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Ayreon - Actual Fantasy CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.21 | 259 ratings

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3 stars Actual Fantasy represents a side of Ayreon that is different from the rock-opera sound of his debut. The influences from Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream dominate above those from Yes and ELP. It's a more relaxed and reflective album, less heavy then the debut and keeping clear of Ayreon's usual opera bombast. The lush spacey sound, use of drum computers and a slight melancholic mood brings the ambience of Porcupine Tree's Up The Downstairs and Hawkwind's 90's albums to mind. All these features generally make it into a less loved album with the fanbase.

After a short intro, the album opens strongly with Abbey of Sin, it starts with a 2 minute long soft brooding intro. A Tangerine Dream inspired sequence sets a slow pace that is occasionally accented with a distorted guitar chord. It's a lovely song with strong melodies, warm vocals and great solos, both for guitar and synths.

The Stranger From Within is a grooving piece with an entrancing rhythm. The atmosphere is a bit gloomy and heavy on synths, bringing early 80's synth pop to mind. It features nice touches of Hammond organ, both in the ELP-type solo and the outro that reminds me of Hammill's Gog Magog.

More Tangerine Dream sounds and Gilmouresque guitars create the intro for Computer Eyes, another enjoyable symphonic epic. After 3 minutes, drum computers and background palm muted heavy guitars create a hypnotic pace similar to the previous song.

The quality level of the previous tracks is not continued through the entire album. Both Beyond the Last Horizon and Far Side of the World are decidedly less interesting, the first one even featuring an average poppy chorus and the second feeling like a long-stretched intro that never gets going. It ends with nice spacey Hawkwind synths though.

Back On Planet Earth continues the momentum of the opening tracks with another captivating dark spacerock song. Forevermore is a folksy moment with acoustic guitars and violin. The melodies are a bit too weak to make it memorable. The Dawn of Man is an average outro, especially the first 4 uninspired minutes. The majestic orchestral synths at the end are better.

Actual Fantasy sits close to Arjen Lucassen's later project Ambeon, but it is musically more intricate then the latter. With a good half hour of excellent songs and another 30 minutes of average material it's exactly 3 stars.

Bonnek | 3/5 |


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