19 | 1171 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
2 stars The higher the number of famous people you put on an album the better it is, right? No, I'm afraid not!

After the Space Rock of Universal Migrator part one and the Power Metal of Universal Migrator part two, Ayreon went into Folk Metal here while at the same time returning to the Rock Opera format of Into The Electric Castle. Like Into The Electric Castle, The Human Equation too is a frustrating listen for me as there are many aspects and elements here that I like very much while there are others that I dislike. Making a double album work is very difficult indeed, and making a Rock Opera work is even more difficult. Folk Metal itself is very challenging; when it is good it can be fantastic, but when it is bad it can be horribly and awfully bad. Arjen's attempts are sometimes very successful here, but he also falls into many traps along the way. I thus have deeply mixed feelings about this album. I have given it several chances over a long period of time, but even if it did grow on me a little after some initial disappointments, I have to say that I remain unconvinced in the end.

The instrumental aspects of the sound are mostly quite brilliant on this album. I mostly love the many Folk influences and there is a very nice and well-balanced mixture of acoustic and electric instruments and of warm, organic sounds, on the one hand, and cold, electronic ones, on the other hand. Most of the time at least, the cellos and violins, and the flutes, pipes and whistles, mix quite wonderfully with the electronic keyboards and heavy guitar riffs. There are parts that sound like Jethro Tull. The production is absolutely top notch and the album title and sleeve picture are great and absorbing.

The resources for a making great album were clearly here, the problems I have with this album lies elsewhere: Arjen just doesn't know when to stop! The idea to include no less than 11 lead vocalists (including Arjen himself) each playing a role of his or her own is simply preposterous. The storytelling is perhaps less intrusive here than it was on Into The Electric Castle due to the prudent avoidance of narration, but the fact that the many vocalists have all been given roles to play emphasizes the Rock Opera nature of the project that makes it such a difficult listen for me. The many different voices give the music a fragmented feel. There are just too many vocalists and too much vocals in these songs. The music is filled with vocal dialogues which detract from the strong instrumental aspects.

As with all Ayreon albums, the main selling point is in the many famous guests. This time Dream Theater's James LaBrie provides a strong vocal, and the voice of Devin Townsend is great on Pain (one of the strongest tracks). Saviour Machine's Eric Clayton sounds very much like David Bowie. Among the instrumental guests we find Oliver Wakeman, Uriah Heep's Ken Hensley, and IQ's Martin Orford. Great people indeed, but as usual I would rather hear them in their own musical environments.

As I said above, I very much like the Folk Metal aspects of this album. But on the track Loser it goes horribly wrong! The latter was even made into an atrocious music video. This is absolutely cringe-worthy. In the end, The Human Equation is just too long for its own good and some parts could easily have been cut.

Many good features here, but in general this is overblown and overrated

SouthSideoftheSky | 2/5 |


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