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Ayreon The Human Equation album cover
4.20 | 1240 ratings | 140 reviews | 51% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2004

Songs / Tracks Listing

CD 1 (50:43)
1. Day One: Vigil (1:33)
2. Day Two: Isolation (8:42)
3. Day Three: Pain (4:58)
4. Day Four: Mystery (5:37)
5. Day Five: Voices (7:09)
6. Day Six: Childhood (5:05)
7. Day Seven: Hope (2:47)
8. Day Eight: School (4:22)
9. Day Nine: Playground (2:15)
10. Day Ten: Memories (3:57)
11. Day Eleven: Love (4:18)

CD 2 (50:36)
12. Day Twelve: Trauma (8:59)
13. Day Thirteen: Sign (4:47)
14. Day Fourteen: Pride (4:42)
15. Day Fifteen: Betrayal (5:24)
16. Day Sixteen: Loser (4:46)
17. Day Seventeen: Accident? (5:42)
18. Day Eighteen: Realization (4:31)
19. Day Nineteen: Disclosure (4:42)
20. Day Twenty: Confrontation (7:03)

Total Time 101:19

Bonus DVD from 2012 Inside Out CD reissue:
1. Inside - Behind the Scenes (45:27)
2. The Concept of the Human Equation (3:05)
3. The Story of Ayreon (4:26)
4. Ed Warby's Drums (3:32)
5. Video Clip: Day Eleven: Love (3:49)
6. Teaser-Trailer (1:28)

Total Time 61:47

Line-up / Musicians

- Arjen Lucassen / lap steel, electric & acoustic guitars, bass, mandolin, analogue synths, Hammond, keyboards, producing & mixing

- Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep) / Hammond solo (16)
- Oliver Wakeman (Nolan & Wakeman) / synth solo (17)
- Martin Orford (IQ, Jadis) / synth solo (15)
- Joost van den Broek / synthesizer (2), spinet (13)
- John McManus / low-flute (13,16,18), tin-whistle (18)
- Jeroen Goossens / flute (3,5,9,14,18), alto flute (2), bass flute (5,14), panpipes (6), descant & treble recorders (13), didgeridoo (16), bassoon (18)
- Robert Baba / violin
- Marieke van der Heyden / cello
- Ed Warby / drums, percussion

VOCALS (and characters):
- Devon Graves (Dead Soul Tribe) as 'Agony'
- Devin Townsend (SYL) as 'Rage'
- Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) as 'Reason'
- Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) as 'Fear'
- Magnus Ekwall (The Quill) as 'Pride'
- Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn) as 'Love'
- Irene Jansen (Karma) as 'Passion'
- James LaBrie (Dream Theater) as 'Me'
- Marcela Bovio (Elfonia) as 'Wife'
- Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery) as 'Father'
- Arjen Lucassen as 'Best Friend'
- Peter Daltrey as 'Forever'
- Yvette Boertje as 'The Hospital voice'
- Meri Pitkanen as 'The Sexy Cough'

Releases information

Artwork: Jef Bertels

2xLP Inside Out Music ‎- 6 93723 60702 3 (2004, Germany)

2xCD Inside Out Music ‎- IOMCD 168 (2004, Germany)
2xCD+DVDv Inside Out Music ‎- 0504192 (2012, Germany) Bonus DVD-Video in Surround 5.1

NOTE: All songs written and composed by Anthony Arjen Lucassen; Devin Townsend wrote lyrics for "Rage" (3,8 & 16); Heather Findlay for "Love" (13); Devon Graves for "Agony" (17)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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AYREON The Human Equation ratings distribution

(1240 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(51%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(28%)
Good, but non-essential (14%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

AYREON The Human Equation reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Clayreon
5 stars Some people have a gift and know how to use it. Arjen Lucassen is one of them. It was already obvious on his first album "The Final Experiment" that we could expect a lot more from this phenomenon. "Actual Fantasy" was a nice CD, but nothing more. The first highlight was without any doubt "Into The Electric Castle", the album with the most variation until now. This landmark should be known to everyone that claims to know a lot about this music style. From then on, every album by Arjen Lucassen was compared to "Into The Electric Castle" and until now no match could be found. There was always the feeling that you heard it before or that it was only a variation on the same theme. I don't want to be detrimental to the later albums, but they missed the little extra that a music lover is searching for. But Arjen wouldn't be AYREON if he wouldn't surpass himself once more.

Of course there are some typical AYREON features in "The Human Equation", and so there should be, because an artist must be recognizable. But there's more, a lot more...

After the beautiful opener "Day one - Vigil" you already get such a typical AYREON song "Day two - Isolation". It could come straight from "Into The Electric Castle". And yet you feel a certain potential and this has certainly something to do with the ideal combination of vocalists. Eric Clayton (Reason), James LaBrie (Me) and Mikael Äkerfeldt (Fear) certainly attract attention. A floydian piece is followed by an unequalled synth solo by Joost van de Broek (AFTER FOREVER).

"Day three - Pain" is the first track that lifts this album to a higher level than "The Castle". Again the choice of voices is great. Devon Graves (AGONY), or should I say 'Buddy Lackey', the singer of DEAD SOUL TRIBE and PSYCHOTIC WALTZ, together with Devin Townsend (RAGE) give this song the little extra with the brilliant musical finds. (#1)

The track "Day four - Mystery" contains the typical AYREON organ sounds and is just a common but very pleasant track.

"Day five - Voices" also kicks off in a very known manner, but once Eric Clayton (Reason) performs his part, the track goes to another dimension. This could be considered as a leading thread running through the whole album. The most intriguing singer is Eric Clayton (Reason). Without him, the album would have been completely different. Also the piece with Mikael Äkerfeldt in this track is a beauty.

The singer with the most differentiation is Agony (Devon Graves). The combination with Mikael Äkerfeldt in "Day six - Childhood" make it another extra special track. (#2)

'Best Friend' (Arjen) does an excellent job singing the track "Day seven - Hope", a song with a very beautiful melody that reminds me a bit of BLACMORE'S NIGHT.

The combination of the voices does a great job on "Day eight - School", but the highest prize goes to the classical sounding bridge together with the interaction between "Pride" (Magnus Ekwall) and 'Reason' (Eric Clayton).

The only instrumental on this album "Day nine - Playground" is a brilliant, nostalgic song. If it was meant to make everybody reminisce their schooldays, then it succeeds completely. Clever piece of music.

Although it's not really a typical AYREON track, "Day ten - Memories" only gets to me from the quiet piece with 'Passion' (Irene Jansen) and 'Reason' (Eric Cayton) on.

The single "Day eleven - love", a most enjoyable track, very well sung by every one but an extra feather on the hats of 'Love' (Heather Findlay) and 'Passion' (Irene Jansen).

The best track on 'The Human Equation' is, without any doubt, "Day twelve - Trauma". Only the beautifully built tension would do, but the real kick comes after 3 minutes and 15 seconds: the vocals of 'Reason' (Eric Clayton) with a mini guitar solo, and after that 'Fear' (Mikael Äkerfeldt) who joins in at the right moment and brings the track to a climax on the right moment with a supergrunt. And that's why grunts were invented. Not to roar for a whole bloody album (really pathetic) but to give that little extra at the right moment. High class!!! (#3)

'Love' (Heather Findlay) opens "Day thirteen - Sign" in a way that no one else is capable of. Goosebump time!!. That's what Arjen's art is all about. Knowing who has to sing when and use the vocalist in a style that is best for him. This is a Heather moment like no other. "Top Notch" MOSTLY AUTUMN. But also the great guitarsolo in combination with the violin deserves to be mentioned. After that the level of the song goes down a bit.

'Me' (James LaBrie) gets a typical DREAM THEATER part in "Day fourteen - Pride", a heavy rock song. But this track is an exception, because on the rest of the album, James sings very laidback and quiet, really the way I like him the most. Superb judgement by Arjen.

The three strongest voices (Fear, Agony & Reason) open "Day fifteen - Betrayed", a quiet track, with a strong chorus sung by Eric Clayton (Fear). It contains a very beautiful middle piece with amongst others the synth solo by Martin Orford. The song ends with an acoustic guitar and a very modest James LaBrie (Me).

The didgeridoo opens the most folky track "Day sixteen - Loser". This exceptional strong track creates a fantastic atmosphere thanks to the combination of folk and metal. It reminds me of the Scottish Highlands, FISH, TEMPEST and SKYCLAD. And once more, the strong figures of "Rage" (Devin Townsend) and "Father" (Mike Baker) get a lot of credits. But the abolute highlight of this track is the organ solo by Ken Hensley. His typical URIAH HEEP organ sound sounds better than ever. Oh, guys, where have all those good times gone? But Arjen knows how to bring back these feelings. This is almost scary. And of course it's one of the songs with the little extra. (#4)

"Day seventeen - Accident" opens again in a Floydian way with a very Bowie-sounding Eric Clayton (Reason). The voice of Marcela Bovio has been mixed to the background which gives a very special effect. A piece of drum'n bass is used, just before the guitar solo and the synth solo by Oliver Wakeman, to emphasize the musical variation. Also a snatch of ZEPPELIN ("No Quarter") passes in review. This track is another tip. (#5).

Quite a lot of instruments are hidden in "Day eighteen - Realization", even some classical ones. This track opens as a Focus song to change into a rock song in real DREAM THEATER style.

Arjen (Best Friend) and Marcela Bovio (Wife) give an explanation in "Day nineteen - Disclosure" but I keep the details for the listener to discover. The same for "Day twenty - Confrontation" that also has a more narrative purpose than a musical character. These are good songs, but no super tracks, but they are essential to understand the concept.

I almost forgot to mention drummer Ed Warby. I can be very brief about him. You were right Arjen. The AYREON drummer is Ed Warby and no one else!

The expectations for the new AYREON album were very high. After the super album "Into The Electric Castle" we had to wait and see if Arjen would succeed in matching or even exceeding this masterpiece. With "The Human Equation", Arjen proves that he can do a lot more than he already revealed in the past. At least five tracks contain that little more. (see the #'s) He certainly has set the limits a little higher for himself. The technique and recording quality are an example for the whole musical world. With his skill to approach the right people and use them for the perfect musical atmosphere, he is capable of making exceptional great albums. He doesn't make it easy for himself in the future. I'm curious to see what his next step will be. But one thing is certain. If your budget allows you only one album this year, then you shouldn't have any doubts: AYREON: 'The Human Equation'!

>>> Review by Jany (9,5/10) Translated by Danny<<<

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars A winning formula?

I found this quite a difficult album to get into. Arjen Luccasen seems to be moving deeper and deeper into the rock opera world. Looking at the lyric sheet here it looks like something written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.

The guest list on each album is getting longer with the singers on this album being assigned roles to play. This gives many of the songs a conversational feel. The policy of writing in this way is questionable as it means either that the strengths of the vocalist are not fully exploited, or compromises having to be reached with the requirements of the story.

All that said, there are many fine moments, Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn) makes a particularly impressive contribution. The instrumental guests are less both in number and influence, with Luccasen and Warby taking on most of the duties themselves. Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep) contributes a characteristically excellent Hammond Organ solo, and various traditionally orchestral instruments appear throughout.

Musically, I found the album slightly disappointing, the emphasis being placed too much on the story telling. A few more keyboard and guitar solos would have been welcome.

Not a bad album, but I have difficulty recommending it, particularly to newcomers to Luccasen's work. There are better places to start.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Don't waste your time reading my review! Go to the closest CD shop and get this CD! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Enjoy the CD and then, if you have time, read this review. It's a long review. Well, it's actually too short for this double CD and wonderfully crafted concept album. In fact, mine is with extra DVD bonus because I purchased the limited edition couple weeks ago. Again, I'm late compared to most of you as I live in "rest of the world" country.

Based on AYREON official website, the concept centers around a story of a man who is hospitalized (in coma) due to a car accident. Cut off from the outside world, the man finds himself trapped in a strange realm where his emotions- most of which he's ignored for a long time- have come to life to confront him with all the choices he has made in his life. As he is taken from one memory to the next, he slowly becomes aware of all the events leading up to his accident, and realizes that if he ever wants to wake up from his coma, he must find a way out of his prison.

This album is the best ARJEN LUCASSEN has ever produced. It has a blend of rock, metal, space and some traditional music flavors (Scott's music?) and string arrangements. On musical nuances, there are bits of ROYAL HUNT (sorry for those who are not familiar with this band, it's a melodic metal band.), KANSAS, DREAM THEATER (the prog met stuff), PORCUPINE TREE, FOCUS, ARS NOVA and of course AYREON itself. I think, Arjen has put a concerted effort to make this album that comprises collaboration of many talented musicians a reality. Enjoying this album is like experiencing a journey of human life . the music flows naturally with high and low points and the vocal parts are composed in dialogue style. This makes the music much more meaningful when the blend of male and female voice are well presented. This might be typical Ayreon music as it happened also in the "In To the Electric Castle" album. When I received this CD and spin CD 2, I almost wrote a complaint to InsideOut as there are 11 "untitled tracks" prior to "Day Twelve" track. When I checked my friend, Didik Rahmadi, he got the same too. Finally . I realized how INNOVATIVE Arjen is. He made it that way as to ensure that "Day Twelve" track is really at the twelfth track and the whole album ends with 20th track, in-line with last track "Day Twenty". Brilliant!!

DAY ONE: VIGIL is a short track that opens the album; it starts with Arjen's voice followed by female voice "Why are you so concerned? Do you really care or do you feel responsible?" performed by Marcela Bovio (Elfonia) as 'Wife' . The melody part of female singing is really touchy, memorable and set the overall tone of the album. I expected that this short opening track would be followed by upbeat music, typical to prog-met album, but I was wrong. It flows to second track DAY TWO: ISOLATION in a soft music with acoustic guitar and male voice. The spacey keyboard sound accentuates the intro of this track beautifully. The upbeat ,metal influenced, music with simple guitar riffs and organ sound follows the intro. This track is one of my favorites because it's melodious, rich with sounds of multi instruments: violin (reminds me to KANSAS), flute, guitar and keyboard. It has a dynamic melodies as well. Oh .. I love this track very much!

DAY THREE: PAIN is opened with nice guitar rhythm and male voice. The music is simpler than previous track. Great keyboard and metal vocals. The inclusion of flute in the middle has enriched this track musically. It flows nicely to next track DAY FOUR: MYSTERY where the intro is a dialogue singing between male and female, acoustic guitar rhythm at background. The interlude has stunning keyboard / organ solo (reminds me to 70s prog rock); very nice. DAY FIVE: VOICES is opened nicely with violin and flute (reminds me to THIJS VAN LEER of FOCUS) accompanied by acoustic guitar rhythm. I notice that this album uses many acoustic guitar, especially during intro of each track.

DAY SIX: CHILDHOOD is opened with nice solo keyboard, violin / cello at background and great male vocal. The pan pipe used at the end of vocal part (intro) reminds me to acollaboration album between PATRICK MORAZ and SYRINX (hey, Moraz albums should be reviewed in this page. It's definitely prog to the corner!). DAY SEVEN: HOPE is an organ-based music with 70's musical nuances in a modern sound. It flows seamlessly to DAY EIGHT: SCHOOL with metal riffs. Orchestration in the middle of this track is wonderful. I like it very much. DAY NINE: PLAYGROUND serves like a break to me because it starts silently and then followed by nice violin, keyboard & electric guitar sounds. It's an enjoyable instrumental track! It then stops immediately to remark the entrance of next track DAY TEN: MEMORIES with acoustic guitar rhythm and keyboard, male and female vocal dialogue. Disc 1 concludes with DAY ELEVEN: LOVE.

Disc 2 starts with track 12: DAY TWELVE: TRAUMA, a metal influenced track with great keyboard / organ style. It's a combination between metal and 70's prog rock (especially on how keyboard is played). This track is rich in terms of composition in its capability in creating strong musical nuances. It's really enjoyable. DAY THIRTEEN: SIGN starts with a touchy flute / pan pipe with soft and nice female voice, backed with an acoustic guitar fills. The electric guitar solo used in this track reminds me to MIKE OLDFIELD's album. It's a nice mellow track.

DAY FOURTEEN: PRIDE is straight a DREAM THEATER music (LaBrie as vocalist) track with exception of dazzling FOCUS-like flute sound and stunning electric guitar. I don't think DT has ever used flute in their music. This track is excellent. DAY FIFTEEN: BETRAYAL is probably the darkest song compared to others, but it's a wonderful track in terms of melody and composition.

Now comes DAY SIXTEEN: LOSER where it is the best song that I love from this album. It has a strong association with traditional Scotland music (it reminds me to BRAVEHEART movie where there was a wedding party and people were wdancing). Oh my God, this track is absolutely wonderful!!! I like the male singing style and the way acoustic guitar is played altogether with the violin. The solo organ is also very fascinating. DAY SEVENTEEN: ACCIDENT? Is mellow track with some high points in sort of metal music. It then flows nicely to DAY EIGHTEEN: REALIZATION where the silent intro is followed by upbeat tempo with flute and electric guitar take the lead melody. It really reminds me to FOCUS 3 album. It's very nice. The only difference with FOCUS is in metal part. I also like the organ and flute solo afterwards, followed by violin. The relatively long instrumental is then followed by high tone vocals. Amazing!

DAY NINETEEN: DISCLOSURE is a ballad song with a stunning organ and electric guitar in the middle of the track. Disc 2 is concluded with DAY TWENTY: CONFRONTATION where the keyboard intro part reminds me to the nuances of NO QUARTER of Led Zeppelin. But the music is different; it's composed to conclude the whole album as it is indicated to the lyrics "Welcome to reality ..". Concept-wise this track plays the same role as CHILDHOOD's END (of MARILLION's Misplaced Childhood) or FINALLY FREE (of DREAM THEATER's Scene from a Memory). This track is heavily influenced by power metal music as indicated by the speed and drumming style in the middle of the track.

There are two things that bound to any music: 1.) the story that the musicians want to tell the listeners, and 2.) the structural integrity of the music composition itself. This album fulfills the two requirements excellently. I'm not a great fan of AYREON. I only have "Into The Electric Castle" (because there was FISH involvement in the project) but I consider The Human Equation is much better. It's like having a double enjoyment of MARILLION's concept album "Misplaced Childhood". This album has exceeded my expectation. Therefore, I don't think I am too naïve to give a five star rating overall. (Note: Disc 2 is better than Disc 1). Don't miss this album whether you are a prog lover or not. This album is probably the best album of the year. What do you think? Gatot Widayanto - Indonesia.

Review by Tristan Mulders
4 stars Ayreon - The Human Equation

After hearing a couple of tracks from this record on Dutch radio station Arrow Rock Radio and already having 2000's "The Dream Sequencer" album, I decided to buy this new Ayreon album. A choice that has been without hesitation one of the best choice I have made recently.

That said, I can (finally) begin reviewing the music on this wonderful album:

-- Disc 1 --

The opening track Vigil is actually one of the weakest tracks on the record, but it is an essential song if looking at the concept of the album. This song ends quite nice with the impression of hearing the main character of this concept album's story crashing his car into a tree (I assume it is a tree, because that is what is shown in a video clip of the song "Love" which is included on the DVD that came with the special edition box).

Isolation is a song that could easily come from any DREAM THEATER album, I came to like it in a while, but at first I thought I was about too much metal, but now I can say that I really love the straightforwardness of this song and especially the ending sequence after the weird keyboard(solo) is great.

Pain is Devin Townsend' song. If you are in a way familiar to Townsend's (solo) music than you might know what to expect here, since he only wanted to perform on this album if he could write his own parts! Yes, we have it all: screaming and singing in one song, typical Devinesque composition in the chorus and a nice built-up in the beginning.

The song Childhood is one of my favourite tracks on this album. It features the warm and tender voice of my favourite vocalist on this album: OPETH's Mikael Åkerfeldt. He portraits the character 'Fear' and somehow I am under the impression that his nice warm vocals do not fit the name of his character, but maybe that is just what makes his character so attractive to listen to, it is seductive towards the main character.

Another song that has the trademark Devin Townsend-sound is the song School. If you not already knew it, you will find out now: you can clearly hear how talented this guy is, he has a unique kind of vocal style, which is not annoying at all! Check out his solo albums recorded with the Devin Townsend Band if you like his performances on this album.

Well, what is there to tell about this album's first single Love.? I can think of only one thing: it is quite a nice song, but definitely NOT one of the best on this record, especially the way James LaBrie (DREAM THEATER) sings on this song is really annoying. The female vocals (ALL of them!) are really nice. What is too bad about this song is that in between the heavy rock parts there are these 'funny' parts, which are not 'rocking' at all. They tend to meander for a bit too long.

-- Disc 2--

Disc 2 starts with the HIGHTLIGHT of the album: Trauma, the most dark and experimental song on this Ayreon album. It features Åkerfeldt's most familiar trademark: combining his warm and tender voice with his brutal death metal grunting. Now for starters, I do NOT dislike his style of grunting and secondly it really fits into his role (Fear) in this story. The growling of his voice blends in with the dark atmosphere of this 10 minutes lasting track. Yes it is actually 10 minutes long, not 8.59 min! This was something quite surprising, but also. simply ingenious: there are eleven five seconds long "songs" as work as a introduction to this song at the very beginning of disc 2, so that the track actually starts of as TRACK 12, alike DAY 12 on the album's cover!

Loser is another experiment which crosses progressive metal with music alike folk rockers FLOGGING MOLLY. There are lots of folk influences included in this song, but the most remarkable aspect of this song is the ending. ¾ of the song is folk rock with a nice rocky vibe to it, but calm compared to for instance the Trauma song. The ending though is completely the opposite: all of a sudden Devin Townsend kicks in at the end with very quick screaming vocals, similar to the chorus of the song Earth Day on his solo album TERRIA. Even if you dislike this way of singing, I think it sounds really great on this album especially if you read along with the lyrics; it really gives the impression that you are listening to an emotional outcry (literally) of the main character towards his father.

The last hightlight of this album is the closing track Confrontation. This song tends to some up most aspects of the album. It has a few atmospheric 'interlude's one might call them, these are mixed between rock sequences as we already encountered in songs like Day 2: Isolation and Day 12: Trauma. The last 2 to 3 minutes are the best part of the song though: this part includes the singing of all the story's characters/vocalists/emotions. They take part in a sort of showdown during which the music is gradually growing quicker in pace and ends with quite a disturbing death metal percussive section accompanied by Åkerfeldt showing the dark side of his voice once more, before the main character, James LaBrie, sings the last notes on this album. But just when you think the album is coming to a beautiful end, LaBrie's voice is abruptly being cut off by the Dream Sequencer (!). Just when we thought we saw the last of Arjen Lucassen's science fiction theories. here he includes a link to his previous The Universal Migrator double album. This took me all by surprise the first time I listened to it.

If it is possible for you to obtain the special edition (either the long DVD box size book version or the small CD size box version) I can recommend you to buy it because it contains a DVD, which features a few nice extra's from the recording sessions of this album, including the video clip for the first single Love (do not expect the best video in the world, but it includes some links with the concept of the album) and a long making-of documentary about The Human Equation which features all instrumentalists and vocalists.

Review by FloydWright
5 stars Imagine the conceptual scope of PINK FLOYD's The Wall combined with the musical atmospheres of albums like Wish You Were Here, The Dark Side of the Moon, RICHARD WRIGHT's Broken China. Add to that influences from metal, Irish folk, and even a bit of Broadway, and you can start to imagine The Human Equation. Somehow, it all blends together almost seamlessly. It's amazing that something like this didn't collapse under its own weight, but I suspect the fact that the burden was spread among so many different artists, and not just Arjen Lucassen (leader of AYREON), may have helped.

The concept is about a man who has fallen into a coma due to injuries in a car accident (you find out more about this as you go on), and while he is comatose, his emotions become personified. The only way he can recover is to join them in facing the issues that have shaped him into who he is. While I don't want to spoil the ending for anyone, I will say that in this way it resembles The Wall--but this man gives recovery and reconciliation a much more spirited try than Pink ever did. Admittedly the lyrics are not as strong as The Wall by any means, and it borders more on Broadway than anything (you could imagine this thing performed on a stage), but I grew up on that sort of thing...and what's more, the music more than makes up for the weakness in the lyrics.

Musically, I think the greatest strength is in the synthesizer and Hammond playing, which is excellent and seems to have drawn quite a bit from PINK FLOYD. Some synth settings are eerily reminiscent of Wish You Were Here, and also a bit of Dark Side of the Moon. The vocals are varied, however. Oddly enough, James LaBrie, whom I could not stand at all when hearing him on DREAM THEATER's Six Degrees of Turbulence (it was bad enough to put me off from the band altogether) sounds good here. I have no idea what he did differently, but whatever it is, it works. OPETH's Mikael Akerfeldt does extremely well. The vocal production is quite different from the brutal style, in-your-face style you hear on OPETH's albums, and I suspect this is because of the attempt to reach out to so many audiences. Still, both his clean and growled vocals are excellent, especially in "Trauma"...and there's a death-scream on the very last song that reminds me of "Karma" on My Arms, Your Hearse. Those expecting mostly growled vocals from him will be dissatisfied, but his clean vocals are excellent. Arjen Lucassen also turned out to be a pretty good vocalist, as well as Heather Findlay.

A few of the vocals didn't work quite as well...even though it does seem he's well suited to the role of the voice of "Reason" (literally!), Eric Clayton's bombastic vocals can get annoying at times, and I'm quite glad they don't go on for longer than they do! I also thought that while the song musically interesting, the vocal performances on "Loser" were the weakest on the album...Mike Baker's performance as Father is rather comical, like something from PINK FLOYD's "The Trial", and that's not too bad. Devin Townsend's screaming doesn't quite work as well as his other vocals on the album.

It is incredibly hard to name favorite songs on this album, as they have such different, unique characters that it almost seems unfair to put them up against each other. Suffice it to say I think this may be one of the best albums released this year. Even though I subtracted half a star for the lyrical and vocal issues I indicated, this is absolutely worth your time, and on a 5-star system I go ahead and give it the 5.

Review by semismart
5 stars Fantastic, 2004 is shaping up as a defining year for the Progressive and Symphonic Metal genre. In fact in just the last two months three amazing albums (two of them double)have been released to the public, Evergrey's Inner Circle, Therion's Lemuria/Sirius B and Ayreon's Human Equation.

Speaking of the public, my question is when is the public going to get sick of radio and MTV pablum and embrace these great artists? To be sure, they have their fans and keep getting more every day but not like they deserve. I understand The Human Equation is even on display at Best Buy. Wonders never cease.

I'm sure many of you reading this review are familiar but for you newcomers here is a little background. Ayreon is not a band in the normal sense. It is a continuing project of Dutch Multi-instrumentalist and composer, Arjen Anthony Lucassen, not unlike Alan Parsons. This is Lucassen's eighth overall Rock opera and sixth under the name Ayreon. The other two were entitled Star One and Ambeon.

Once Lucassen has written a new rock opera he invites guest singers and musicians to participate. To date he has had ninety-two guest artists participate in his eight projects.

The Human Equation

The first thing I noticed about The Human Equation was that it was mellower than most of Ayreon's previous projects. The second thing I noticed was that it was not as mellow as I had thought. The third thing was that, although I at first didn't think I liked it that much, the more I listened the more I liked it. In fact after three listens I decided it is one of Lucassen's best works, if not his best. After a couple more listens I have decided that it's in the running with the two above mentioned masterpieces for Progressive album of the year.

The Human Equation like all previous Ayreon rock operas tells a story. In The Human Equation we have a comatose man reliving his memories and the events leading up to his bizarre auto accident, slowly realizing only he can wake himself.

For this project we have an unprecedented eleven singers including Lucassen himself. I'm sure you'll recognize some of the names as they read like a whos who of progressive rock/metal.

Guest Singers: "Me" - James LaBrie, Dream Theater "Best Friend" - Arjen Lucassen "Wife" - Marcela Bovio - Elfonia "Father" - Mike Baker - Shadow Gallery "Agony" - Devon Graves - Dead Soul Tribe "Fear" - Mikael Akerfeldt - Opeth "Rage" - Devin Townsend "Pride" - Magnus Ekwall - The Quill "Reason" - Eric Clayton - Saviour Machine "Love" - Heather Findlay - Mostly Autumn "Passion" - Irene Jansen

Guest Musicians: Ed Warby - Percussion Ken Hensly - Hammond Joost van den Broek - Piano/synth Martin Orford - Synth Oliver Wakeman - Synth

Song/Track List CD1: 01. Day One: Vigil [1:42] 02. Day Two: Isolation [8:42]***** 03. Day Three: Pain [4:58]***** 04. Day Four: Mystery [5:37]****1/2 05. Day Five: Voices [7:09]**** 06. Day Six: Childhood [5:08]**** 07. Day Seven: Hope [2:47]***** 08. Day Eight: School [4:22]***1/2 09. Day Nine: Playground (instrumental)[2:15]***** 10. Day Ten: Memories [3:57]****1/2 11. Day Eleven: Love [4:18]*****

CD2: 01. Day Twelve: Trauma [8:59]***** 02. Day Thirteen: Sign [4:47]**** 03. Day Fourteen: Pride [4:42]****1/2 04. Day Fifteen: Betrayal [5:24]**** 05. Day Sixteen: Loser [4:56]***** 06. Day Seventeen: Accident? [5:42]**** 07. Day Eighteen: Realization [4:31]***** 08. Day Nineteen: Disclosure [4:42]****1/2 09. Day Twenty: Confrontation [7:02]*****

As you might expect, being a rock opera there is wide variations of styles between songs but an overall similarity. One constant is the extraordinary performances by the eleven vocalists.

Highlight Songs

ME: "I can't move, I can't feel my body I don't remember anything What place is this, How did I get here? I don't understand what's happening Am I alone"

FEAR: You've been deserted, everyone has left you You know it's always been that wayThose frantic years, the people you neglected Now the time has come to pay"

"Day Two: Isolation" is a long involved multi-part song with vocals by six of the singers, ME, FEAR, REASON, PASSION, PRIDE and LOVE. The singers banter back and forth trying to get ME to give up or wake up while the music runs through several episodes, including heavy metal, psychedelic, even Pink Floydian. Isolation does not end but segues into "Day Three: Pain", where we only have four singers, AGONY, ME, RAGE and LOVE. The music is typical Ayreonesque fare. After a slow ethereal start, bass drums kick in to a medium paced folksyrock number with lead and background vocals.

BEST FRIEND: "Let me take you back To the time when we were chasing all the girls Two maniacs indulging in the pleasures of this world

So much to see, so much to live for Questions to answer places to go So much to be, so much to care for Deep down inside I think you know You are free...come back to me"

"Day Seven: Hope" What a great song, very happy, very upbeat, strong organ reminiscent of carousel music. Two singers only BEST FRIEND and ME.

"Day Nine: Playground" A short instrumental again highlighted by organ or synth, slightly celtic or even Western movie epic sounding.

ME: "Friday night, I had a few There she was, out of the blue Thunderstruck, nailed to the floor I couldn't move, couldn't talk...anymore"

LOVE: "Of all these guys, it's you she desires Secretely her heart is on fire Waiting for you to ask her to dance Go ahead, make your's your chance"

"Day Eleven: Love" Medium paced slightly folk sounding with seven of the lead singers and you can tell, ME, LOVE, PASSION, PRIDE, AGONY, FEAR and WIFE. Great song great singing. I especially like Heather Findley's voice who reminds me of Cadence Night, pretty too. Too bad Mostly Autumn doesn't let her sing more.

"Day Twelve: Trauma" another long complex song, with many variations. Ethereal, electronic sound with REASON (who sounds a little like Peter Steele of Type O Negative) singing leading into a heavy metal and synth interlude where FEAR and AGONY and PASSION take over. When REASON come back the song gets ominous undertones.

FATHER: "Look at you, defenseless and alone See I'm no fool, I always knew you wouldn't make it on your own Cos you're like your mother, well where is she now? You'll end up like her soon, 6 feet under ground, loser"

"Day Sixteen: Loser" nice guy, I'm glad my father wasn't like that. "Loser" is a folksy sounding song with a heavy metal attitude. That doesn't make sense? sorry that's what it is. Listen for yourself. By the way the venerable Ken Hensley of Uriah Heep fame does a great Hammond solo on this one. Got your interest?

"Day Eighteen: Realization" Seven of the singers have short lines accompanying LaBrie in this song. Starts out like an instrumental with all kinds of short solos including a neat flute solo.

BEST FRIEND: "See his mouth, he tries to speak He cannot move his voice is weak"

ME: "My dear friend can you hear me now? I'll try to tell you how I feel"

BEST FRIEND: "I feel the pain inside of you Tell me please what can I do?"

ME: "Listen well to what I have to say I have to tell you of my betrayal"

"Day Twenty: Confrontation" well this is the finale so we get nine of the singers and a grand finale it is, a medium slow heavily orchestrated, heavily vocalized, musical, mulligan stew. Delicious!


Evergrey, Therion, Ayreon, the three extraordinary bands I mentioned that have released magnificent albums within the last three months have one thing in common. Reviewers, fans, critics, it doesn't matter, they all have trouble putting a label on their music or comparing them to other bands. That is because each of them has followed a uniquely different path than their contemporaries. They each make music like no other, within their own personal sub-genre.

If you've never heard Ayreon or Evergrey or Therion, you're in for a treat and so I leave you with this thought, I bought The Human Equation for just under $17 on line. For that $17 I got 20 songs totaling 103 minutes of four to five star music. This figures out to $.85 per song or $.16 per minute. How does that compare with the last Pop, alternative or rock album you bought. The last Pop album I bought was on sale for $9.99 plus tax, for which I got two four star and one five star song totaling 8 minutes and 45 seconds. How does that break down? Why it's only $3.60 per song or $1.23 per minute. Good deal huh!

Of course all this math won't do you any good if you don't like Ayreon's style of music, so I'm going to go out on a limb and draw some parallels to bands you are sure to know. That doesn't mean they sound like these bands, however on some level at some time, there are similarities. Here goes: The Beatles, Styx, Queensryche, Loreena Mckinnett, Jethro Tull, Kansas, Yes, Pink Floyd, The Moody Blues and believe it or not Jesus Christ Superstar(Probably because it's a rock opera).

Review by TRoTZ
5 stars From album to album, Arjen "Ayreon" Lucassen surprises us with even more elaborated and complex albums. Human Equation is the best Ayreon album to date (in virtuosism) and a fine successor of the opera rock Into the Electric Castle. The story of this double album is about a man who suffers a car accident and enters in coma. Then, day by day, he sees his past life, from the beginning to the day of the accident, reviving good and bad parts of his life. Again, his trip to the past is going to sentence is present condition, like in DREAM THEATER's Scenes from a Memory or OPETH's Still Life.

Technically, I have to say this album is performed by excellent musicians. Has we listen to the first heavy orchestration we notice that evidently, it has a RUSH vein. But we can find a lot of influences as PINK FLOYD's spacey ambiences and guitar solos (actually in Day Five: Voices, some parts sound like the melody of Dark Side of The Moon's first track), GENESIS theatrics (the beautiful melody keyboard of Day Nine: Playground sounding like a track taken from A Trick of The Tail) and CAMEL. There's a lot of variety in this record, as you can see. Lot's of instruments are performed. Adding to the classical guitar, bass, drums and keyboard, we have beautiful epical flute passages all over the album (showing the CAMEL adoration by Lucassen), hammond, violins and cellos. You have many contributors to the vocals besides Lucassen itself, the most known ones OPETH's Mikael Akerfeldt (who incarnates "Fear" superbly by growling here and there, it was an intelligent choice by Lucassen) , DREAM THEATER's James Labrie as the main character, SAVIOUR MACHINE's Eric Clapton, ELFONIA's feminine vocalist Marcela Bovio. And a bit of each one's band is added to the album. For example, Day Fourteen: Pride could be a DREAM THEATER's track, and not a vulgar one should I say!

The double album has many highlights, particularly the melody and intensity of Day Two: Isolation, Day Eight: School which presents us with some intense classical opera parts like they were extracted from THE PHANTOM OF OPERA, the space explosion of the beautiful Day Four: Mystery, the very nostalgic and beautiful Day Nine: Playground which has the backing sound of children playing (like in CAT STEVEN's schoolyard), the emotional heaviness of Day Twelve: Trauma , the middle aged epic Day Thirteen: Sign, the technical and intense Day Fourteen: Pride combined with some beautiful flute intercalations, Irish style of Day Sixteen: Loser and the superb multifaceted Day Eighteen: Realization.

Nevertheless not surpassing RUSH nor having the technical complexity of DREAM THEATER, nor being always exactly original, the combination of these several facts (many influences, instruments and singers) contributes to the majesty and diversity of the album. It has a great ambience (sometimes spacey, sometimes epic and sometimes emotional) from the beginning to the end! There are no weak parts. THIS IS A VERY GOOD ALBUM, I considerer it a masterpiece.

My congratulations to Lucassen who manage himself to captivate so many VIP's of the prog scene in his personal project (this says everything, words for what?).

My Rate: 8,5/10

Review by Menswear
5 stars Unlike my other mates, I'm going to be brief. If you want a full review, go see them. It's not my type to write a novel. But to me, this is THE ultimate musical free-for-all masterpiece. It started with Tommy and 35 years get a metal soap opera that pushes towards the limits of concept albums.

I'm not familiar with Ayreon's work in his intergalactic points of view. This is actually my first step in his incredible world. This is high-tech fantasy tales. It's a real revelation for me. Think of it: you jump from metal mashing to Riverdance to Focus to more metal to heavier stuff. Indeed, the metal parts are more present, and some frightening growling from time to time. And speaking of growling, I'm totally against musical violence or stuff pretenting to be related to the Prince of Darkness; so growling is ruining some of the fun for me. But since it's in very little quantity, I guess it's there only to improve the story's intensity. Some pretty intense screaming is also present and it could make you, soft hearted as I am, uncomfortable. But once again, it doesn't last long and do not ruin the album. I mean this type of heavy power screaming is present in nu-rock in a reasonnable quantity. I guess this is 'the flavor of the month'!

I cannot believe this guy doesn't quit the ungrateful world of progressive rock and join the lucrative army of nu-metal. He could fit right away with Linkin Park, Puddle of Mud, System of a Down, Evanescence, Limb Bizkit, Seether or Incubus. The format is different, but if kids could expand their minds a bit...they would jump on this so bad. Because admit it, with a bit of tweaking here and there, many songs here could become radio hits and even a number one. I'm not kidding, a bit of mixing and BOOM! big bucks and a bigger name for Ayreon.

This is by far the most somptuous, extravagant, intelligent, diversified, catchy, addictive prog opera around.

Close to being unreal. It boggles my mind with curiosity, amazement and charm. My deepest salutes to Arjen Lucassen and crew.

The ULTIMATE high-tech amusement of 2004.

Review by Muzikman
5 stars AYREON, otherwise known as Arjen Lucassen, guitar player extraordinaire, has once again come up with a masterpiece of progressive rock sonic pleasures. It is a feast for your ears, mind, and senses. "The Human Equation" is a two CD set that tells a story that will capture your imagination. This spectacular production is all about the human condition, well, various levels of it. It is a story within a story if you will.

One look at the lineup on this set and you will see that Lucassen's peers respect him by contributing and turning in such incredible performances. Many well-known names in the world of progressive-rock take their part in this, to put it mildly, ambitious affair.

I totally loved this album, period. I really got off on all the excellent instrumentation and the varying degrees of vocalists that Lucassen used to present each segment of the story (numbered 1-20 days). I have to admit, I will never feel my words will do this work the justice it deserves, you absolutely must hear this album for yourself to absorb it all and feel the impact of the words and music. This collection of recorded works stands strong and tall amongst all the rest, and I mean anything that is coming out now. It is without a doubt the best prog-rock album I have heard this year, it will be terribly difficult to top this one, as they do not get much better.

The mix down of this recording is phenomenal. Each vocalist comes in for his or her part with such force and beauty to shape each of the 20 days with singularity and purpose. I found Eric Clayton's voice the most intriguing, he reminded me of Bowie, but a few notches on the lower end of the scale, very powerful and magnetic. The incomparable James LaBrie seems to showing up everywhere lately; he is quickly becoming one of the most sought after vocalist on the planet, and with good reason, he is incredibly versatile and talented. Last but not least, the powerful and moving guitar playing of Arjen Lucassen. After STAR ONE's "Space Metal" project, I never thought I would be saying, at least so soon, that there was a better album from this man. Well the time has arrived, he has reached the top of the mountain, but of course, he will surely find another to climb next time he gets in the studio. Now the challenge is taking this on the road, is it even possible? If anyone can pull it off it would be him, I have no doubt.

There was not a big named prog-rock band that did not cross my mind at one time or another while listening to this album; I am gushing with exuberance and energy after hearing this incredible display of musical virtuosity. This is the ultimate convergence of progressive rock royalty. As soon as I got the press release for this, I said send it! I knew straight away that I was in for a sonic treat when I saw the name that you equate with musical excellence, Arjen "Ayreon" Lucassen... I rest my case.

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This record lasts more than 100 minutes! The best qualifier of the genre involved would be prog metal rock opera, a bit like the album "Black opera" by Presence. The accent is slightly put on the miscellaneous lead & backing vocals. Indeed, about a dozen of talented male and female guest vocalists personify an emotion or a specific character belonging to the story narrated. The singers do a very good job: James Labrie is excellent and another singer sings like David Bowie! The style of the vocal arrangements, the keyboards and the acoustic guitars slightly reminds me the Styx's "Crystal ball" and "Grand Illusion" albums: however, Ayreon here is more modern, dramatic and slow.

Regarding the music, I think it is very good, but not excellent: most of the tracks are very good, but slightly bombastic and overrated. Seeing the impressive number of musicians involved, I have expected more elaborated and complex tracks before the listening. It took me MANY listenings to acquire the taste, and most of all, you have to uninterruptedly listen to all the tracks in order to have a better opinion.

I prefer the parts when the loud monolithic distorted guitar is absent, so that it does not take all the room! Actually the rhythmic guitar is irritating, monotonous, too sustained and too loud for nothing, thus imposing a too slow overall rhythm.

The angry vocals on Day 3 or Day 16 are pretty irritating: that's completely useless and irrelevant! The keyboards are very simple, although quite present and efficient; they consist in a mix of vintage age more modern keyboards. Flute, acoustic guitar, violin and cello give some personality to the ensemble, sometimes reminding Jethro Tull; there are some pleasant string arrangements, like on Day 8.

I think the weakest point, apart the monotonous rhythmic guitar, is the lack of support of the miscellaneous singers: they often sing without nothing being played in the background, so that the catchy character of the vocal parts is often compromised.

Review by memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The human equation, is a very progressive record, arjen lucassen`s project has the gift of reunite an excellent cast, in this cd is not the exception, the cast is formed for great voices like the leader voice of dream theater, or opeth, or saviour machine, elfonia and mostly autumn for mention something, the concept of this cd is unique for the last year , and unique in the history of progressive rock, is formed by many prog genres such as folk, metal, symphonic, and tthe meeteng of those genres have the next result: A very very masterpiece of progressive music, really, you have to listen this record and then you cannot leave it, the music, the lyrics, the cast, all is perfect , such as a dream , is like a novella, or a mini history or stuff like that, but all of you guys really have to listen to it, i know this cd will be very good for your own taste.!!
Review by penguindf12
3 stars I happened to pick this up quite a while ago, but just haven't had the chance to review it. It is a concept album, essentially about a man who falls into a coma under mysterious circumstances and must decide whether to live or die. There is a major twist at the end, something which has to do with AYREON's previous concept albums. The music is extremely diverse, ranging from death metal to folk to synths to symphonic rock, and with even a little bit of country thrown in. But not mixed, really. Each track ("day") is extremely diverse, and a lot of genre-skipping occurs.

This album actually seems to have a conceptual relation to many prog concept albums: the concept of life-or-death and comas. Tons of concept albums have dealt with this, including GENESIS' "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" (which is actually about the decision between spiritual life or stagnation, since the main character dies in the second track), and THE MARS VOLTA's "Deloused in the Comatorium." The latter is actually the antithesis of "The Human Equation," since while AYREON's character chooses to live, Cerpin Taxt of "Deloused" chooses to go through with his suicide.

I really have nothing more to add to all the other reviews here, which have pretty much everything else covered.

Review by frenchie
5 stars I have not heard any of Ayreon's other albums and i wouldn't know what to expect from them as this album has a wide cast of prog friends. My favourites on this album are James Labrie, as i am a huge Dream Theater fan, Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth and whoever the female is who does the vocals on track 1 and track 2. I love her voice and it's nice to see a woman in the prog world.

This is one of the best concept albums out there, a lot of work has been put into this. I love the way each track represents a day and each vocalist plays a character that represents human emotions, building up the human equation i suppose. Its a very interesting album indeed.

This album can be very difficult to listen to as a whole as it has lots of different vocalists, different styles and is 2 discs long! If you like all these styles then it is a masterpiece! its nice to see a large range of musical expression from such a great cast. Very inspiring and this album should go down as one of the most original and special albums ever made.

There are too many great moments to pinpoint on this album, one disapointment i had is that at times this album can be so over the top and dramatic that it can be offputting slightly. It is still very good music but it can be too much at times. The guitar work is incredible, ranging from heavy riffage (the one on track 2 is a killer!), soft acoustic work, there is a lot of depth instrumentally on this album and is great to see some prog idols collaborating together. Hats off to Ayreon for bringing them all together to make such a good piece of music. There is definetly something for everyone here and it is one of the best albums of 2004.One downside is that everytime i listen i get that "Tales from Topographic Oceans" effect, simply because there is far too much here to take in and that it has so much range musically that once i get into one theme, it might only last for a few tracks. Overall This album is a masterpiece, blending influences of all the prog giants. You can definetly here some seventies prog magic on this album, disguised in a modern way.

Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Show me a double album that isn't ambitious and I'll show you the contractual obligation from hell. Dutch prog-masters Ayreon (really just the multi-talented Arjen Lucassen) tell the tale of a comatose man's life (yes I know you're wondering why so man concept albums are centered on people in comas) through 20 separate but thematically linked pieces of music. Musically, there are many fine moments, but also many times when the diversity of style fails to produce a cohesive composition. As with most works of this length, the momentum eventually fades. Nonetheless The Human Equation must surely rank as one of the finest achievements in the history of prog-metal.

With a host of guest vocalists (Dream Theater's James LaBrie, Mostly Autumn's Heather Findlay, Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt, to name a few) and instrumentalists (keyboardists Ken Hensley and Martin Orford among them) on board, this is a pretty multi-dimensional and confusing affair that takes a while to get into).

Day One: Vigil is just a brief ethereal opener with female vocals that only serves to lead up to the magnificent Day Two: Isolation. With layered acoustic guitar and a Moogy synth opening building up to a monster metallic riff with overiding organ that gives it character, Isolation is an awesome track. The initial vocal parts are gentle, with a number of male vocalists exchanging lines, before a Findlay's voice joins in for he "main" song. The second verse is beautifully flavoured by some violin flourishes and then the song breaks down into a lovely flute section courtesy of Jeroen Goossens, Findlay's vocals return, and a "rubbery" section that's surely influenced by Pink Floyd's On The Run takes over. When the full band comes in the Floyd sounds still continue, even if things seemed to have moved on to a segment from Shine You Crazy Diamond (I think)! The nice keyboard runs on the outro complete one of those "kitchen sink" affairs that actually work.

Day Three: Pain has a great riff, spacey synth, acoustic guitar, flute and violin, but I still don't really like the heavy parts that are so crucial to the song. Day Four: Mystery is another cornerstone of this album. Starting off fairly ordinarily with an acoustic guitar and female vocals the piece takes life when some Moog synth bursts forth. Some stunning synth lines over metal guitars are followed by the organ before the synth returns triumphantly. To me, this song is everything prog metal should be.

Day Five: Voices is basically an acoustic guitar track with one of those tunings that you'd find on Led Zeppelin III. Aside from the Violin and guitar, a flute comes in totally cool pastoral section. The vocals here aren't the best (I'll be damned if there isn't the odd attempt to mimic both Robert Plant and David Bowie during the course of this song!) and I'm not convinced by the hair-rock mid-section either!

Day Six: Childhood is an aching synthy tune with an 80s vibe, and many vocal contributions conveying a disturbing theme of abuse. There is a wonderful synth melody that comes in mid song, although I don't like the shrieking guitar leads that battle it for superiority from then on. Day Seven: Hope is one of my favourite songs recorded in this relatively barren decade, with its lovely warm organ melody, great interlocking bass and even some nice vocals from Arjen! Shame it's such a short tune, but that may be the key to its charm.

Maybe it's because it's a real anti-climax compared to Hope, but Day Eight: School is my least favourite tune on the whole album. Bland acoustic guitar that becomes a harsh metal chorus, a string section that reminds me of something that Cairo once did (Silent Winter I believe) and a ludicrious metal section featuring double vocalists, one of whom (Eric Clayton) has operatic pretensions, doesnt really do the trick for me.

Thankfully, Day Nine: Playground gets us back on track, with some fantastic string leads, although the brief tune seems to be building up to shredder territory before it fades out. Day Ten: Memories is generally a mediocre song, even if I do like the accompanying synths and the lead guitars come in to good effect. Day Eleven: Love is another one of those songs with some great riffs but overly poppy vocal segments, Day Twelve: Trauma is a metal song with some arty bits that don't really work. and I was already turned off by the time the growling started.

Day Thirteen: Sign is a beautiful song with an acoustic guitar and flute intro and female vocals that are reminiscent of Blackmore's Night, it's got some strong strings too, before turning into a rather bizarre, "musical" type song. Day Fourteen: Pride is generally dull 80s metal with a flute interlude that occurs twice, the second time with a powerful synth run in tow. Day Fifteen: Betrayal is pretty awful with more operatic vocals, and a melody that I swear reminds me of Duran Duran, yet this piece almost redeems itself with a delightful synth solo towards the end.

Day Sixteen: Loser has an amazing intro blending Celtic fiddles with heavy metal, following it up some vicious King Diamond like vocals. Day Seventeen: Accident! has a rather Gothic feel for a while and is another one of those pieces which has synth solos of fleeting brilliance. Day Eighteen: Realization is an engrossing mainly instrumental work. It's part Kansas/part Jethro Tull with some lovely pipes and strings, another example of damn good prog-metal ... that reminds me of a Jesus Christ Superstar exchange when three lead vocalists fight for supremacy! Day Nineteen: Disclosure is yet another very enjoyable pop-prog song with great melodic lead lines, and some benign strings underpinning the whole thing, it also ends with some nice organ work. The closer Day Twenty: Confrontation is another one of the metal blends that works, again with a synth section in the middle. Now it may not be easy to absorb this whole prog-metal-opera in one sitting, but I'd have to laud this as the finest progressive metal album I've ever heard, and one of the best overall prog efforts of the decade (so far). ... 67% on the MPV scale

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars What can I say about this album? First off, it is truly a Progressive masterpiece. Arjen Lucassen has created a style that no one can really cover. Going back to his old roots by having each vocalist perform as a different character (or in this case, emotion), he creates what really seems to be a rock opera. The album has moments of metal madness, then moments of quiet violin and flute. The variety of sound in this album is quite amazing. James Labrie, who normally has a mediocre voice, really puts forth a great effort on this album. But not just Labrie puts up a great effort, but Akerfeldt, Townsend, and Findlay also put up amazing efforts in all of the tracks that they sing in.

The tracks that stand out the most in my mind are Day Sixteen: Loser, which utilizes what I believe to be a mandolin, and some great flute work, combined with metal guitar. Day Three: Pain, is also a very interesting piece. The metal sections and the quiet passages really seems to fit the albums mold. There are no dry spots on this album, every track is essentially perfect, you don't have the same problems that The Universal Migrator had (which was that some of the songs dragged on).

Overall, this album is the best Ayreon work to come out yet. If Lucassen if hoping to top himself again, he is going to have to push the proverbial envelope. I highly recommend the album to anyone who wants to listen to something a little bit different. It gets my highest recommendation, a 5/5.

Review by Vanwarp
5 stars Dutch multi-instrumentalist and songwriter extraordinaire Arjen Anthony Lucassen is the mastermind behind Ayreon, a project he started in 1994. His albums are all concept epics containing a plethora of guest musicians and vocalists.

The Human Equation contains a bit of everything here, subgenres in both rock and metal with folk influences, very progressive, very diversified album as a whole.

The Human Equation is divided into two discs and tells the story of a man who falls into a coma after a tragic accident. While in his hospital bed, we are led into his comatose state of mind where he is struggling with his feelings...and lets just say, emotions are flying very high!

DAY ONE: "Vigil" - (atmospheric, soft, slow moving moment...)

The album opens with hospital equipment beeps. His best friend and wife are at his bed side. One word to describe the moment: worrying! A vehicle engine is started and speeds up just as the beeps are getting faster and faster, the tires scream...

DAY TWO: "Isolation" - (guitar and organ solo included...)

The comatose guy doesn't understand what's going on. "Emotions" start speaking to him. His "emotions" are struggling, pulling him one way or another. The music is varied, at times heavy and at times very soft and dreamy. Organ, flutes, heavy guitars and a multitude of vocalists are all present.

DAY THREE: "Pain" - (nice guitar lick...soft and dreamy in the beginning)

Of course the theme here is all about "pain." Both physical and emotional pain. Flute, acoustic guitar, violin, orchestrations, more voices (and vocal styles) can be found here. Devin Townsend collaborated on this track, both on lyrics and vocals. (Townsend also collaborated on a few more tracks as well.)

DAY FOUR: "Mystery"

The track opens with a siren far in the distance. Everybody is in the hospital struggling to understand what happened? What did he see or what could have caused him to crash into a tree in broad daylight with no other cars in sight? Acoustic guitars in the beginning moving into more rock territory with organ, orchestrations, electric guitars and other keyboards are added to the mix. (From here on...the music on the rest of the album follows the same formula as we have already experienced on the first 4 tracks.)

DAY FIVE: "Voices"

The comatose man hears voices around him. He can't understand or make out what the voices are saying exactly. This is only adding to his confusion, more questions now than ever before and simply no answers in sight. He's trying hard to understand but he simply can't.

DAY SIX: "Childhood"

"Emotions" take him back to his childhood days. We learn about his physical abuse at the hands of his father and what must have been a most difficult childhood.

DAY SEVEN: "Hope" - (I really like the keyboard lick on this one...)

Back in the hospital, his best friend is trying to talk him out of his coma: "Come back to me!"

DAY EIGHT: "School"

"Emotions" take him back to his young school days. We learn that he had a hard time in school, that his fathers influence made him very competitive and that his classmates didn't like him because of it.

DAY NINE: "Playground" - (Instrumental)

You can hear kids playing in the background...the music is most uplifting!

DAY TEN: "Memories"

Back in the hospital, we can hear the machine beeping again. Nothing has changed in 10 days. His wife and best friend are trying to talk him out of his coma again by reminding him of all the good and funny things that have happened to him over the years.


The comatose man remembers the day he met his wife...a good feeling!

DAY TWELVE: "Trauma"

The comatose man remembers the death of his mother. He remembers that he wasn't there to save her. This was a very traumatic time in his life. Track starts slow and soft but moves into very heavy territory.

DAY THIRTEEN: "Sign" - (Very sweet electric guitar and violin lick!)

Back in the hospital, his wife and best friend actually see a tear rolling down his cheek. They think that he is struggling and battling his emotions trying to come out of his coma. Best friend is worried about "what is he thinking?" But wife is thinking that it doesn't matter what he is thinking about. In her view, the fact that he is thinking is a sign that he is still alive!


"Emotions" take him back to a time when he wanted to be an artist but his father wouldn't let him. His father wanted him to be in business. He is struggling again, being pulled one way and another. Deep inside he knew that he didn't have what it takes to be a businessman, that he was not a ruthless person.

DAY FIFTEEN: "Betrayal"

The comatose man remembers the day he betrayed his best friend. He got him fired so he could get the promotion himself! (Talk about not being ruthless enough?)


Father visits son in the hospital. Father calls son "loser." In fact, he tells him "you've always been a loser...just like your Mother!" We learn more about Father, that all of his sons are in jail and that his wives have all divorced him...a bonafide loser himself.


The comatose man is finally starting to remember the accident. He's starting to remember what happened and that he saw his wife and his best friend together, in each others arms! He drove away and everything - all the pain - just came crashing down on him: his abusive father, his own betrayal of his best friend and his wife whom he neglected over the years. So he crashes into a tree...

DAY EIGHTEEN: "Realization"

Now he remembers everything and is wondering what is going to happen now? His "emotions" are struggling again, should he give up, should he fight to survive, is he going to die? What to do?

DAY NINETEEN: "Disclosure"

Back in the hospital, his best friend feels guilty and reveals that after losing his job he was distraught and lonely and found comfort in the arms of his friends' wife. He tells his comatose friend that they haven't done anything wrong, that he (comatose man) was never there for his wife and she needed to be held as much as he himself needed to be held, so they held each other.

DAY TWENTY: "Confrontation"

After hearing all of this, comatose man wants to come clean as well. He imagines revealing everything to his best friend. Once he gets it all out in the open, his best friend tells him that he knew it all along. Finally, his "emotions" want him to wake up now.

The ending is very strange. A computer programming voice reveals a few things. (I'm not going to tell you every little detail now...) But, I like the fact that it all ends with the final words..."I remember!" ;)

The Human Equation is quite the treat, sure to please most prog fans!

Review by kunangkunangku
5 stars I spent almost my whole weekend with this album, a special package with the behind- the-scene DVD bonus my friend Gatot lent me, and I have to admit that this is another magnificent epic progressive rock opera from Dutch multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen. This is even better. Not only there is a plethora of music styles and a vast array of lead singers and musicians incorporated and participated here, but it also tells an interesting, close-to-reality story -- it follows the internal struggle of Me after a serious car accident that leaves him in a coma.

If it sounds so ambitious, well, indeed it is, only Lucassen successfully made it a stunningly satisfying effort. His capability in concerting such a huge project, with massive coordination challenges, is admirable.

In this double album Lucassen put twenty solid tracks, each of which represents the twenty days Me (Dream Theater's James LaBrie at his best) is in the coma -- with his experience in a strange realm. Supported by drummer Ed Warby and varying guest musicians including Uriah Heep's Ken Hensley on Hammond organ and IQ's Martin Orford on keyboards, he consistently and perfectly delivered a tight, balanced musical adventure. He wove progressive rock, progressive metal, neo-prog, folk, space and classical elements into the softer and harsher (emotionally) moments. In doing so, he still managed to keep himself on track with the original songs.

With so many great melodies as well as touchingly and movingly wonderful moments, though mostly revealed only with more than one listen, this album will guarantee a rewarding experience. It's a must-have for any progressive rock lover.

Review by TheProgtologist
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The Human Equation" is a rock opera in the truest sense of the word.The songs on these two discs tell the simple story of a man, personified by Dream Theater's James LaBrie, who fell into a coma after a terrible accident. While his best friend (Lucassen), his wife (Marcela Bovio) and his father (Shadow Gallery's Mike Baker) stand around his hospital bed, the man struggles with his feelings, each represented by a different voice. Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt is Fear, Devon Graves of Psychotic Waltz and Dead Soul Tribe fame is Agony, Devin Townsend grunts and growls as Rage, The Quill vocalist Magnus Ekwall shines as Pride, the sweet and beautiful Heather Findlay of Mostly Autumn aptly personifies Love, the low voice of Saviour Machine's Eric Clayton represents Reason and Passion is done by Irene Jansen, sister of After Forever vocalist Floor Jansen and known for her work on Gary Hughes' double rock opera "Once And Future King" and Star One. "The Human Equation" is unmistakably Ayreon, touches of folk rock and seventies hippie influences add extra flavor to the progressive and symphonic rock and metal songs. Overall the material has turned out quite heavy. This is partly a consequence of Townsend's co-operation, as the songs he appears in as Rage - "Day Three: Pain", "Day Eight: School" and the weird but daring "Day Sixteen: Loser" - are the heaviest I've heard from Lucassen. But it's the beauty of magnificently built-up and haunting songs as the epic "Day Two: Isolation" , "Day Four: Mystery" (mark the outbreak of keyboards and guitars after two and a half minutes), "Day Five: Voices" with a sublime performance of Ekwall amongst others, "Day Six: Childhood" with panpipes by Jeroen Goossens, who took care of almost all wind instruments on this album, the varied and contrasting "Day Eight: School", opener of the second disc "Day Twelve: Trauma" and "Day Fourteen: Pride" carried by another impressive performance by Ekwall, that I will remember. You might have noticed that I mostly picked songs from the first disc, a direct consequence of its superiority in quality over the second one. With "The Human Equation", Arjen Lucassen confirms his status as master of the modern prog rock opera.He manages to deliver another high quality effort that is essential for fans of progressive metal.Highly Recommended,4 stars
Review by Marc Baum
5 stars The latest Ayreon project from eclectic Dutchman Arjen Lucassen is quite simply, a thing of absolute beauty. A hundred-minute-plus epic of an album is a prog fan's wet dream, and Arjen does not disappoint on this one.

'The Human Equation' is a concept album that tells a story. To quickly provide a synopsis, the story is a simple one: the main character (known plainly as "Me") is invovled in a freak automobile accident and finds himself in a coma inside a hospital. Watching over him are his best friend and his wife. Each song on 'THE' is a day during the main character's coma, and during each day, the man's emotions (Reason, Love, Fear, Pride, Passion, Agony, and Rage) speak to him and among each other in an internal dialogue played out through the guest singers.

The lyrics are simple, yet highly effective. Through a succinct, yet vivid style, Arjen manages to depict his main character as a well-rounded, real human being. This is an album that truly deserves its title; 'The Human Equation' is a HUMAN album. I don't want to dwell TOO much on the lyrics, but I would like to say that the concept of 'THE' really could stand alone as the plot of a movie, and I would have no qualms if said motion picture were to receive an Academy Award--the lyrics really are THAT good.

Yet more so than the lyrics, the real star on this album is the MUSIC. And the music is expected to be good, as there are twenty separate musicians on this album! The album's cover proudly marquees the guest singers as the stars on the album, and indeed they are, but there are amazing performances an here from a purely musical aspect. One simply cannot ignore the music of this album. There are synth solos galore, providing just enough psychadelia to make this a trippy experience. The synths all fit perfectly, and the music is almost reminiscent of early Pink Floyd at times, especially Day Two's synth solo performed by Joost van den Broek (of Suncaged), which reminds very on "On The Run" from the "Dark Side Of The Moon" album, that spaces the listener's mind completely out and culminates in a hugely climactic chromatic run that explodes into the powerful ending of the song.

There are amazing small performances on this album that give it such a boost of character. There are flutes and violins and cellos--even a didgeridoo, and they are all so lighthearted and subtle that these classical style instrumetals fit and don't seem thrown in as pretentious clutter. Ed Warby's performances behind the drum kit is nothing short of spectacular providing thundering, epic rhythms during the many powerful sections and a steady, bouncycontrol during passages of light-hearted musical brilliance.

Now I shall assess the performers that the Ayreon project is famous for--its guest singers. We have a whole new batch of guests, different from the other Ayreon albums (as is tradition), and they are all very good in their own way. I'll go one by one on each vocalist with quick notes on each one.

The cast of characters:

James LaBrie ("Me") - Love him or hate him, LaBrie's job as the main character is very well done. LaBrie brings every bit of emotion in his voice straight from Dream Theater to creat the meek, sometimes tortured "Me," and truly illustrates a whole human being through his voice. This is quite a stellar job by James LaBrie.

Arjen Lucassen ("Best Friend") - Arjen is the mastermind of this whole project and his musical contribution is massive to say the least. He wrote all the songs--genius. He performed ALL guitars (electric, acoustic, and bass), and did a wonderful job at all of them. He also performed a hefty portion of the synthesizers and did a great job there too. Aren't you exhausted yet, Arjen? His voice on the album is nothing amazing (he admits he's no singer), but the job is done well and the melodies are carried professionally and well done.

Marcella Bovio ("Wife") - From Mexico, this newcomer is no mere amateur and is my favorite female vocalist on this album. Her highlight is on Day 13 with the middle verse. Her voice is filled with so much emotion and passion, I find myself blown away and wondering where I can find more from this tremendous talent.

Heather Findlay ("Love") - Another tremendous female voice is the lovely British vocalist Heather Findlay. She grasps the quaint sweetness of her character in such an effortless way. Her vocals on the first half 'The Human Equation' are magnificent.

Irene Jansen ("Passion") - Her voice embodies her character and she puts every bit of Passion in her operatic voice to portray her character in all its glory. Her best performances are on Day Two and Day Eleven.

Devon Graves ("Agony") - An interesting choice for Agony, yet his performance fits perfectly. Devon Graves looks like he'll have this deep bellowing voice, but it's mid- range and powerful, and his performance does his character justice and is overall quite enjoyable.

Eric Clayton ("Reason") - This is the deep voice I love that makes Saviour Machine kick so much ass. I love his voice on this album, and his best performances are on the haunting Day Twelve, and on Day Five.

Magnus Ekwall ("Pride") - This performance is filled with emotion and comes out sounding almost bluesy (with vocal bends and sometimes outright screams). I like his voice very much, but I didn't find it too outstanding.

Mike Baker ("Father") - He only appears in one song, and is extremely effective as the rude, alcoholic father of the main character. Baker's voice is half-pirate, half- Alice Cooper, yet wholly awesome. Bit parts are usually wonderful and Baker's is not an exception.

Devin Townsend ("Rage") - A bit pretentious, Hevy Devy wrote his own lyrics for 'THE.' His performance remains the most unique on the whole album. Fitting for Devin Townsend; he is professional to the core, and I love his contribution to this album just as I love all of the stuff he's done with his own projects.

Mikael Akerfeldt ("Fear") - This Swedish heavyweight is my favorite vocalist on the album, and he provides his trademark clean vocals that would easily fit the best Opeth album. It seems Arjen wrote the part for Mikael, as the melodies appear to be written exactly for Akerfeldt's singing style (as if they were composed for some unreleased Opeth cuts). And of course, even Ayreon cannot escape from the clutches of Mikael's deep, brutal death metal grunts that totally slay and bring goosebumps to the back of your neck. Day Twelve is one of the heaviest songs from any 2004 release and is carried by the haunting voices of both Eric Clayton and Mikael Akerfeldt.

If you haven't bought this album already, do yourself a favor, and find the dough, because you won't be let down at all. If you're a prog fan and you don't own this record with the bonus DVD and the whole shebang the you need to be sent home with no recess. This is an absolutely incredible EXPERIENCE, from beginning to end. Thank you Arjen Lucassen for amazing me with such an outstanding album - "The Human Equation" = big cinema for the ears!


9.5/10 points; 96 % on MPV scale = 5/5 stars

point-system: 0 - 3 points = 1 star / 3.5 - 5.5 points = 2 stars / 6 - 7 points = 3 stars / 7.5 - 8.5 points = 4 stars / 9 - 10 points = 5 stars

Review by Zitro
4 stars 4 1/4 stars

Easily the finest progressive rock album I have heard from the Netherlands. This is a concept album about a man (James Labrie) who got into a car accident and fell into a coma. He hears voices in his mind all throughout the album. The main artist who created this project is a multi-instrumentalist and sings nice, but he did well on getting a wide number of singers and musicians; it helps not make the album similar in style. Most of the singers are very good, and Mikael from Opeth delivered his best grunt in "Trauma". While Labrie is the singer that sings the most in this album, he probably sings at his best here. Still, it makes me wish there was another vocalist for the main character. The music sounds like a rock opera with dramatic vocals.

1_Vigil: A short track with vocals. It ends with the sound effect of a car crash.

2_Isolation: Loud female choruses, strong synthesizer playing, almost metal-like instrumentation. This is a great song! 9/10

3_Pain: Good soft riff played when the vocals are introduced. Has some death-metal style vocals, and hard rock moments. Nice flute solo. 8/10

4_Mystery: Great track that starts as a vocal-led soft rock track, but evolves into a jam dominated by keyboards and synthesizers. 8/10

5_Voices: Too many Labrie vocals, and too little instrumentation. One of the least impressive tracks in the album. 6.5/10

6_Childhood: Somewhat soft at the beginning until the band starts jamming. 7.5/10

7_A somewhat soft and melodic track at the beginning, but later has a loud screaming part and a symphonic instrumental section. 7.5/10

8_Hope: A cheerful track led by a gorgeous hammond organ melody, and great vocals (especially the Ahhhhh near the end) 10/10

9_Playground: a Happy melodic track that repeats the same melody with different instruments. 8/10

10_Memories: Good female vocalists, rock instrumentation, and acoustic finale. 7.5/10

11_Love : a Ballad that suddently gets unusually rocking at the end. The first disc finishes with female vocalist almost screaming in unison. 7.5/10

12_Trauma: A prog rock track that begins with a great bass riff. Then a mindblowing scream of "you'd better of dead!!!!!!" introduces a metal riff derivated from the initial one. There is heavy usage of keyboards in this track. Very enjoyable! 9.5/10

13_Sign: Melodic song dominated by gorgeous vocals (mostly female). Very classical song 7.5/10

14_Pride: Sounds like a Dream Theater song and LaBrie's voices makes it more obvious. However, there is a flute solo ... so it's not 100% Dream Theater 7/10

15_Betrayal: Has very dramatic vocals, dark tone, and minimal instrumentation until the orchestra takes over in a very uptempo and complex way. This is probably the best moment of the album combined with the amazing synth solo played under mesmerzing synthesizer music that comes after the orchestra bit. 9/10

16_Loser: A folk track with a neat riff and metal moments. Folk/metal!?. The angry screams are controversial , and a bit unlistenable near the end (I got used to it though). There is a hammond solo in this track. 7/10

17_Accident? : A mellow track with some heavy parts. Oliver Wakeman plays synths in this track. 7.5/10

18_Realization: Nothing too mindblowing. However, this is a nice track with gorgeous melodies and energetic rocking riffs. 7/10

19_Disclosure: Same, not very interesting, but it is a harmless good tune. 6.5/10

20_Confrontation: This climax does not disappoint at all! Listen to the No Quarter-like organ, the slow and distorted guitar riff, and the vocals. 9/10

My Grade: B+

Review by el böthy
5 stars The perfect concept album!!!

Since I knew that concept albums excist I have been seaking the perfect one. And in my search I noticed how difficult this was, because of one aspect...the lack of balance between lyrics/idea and music(instrumentation. No concept album I heard had this balance, if the idea was too good then music not soo much, and the same thing if the music was too good. You see, if there is an excellent concept, probably the best of them all, thats Pink Floyd The Wall...but musically speaking I feel its not up there with WYHW, TDSOTM or Animals. Same thing with Tales from topogrphic oceans, musically it get some times a little boring, yet I find the lyrics to be Andersons best! Then we have an album like Dream Theater´s Scenes from a memory, which has soo rich mucis, virtuoso instrumentation and excellent melodys...but the story? just OK... But I knew there had to be one album at least that has both worlds, idea and music...I´ve found it!

The Human Equation is nothing but a of the very best albums from this of the best albums ever, at least conceptual!!! This is really as good as music gets!!! Great story, great music, great sound (which is a trademark in Ayreon´s albums I have noticed) and...the best vocals ever! Labrie shines thrue out the album as the main character (for all the Labire haters, or just for the ones who dislike his voice this is the album that will make you change your mind). Arjen also sing very good...but what really gives me the goosebums are the female voices, specially when they sing as a choir...superb!!! other special metions are for three metal singers which I normally don´t like that much, but really do an perfect work here: Devin Townsend, Mikael Åkerfeldt and Mike Baker ...after this album i will really dive Opeth an other chance!!! the instruments sound excellent, with some great atmospheres and guitar and key solos.

Well, what can i still say? It´s the best concept albums ever!!!

Review by AtLossForWords
4 stars The mastermind of Ayreon Arjen Anthony Luccasen graces listeners with what is known to be the final opus of the project. Arjen has taken his listener of and adventures through space and time (Into the Electric Castle), creation of life and the universe (Universal Migrator), and now ends this epic project with a concept album about whay may be seen as the most complex concept of all, the human conciousness.

(this paragraph contains spoilers)Arjen casts James LaBrie of Dream Theater as the main character of the concept. Myself (here on out referring to LaBrie's character) is a victim of a tragic car accident. His best friend Arjen and his wife Marcela Bovio are at his side in the hospital. While stuck in a coma LaBrie encounters personified characters of fear (Mikael Akerfelt), rage (Devin Townshed), passion (Irene Jansen), love (Heather Findlay), pride (Magnus Eckwall), reason (Eric Clayton), and his father (Mike Baker). Through myself's coma, he learns of the disappoiting flaws in his character such as insensivity, and the mystery behind the affair of his wife and best friend. Myself then awakens from his coma understanding and forgiving of his best friend and apologizes for how he has wronged those most dear to him.

I should probably talk about the music now. Arjen Lucassen takes more of a metal/rock approach to this album. There is less orchestration (althought still present) in favor of different guitar and keyboard tones. Arjen's final product is a variant rock opera of both light and dark settings that will keep listener instrested throughout the lengthy runing time.

Arjen is the only guitarist on this album, there are no guest appearances by genre favorites Mike Romeo or Gary Wehrkamp. The result is less technical solos in favor of more melodies and rythymns. Arjen's guitar tones are variant all throughout the album. His melodic sense is plausible composing catchy, but unique tunes.

Arjen also takes care of the bass duties. There's not much to say here, an underwhelming performance, but the bass holds the groove. A listener could certainly ask more from a bassist, but recieves the bare minimum of service.

Ed Warby as usual takes care of the drums. His approach on this album is much more relaxed than it was on the second half of the previous Universal Migrator album. Warby stick to the groove, and as usual pulls of some very creative fills. The tone of Warby's drums are perfect. The bass drum hits and the snares are perfectly articulated, due to Arjen's great mixing, but also Warby's rock solid playing.

There are quite a few keyboardist contributing on this album. Oliver Wakeman seems to have the primary keyboard synth roles, along with Arjen that is. Joest Van der Broek and Martin Orford also contribute quite a bit of synth sounds. Ken Hensley takes care of the hammond. The performances are very distinguishable, but each add an essential element to this synth led project.

REMEMBER EMOTION, universal migrator system offline!

Review by OpethGuitarist
3 stars My first and only Ayreon album, and while impressed initially, the more you play the album, the more you realize that it's not quite "up there". I would say a fitting description of what is found here is an album with many great parts, but tehy dont quite equal up to the expected whole.

Indeed, there are very many interesting and intriguing parts that might blow you away upon first listen, but after several repeats, you realize that many parts of the album lack the focus that is necessary. The use of many vocalists makes the album more interesting and gives us a feeling as if we are at a play or a movie, which I think is good. Some of the more "typical" prog metal traits come out, and it tires me because it's been done before. I think that there are about 4/5 tracks here that I really enjoy, and would listen to quite often, but some of the rest of the tracks lack the depth that a band like Pelican has. In scope, the project is very ambitious, but we also have a played out concept and although their are some good tracks here and there, as a whole you dont get that warm tingly sensation one gets when listening to something great.

Review by Australian
3 stars It's very difficult to be original in music these days. The success of the innovative rock bands during the 1950's and 60's will probably never be repeated. The thing that made them so successful is because they were different and were able to expand the horizons of music. Progressive rock contributed to this in many ways but even bands like King Crimson, Yes and Genesis where overshadowed by the revolutionary bands like The Beatles and the Rolling Stones who really defined Rock as a genre.

So believe me when I say that "The Human Equation" is as original as it gets now, beyond going one step further into "unknown waters." The concept isn't really unique but that in no ways degrades its effect. The fact that it is a rock opera is kind of cool, but many bands had already make rock-operas at least 25 years earlier. The Who's "Tommy" is one example among many. I think that the fact that "The Human Equation" is a prog rock opera makes it unique, if only a little. That said this isn't even the first by Arjen Lucassen, he had already made many before this.

One may argue that this is the "best" of his works, I tend to agree these days as he spares no expense to create this album. The combination of vintage instruments, metal, amazing vocalists both male and female and my personal favorite feature obscure instruments makes "The Human Equation" my favorite from his catalog I own.

The album is about a guy who has a car crash in the middle of the day for no reason. He then goes through a recount of his life in the world in his mind in which he re-faces all his hardships and torments, as well as some of the highlights. The album is also about him trying to get back into the real world and related matters. This guy is a really mean tough character, like Micky who is part of the art rock team here (hahahah). This side of him is influenced by his tough childhood brought upon mostly by his father. Yes, it is very cheesy but in a good way.

I really, really cannot be bothered going through a track by track analysis right now, maybe later. I'll just list some of my favorite songs here "Pain", "Loser", "Love" and most of all "Confrontation" which has a great surprise at the end.

I really like "The Human Equation" and it deserves its four star rating. Due to its length it can be hard to listen to and the cheese can be so strong that it overpowers you. Apart from that it's great! I'd recommend this album to all prog metal fans, it is an absolute essential for you guys.

Review by 1800iareyay
5 stars I first heard about Ayreon through iTunes suggestions but paid no attention until I stumbled upon this site. I downloaded a few songs off of some albums and was impressed, but not wowed. Then, I got most of Ayreon's albums for Xmas. I listened to this album first and almost never got to my other CD gifts.

The Human Equation follows the story of a man who falls in a coma after plowing his car into a tree. While in a coma, he unlocks some hidden region of his mind where he confronts his emotions and and memories. Meanwhile, his best friend and wife sit at his hospital bed waiting for a sign of life. As usual, Arjen manages to pick out each vocalist perfectly. Though most of the voices on this and his other albums were new to me, some big names stood out. He roped in Mikael Akerfeldt, Devin Townsend, Mike Baker, and James LaBrie, some of my favorite metal vocalists for this extravanganza.

Everything about this album screams perfection. Arjen's compositional skills have fully blossomed, resulting in the most musical album in the Ayreon catalogue. His lyrics also fully capture emotions. Passion, Love, and Agony often are together; Reason can be swayed by Passion, etc. You come to truly feel this album; I cried as the man revisits his abusive and lonely childhood. When the wife and best friend tell anecdotes on "Memories," I smiled in the same way I do for real anecdotes; it's not a joke, so you don't laugh, but you smile because it's amusing. At other points I was downright terrified; Arjen's slim but powerful acoustic arrangements crate the eeirest atmosphere. Ed Warby rejoins Arjen as apparently Ayreon's permanent drummer, if Arjen's interview on the special edition DVD is any hint.

Now, on to the vocalists. Fans of opeth who prefer Mikael's clean vocals will love this album as most of his vox are clean, though he does some growls. James LaBrie gives what may be his most impassioned performance to date. Those who do like his vocals are encouraged to check this out; it beats a good portion of DT vocals, which I happen to love. Arjen once again uses beautiful yet upsetting female vocals. I was initially dismayed to hear Devin Townsend essentially phoned in his performance, as he did not want to sing other people's vocals. However, Arjen allowed him to write his own lyrics for Rage, and they fit perfectly to the story while still retaining that unique Townsend approach. The real suprise for me was ex-Psyhcotic waltz vocalist Devon Graves. I have yet to hear Psychotic Waltz or Devon's new project Dead Soul Tribe, but I'm going to get anything he's been a part of. Arjen is right on the mark when he says that you'll be reading the lyrics booklet every time Devon comes on, not because you can't understand him, but you are trying to determine who the new vocalist is. He is all over the place on this record; his versatility here could match Daniel Gildenlow's on Pain of Salvation releases.

For the longest time, DT's Scenes From a Memory held my top spot for greatest prog metal release and Queensryche's Operation Mindcrime was my personal favorite. The Human Equation managed to supplant both. The production, the arrangement, the vocals, everything is perfect. As with all Ayreon albums I read along to the album with the booklet to see which vocalist was where. I usually start with the album and keep reading even if I get ahead. Yet, as the story progressed, I stopped because I did not want to ruin the story. I was that engaged to the concept. I cannot recommend this album enough and to those who believe a good prog metal collection is nothing but Dream Theater, Queensryche, Opeth, Fates Warning, and Symphony X (I was in that boat not too long ago), you haven't even started if you don't have this album.

Grade: A+

Review by imoeng
5 stars The Human Equation

Two CDs, a documentary DVD, all packed in a cardboard case, what more can I possibly want? Well, actually, two great CDs, a cool DVD with also cool artwork. I could have given 6 stars.

When I bought the CD, I did not know anything much about Ayreon, what kind of band was it, and where did it come from. Plus, the price was heaps expensive, which made me wait for around 4 months before I could buy the set. I just hoped no one will buy the set before me. So, I went to that same music store everyday for four consecutive months just to make sure no one touches it. In the end, it's all worth it.

I went home, ripped all the tracks to my computer, and then played the first track while looking at the artwork. It was a cool first track, pretty slow actually, for a "progressive metal" album, just like people said. But it is such a nice song, really calming vocal, very simple. Then I continued to the second track, Isolation, which really blew me away from my desk, for about 4 metres. Now that what I call a progressive metal song. A combination of virtuosity, feeling, and progressiveness and other things that make you feel the song. The best thing about the song is the chord progression and the keyboard solo, they are too cool. So then I continued my musical journey with these two incredible CDs. Arjen Lucassen was right, this album is a truly combination of metal, progressive rock, folk, maybe some country, to some more mainstream genres. A song like Love (track 11) is a completely different song to Pain (track 3), which makes this album a really unique album. This is probably due to the variety of musical tastes of the vocalists, and musicians. Several big names, like James LaBrie, Mikael Akerfeldt, Devin Townsend and Heather Findlay took part in the creation of the album.

And just like other epic albums of progressive rock, The Human Equation offers a nice story behind the album. The Human Equation. Portrayed human's life in many different aspects, reflected in the characters of the singers, Fear, Reason, Love, Passion, Pride, Agony and Rage. Of course, also the main characters, Me, his Wife, Best Friend and Father. The story began when the character Me (as me, yourself) had an accident, a pretty strange accident when he hit a tree although no one was there. Since then, he began to think and reflect his life, in conscious or subconscious state. For example in the song "Memories", Arjen Lucassen sang "It's been ten days, it shouldn't last this long, the doctor's mystified nothing's physically wrong". It shows that at that time, the main character was still under a subconscious mind, remembering all the good times he had with his Best Friend. Then it comes when we know that the character Me was actually an unhappy individual, although he was portrayed as a complete person, with a good life. However, he had a bad relationship with his father, best friend and his wife. Then slowly, as the album flows, he fixed these aspects and made his life better. This is a cool story, I reckon, because it reflects some of our life, and yours too, probably.

Now after I finished listening to the songs on the CDs, I asked myself, "How on earth they made this album? And what is Ayreon really? Well fortunately, the DVD explains it all. So don't just buy the CDs, but the set that I bought, a really cool compliment to the great album. Enough talking, buy it now. Or if you have bought it, listen to it again now, just like I am doing right now.

Motion personified alpha - Imoeng

Review by Prog Leviathan
4 stars A fine album featuring some of Ayreon's best song writing and playing to date, but-- despite the raving reviews-- is not perfect. However, the complaints I have are few compared to the album's highlights, which outshine previous works.

Arjen elevates his song writing ability, composing many songs here that are very memorable and fine show cases for his instrumentalist's talent; however, I think that the vocalists steal the show on this one, probably because "Human Equation" features more star-power than ever before, and a better mix than on previous albums. However, the need for the lyrics to double as narrative do sometimes get in the way of enjoying certain songs, and since the exposition/story telling is often times explicit, it makes for a few boring lulls in between the otherwise dynamic songs. Moreover, the second CD does not make for a satisfying conclusion when compared to side 1; it's bogged down by too much narrative.

As far as vocals go, LaBrie does a fine job carrying the lead, but the big surprise is Marcel Bovio, whose strong feminine voice adds a broader spectrum of melody and chorus to Ayreon's music. For my own part, Townsend and Akerfelt deliver the most memorable performance in "Loser"; their sudden scream/growl duet always puts a smile on my face.

To sum up, "Human Equation" is certainly one of Ayreon's finest, and will likely hook first time listeners as well as dedicated fans. Satisfying and fun to listen to.

Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 4 Lyrics/Vocals: 4 Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Review by erik neuteboom
4 stars What a story: once Arjen Lucassen played in the hardrock bands Bodine and the very popular Vengeance as the archetypical hardrock guitar player and now is an acclaimed progrock multi-instrumentalist who has created his own and very distinctive Ayreon sound with amazing albums sales and a huge popularity on this site so a big hand for this creative and nice fellow Dutchman!

Today I listened for the first time to this 2- CD set (The Electric Castle is my favorite Ayreon album) for the total running time because earlier I had heard some parts that sounded a bit too prog-metal-like and I am not a fan of that genre. I can to say that I am very impressed by the music on both discs. It's obvious that Arjen has incorporated elements from his favorite bands from the past like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Hawkwind. But he has blended these elements in a very captivating, dynamic and unique way, culminating in the typical Ayreon sound. Although this will not be my favorite album (because of the prog metal elements), to me this 2-CD sounds as his most mature effort delivering 20 compositions that alternate frequently between mellow and bombastic, between folky and progmetal, between dreamy and heavy and we can enjoy amazing soli (on guitar, keyboards and flute), stunning breaks, a pleasant variety, lots of great musical ideas (like the sound of a church organ, a didgeridoo and a classical orchestra) and a wide range of excellent male and female singers (from James LaBrie and Heather Findlay to Mike Baker and Irene Jansen) and famous musicians (like Ken Hensley and Martin Offord) , another typical element of the Ayreon sound. My highlights on this 2-CD set are Day Two: Isolation (very dynamic and alteranting featuring swirling organ, a spectacular On The Run-like synthesizer intermezzo, Gilmourian slide guitar and flashy synthesizer flights), Day Five: Voices (between folky with mandolin, violin and acoustic rhythm guitar and prog metal with bombastic eruptions, biting guitar and wonderful violin-Mellotron waves), Day Fourteen: Pride (exciting with sensational distorted guitar, a super-propulsive prog metal climate and strong work on flute traverse and a fiery guitar) and the very varied Day Eighteen: Realization (an array of instruments like flute traverse, organ, tin-whistle, choir-Mellotron and violin). My keyboard hero Ken Hensley delivers an outstanding, very spectacular Hammond organ solo in Day Sixteen: Loser, this inspired contribution prooves that Arjen is not only a great composer but also an inspirational musician who knows how to create exciting and varied prog. This 2-CD set has not only become one of the highlights in Dutch prog, it's also a worldwide very acclaimed effort, highly recommended!

Review by rushfan4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The Human Equation is an absolute masterpiece progressive concept album (rock opera). The album consists of 20 songs spread over 2 discs. The concept is a story relaying the various human emotions felt by the title character (sung by James LaBrie) who following a car accident is left in a comatose state. He is attended at his bedside by his wife (Marcela Bovio) and his Best Friend (Arjen Lucassen). Each of the various emotions are sung by a different guest vocalist, including Heather Findlay as Love, Mikael Akerfeldt as Fear, Devon Graves as Agony and Devin Townsend as Rage. The songs mostly alternate between the thoughts inside his head and the conversations between his wife and his best friend. It is an emotional story of love and betrayal and forgiveness.

To fully understand this concept album it is highly recommended that you follow along to the lyrics with the CD booklet. Within the CD booklet each of the various vocal parts is clearly labelled as to who is singing which parts. This is definitely an excellent aid for following along and gaining an understanding of which emotions he is dealing with. Many of the songs are duets with alternating male and female vocals. The female vocals on this album are absolutely gorgeous. Word of warning: there are some death metal growls sung by Agony and Rage which have a cringe inducive factor, but quite frankly in my opinion, these death growls are actually appropriate in order to convey these emotions of Agony and Rage and the amount of death growls is very small so they shouldn't put off the listener too much.

All in all, this is one of my favorite albums of all time. I suppose that one of the things that I like best about it is that the concept is clear and about real life situations. There is relatively nothing abstract about the concept and it isn't a sci-fi fantasy concept (I like these too, but they can tend to be a bit cheesy). Happy listening!!! I hope that this review has been of some help to someone who hasn't heard this album and is looking for an excellent concept story/rock album to add to their collection.

Review by FruMp
2 stars Impenetrable cheese.

I was (and still am) a big fan of 'Into the electric castle' - it was cheesy but most of the time it was the good kind of cheesy, I couldn't help but smile every time I heard the hippie say "we're on an amazing flight in space" and there was that whole old school prog vibe going on most of the time. In the human equation we find what is worst about modern progressive metal, the over the top vocals with operatic vibrato, abrasive nu-metal guitar tones, noodly shred solos, silly synthesizers and the insincere concept album with lyrics without a hint of subtlety - am I being overly harsh on this album? - probably but I think it needs to be said and this is the way I genuinely see things.

I plain don't like this album, I never even got past the first disc and I don't see many redeeming factors in it but this is just my personal opinion that happens to be at odds with the majority, this probably comes from my background in liking extreme and technical metal as well as prog. If you are lactose intolerant or a fan of extreme metal then you probably wont like this album, if you are a fan of DREAM THEATER or SYMPHONY X then I could see there would definitely be a lot to like here.

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars Another concept album from this skilled Dutch musician. As usual there is a myriad of great guests for this recording. Just to name a few : Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn), James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Marcela Bovio (Elfonia) and Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) for the vocalists and Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep) as well as Martin Orford (IQ, Jadis) on the keys. Heather and Marcela do belong to my favourite female prog vocalists and it is extremely pleasant to have them both featured here.

A great line-up. But again the concept is VERY thin.

This album has a deep influence from "Floyd" during some tracks of the first disc. It was already noticeable in his prior project "The Universal Migrator. During "Isolation" all the facets of "Ayreon" are proposed : metal riff, aerial keys and FULLY Floydian atmosphere. It is one of the best song from this double CD.

What I dislike particularly on "Pain" are these growling "vocals" from Mikael Åkerfeldt. Even if I can bear some of the "Opeth" offering, I could not really enter into these type of vocals (except during the fantastic "The Drapery Falls").

"Mystery" is a good song with Banks oriented synth work while the folkish "Voices" start almost like "Friends" from "Led Zep "(on III). The folkish atmosphere will be substituted with a metal one after three minutes. While "Childhood" offers some ambient but dull mood. It is saved by some good guitar work.

"Hope" brings us back to the folkish even medieval sounds. It is maybe due to the special keys sound here. Not my fave. Same sort of folkish flavour as well in the next and short "Playground".

The first part of this double CD is not really memorable IMO. Pleasant, that's all.

The second CD won't be very different. It starts with the long "Trauma". Some growling again from Mikael Åkerfeldt and a rather dull song after all. Some folkish mood again with "Sign".

My favourite song is "Pride". A heavy-rock one. It features brilliant flute play which will automatically remind the hardest Tull side. But it last less than five minutes. And the West end (or Broadway) musical tendency of "Betrayal" is not the best of this album (but it is not the first time that I noticed this influence on Arjen song writing).

It is remarkable to notice how one musician could influence the musical style of "Loser". I'm of course talking about Hensley and his great organ solo. Fully in-line with his epic days with the Heep. Apart from this excellent solo, there is really nothing fussy about this track.

The role of "Reason" is sung by Eric Clayton. He almost sounds as "Bowie" on each of his appearance. This is not to annoy me. Just listen to "Accident" (but there are other ones of course). A strong closing number is more than welcome. "Confrontation" is also one of my fave from "The Human Equation".

This album is far from the masterpiece status IMHHO. Too conventional, predictable. Same sort of weak concept all over again. A good album, no more. A shorter, condensed version might have worked better.

Three stars.

Review by The Crow
4 stars The Human Equation is a splendid album... But a bit overrated, because it's not the perfect masterpiece a lot of people says, in my humble opinion.

The first thing I noticed when I first heard this album was its variety... Arjen Lucassen has not a clear style in his mind, he just picks a lot of influences and styles, and he mixes it all in a good way. Here we can find some extreme metal passages, neo-progressive, folk, hard rock, electronic influences... And of course, the style of the song depends of the singer who appears in it. Some folk passages are related with Heather Findlay, the harder passages are with Devin Townsend and Mikael Akerfeldt, the heavy parts come with Irene Jansen and James LaBrie... And this is just the best thing this album has, the incredible group of singers we have here. For me is a kind of dream hearing James LaBrie, Mikael Akerfeldt, Devon Graves and Devin Townsend singing in the same song... This is a wet dream for every prog-metal lover!

The instrumental work is also great... Arjen's keyboard and guitar work was really hard, and the good results are here. Ed Warby is also efficent in the drumkint, but not spectacular, while contributions like Martin Orford and Ken Hensley on keys are really well received.

Ok, but the album has its flaws... In two discs it's difficult not to find some not so good tracks, and The Human Equation is any exception. Some parts of the albums are not so great, and it makes the hearing of the album a little dull sometimes, while you desire the next great track comes. It's a pity... Longer doesn't means better sometimes.

Best songs: Isolation (great opening, good keyboard solo), Pain (the best track of the album, with an incredible chorus courtesy of Devin Townsend... It's obvious he is the composer and recorder of every part he participated, his style is obviously here), Voices (good track with folk influences and great guitar riffs), Love (funny 3/4 rythm song), Trauma (another highlight, with the typical Akerfeldt grunts...), Loser (different, and a really inspired track, with great singing from Mike Baker and Devin Townsend, and a marvellous 70's Ken Hensley's hammond solo...), and Accident? (Devon Graves is outstading here...)

Conclusion: Arjen Lucassen deserves all my respect for this great work... He put his soul and a lot of hard efforth making this album, and the results are great. Not perfect, with some less inspired tracks, but still worth a good listening. If you are into prog-metal, this is a good choice, but beware of its variety... And of course, if you are interested in hearing some of the best metal singers today, this is the perfect album.

Review by progaardvark
COLLABORATOR Crossover/Symphonic/RPI Teams
5 stars After being slightly disappointed in the Universal Migrator, I wasn't sure what to expect on Ayreon's next release, The Human Equation. I was rather surprised and quite impressed with Arjen Anthony Lucassen's next incarnation on the Ayreon express. Like Into the Electric Castle, this one is another full-fledged progressive rock opera with numerous characters all portrayed by different guest vocalists. What is different, is that it isn't another science fiction adventure, but rather more in line with a human psychological story.

The story is about the narrator, referred to as Me (portrayed by James LaBrie of Dream Theater), who lies in a coma in a hospital bed after experiencing an automobile accident. Each song on the album is a day during the coma, with the 20th day being the day Me awakens from the coma. Each song deals with the pains, hopes, struggles, and betrayals of Me's life which is played out in his mind while in this comatose state. Often multiple emotions duel against each other in Me's mind. It's quite a complex storyline, but not complex enough to fly over my head. There are nine other characters that are involved, some being emotions, others actual people in Me's life. The concept is quite ingenious and very original. The other characters are portrayed by Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine), Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn), Irene Jansen (Karma), Magnus Ekwall (The Quill), Devon Graves (Dead Soul Tribe), Marcela Bovio (Elfonía), Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery), and Devin Townsend. Indeed, a fascinating cast of vocalists.

In addition to his regular drummer, Ed Warby (Gorefest), other guest performers include Joost van den Broek (After Forever), Martin Orford (IQ), Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep), and Oliver Wakeman. The music is more heavier than on Into the Electric Castle and also is more acoustic than other Ayreon releases. A number of guest musicians performed on violins, cellos, various flutes, panpipes, recorders, bassoons, and even a didgeridoo. The music is more tighter than on prior releases and has a more overt theme present. Like other Ayreon releases, this one tends to be labeled as prog metal, but it's still the usual Ayreon mix of symphonic/psychedelic prog and prog metal.

Definitely a masterpiece to my ears and a much needed improvement over the haphazard Universal Migrator. I still think Into the Electric Castle is my favorite Ayreon release, but The Human Equation is a very close second. One of the best releases of the new millennium. Easily worth five stars.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars a bonafide prog masterpiece

After reading the reviews on ProgArchives, and watching some of the clips online here, I was drawn to this album and how grateful I am to be introduced to it. In a word this is masterful!

Every moment, every track, every conceptual idea that permeates this album is a tour de force of progressive conceptual brilliance. Arjen has pulled together some of the best artists to present a jigsaw puzzle of emotions and elucidations of the mind of one who is in a coma due to a horrific accident. The story is so solid and potent it would be criminal to release too much of it here. Suffice it to say, it is powerful and unforgettable.

In every track we are presented with a day in the coma of the victim - what is going on in his mind? What is he hearing? what is he sensing? All his regrets, bitterness, lost hopes, longings for love and life are captured beautifully in these tracks. All styles of prog are also presented from symphonic, eclectic to manic prog metal and even a touch of foreign sounding prog (Loser).

The album presented in 2 CDs is a chronological perspective of a mind that has been clouded by remorse and tragic circumstances, so we, as a listener, are drawn into this world and it can become an overwhelming experience if we allow it. For example on CD1 , in the emotive 'Love' we hear about his deepest desires and we feel for him; In 'Pain' we hear how he has been betrayed, In 'Childhood' we hear of his torment at school. The best track of CD1 is 'Love', beautifully sung by Mostly Autumn's Heather Findlay and others to support her. Irene Jansen as 'Passion' does a great vocal on the album too, usually in 2 harmonies - very Gothic and sinister.

CD2 begins with the barnstorming thrasher 'Trauma' that lights up with vocals from the incomparable Mikael Åkerfeldt and Devin Townsend. 'Sign' is a nice touch with a soft vocal from Marcela Bovio. The booklet is wonderfully produced and tells a story itself in simple pictograms and artistry. 'Betrayal' gives the story more depth and the showstopper is 'Loser' sung with passion by Mike Baker. Its simply great! 'Accident?' brings us back to how it all happened - was it an accident? We find out the truth and why.... this leads to the awesome finale with 'Confrontation' and all the artists have a turn in their own eclectic style, the musical virtuosity is second to none.

Its a rock opera of sorts but more like Spock's Beard's 'Octane' (similar story) or a Pink Floyd concept album (The Wall) than an opera. The concept is strong and the vocals are delivered par excellence. James LaBrie is sensational as 'Me' and special mention to Arjen for his role. This album could easily be made into a movie length DVD - the thing runs for a whopping 102:14.

Did I mention the music? It is as dynamic as you are likely to hear - scintillating keyboards and amazing guitar solos throughout, backed by pounding drums with varying time signatures.

Don't take my word for it, buy it and see for yourself - this album is the best album of 2004 and will go down in history as a bonafide prog masterpiece.

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The voices in our heads

If there's one thing I'm always a sucker for it's really good prog metal. If there's another thing I always fall for (but am sometimes disappointed by) it's a good concept album with a solid story that somehow doesn't take away from the music itself. If there's one thing the world of prog metal is known for it's albums that go way over the top, and Arjen Anthony Lucassen is one of the guys who likes to do just that. His spaced out stories of adventure have brought us through Electric Castles, through the minds of people all throughout time, and even to the beginning of the known universe. His space operas have appealed to many, but it's always been a very specific audience. With The Human Equation Arjen takes a turn down an unfamiliar road and goes instead for people, emotions and the human psyche. A dramatic twist indeed. Somehow, this combined with the familiar Aryeon sonic attack makes for a drop-dead perfect progressive metal album.

One of the biggest draws to the album has to be the story. Although Arjen has done some crazy stuff before this one has to take the cake. There's no apocalypse and no castle halls, in fact, the story takes place entirely in one room (well, and in one guy's head, but that's beside the point). The characters each have their own voices again, much like The Electric Castle but this time they're playing a different breed of character. The three main characters include: the man in the coma (Me as voiced by James LaBrie of Dream Theater), his wife (Marcela Bovio of Stream Of Passion) and his best friend (voiced by Lucassen himself) - the other characters are the main character's different emotions and feature an array of superstar voices including Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth), Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery), Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad) and many others. The story takes place over 20 days and each day is a separate song, making for a very interesting mixture. I won't get too much into the story itself, because that's what listening to the album is for.

All the songs work well in tandem with one another, some act as pieces to a whole while others are meant to stand out on their own. Ironically, some of the best songs on the album are the shorter ones (ironic because we're talking prog here). None of the songs are over 9-minutes, true, but it's some of the truly quick ones that really take the cake. Take for example the instrumental Playground - a beautiful tune led by flute that lasts for a mere 2:15, but feels like a lot longer (in a good way), or the quirky Loser with it's didgeridoo opening and interesting vocal lines (an Alice Cooper impression by Mike Baker).

Somehow, everything about this album just works. If you like progressive metal in any way, shape or form you'll find yourself loving this one. It may take a few listens to really let the music sink in, but what double album doesn't. Eventually you'll find yourself on the edge of your seat when me speaks for the first time (in the real world) and says to his best friend ''Listen well to what I have to say, I have to tell you... of my betrayal''.

Very much worth many, many repeated listens, this is undoubtedly the ultimate Ayreon project (to date, anyways). A wonderful album for (as I've said many times already) anyone who likes Prog metal in any way. 5 voices out of 5! it doesn't get any better than this.

Review by progrules
3 stars This supposed masterpiece by Lucassen proved to be a tough nut to crack for me. I owe it for a long time now, listen to it occasionally, sometimes surprised how good it still is but most of the time put off a bit by the many overblown tracks this doubler possesses.

Disc one is the best example of what I mean. There is one outstanding track on here being the second: Isolation. The rest is too vocal for me. And then I emphasize "for me". Because I do understand why many consider this a masterpiece. If you are a vocal oriented music lover this rock opera/concept album is definitely a treat. But I'm not a fan of this kind of albums. I also declared this with Clive Nolan's SHE and actually this is more or less the same idea. Lucassen wrote this mainly for vocalists which is not always the case with his albums. But anyway, this explains my love for Isolation, the most instrumental track of Disc 1.

Disc 2 is the better of the two, at least for my taste. Again this is no coincidence because on several tracks there is enough attention for instrumental music. Loser and Pride are the ultimate highlights for me, also of the entire double album. (Where Pride is concerned: this track is very much "Into the Electric Castle" style and this happens to be my favorite Ayreon album). But the rest spoils much of the fun for me. In Arjen's discography this magnum opus takes in a modest place if I have to make my personal ranking list. But I have to say it again: objectively at least a near masterpiece, for me personally only 3* I'm afraid (3,3)

Review by Conor Fynes
5 stars 'The Human Equation' - Ayreon (9/10)

I can remember the first time I listened to 'The Human Equation.' It was a quiet evening, and I was busy looking up new music to get into. Reading about a band called Ayreon, my interest was suddenly peaked. A band that used elements from a multitude of different genres? Guest vocals from Dream Theater, Devin Townsend and Opeth? I had to check it out.

My first taste of Ayreon was through 'The Human Equation.' Since then, Ayreon has become one of my all- time favourite progressive artists. 'The Human Equation' has everything you would expect in the typical prog masterpiece, and more. There are elements from folk, classical, electronic, gothic, avant-garde and metal, laid atop a heavy progressive backdrop.

This album is incredibly ambitious. Harkening back to the night first listening to 'The Human Equation' in full, I was addicted. It was the musical equivalent of a 'book you can't put down.' As a work that's almost two hours in length, it's definately alot to swallow; but I was enveloped in both the storyline and music, and needed to finish the saga before I headed to bed.

The plot (provided you have a cast of characters list, and the lyrics in front of you) is relatively easy to follow, considering it's mass complexity and style. In summary, the majority of the 'musical play' takes place inside a man's head during a coma, where he speaks with different emotions; different facets of his character and being. In the real world, his best friend and wife look and watch over him, both with dark secrets of their own. It's a deeply psychological trip, and would make for an excellent film script, if the opportunity arose.

'The Human Equation' is very popular among prog fans, and there's no wondering why. It's a masterpiece of modern prog, and shouldn't be missed! Five stars.

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars OK, double CD. That's fine and with Ayreon's energy, also inevitable. His contribution to prog metal is great. Enough crap talking,let's go to Human Equation.

This is concept album, that means story in Ayreon's case. He has a big experience with fantasy theme, maybe sci-fi ones, it's difficult to say. This one is different, it's more mundane, earthling story. Something which can happen to any of us, but (obviously), there are things which are little bit out of normal, it's so called paranormal.

Day 1, Vigil - Little bit beeping which first does not make much sense. Nice intro, I like woman vocals here. Then we hear riding car and sound of brakes. But, what is strange, no crash. Brakes are just about to end their effort of saving, but there's no final, stereotype sound. That's nice.

Day 2, Isolation - Greets us with (for me) well known voice. Great work Arjeen, having so many vocalists here at once. I'll not talk about lyrics, they're clearly to hear. And we all know that we listen to story about man in coma state of mind, after he (did he?) had a crash accident. Which is mystery, maybe he were abducted by aliens and tests were done on him. But accident sounds more real. But voices in his head seems less, don't they ? 5:31-6:40, typical Ayreon. My brother even told that it sounds like "On the Run" by PF. Quite a, yes.

And so on. I could easily continue and write here down all "days" (tracks), but I suppose it's not necesssary. You can imagine them by yourself, if you are interested.

5(-), I like Ayreon, concept albums, multi-vocal projects, sci-fi and this kind of Metal.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I just couldn't understand all the positive reviews that Ayreon albums have received. I definitely consider myself a fan of progressive metal so maybe my previous choice of The Universal Migrator was just an unfortunate mistake? Let's hope that The Human Equation will put this artists music in a whole different light!

Well to tell you the truth I did like this album a lot more than the Migrator-albums but there were still a couple of things that didn't work. On the positive side both the story and the compositions showed me a more mature Lucassen at work here.

What I really don't enjoy is the whole role playing where every vocalist plays a part in the story. The whole experience makes me think about opera and I'm still not sure whether or not it actually works on a metal album but I'm quite certain that it didn't work for me here. I also noticed that I haven't revisited this album for a very long time since my first week after purchasing it. I think that the reason for that is that The Human Equation lacks a centerpiece that I would be looking forward to revisiting.

Well all in all it's a good album that I'm sure fans of Lucassen's work will enjoy but the work doesn't have a genre transcending quality to it that will peak an interest from fans of other progressive rock genres. So it's by no means an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.

**** star songs: Day One: Vigil (1:33) Day Three: Pain (4:58) Day Five: Voices (7:09) Day Six: Childhood (5:05) Day Seven: Hope (2:47) Day Eight: School (4:22) Day Nine: Playground (2:15) Day Ten: Memories (3:57) Day Eleven: Love (4:18) Day Thirteen: Sign (4:47) Day Eighteen: Realization (4:31) Day Nineteen: Disclosure (4:42) Day Twenty: Confrontation (7:03)

*** star songs: Day Two: Isolation (8:42) Day Four: Mystery (5:37)Day Twelve: Trauma (8:59) Day Fourteen: Pride (4:42) Day Fifteen: Betrayal (5:24) Day Sixteen: Loser (4:46) Day Seventeen: Accident? (5:42)

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The Human Equation is generally acknowledged as Ayreon's masterpiece. His songwriting is very diverse and found a good balance between melody, power and not too much bombast, though that remains a relative thing when it concerns Ayreon. This album really struck a chord with me when it was released and it got me into a short but intensive Ayreon flirt. This album has quality material but I've quickly grown out of my Ayreon amazement when I discovered more interesting prog matter. Anyway, it was fun while it lasted.

My main grudge with it is the rock-opera styled approach. Throughout the album there are beautiful moments, but more often then not they are ripped apart by bombastic intrusions. All vocalists take up their role in this play with enthusiasm and dedication, but the sterile glossy production takes away much of the power. Added up to the bombastic puzzle of themes and solos, finales, duets, trios, quartets and other sorts of gangs, the big sound of this album is just too much of bang really.

The best songs sit on the second CD, with Sign, Pride and Loser as the obvious highlights. It's been a few years since I gave this a spin and initially I had my mouse pointer hovering over the 4 star button, but upon listening to it again, 3 stars sounded more appropriate.

Review by jampa17
4 stars Too much brilliancy... maybe too much...

When I first heard this project I felt a lot overwhelmed by the whole concept. Maybe two discs is too much and the amount of guest players and the variation of the music is quite impressive, so maybe this album is not for an outsider or someone who has not "get" prog metal.

Once said that, I feel that the album is too much eclectic to be considered as an exclusive "prog metal" album. It has a lot folk-eclectic-heavy prog elements that merges into a complete new thing that sounds great and you can really dive in and enjoy the journey. But, be prepared, maybe is too much to digest in one sitting.

Some people said this is cheesy but I don't agree with that. The story flows with a lot of great singers who develops a different character each and have talks about many existential things. In some vein, this can be categorized as a "Christian Rock Opera" but in a good way. The music works for the story and the guest player work for the songs. There's metal themes and some ambience and folk little spaces for the story to breathe more. I won't mention all the guest players because they are a complete army. I'm happy with the participation of James Labrie (from Dream Theater) who is the key roll in the story, but all the characters made a great work in their each part.

I think the creativity is evident. Having violins, cellos, flutes aside of keyboards, mellotrons, hammonds, heavy guitars and some growling vocals, you have to be very good to merge all that in a good form.

So, I won't detail each song because it will take too much time. My advise is that you come and try this album only if you are already familiarized with long themes and epics. If you like prog metal, you HAVE to hear this. If you like folk and prog rock in general, you can give it a try. A masterpiece, maybe, but for the doubts I will leave it in four stars. Sometimes I feel exhausted when I end the album? so, maybe is great but too much. This is an album that any prog fan needs to listen to before they die.

Review by EatThatPhonebook
4 stars 8/10

"The Human Equation" is Lucassen's masterpiece.

Wow. Just wow. I just listened to this album 4 times, but that's enough to realize that this is a masterpiece. The Human Equation is for sure Ayreon's (Lucassen) most ambitious and fine album, and for sure one of the best progressive metal albums ever,and it would even in my opinion go down in prog history.

The Human Equation is long concept album divided in twenty songs, also called "Days", and two cds. Lucassen, Ayreon's mastermind, invited for this album a huge amount of famous and excellent guests including James Labrie, Mikael Akerfeldt, Devin Townsend, Devon Graves, and many others, including a minor but excellent role performed by Shadow Gallery's singer Mike Baker.

The story is focused on a man ("Me", portrayed by James Labrie), who just came into a deep coma, where he is sorrounded in his mind by all his inner feelings ( Love, Fear, Pride, Agony, Rage, Reason, Passion) that force him to think about his previous life and how he got into the coma. Meanwhile his best friend, portrayed by Lucassen himself, and me's wife, portrayed by an excellent Marcela Bovio, are next to him in the hospital bed, feeling guilty for what happened, since they think it is in part their fault.

The twenty days flow perfectly, and each song is a prog metal gem, with a massive use of different instruments ( the digeridoo in day sixteen is unbelievable) and moods: in fact, many times it isn't metal at all.

The first cd is my favorite: songs like "Isolation", "Pain", "Childhood", "School", and "Love", have completely changed my way of appreciating and listening to music. But the second Cd isn't at a lower level: even here some songs are unforgettable, like the last two, "Disclosure" and "Confrontation", or the great and provocative "Loser".

Anyway, each song shines in it's own way, so this album can really be considered perfect, with maybe a few weak moments, but its still an essential release for any prog metal fan.

Review by Flucktrot
3 stars Of all the albums in the ProgArchives top 50, Human Equation seems to be one of the clear imposters--one of those albums that really sticks out from the rest (and not in a good way).

One warning sign that I've read in numerous reviews is that way too many of the 5 star ratings involve a statement such as "I've only listened to this 3-5 times, but that's all I need to know that it's a masterpiece." I just have trouble giving too much confidence on reviews such as these, because ratings may be artificially inflated.

Don't get me wrong--I have nothing against this album: I just don't see it as a masterpiece in any way. There certainly is a place in prog for overblown, pompous, even comically ridiculous projects, and that's where Human Equation fits in my book.

There are plenty of highlights--and there certainly ought to be some in 100+ minute piece!--such as instrumental ending to Isolation, the playfulness of Realization, and nicely-done ending. However, the music is too often limited by the vocals, as guitar solos are thrown in more because that's where they are expected to go rather than based on any higher direction regarding the musical impact. I appreciate the addition of other musical genres, such as the Irish-jig section, but they are mostly in the generic, familiar, and less progressive sense.

Most importantly, nearly throughout this album, I'm continually trying to push the tempo in my's simply plodding in numerous places throughout. I suppose that may be important if you want to emphasize extended vocal wailings, but in my opinion it really draws things out much longer than necessary.

Overall a well-produced, somewhat creative, utterly overblown, and definitely overlong album. It appears there will always be a place in prog for these projects, but certainly not always in my collection.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars This is the one AYREON album that fans seem to rate the highest. I would imagine the guest vocalists alone make this a favourite among Metal fans with Akertfeldt,Townsend, Clayton, Graves, Baker and LaBrie on board.Then throw in some amazing female singers like Bovio, Findlay and Jansen and that's a tough lineup to beat.The instrumentalists seem to take a back seat here but that part of this recording is top notch as well. I like the title of Easy Livin's review that says "A winning formula ?". My thoughts exactly. The only album from AYREON I rated 4 stars is the one that veers away from the formula and that's "The Universal Migrator Part 1", the rest all follow the same blueprint and i'm just not a fan. It's like i'm listening to a musical with different singers playing the various parts and singing the lines.Then there's the backing female vocals which are always prominant and of course being a concept album the focus is on the vocals not the instrumental work or the music for that matter. Still after saying all that this is worth 3 stars because of the performances alone.

Phideaux might be my favourite on here with the song "Hope". It's just a refreshing section after all that has gone on before. "Pride" is another highlight with the heaviness and excellent guitar solo. I like the synths too that come and go.The end of the final tune is great with those passionate vocals that start before 6 minutes. Obviously i'm in the minority here with the 3 stars but consider that this is a project that just doesn't do it for me. Of interest is the fact that Devin Townsend wrote the lyrics for "Rage" on three different tracks while Heather Findlay wrote the lyrics for "Love" on one song and Devon Graves wrote the lyrics for "Agony" on one track. Arjen wrote the rest.

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
5 stars I haven't reviewed this album until now, but I think it's the best progressive metal concept album ever released, also because it's not "just" progressive metal. So if you are a mono- thematic listener who likes only that subgenre be prepared to be disappointed, as this very complicated concept contains at least folk, symphonic and even a bit of neo, plus of course the metal.

The concept is about a man in coma after a car crash and his emerging back to life while the relevant persons of his life go to see him in the hospital. The story is quite complicated as the things will be revealed very different from what they initially seem. More complex than any Roger Waters' nightmare.

Each character has its own voice, as often happens with Ayreon and in general all the projects involving Arjen Lucassen, and there are many remarkable guests: just look to the lineup on the top of the album's page here on PA. One for all the former Mostly Autumn vocalist Heather Findlay but also Michael Akerfeldt, James LaBrie between the many and even a keyboardist like Oliver Wakeman who interprets a solo on "Day Sixteen: Loser" with a surprising Emerson's style, despite to his family name.

This appears to be the 129th review of the album and this is why I didn't attempt my own one until now. There's almost nothing that I can add to what is already said. I just want to underline that if you want to spend about a couple of hours listening to excellent music and following an excellent and amazing story this is one of the best albums that you can find.

Not properly a rock opera and not just an album but surely a masterpiece. The last remark that I want to make is the use of growl on the already mentione Day Sixteen. It's one of the rare songs in which the growling is functional to the song and not just a standardized way of singing metal.

I think it's a masterpiece. It's surely one of the albums I've listened to more often during the last years, and I'm not a prog metal fan.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
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

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars A bit too heavy, too theatric, and too discordant in terms of album flow. To have such divergent dynamics--often within a single song--is, to my ears and mind, too much to handle, not enjoyable. Getting the number of widely diverse artists to participate on this project is truly an admirable achievement, I'm just not sure it was all necessary--or that it all contributes to the flow and cohesiveness of the whole. Really, it's an album of 20 totally disconnected songs each trying hard--too hard--to showcase some pretty talented guest musicians yet, in the end, only pretending to have some kind of integrating concept.

A great Broadway production. Here, it's over the top.

Review by kev rowland
4 stars This is a modern concept rock opera on a huge scale. The double CD only just manages to cram it all in, this is epic on an epic scale. Arjen Lucassen has really out done himself this time as the different singers and musicians create something magical. I mean, for starters look who is involved in this project with Arjen, who as well as providing Electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, analogue synthesizers, Hammond, Mellotron and additional keyboards also sings the part of 'Best Friend'. He is joined on vocals by Devon Graves (Dead Soul Tribe) as 'Agony', Devin Townsend (SYL) as 'Rage', Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) as 'Reason', Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) as 'Fear', Magnus Ekwall (The Quill) as 'Pride', Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn) as 'Love', Irene Jansen (Karma) as 'Passion', James LaBrie (Dream Theater) as 'Me', Marcela Bovio (Elfonia) as 'Wife', Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery) as 'Father' with the following musicians: Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep, Various) ?Hammond, Oliver Wakeman (Nolan & Wakeman) ? Keyboards, Martin Orford (IQ, Jadis) ? Keyboards, Ed Warby (Gorefest, Various) ? Drums, Joost van den Broek (Ayreon) ? keyboards, John McManus - Low-flute, tin-whistle, Jeroen Goossens ? Flute, Robert Baba ? Violins, Marieke van der Heyden ? Cello. You can see already that this is something that is out of the ordinary.

When this rocks it does that in spades, but there are areas within this are that are pure beauty. This is a prog album that is setting new standards when it comes to imagination and construction. It is an album that is compelling, but each theme leads seamlessly on from the one before. This is more like a symphony ever changing and developing than a series of songs telling a story and the result is that the listener is truly transported into a new world.

I have been listening to the double CD, but it is also available as a deluxe edition containing the double CD, a DVD and a book. Inside Out have put a lot into this release and I can see why. This is setting new standards for concept albums ? superb.

Originally appeared in Feedback #79, May 2004

Review by FragileKings
5 stars Part 1: Fiction

Sometime in the very recent past, Arjen Lucassen, using the theory of non-linear time and a device not unlike the TARDIS, visited my profile page on PA and my CD collection at my house and said, "Peter, I am going to make an album just for you and people like you. I see you are a fan of traditional metal but have been discovering more recent progressive metal artists. You prefer good singers who can use drama and affect subtle emotions in their voices to the shouters and the growlers; however, I see that you have recently begun to enjoy Mikael Akerfeldt's death growl vocals and you like singers with power. You also like the theatrical singers like Geoff Tate. You used to be a fan of some female vocalists long ago but not so much in recent times. Alright, I have an idea for a rock opera which I think you will enjoy and I know of some people whose vocals you will really appreciate, male and female."

"You are a big fan of concept narratives like The Wall, Operation: Mind Crime, Subterranea, and Scenes from a Memory. I think you'll like what I have in mind. I see you also really like neo-prog these days and have a special affinity for Celtic music. You like flutes and acoustic guitars as well as metal music; you can appreciate intelligent rock and pop; you love catchy melodies and vocal harmonies; recently you have found you can appreciate synthesizer much more than before and violins too; and I see you mentioned on PA last week that you like classic Uriah Heep. Okay. I am pretty sure that when you here this album that I am going to make, it will blow you out of the water. Now I am going back and have it ready by 2004. You have already found it here in 2014. Now order it and enjoy."

Part 2: Fact

The Saint Elias Mountains are the highest mountain range in North America and the second highest peak on the continent is found here. Mount Logan stands 5,959 metres high and is said to possibly have the largest subaerial mass of any mountain on the planet. The massif rises 3,000 metres above the surrounding icefields and supports an icefield of its own 25 by 10km in surface area. There are thirteen peaks above this icefield, eleven of them over 5,000 metres elevation. I am going to use Mt. Logan's topography as a metaphor for listening to "The Human Equation".

Part 3: Review

"The Human Equation" has reminded me of Mt. Logan quite simply because the emotional experience of listening to this album the first time and the second time has been one big high from start to finish with several peaks elevating me to the highest levels of music enjoyment. It would not seem unreasonable to me to rate this album referencing Mt. Logan's elevation by awarding it 5.959 stars. I have in my CD collection some very few albums that I have enjoyed so much that I would give them six stars if possible. "Any last requests?" "Yes, please allow me to listen to Ayreon's "The Human Equation" one last time.

Yes, I am a sucker for a good concept narrative album. Though I don't listen to it often because of the time necessary to run it from start to finish, Pink Floyd's "The Wall" is always an emotional ride like watching a favourite movie. More recently, Dream Theater's "Scenes from a Memory" became a close second favourite concept narrative of mine, and the excitement and suspense I felt after the first listen two years ago still filled me again when I listened to it most recently a couple of months back. Now Ayreon's "The Human Equation" has hit me with the same impact. Powerful music, strong melodies, an array of instruments and a cast of superb vocalists and musicians, this album was like reading a good book where I loved the moment I was in and was excited to hear what was going to happen next.

The story is basic enough. A man is in a coma in the hospital and his wife and best friend visit him and talk together. He mysteriously crashed his car into a tree on a lone road in broad daylight. During his twenty days of coma, he speaks with his emotions: Fear, Love, Reason, Passion, Pride, Agony, and Rage. We learn that he came from a broken home and overcame bullying at school by becoming a bully himself. He and his best friend both got jobs at the same company and were both in line for the same promotion, but it was his friend who was the better candidate. Our protagonist sabotaged his friend's promotion prospect but felt great guilt. We also learn that he saw his wife in the arms of another man, his best friend, though they both claim that it was only a consoling moment he witnessed. During his time in a coma, he reviews his life and his betrayal of his friend, and in the end decides that he must survive his accident, awaken, and confess to his friend and make things right. The story reminded me a little of that movie with Harrison Ford where he wakes up with amnesia and tries to put his life back together, discovering that he was a real prick before his accident. The best friend betrayal reminded me of "Ghost" and the surprise ending made me think of "Vanilla Sky" for some reason.

Though the story itself is a bit unoriginal, the cast of singers playing their parts and the music make this such a wonderful album. The first track introduces the scene in the hospital and the sound of a car approaching the instant of the crash. The second track had me from the start with James LaBrie (Me, the protagonist) and Mikael Akerfeldt (Fear) in a sung dialogue and then the flute and wonderful synthesizer solo (very Pink Floyd "On the Run" at first). From LaBrie's first words I was reminded of Nicholas in "Scenes from a Memory" and I thought how appropriate his voice is for this character.

Before the third track, "Pain" had even finished, I was loving it so much that I added it to a playlist I'm constructing of recently acquired favourite tunes. There I was feeling like singing along to the chorus without even knowing the words yet. If this were Mt. Logan, I'd already be on one of the summits.

Usually when an album has such a good start, I expect that there will be a song or two that won't be very thrilling. "The Human Equation", however, continues with songs that feature surprise elements that seem to have been added just for my personal taste. Listen to the Jimmy Page guitar and the beginning of "Voices" which gets a dose of violin in that special Led Zeppelin / Tea Party sound and then flute like Jethro Tull. The keyboard melody of "Hope" reminds me of the Byrds' classic Rickenbacker guitar melodies. Just before I came home from the train station the first night I heard this, I walked right past my house out to where the road went between two dark fields and I played this song two times more, dancing on the dark street. I can't recall the last time I felt so compelled to dance to a song. Track 16, "Loser", with its Celtic guitar and flute also had me dancing. How good that music felt! And even this morning as I try to finish typing this review, the chorus to "Love" is in my head after having only heard it twice. It reminds me of a cross between Meatloaf's rock operas and a chorus by classic Sweet.

The second disc delivers more great music without losing pace. "Trauma", "Sign", "Betrayal" and "Loser" are all immensely enjoyable, but it's "Loser" that comes out as possibly the true summit of the mountain for me and has received several replays. Combining didgeridoo with Celtic guitar and flute and then an eruption of heavy metal guitar to a jig, this song is just one incredible joyride. Me's gloating, self-righteous, and sardonic father is well portrayed by Mike Baker; however Devin Townsend's throat-shredding scream "NEVER, NEVER, NEVER" in the last part of the song to the heavy metal jig was like the most delicious ear candy I had heard yet. I had to stop listening to the album here because I simply could not digest any more of this phenomenal music in one day. I listened to the whole album through the next day and when it concluded I felt as though I had just watched the most incredible movie I had seen in ages.

Part 4: Conclusion

Now I have heard the album twice and listened to several songs from three to perhaps ten times more. If you've ever heard people say, "This music feels like it written for me," well then that's just how I feel. From beginning to end, I follow the story, eager to hear the lyrics, to hear each person's voice as a singer and as a performer and actor. There is so much to the music and all the styles and sounds are so well integrated that it doesn't feel like a hodge podge of styles thrown together just to have diversified music. I have chosen three songs as must haves for my playlists, but there are several others that have been played again independently. The only drawback is that there is over an hour and forty minutes of music, so a good slice of time is required to listen to this all the way through. I have had to listen to disc one on the way to work and then disc two on the way home. Additionally, I received this disc along with a few others, including Steven Wilson's "The Raven that Refused to Sing" and Evergrey's "In Search of Truth" and both are eclipsed by this incredible package of music and drama.

A visit to Mt. Logan and its thirteen peaks would be an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience, but "The Human Equation" is ready for me to hear again as soon as I am ready to push play.

My apologies for the super long review. This is my 100th review on PA and I am really so pleased to have an album to be this excited about for this milestone. Out of five, I give it 5.959 stars, rounded down to five stars for this site.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars For me listening to any AYREON album is little like going into a cheese shop. Arjen Lucassen really knows how to extract the absolute sappiest of power ballads and to me seems like a nurturer of 70s AOR / Pop rock bands like Styx into his musical equation. More often than not I am a little put off by his constant infatuation with the power ballad style of musical expression but there are times when his creative juices get flowing and he proves he is capable of something powerful and dynamic. The sixth album THE HUMAN EQUATION is one of those moments and yet another concept album / rock opera where each character is portrayed by a guest starring singer. Lucassen employs the talents of an army of vocalists and instrumentalists to create a musical rotisserie of vocal styles, musical motifs and narrations of a character called Me who is left in a coma from a car accident. Each song consists of one day spent in the coma and represents the spectrum of emotions and memories from his life that are played out by the musical cast. Unlike most AYREON projects, on this one Lucassen had help in the lyrics department from Devin Townsend who pretty much contributed the lyrical content and performance as Rage.

The music is in the vein of the usual AYREON style of part folk, part electronic and part metal. On HUMAN EQUATION there is also a lot of Irish jig music incorporated as well. This was my very first exposure to AYREON and I have to say that I have not been overly impressed with what i've heard on other albums. So far this seems to be the best album that i've heard. With all the praise that has revolved around this I was expecting it to be a perfect album but I find that the album is a little boring on Disc 1. The first several songs are just too folky and lack any bite. I'm not really engaged until track 7 with 'Hope.' Luckily this double discker picks up from here. I find the real treat is on Disc 2. This is where all the creativity and excitement unleashes itself. Songs like 'Trauma' and 'Loser' are utterly brilliant and really the whole disc keeps my attention with so much more going on than Disc 1. Overall I find this album to be partially worthy of the hype surrounding it but as with most AYREON albums it seems too long with some less than captivating material finding its way onto the track listing. I would probably give Disc 1 a 3 star rating while Disc 2 gets a 4.5 so for the whole kit and caboodle I award THE HUMAN EQUATION a whopping 4 stars.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Ayreon is a progressive metal project by multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen. He is the only constant member of the project, however, he often uses many well-known vocalists and artists from around progressive circles to put together some elaborate and amazing rock operas. The Human Equation, released in 2004 is one of his best. It stands out from his other work as being the first album where Arjen centers the story/album around real life and not fantasy as he had in previous albums. That is a big advantage for this album as it is a lot easier to relate to it.

So, the tag Progressive Metal fits to his music, but be aware that Arjen also uses a lot of Neo, Symphonic and Classical Progressive influences in his music, and he utilizes them quite extensively. The album The Human Equation is a perfect example of that, it is a varied and emotional album dealing with the main character being in a coma for 20 days after an automobile accident and dealing with his own emotions and personality. There are several musicians involved in the making of this album including Devin Townsend (as Rage), Heather Findley (as Love), Mikael Åkerfeldt (as Fear) and James LaBrie (as "Me", the main character) just to name a few. Most of the vocals are clean vocals except for a few rare occasions when it is important to the storyline. The music is quite variable and dynamic and so are the vocals. The voices can be quite emotive at times, just like you would expect in such an emotional tale.

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about this album because it is one that any progressive fan should already be familiar with. One thing you have to say is that there is plenty for all progressive fans of any sub-genre should love. The album has been reviewed many times already in the Archives, but it has been awhile since the last review, so I thought I would help remind everyone out there that this album exists, it is one of Ayreon's best. It shows Arjen at his songwriting and performing best. Personally, for me it just barely misses the masterpiece mark, but it is still one that I come back to quite often. The problem I have with it is the concentration is too centered around the story and the lyrical aspect of it all, but that is not to say that there isn't a lot of excellent instrumental passages here, because there is. I feel like because of the importance of the story and the characterization involved that development tends to suffer in many places throughout the album. But, this is not a reason to avoid this album, because, for many, that may not even be an issue.

The biggest plus of the album for me is the amount of variety and dynamic change throughout it all. You never have to worry about getting tired of any one style or sound as so many genres are touched upon here quite well and it is literally one of those albums where everyone will find things to absolutely love about it. I feel the strongest tracks are the heavier and most emotional ones such as "Day Two: Isolation", "Day Eleven: Love", "Day Twelve: Trauma", "Day Sixteen: Loser" and "Day Eighteen: Realization". For those that love a lot of drama, emotion and dynamic in their music, this is a must have.

Review by VianaProghead
5 stars Review Nº 483

"The Human Equation" is the sixth studio album of Ayreon, the musical project by Dutch songwriter, producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen and it was released in 2004. As happened with all Ayreon's albums, this is a conceptual album with each character being portrayed by one singer. However and unlike the previous albums, "The Human Equation" isn't a sci-fi story but it takes place almost entirely in the mind of a character called "Me".

"The Human Equation", is together with "Into The Electric Castle", the only Ayreon's album in which Lucassen didn't write all the lyrics. Devin Townsend wrote all the lyrics of his character "Rage", while Heather Findlay of Mostly Autumn and Devon Graves of Deadsoul Tribe also wrote some of the lyrics of their characters, which are "Love" and "Agony".

The concept is about a man who had a car accident. He crashed into a tree. It was broad daylight with no other car in sight. The road was empty. This man slips into a coma after his accident. The story is set in two different locations. One is at the hospital where his best friend and his wife are sitting next to his bed. The doctors are wondering why he doesn't wake up. Why he is still in coma, because physically he should be okay. The other location is inside the man's head. The man has discovered some strange realm within his head, where he's being confronted by his personal emotions. These emotions are being portrayed by the singers. So, there's "Fear", "Pride", "Love", "Rage", "Passion", "Reason" and "Agony". There's also the character of the man, "Me", his wife, his best friend and there's his father too.

The line up is divided into vocalists and instrumentalists. Vocalists are: James LaBrie as "Me", Mikael Akerfeldt as "Fear", Eric Clayton as "Reason" Heather Findlay as "Love", Irene Jansen as "Passion", Magnus Ekwall as "Pride", Devon Graves as "Agony", Marcela Bovio as "Wife", Mike Baker as "Father", Arjen Lucassen as "Best Friend", Davin Townsend as "Rage" and Peter Daltrey as "Forever". Instrumentalists are: Arjen Lucassen (electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitars, mandolin, lap steel guitar, keyboards, synthesizers and Hammond organ), Joost van den Broek (synthesizers and spinet), Martin Orford (synthesizer), Ken Hensley (Hammond organ), Oliver Wakeman (synthesizer), Ed Warby (drums and percussion), Marieke van den Broek (cellos), John McManus (flute and whistle) Jeroen Goossens (flute, alto flute, bass flute, panpipes, descant and treble recorder, didgeridoo and bassoon) and Robert Baba (violins).

Musically, this new Ayreon's album is in the vein of the music of Lucassen, a lot of beautiful melodies, sometimes sad, sometimes happy, but always well written. It's versatile as any Ayreon's album has been, and in this case is even more. For the ones who know Lucassen's music there is again a lot of keyboards, flute, violins etc., and it sound is again very atmospheric, very progressive and also very heavy in some parts, in its style. But, the great stuff that shows that Arjen is certainly one of the best musical compositors on Earth is this easiness that the master has to write his music for us, for him, but also for his guest musicians. Personally, I think it's very hard for me to find any musician who can do that like him. All songs are killers, the stories are superb, so are the lyrics, and the singers line up can't be better, really.

The choice of singers for the parts has been very thorough. After listening to the album many times it's hard to imagine other singers in these roles. LaBrie manages to carry a lot of feelings suitable to the moments. Akerfeldt singing more than grunting is simply amazing. Heather and Marcela with their sweet and emotional voices are lovely. Irene with her powerful voice is incredible. Townsend gets really raging in his own manner. Graves delivers a versatile performance.

But, not only the singers and the story make this album so good. The music and the musicians are both of the first class. The album blends elements from classic, folk, electronic, rock and psychedelic to hard rock, prog and metal at its best. There are violins, cellos, flutes and pipes, there are amazing keyboard solos by some amazing keyboardists, there are guitars by Arjen in his distinctive style and there are drums by Warby. You can't help notice Ed's fine performance.

Conclusion: As is usual on any Ayreon's album, there's a great collection of artists, musicians and singers. It's a real pleasure to see so many great artists on a single album. And as usual, we are in presence of another conceptual album. But, there's a small surprise here that firmly ties this album to all other Ayreon's albums. No sci-fi story here, which is a real surprise for the fans, I guess. But, this is one of the best, if not the best story written by him. So, what more can I say about this wonderful album? Undoubtedly, this is the best work, so far, of this great Dutch artist. He knows perfectly well how to involve so many people without losing his musical identity. This is a perfect mix, full of quality, with a lot of musical styles, new and incredible voices, amazing collaborations and mainly with great music. Again, Mr. Lucassen does that and was able to create amazing music on a wonderful album. It deserves again the maximum rating from me. Definitely, when in the future we look for Rock Operas, we can't forget the name of Arjen Anthony Lucassen.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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5 stars When I think of greats in the modern day Prog era it is impossible to ignore this album. In fact it sticks out like a sore thumb and I can't stop thinking about it. While Ayreon brings in a lot of talent and great artists that make it difficult not to purchase an album it can also be hit and mis ... (read more)

Report this review (#2880351) | Posted by altered_beast | Saturday, February 4, 2023 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Ayreon was a band that took me a good time to get into. At first they sounded like Dream Theater with many vocalists but after giving some of Ayreon's best works multiple tries I started to appreciate them more and more. At first, their albums look intimidating: Most of their works are long, two ... (read more)

Report this review (#2536109) | Posted by Isaac Peretz | Saturday, April 17, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album is spectacular! The timeline, the characters, the songs divided in days, the artwork, everything feels like it is exactly where it needs to be. The concept is all around in a way no other Ayreon album was able to do. And for the main character, LaBrie works perfectly. The music is ... (read more)

Report this review (#1819035) | Posted by guiservidoni | Saturday, November 4, 2017 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Usually when one thinks of progressive music, or specifically metal, one of the names they come up with is Dream Theater, a band with a reputation of being pretentious because they are overly technical to a point where their songs sound like them endlessly showing off. Well, Ayreon manages to be ... (read more)

Report this review (#1424038) | Posted by Insin | Friday, June 5, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars An album to be blown away by, and increasingly so for every listen. Excellent introduction to the work of Arjen Lucassen, or even into the world of progressive music as in my case. Just like Ayreon releases probably and hopefully always will be, this album is bombastic, to-the-top melodic and i ... (read more)

Report this review (#1287539) | Posted by Chalcobalt | Saturday, October 4, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The Human Equation is yet another great double CD album from the Ayreon project. For those uninitiated, Ayreon is Arjen Anthony Lucassen's project and at least six or seven albums (depending on how you view the Universal Migrator) have been released under that name, all of very high quality. Usu ... (read more)

Report this review (#563494) | Posted by FunkyM | Sunday, November 6, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The Human Equation is a masterpiece in both music and concept. The album is about a guy ('me') who is in a coma and the music is all part of the world he is stuck in, as he lies in his hospital bed. All the singers either represent his emotions or people close to him and they are there to help f ... (read more)

Report this review (#534733) | Posted by Quirky Turkey | Tuesday, September 27, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Along with his side projects Star One, Guilt Machine, Ambeon, and Stream of Passion, Arjen Anthony Lucassen's primary musical project has been Ayreon, a series of CDs dating back to 1995 with The Final Experiment and ending with 2008's 01011001. All the albums in the Ayreon catalog have been ... (read more)

Report this review (#442800) | Posted by BobVanguard | Wednesday, May 4, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars "Emotions ... i remember " The multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassem is well known for his various projects, of which the most famous is the Ayreon.I heard their sixth album, "The Human Equation " and I can say that just is not good: it is one of the greatest works of progressive metal ever! As ... (read more)

Report this review (#356344) | Posted by voliveira | Saturday, December 18, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I've been a bit of fan of Ayreon for a while now, so I'm slowly trying to get all their albums. And this one is a must have. Out of my 2 favourite albums (the other being 010101101), this is one of them, and it is very hard to choose a favourite, because I love them both so much , but I think ... (read more)

Report this review (#304222) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Friday, October 15, 2010 | Review Permanlink

2 stars MAN, what's this? Okay I like it a bit. Actually it is quite original in places. I think music is no longer something people make up their own mind about but are told what to think by other people on internet discussion boards and websites . I WAS expecting to hear a metal band with Genesis/Yes ... (read more)

Report this review (#279419) | Posted by Brendan | Monday, April 26, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is an excellent CD! Two discs with music keeping you intersted through more than a 100 minutes of rock-opera. Plenty of synth breaks with differing synth voices - neat and tidy tunes build up the experience and some very catchy ones remain in your head after you have listened. Some of the ... (read more)

Report this review (#270439) | Posted by M27Barney | Monday, March 8, 2010 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I have never gotten the fascination with this record, and after going through it again recently, I still don't. Despite having some great singers, some of whom are in my favorite bands (Townsend, La Brie, and Akerfeldt , most notably), "The Human Equation" is a big flop. I cannot quite put m ... (read more)

Report this review (#267373) | Posted by Biff Tannen | Sunday, February 21, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The Human Equation is another great album by Ayreon. The mood of the album is a bit different than the other sci-fi oriented albums. The story that is told is more of a psychological one. The beat is a bit faster and heavier than his others. There are a few weaker songs on the album,but they are ... (read more)

Report this review (#258663) | Posted by gorgi321 | Thursday, December 31, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Arjen Lucassen decided, after releasing quite a few sci-fi-oriented albums, to live that thing to closet for a while. The Human Equation is a stunning and very psychological journey into brains of a man, where different emotions and important persons from his life battle. The story is pretty d ... (read more)

Report this review (#257310) | Posted by Morsenator | Tuesday, December 22, 2009 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I am somewhat going to dissent with the majority here and assess The Human Equation as my least favourite Ayreon album to date (if we disregard Actual Fantasy). This is not to say that The Human Equation is a bad album - it is not - but here Lucassen was not inspired as much as he was when he ... (read more)

Report this review (#241935) | Posted by SentimentalMercenary | Monday, September 28, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Well, I guess there isn't much to say about this album, as everyone has already rated and reviewed it. Go and buy it, chances are you'll love it, thought you might turn out to be one of those who actually dislike the album, (Yes there are a few). The album is pretty classic Ayreon style (Unli ... (read more)

Report this review (#224384) | Posted by olastrax | Friday, July 3, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I'm actually surprised that this is Ayreon's highest rated album on Progarchives. This album is Very good... but I certainly think there have been better Ayreon albums. The Human Equation is a progressive metal psychodrama that takes the listener through the world of an unconscious man's dream ... (read more)

Report this review (#214274) | Posted by HammerOfPink | Thursday, May 7, 2009 | Review Permanlink

1 stars I know im going to get alot of heat for this review but at the same time, there are people on this website who gave Opeth's Morningrise a one star rating so I guess we are all wrong. I think I might possibly be the only person registered on this site who cannot find a single second on this al ... (read more)

Report this review (#201387) | Posted by Metalstyle | Sunday, February 1, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A rock Opera masterpiece! This is one dozy of an album, with so many highlight songs, but it is not about separate songs, no.... It is about the whole album as one cohesive piece. And it does that, brilliantly. This is one of the best albums to come out in years, and deserves to be listened to ... (read more)

Report this review (#195054) | Posted by Alitare | Friday, December 26, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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