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Ayreon - Actual Fantasy CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.21 | 258 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars Two stars do not denote a bad album. Merely, Actual Fantasy is almost entirely unmemorable, almost entirely standard, and almost entirely aimless.

I enjoy this release plenty. In the catalog of Ayreon, it stands plenty fine. However, missing here are the unique interactions of vocalists. Missing here is the strains of folk and world music that give Ayreon its distinct binary flair. Instead of combining inhuman electronic sounds with the much more human acoustic and woodwind elements, we get a simple rush of electronic metal sounds. Most of these sounds are not particularly unique, either, sounding more like the usual samples from an 80s keyboard synthesizer. The song structures are mostly the same throughout. In short, this album shows all the cliches of Arjen's songwriting without showing his unique strengths. The vocalists present, while not lacking in talent, do not carry enough flair to turn this release into anything that can hold attention very well. The guitars and drums play very common sorts of metal riffs and rhythms, forming a background that does not deliver any sort of the promised energy of an Ayreon release.

Indeed, that is the issue here: lack of energy. With the exception of the single true standout song, Back on Planet Earth, the songs mostly peter about with the usual trappings of progressive metal and melodic power metal without truly packing any sort of energy or excitement into them. This, then, while not a terribly constructed album, is a rather cold one, one lacking the human and variable touch that marks the remainder of Ayreon's release. Back on Planet Earth is, as I mentioned, the one true standout track, with a nicely syncopated pre-chorus and odd vocal melodies. However, the instrumental parts and solo section really are no different from the rest on here. Of note, though, is the long fading outro of Forevermore, in the vein of The Beatles's Hey Jude, with the repeating vocal line (and, I must add, lyrics based on Neverending Story). The rest of the songs are not bad, just not very memorable, not very deep, and not really providing in any sort of lasting interest for the progressive music fan.

This is easily the weakest album in the Ayreon catalog. It is however, full of plenty of things that Ayreon fans will find enjoyable. So if you like the rest of their stuff, you'll probably like this, too. But do not start here. Please.

LiquidEternity | 2/5 |


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