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Arjen Anthony Lucassen - Lost in the New Real CD (album) cover

LOST IN THE NEW REAL

Arjen Anthony Lucassen

 

Crossover Prog

3.75 | 254 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars Technophobia and an apocalyptic dystopian future revealed in Arjen's masterful project.

"Lost In The New Real" by legendary Arjen Lucassen grabbed my attention for a number of reasons. First and foremost is that I have always had a huge adoration of Arjen's projects such as Ayreon and Star One, both producing some masterpiece albums that I have been completely in awe of. I have, as a result, very high expectations for Arjen's albums, having set the bar so high on previous albums. Arjen as a solo artist is a new direction, but I was hesitant as I have always loved the way he has been able to integrate many artists into his projects; a kind of conglomeration of many vocalists injecting their own inimitable style making his projects so endearing. I needn't have worried as this new album is a sensational project from Arjen, who takes the helm as vocalist and guitarist. He is not alone though with some amazing musicians and a legendary actor in the form of Blade Runner's villain Roy Batty; the one and only Rutger Hauer as Dr Voight Kampff (Blade Runner reference to the replicant detecting device). The actor lends a special quality to the album with his rasping baritone narrations. The music is dense and heavy mixed with symphonic passages of keyboards, and some awesome melodies that will lock into your skull after a few listens.

The album is a full blown concept album with very powerful lyrics that focus on technophobia and the cyber highway to destruction, and along the way the protagonist merges out of the real to the realm of fantasy. Hauer plays the psychiatrist who is attempting to help Mr L come to terms with the new world, having been revived from a long cryogenic hypersleep. The world has changed irrevocably into a cyber space non-reality and Mr L's perspective is shown in the lyrics. Hauer narrates the opening of all the songs on CD1 maintaining the conceptual framework that unravels throughout the album. The songs blend seamlessly together and switch into many styles and vocalisations, from clean vocals and sweet harmonies, to some gravelly rage, according to the mood of the protagonist.

It begins in a blaze of glory with an organic heavy atmosphere on 'The New Real', embellished by an infectious melody that always grabs me, gentle vocals and amazing guitar distortion and violin. 'Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin' is a clever title that captures the psychedelic 60s counterculture perfectly. The opening narration by Hauer is so thought provoking; "why create more music if it was all done before, computer generated noise in millions of games of all kinds and in all formats." The lyrics are cynical and even are sung over a Beatles like melody and with a Lennon like vocal; "every song's been sung before, every notes been played, every chords been strummed before and every melody's been made, they've heard it all by now, nothing left to be inspired by, it all seems so unreal somehow, as I sit back and close my eyes." Ironically the piano run used is similar to an Ayreon melody, and I would say purposely to augment the sentiment in the lyrics.

"Human population is to be reduced to a much safer level," warns Hauer ominously as a pounding rhythm begins. 'Parental Procreation Permit' continues the heavy sound, Arjen sounding terrific throughout, and the music with an Eastern flavour. This moves into a kind of folky violin driven jig on 'When I'm a Hundred and Sixty Four', that reminds me of 'Loser' from "The Human Equation". Hauer says that Orwell was not a bad guy, the internet should be embraced, surveillance police and global activity secretly monitored from digital means is the new real. A steady rhythm cranks along on 'E-Police' that is more straight forward than some of the other tracks, a true rocker with anthemic chorus and sweet harmonies. The scary lyrics are about the E-Police surveillance methods and control; "You're in their files, their database, There'll be no trial, you have no case, Take care, for the E-police are near, They know your name, your interface, You will be framed, you'll be erased."

After this blistering heavy start to the album, it settles into the dreamy 'Don't Switch Me Off' which is very close to the bone, talking about internet addiction; Hauer says, "draw a line in the sand, Fact dash machine, or truth, lies and Youtube, delete your Skypad2 avatar, she's so real, so dangerous, do you want to talk about it."

'Dr Slumber's Eternity Home' is a slice of fun with some nice bright violins and an Ayreon style melody, similar to the music that can be found on "The Universal Migrator" or "01011001". The lead break is excellent on this track, over a chugging riff, and then a banjo strum and a horn bass section. The lyrics are chilling; "Our expert team is here, to serve you, once you arrive, you're here to stay, sleep your last sleep, time to answer your last call, we're overcrowded anyway."

This is followed by 'Yellowstone Memorial Day' with Hauer's golden tones stating that "despite hi-tech discovery man still fights wars, and mankind still fights nature, let me tell you about mamma nature." The bass synth builds with electronic percussion crashes and metal clangs, the music industrial and atmospheric. The metal riff crunches in as Arjen speaks of the earth in ashes, "thousands die in the flames", an apocalyptic nightmare vision. In this vision "shockwaves circle the earth, the unstoppable force, our technology fails to a pointless event", showing a dystopian future with the planet under attack by technological forces and mother nature combining.

Hauer snarls out some more dialogue and then violins strike up for the measured tempo of 'Where Pigs Fly' that makes reference to a number of historical figures and rock stars in a humorous way to unravel historical truths such as, "Darwin defended creation, Einstein travelled in time, Columbus discovered India, And Shakespeare couldn't rhyme." Then there is the verse about rock stars that is quite intriguing, "Elvis was a Vegan, Dylan never got stoned, Alice was known as Vincent and Bowie was just Jones, Madonna was a virgin, and Jimi played the flute." The jigging violin is balanced with spacey synths and a soaring lead guitar break. The lyrics are full of fun pop culture references such as "Darth Vader had no son, Dorothy was still in Kansas, and Clint didn't own a gun, Rocky had no sequels and Arnold never came back." Some of the most humorous and in some ways unsettling vocals from Arjen, as we remember what Michael Jackson said in that infamous press conference, that the historical text books are all wrong and nothing is as it appears, everything is fabricated and controlled by the press and the government is the all-powerful all seeing eye.

Hauer returns with some cynical banter, "what the hell is real, who am I and why not, why don't we smell the roses anymore, why can't we get another shot." The bassline than locks in to one of my favourite songs, 'Lost In The New Real', with that glorious melody and dark atmosphere. Arjen's vocals are intense and the music is industrial as we hear of the protagonist "reaching for the ghosts in my mind, dreaming of the ones I left behind, hopeless there is nothing I can do." The time sig switches to a half time feel and some excellent musicianship. The lyrics speak of being revived from a virtual reality; "why did you wake me up, in this virtual jail, why was I revived, is this all some game? Lost in this maze, locked in this brain, am I dead or alive, with all these wires stuck in my brain, so what happens now?" The dangers of cyber virtual reality are outlined with the confusion of what is real, "in the realm of the make believe, within the limits of my brain, but can I really fool myself into believing I am still me, this synthetic state of consciousness, I am therefore I think, could I dream forevermore without the fear I felt before." The slower tempo with Jeroen Goossens' flute, Ben Mathot's violin and retro synth is wondrous. The music on this track is dynamic throughout capturing beautifully the sense of wonder and confusion of awakening into a new reality, like The Matrix concept. The same Twilight Zone melody as heard in the opening track returns. Then a very heavy distorted guitar blast with some violin in an odd time signature kicks in. The harmonies remind me of retro 70s The Sweet, sounding very strong and then a lone Arjen pleads, "please switch me off" over a pulsating electro bass rhythm. The vocoder effect on the voice sounds spacey and mechanised. Thus ends the first CD and the original album; an absolutely astounding musical journey.

CD 2 opens with gorgeous multi layered acoustic tones and spaced up sustained keyboard pads. 'Our Imperfect Race' is saturated in synths flooding over a spacey soundscape, building incessantly towards the first verse outbreak. The harmonised layered vocals asks poignant questions posed by SETI, of how an alien race would see us, "would they live just us, on a planet like the earth, how would they see us, our imperfect race, what would they think of us, the mess we have made, or are we doing okay?" The sci-fi concept of Arjen's work always resonates with me in the same way as the Star One albums, that pays homage to various sci fi movies, TV shows or novels. In this song I sense nuances of "Contact", "Stargate" or "Close Encounters."

'Welcome to the Machine' is a cover of Pink Floyd's classic and it is done with some very heavy distorted guitar bursts, clangs and a dark pulsing bass synth. I love this version that has an industrial machine like pulse that is so effective. The vocals are kind of like the Pink Floyd's version but the heavy metal crunches are definitely an improvement over the original, along with those spacey keyboard swells, soaring lead guitars and awesome powerful synth heartbeats; a treasure on this album.

'So Is There No God?' is the question that brings to light whether a deity exists, but I am never a fan of this kind of theme being a believer, however I can see the value of at least bringing to light the question of existence and our purpose of being. Musically this has some nice slide guitar and a country rock feel with violins and steel guitar. The pessimist approach towards God in the lyrics is a turn off for me, but from another perspective it may be the protagonist is trying to come to terms to the new real; "there is no truth we don't understand, this game of chance, could it be we are alone, a tiny blip in space, an isolated case, so much is still unknown, the more that we reveal, the more it seems unreal, could it be life is a dream, my private fantasy created just by me, or could it be some scheme, a master plan, that has spiralled out of hand." Interesting lyrics to ponder over.

'Veteran of the Psychic Wars' is a great cover of Blue Oyster Cult's song from "Fire of Unknown Origin", and it has a nice synth driven melody that locks into very powerful drumming and lead guitar flourishes. The feel is more like Ayreon, a post metal approach, and very strong lyrics by Michael Moorcock; "Don't let these shakes go on, It's time we had a break from it, It's time we had some leave, We've been living in the flames, We've been eating out our brains, Oh, please don't let theses shakes go on."

'The Social Recluse' is a steady rocker about a man who hangs out with "virtual friends, let's meet up in 3D space, waste some time playing pointless games, we don't have to talk anymore, this idle chatter it's such a bore, don't even need to know your name, I won't remember it anyway, cos in this virtual realm of my imagination, I make friends without obligations, I live like a social recluse in the comfort of my own mind", but as the protagonist states although he is connected in a virtual life "I've never felt more alive." The lyrics are a warning to how we can become immersed in internet cyberspace technology such as LAN role playing, and if we make friends and become tired of them we can just switch them off; and I certainly relate to this in forums and on facebook where we can make friends in virtual space and discard them as easily as switching off a computer interface.

'Battle of Evermore' is instantly recognizable as the Led Zeppelin classic and it is well executed here with reverence to the original and injecting some new flavours. The 12 strings are joined by violins and great keyboard passages. The female chorus vocals of Wilmer Waarbroek are beautiful, and I swear Robert Plant showed up here, it sounds so similar. The harmonies are incredible and again this is one of the greatest covers of this song in existence. It is an odd thing to hear it on this album but it may be seen as part of the cyber space virtual reality role playing game fantasy environment that the protagonist is locked in, as it includes characters such as The Queen of Light, The Prince of Peace, The Dark Lord, The Angels of Avalon, and Ring Wraiths; a veritable Tolkien world. The ending is mesmirising with Wilmer Waarbroek's multilayered vocals lifting so high, augmented by a bone crunching distorted metal riff; simply awe inspiring.

'The Space Hotel' is not a Flower Kings song, but sounds like it, and it is very good, with a cool synth motif and strong percussion. I love Arjen's storyteller vocals; "it's 6am were about to leave, my heart is racing as I am about to take my seat, what a feeling, so unreal, a cosmic holiday." The space hotel is a place where you can make love in zero gravity, where one can experience amazing experiences, doing somersaults up to the bar, and "see the sun arise 15 times a day, the crystal shine of the milky way, spinning around and raising hell, hanging out in the space hotel." The synths and metal guitars are very effective on this song, that reminds me of Ayreon's 'Amazing Flight in Space'.

'Some Other Time' is a cover of Alan Parsons Project's gem, and it vibrates with retro synth motifs and Arjen's soft vocals, "some other place somewhere, some other time". This melody soaked track is followed by 'You Have Entered the Reality Zone', with an Ayreon feel. The lyrics are potent; "Welcome to sanctuary island, leave your possessions at the gate, rejoin the struggle for survival, a new life begins today, no machines, no computers, no TV, not even phones, no factories, industrial polluters, you have entered the reality zone". In this idyllic paradise without technology the recipients are given the chance to be techno free, a veritable primitive environment devoid of the outside world, focussing on physical reality, the old real, thus a false non-existent paradise. It is populated by Mastodons, pandas, tigers and dolphins.

'I'm the Slime' is a great way to end the journey, covering the weird well known song of Frank Zappa. The odd jazzed up time sig locks in and those bizarre lyrics are sung with deep intonations; "I may be vile and pernicious, But you can't look away, I make you think I'm delicious, with the stuff that I say, I am the best you can get, have you guessed me yet? I am the slime oozing out of the internet" (the original Zappa's lyrics was "I am the slime oozing from your TV set."). The song is a really cynical dig at the obsession with technology and finishes the concept off effectively, perfectly placed on this album.

So at the end of this opus it feels like two different projects merged into one. The Rutger Hauer narration of CD1 and concept disappears on CD2, though the songs are still maintaining themes of technophobia and apocalypse. There are more covers but they are usually improvements on the originals and well worth a listen. The original album on CD1 is masterful by itself, but with these additional tracks on CD2, it really becomes a full immersive soundscape that entrances from beginning to end. I like the way the albums make up an overall concept but it would have been even better if Hauer's narrations could have continued despite the fact that the second CD was more of an additional extra bonus. The album would be impoverished though without these extra tracks as they are so wonderful, especially some of those covers. The whole album works as a tribute to science fiction concepts and it was a master stroke to include Rutger Hauer, such a legend of sci-fi. I was completely captivated by this album and have to mark this down as another triumph for Arjen Lucassen along with some of the masterpieces of Ayreon and Star One.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |

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