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AYREON

Progressive Metal • Netherlands


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Ayreon biography
AYREON is the vision of Dutch multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony LUCASSEN (ex-VENGEANCE). He formed AYREON around 1994 from the need to create rock operas. His music can be broadly categorised as progressive metal but with themes that range from electronica to folk, symphonic prog and space rock. Lyrically, the stories tend to evolve around fantasy, sci-fi or human emotion. The rock operas tend to involve a series of characters, often represented by a different vocalist and a plethora of session musicians, although LUCASSEN tends to cover the majority of instruments.

AYREON's debut album, ''The Final Experiment'' was released in 1995 through Transmission label, initially as ''Ayreon: The Final Experiment'' with no specific band name. ''Actual Fantasy'' followed in 1996, an album with no specific storyline but a generic concept around fantasy. In 1998, ''Into the Electric Castle'' was released; a double-CD featuring a continuous story of invented characters of different historical eras, with the use of analog equipment giving a vintage feeling. Notable contributions are those of FISH (ex-MARILLION) and Anneke van GIERSBERGEN (ex-THE GATHERING) on vocal sections. The year 2000 saw the release of another double album, ''Universal Migrator'', yet sold independently as ''Part I: The Dream Sequencer'' and ''Part 2: Flight of the Migrator''. Part I focuses on more melodic atmospheres with plenty of electronic passages whereas Part II exhibits more aggressive patterns, closer to classic progressive metal. More guest appearances feature here with highlights including Johan ENGLUND (TIAMAT), Bruce DICKINSON (IRON MAIDEN) and Russell ALLEN (SYMPHONY-X). The same year also saw the release of ''Ayreonauts Only'', a collection of Arjen's previously unreleased tracks.

The departure from Transmission and signing with InsideOut Records was followed by the release of AYREON's 6th and most famous album to date, ''The Human Equation'' in 2004. With the exception of Ed WARBY (drums) who has been with Arjen since 1998, the musicians chosen for this album had never appeared in previous albums. Contrary to previous releases, this album deals with human emotion, including guest appearances from the elite of progressive rock and metal: James LaBrie (DREAM THEATER), Mikael AKERFELDT (OPETH), Devon GRAVES (PSYCHOTIC WALTZ) and Ken HENSLEY (ex-URIAH HEEP) among other big names. InsideOut also re-issued all previous AYREON albums in special editions. The sci-fi concept r...
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AYREON Videos (YouTube and more)


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Buy AYREON Music


The SourceThe Source
Music Theories 2017
Audio CD$12.75
$12.75 (used)
The Theater Equation [Blu-ray]The Theater Equation [Blu-ray]
Widescreen
Inside Out Music 2016
Blu-ray$15.82
$25.08 (used)
Human Equation [Limited Edition] [Bonus DVD]Human Equation [Limited Edition] [Bonus DVD]
Special Edition
Inside Out U.S. 2004
Audio CD$67.00
$15.97 (used)
10110011011001
Music Theories 2017
Audio CD$11.48
$12.03 (used)
Into The Electric CastleInto The Electric Castle
Music Theories 2017
Audio CD$7.99
$11.75 (used)
The Theater EquationThe Theater Equation
Inside Out Music 2016
Audio CD$12.99
$15.87 (used)
Universal Migrator Part I & IIUniversal Migrator Part I & II
Music Theories 2017
Audio CD$11.48
$12.03 (used)
Theory of EverythingTheory of Everything
Import
Imports 2013
Audio CD$12.03
$15.73 (used)
The Final ExperimentThe Final Experiment
Music Theories 2017
Audio CD$11.48
$12.09 (used)
Ayreonauts OnlyAyreonauts Only
Import
Import [Generic] 2001
Audio CD$197.57
$33.86 (used)

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AYREON discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

AYREON top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.30 | 271 ratings
The Final Experiment
1995
3.20 | 222 ratings
Actual Fantasy
1996
4.13 | 678 ratings
Into The Electric Castle
1998
3.60 | 435 ratings
Universal Migrator, Part 1: The Dream Sequencer
2000
3.62 | 386 ratings
Universal Migrator, Part 2: Flight Of The Migrator
2000
4.18 | 1075 ratings
The Human Equation
2004
3.63 | 65 ratings
Actual Fantasy Revisited
2004
3.87 | 595 ratings
01011001
2008
4.05 | 554 ratings
The Theory Of Everything
2013
3.82 | 132 ratings
The Source
2017

AYREON Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.29 | 24 ratings
The Theater Equation
2016

AYREON Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

AYREON Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.09 | 25 ratings
Strange Hobby
1996
2.68 | 45 ratings
Ayreonauts Only
2000
4.23 | 56 ratings
Universal Migrator Part I & II
2004
3.71 | 57 ratings
The Final Experiment (Special Edition)
2005
3.96 | 67 ratings
Timeline
2008

AYREON Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.74 | 14 ratings
Temple Of The Cat *
2000
2.90 | 23 ratings
Loser
2004
3.43 | 24 ratings
Day Eleven: Love
2004
3.26 | 16 ratings
Come Back To Me
2005
2.96 | 31 ratings
The Universal Ayreonaut
2008

AYREON Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Universal Migrator, Part 1: The Dream Sequencer by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.60 | 435 ratings

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Universal Migrator, Part 1: The Dream Sequencer
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nº 136

'The Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer' is the fourth album of Ayreon, the musical project of the Dutch songwriter, producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen and was released in 2000. The line up on the album is Arjen Lucassen, Rob Snijders, Lana Lane, Johan Edlund, Floor Jansen, Edward Reekers, Mouse, Damian Wilson, Jacqueline Govaert, Neal Morse, Mark McCrite, Clive Nolan, Erik Norlander and Peter Siedlach.

It represents the first part of 'The Universal Migrator' project, with the second part named 'The Universal Migrator Part Two: Flight Of The Migrator'. 'The Dream Sequencer' features a musical style quite disparate from its counterpart 'Flight Of The Migrator'. It features a musical atmospheric feeling, with a soft and more melodic sound than that on 'Flight Of The Migrator', which is much more a metal album. However, both albums were released simultaneously.

The performances of all singers on the album are great. Initially, the album was planned to be sung only by women since Arjen wanted it to be as cozy, laid-back, and atmospheric as possible but he wanted a new singer for each song and he couldn't find enough. So, we have Lana Lane the queen of the symphonic rock, Johan Edlund from Tiama, Damian Wilson from Threshold, Floor Jansen from After Forever, Arjen himself and a lot of many more artists, some of them less known talents from the progressive rock world such as Edward Reekers and we have even Neal Morse from Spock's Beard. It's really nice when we have some half-unknown singers because we can focus more on the music and avoid some other things. Arjen himself also does an enormous great work, of course, as a songwriter, a singer and as a player of almost all the instruments on the album. Lyrics are simplistic but always great and fit perfectly well all over the album. The cover artwork of the album is one of the best I've seen, which became a trademark of all Arjen's albums.

'The Dream Sequencer' is a conceptual album, as are all Ayreon's albums, and represents another part in Areon's story. So, if you want to understand perfectly well the lyrics, you better buy the other albums as well. The story of 'The Dream Sequencer' continues the plot found in 'The Final Experiment', starting in the year 2084, when the final world war wiped out all life on Earth. During the final years of fighting on Earth, a number of humans escaped to live on Mars. 'The Dream Sequencer' tells the story of the last human being alive, living alone on the Martian colony. As he has born on Mars and never lived on Earth, he could only experience it through a machine known as the Dream Sequencer. The machine uses a form of hypnosis to travel back in time, and the colonist uses the machine to revisit his own youth living on Mars and eventually views of many other past lives. The lyrics are basically objective accounts of the different time periods that the last human happens to visit. There's a certain moody quality to them, considering the impending extinction of the human race. Each track on 'The Dream Sequencer' revisits one of these past lives.

Musically, 'The Dream Sequencer' sounds different, but it sounds really as an Ayreon's album. It sounds very soft and melodic, and the group that I can easily compared with it, is Pink Floyd. But it sounds much more modern of course. For those who are accustomed to the traditional sound of Ayreon, I can say that it sounds more or less like if Lucassen had taken all the folk and non-metal parts of the previous Ayreon's albums and attach them to the songs, with much more synthesizers added. Most of the songs are long and have a very epic feel, with the exception of 'Temple Of The Cat' which was released as a single. So, this first album contains mostly atmospheric sound escapes and not much heaviness at all, in contrast with the second album. It consists of an ambient of progressive varied rock music, dominated primarily by brilliant melodies. The compositions usually have an ambient of light electronic beat, which is a signature in all Ayreon's music. This may come as a surprise for progressive music enthusiasts and many may shy away from the ambient aspects of the music, but I saw that it's a very innovative take on the new progressive music universe, and can act with the advantage of the individual songs to the open minded listeners, that we should all be.

Conclusion: As I wrote before, 'The Dream Sequencer' is simply the first part of 'The Universal Migrator' and represents the most soft and melodic side of the all working. The album is a grower if you listen to it several times, especially if you are in the right mood, there's much to enjoy on it. 'The Dream Sequencer' is a very atmospheric album, with beautiful Pink Floyd's guitar style and has a great production. If you are a fanatic of space progressive rock with epic elements and film score connotations, this album and this project are made for you. In fact, I believe that this album will satisfy all the followers of the good music, and also the cover artwork is one of the best I've seen. I haven't got tired of it and I really recommend it to all fans of Ayreon and to everyone who likes of truly progressive atmospheric music. In fact, I sincerely believe that this album will satisfy completely all followers of the good music of any genre.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 The Source by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.82 | 132 ratings

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The Source
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars Metal's artisan of ambitiousness Arjen Anthony Lucassen returns with his project AYREON taking time off from his other musical projects Star One, Guilt Machine and The Gentle Storm to embark on yet another sonic journey into the world of science fiction, where he unleashes yet another concept album that is a prequel to 2008's "01011001" laid out in his usual monstrosity of a double album with an army of guest vocalists and musicians to play the proper roles in his larger than life metal operas. As a prequel, THE SOURCE tells the origins of the Forever which is an alien race that is a key force in the overall storyline. The two discs are separated into four Chronicles with each telling different timelines in the story. The are broken down into - Chronicle 1: The Frame, Chronicle 2: The Aligning Of The Ten, Chronicle 3: The Transmigration and Chronicle 4: The Rebirth and the album is graced with beautiful artwork, extensive liner notes and an overall packaging that goes above and beyond the call of duty for any dedicated artist. Lucassen has really been upping the bar with each and every release and shows no signs of releasing his feet from the gas pedal. His passions are ablaze and THE SOURCE displays it all in full regalia.

While AYREON is accustomed to mostly new cast members changing things up on any given album, THE SOURCE makes use of plenty of returning performers which include James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Simone Simons (Epica), Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Tobias Sammet (Edguy, Avantasia), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot, Seventh Wonder), and Russell Allen (Symphony X), together with newcomers such as Tommy Rogers (Between the Buried and Me), which makes a whopping total of eleven main vocalists. Add to that the extraordinary musicians involved which include Joost van den Broek (ex-After Forever) ? grand piano and electric piano Mark Kelly (Marillion) ? synthesizer solo on "The Dream Dissolves"Maaike Peterse (Kingfisher Sky) ? cello, Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big, Racer X) ? guitar solo on "Star of Sirrah," Guthrie Govan (The Aristocrats, ex-Asia) ? guitar solo on "Planet Y Is Alive!,"Marcel Coenen (Sun Caged) ? guitar solo on "The Dream Dissolves," Ed Warby ? drums, Ben Mathot ? violin, Jeroen Goossens (ex-Pater Moeskroen) ? flute, wind instruments, and of course, Arjen Anthony Lucassen himself on electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, synthesizers, Hammond, Solina Strings, all other instruments. I just had to list all these performers to let it sink in, the monstrosity that this beautiful album is!

THE SOURCE incorporates more aspects of the metal world than the usual AYREON project. While most indulge in heavy doses of folk rotation with the same recurring female vocalist, an aspect that has left me a little cold in the past, this album on the other hand keeps the musical jukebox flowing and never lets one style dominate for too long. While the folk influences are ever present, the retrospective styles of the performers are in full effect with much emphasis on progressive, power and classic metal with even some excellent to Queen harmonies and some extreme metal touches as well in the excellent "Everybody Dies" that is straight out of the progressive rock playbook with classic 70s Wakeman-esque keyboards, Freddie Mercury spots and time signature breakouts run amok (amongst tons of other styles and influences). It really seems like every little detail was cogitated upon before the final release was allowed to see the light of day. The only complaint i have about this fine album is that some of the tracks on the second track outstay their welcome a however it's a minor quibble indeed. THE SOURCE is one to be experienced as words cannot convey the sheer magnitude of its accomplishments. The works are not only a rock and metal encyclopedia in scope and style but a testament to how to write, arrange and produce an album.

It seems that Lucassen's talents caught up to his grandiose ambitions starting with "01011001" and progressively have been becoming more refined ever since. THE SOURCE not only displays the AYREON project having tightened up all the loose ends that have always bugged me but shows a maturing and steps away from the more progressive rock world and ups the energy level by keeping the album more in heavy rock mode. THE SOURCE is the first AYREON album on the Mascot Label Group and the digital release of the albums will follow. THE SOURCE is yet another modern day AYREON album that clearly demonstrates what made the early albums so weak in comparison as one track is crafted into the next and all cast members roles are cleverly placed in the perfect sequence of things. It's no wonder the such staunch fans are as excited for a new AYREON release as are fans foaming at the mouth for a new season of Game Of Thrones! THE SOURCE is truly a brilliantly complex yet completely accessible metal opera that eschews the long drawn out filler pieces of the band's earlier moments. At this stage i have been indoctrinated into the AYREON fan club and look forward to the next chapter of metal sci-fi digest - AYREON style!

4.5 rounded down

 The Source by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.82 | 132 ratings

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The Source
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by The Jester

4 stars The Source is a concept album, as any other album that Ayreon recorded. But unlike the previous 'The Theory of Everything', 'The Source' is a Sci-Fi Rock Opera, which is actually the prequel of 01011001, that was released in 2008. For the needs of the album, Arjen Lucarssen gathered a big number of musicians once more; including some "heavy" names among them. (There are 12 singers and 10 musicians participating in this album). In case you are wondering, here's a few names: James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Simone Simons (Epica), Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian), Russell Allen (Symphony X), Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Zaher Zorghati (Myrath) and Mark Kelly (Marillion). As you can understand, with such an All-Star line up, the outcome can only be good. And it is! Starting with the album's epic opening song, The Day that the World Breaks Down, we get a clear first impression what this album will sound like. The style is typical Ayreon, but this time the sound is harder, heavier and more guitar-driven than the previous album. The dominant instrument here is Guitar (acoustic and electric), followed by Bass, Drums and Keyboards. But there are also many other instruments present, which are characteristic of Ayreon's sound, such as violin and flute for example. I read an interview of Arjen Lucarssen a few days ago, when he stated that, the album he recorded with Annekke under the name Gentle Storm was kind of a "feminine" one, so after that he wanted to record something more "masculine". So, he started recording some heavy guitar riffs, which led him to record some early versions of the first songs of The Source. The album comes as a double CD or as double vinyl (including an MP3 version), and has a total running time of almost 90 minutes. It is divided into 4 parts (Chronicles), named as: Chronicle 1: The Frame, Chronicle 2: The Aligning of the Ten, Chronicle 3: The Transmigration, Chronicle 4: The Rebirth. The album is available in Digital form, double CD and double Vinyl edition. Those who will pre-order the vinyl edition (like me for example), will recieve their copies signed by Arjen. (The price is also very good). As it usually happens to me with almost every Ayreon's album, I find it very difficult to choose some songs to mention separately, because I see them as pieces of a very big puzzle. The truth is that, almost all the songs are really good compositions and even the "weaker" ones, have something to offer to the storyline and the listener. But if I had to pick some, I'd choose The Day the World Breaks Down, Sea of Machines, All that was, The Dream Dissolves, The Source will Flow and Journey to Forever. In my opinion, the best thing you can do is to put the CD into your device, press "play" and enjoy an exciting musical ride into the world that Arjen Lucarssen created. The Source is an album definitely worth buying! My rating would be 3.5 stars (But because I cannot rate it with 3.5 stars, I will put 4.0)
 Into The Electric Castle by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 1998
4.13 | 678 ratings

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Into The Electric Castle
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Review Nº 96

"Into The Electric Castle" is the third studio album of Ayreon, the musical project of the Dutch songwriter, producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen and was released in 1998. Being a concept album, as are all Ayreon's albums, it tells a science fiction story with characters influenced by science fiction movies. There are eight main characters, each one sung and played by a different vocalist from different times and locations. The eight characters are the Highlander, the Egyptian, the Indian, the Knight, the Futureman, the Barbarian, the Roman and the Hippie. So, "Into the Electric Castle" follows the lives of eight characters from different epochs in history who meet in a lost dimension. They find themselves in a strange place, guided by a mysterious voice which tells them that they must reach the Electric Castle if they want to survive. Characters die in the different songs for all over the story of the album, building the suspense about who will reach the gates in the end of the story.

The line up on "Into The Electric Castle" is divided into vocalists and instrumentalists. The vocalist are: Edwin Balogh ? The Roman, Sharon Den Adel ? The Indian, Jay Van Feggelen ? The Barbarian, Fish ? The Highlander, Anneke Van Giersbergen ? The Egyptian, Arjen Anthony Lucassen ? The Hippie, Edward Reekers ? The Futureman, Damian Wilson ? The Knight, Robert Westerholt and George Oosthoek ? The Death and Peter Daltrey ? The Voice. The instrumentalists are: Arjen Anthony Lucassen, Ed Warby, Roland Bakker, Robby Valentine, Erno Olah, Taco Kooistra, Jack Pisters, Rene Merkelbach, Clive Nolan, Ton Scherpenzeel and Thijs Van Leer.

"Into The Electric Castle" is in general considered Ayreon's second best working after "The Human Equation". As most of Lucassen's fans already know, he never intended for this album to be anything other than a masterful working, because he really believed that the vitality of his Ayreon project depended upon it. After the previous Ayreon's album, "Actual Fantasy", which sold below expectations, Lucassen sought to deliver a top quality recording. If the album had not been a success, Arjen said he would have no longer continued Ayreon's project. With this in mind, he created the concept and music for a progressive science fiction epic and gathered some of the best vocalists around. Arjen picked each of his singers so well that the releasing of this story, through lyrics and music, is really stunning. Not only the vocalists are great, but they real become, each with their roles, delivering a performance that is vocally impressive and emotionally involving, something you wouldn't expect from a relatively cheesy science fiction story.

The music itself is splendid, heavily layered with synthesizer textures to give it a space rock opera feel. All songs incorporate a variety of styles, from progressive metal, to 70's rock, to folk and to synthesizer pop. The songs vary in complexity and heaviness, but they're all pretty catchy. The music evolves with the mood, adjusting itself to each particular singer and to the tone of the lyrics. It almost seems like you don't need the lyrics, as the music displays more emotions than of the lyrics do. As a conceptual album, it needs to be listened to straight through to really get the sense of the story line. However, many of the songs can be listened to individually, and every song is absolutely great. How often do you come across a song where blues guitar is interrupted by acoustic space-rock as in "Amazing Flight", or from the majestic synthesizers that open "The Garden Of Emotions" to the catchy chorus of "The Castle Hall"? So, "Into The Electric Castle" is filled to the brim with great melodies that demonstrate Arjen's ability to write great songs in many different styles, including progressive rock, metal, fusion, folk and others. It features some great heavy guitar stuff and beautiful synthesisers solos. Another great thing about the album is the use of real violins, cellos and flutes, as opposed to using synthesizers to produce decent, but nonetheless fake imitations of the real instruments.

Conclusion: "Into The Electric Castle" is a great and bombastic progressive rock opera. It features some great heavy guitar working and very beautiful synthesizer solos. But the most remarkable on it are the different vocal performances. And we can't forget the artwork on it, too. It's really special and superb, as usual on every Ayreon's albums. As we all know, Lucassen isn't necessarily the greatest guitarist ever, but he manages to write some amazing songs here, with an impressive sense of tone and musicality. Whether his lines are acoustic lines reminiscent of the 70's progressive music, he writes with feeling and a sense of purpose. The keyboard work is just simply good. There's an incredible use of the entire musical atmosphere, a variety of synthesizer tones, and some of the best keyboards leads around. And finally, at last but not the least, the vocals complement perfectly the music. However and anyway, it's the glorious sense of musical composition that makes this album a great listening in the end of a working day.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 The Theory Of Everything by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.05 | 554 ratings

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The Theory Of Everything
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by Elsteven0

4 stars After an absence of five years, Arjen Anthony Lucassen decided to bring back his Ayreon project. But where to go this time? Ayreon was originally a character in Arjens previously 6 part space opera (7 if Actual Fantasy is included, the only non-concept Ayreon album), and that story has concluded. The answer? Wipe the slate clean, and begin on a completely new story, seperate from the space opera of old.

The Theory of Everything is therefore meant to be the beginning of a new storyline, one that takes place in our world, were the Ayreon albums of old took place all over the galaxy (excluding The Human Equation. This is a more "real" storyline revolves around a boy, who has the gift of being able to see every equation on earth. He is an extremely intelligent boy but lacks social skills and is often alone. He's neglected by his farther, who's working on "The Theory of Everything", but ties to enlist the boy for his help when he discovers that his son is an exceptional genius. The boy's mother, however, tries to help him out with trying to fit into society, along with a girl from school.

There's obviously way more to the story than this. This is a Ayreon album afterall, which means that the plot is heavy but quite interesting. There's alot of sides and elements to the story, and while the album is easier to follow compared to some of the previous albums, it is still indeed necessary to have the lyric sheets in your hand while listening to the album.

So what about the songs themselves? The Theory of Everything is Ayreon as we know it, with all the charastics that people have come to know and love. Progressive metal mixed with some progressive rock, synth, orchestrations and flutes. And as always, each character in the story has a wide arrary of singers (more on them later).

What is different about this album though, is the structure. While it is a double album (like most of the previous albums), this time there are only four songs, named phases here, each clocking in at around the 20 minute mark, with the shortest being 21:31 and the longest being 23:29. The songs themselves include various movements and this is where problems sadly start to appear.

The four phases are split into 42 tracks, each track representing each their movement. It's understandable to split an album like this up. It's always a challenge to ask listeners to sit through four 20+ minute songs (just ask Yes), but by splitting it up into 42 tracks, the challenge has actually increased instead of being more welcoming.

The averge track is around one - two mintues long, with a couple that croses the three minute mark (the longest being 3:54) and a couple that goes under one minute (shortest being 24 seconds), but the tracks themselves can be pretty easy to miss. This is one of those albums were if you don't watch your music player, you wouldn't notice if one track ended and a new one began, that's how smooth the tracks seque into each other.

This means that each individual track can't be taken as a song on it's own, when it is part of something much bigger. This is what basicly amounts to have a film on blu-ray, and then asked to pick a random scene from the scene selection screen and stop it before the next scene; it doesn't quite work on it's own.

It also becomes pretty distracting when one of the four full stops comes. For example: the first eleven tracks are the first phase, after which there is a full stop before phase two begins. It further detracts from the overall experience, and praticaly forces you to sit with the back cover of the album, in order to know when the phase stops.

Personally, I used a cd ripping program (can't recall the name as I had someone else put it together for me), and were therefore able to listen to the album as four unbroken songs which immensely improved the album. It just makes the songs feel more natural, and where the individual sections are too short to stand on their own, they almost gain new life when taken as part of something larger.

So it is perferred to listen to this as four unbroken tracks, especially because the music on the two discs are great and actually some of the best Ayreon has ever offered (which says lot considering the previous albums). The quality is almost consistently high throughout the album, with Phase four being the weakest. Beside the ending, it just isn't that memorable and at this point kinda runs out of steam.

But it is never uncreative or boring. There is alot of varierty and memorable melodies on the two disc that has alot of the high quality that we are used to from Arjen. Phase 2 however is the absolute highlight of the record which includes the best and most thoughtout sections. The other three phases suffer a bit for having some sections cut short or apruptly ending when they really should have been explored more.

What is consistent throughout the album however are the singers. The guys and gals on display here do a great job, from John Wettons (Asia) as The Psychiatrist to Marco Hietala (Nightwish) as the boy's rival. Everyone does a good job of conveying their characters, with performances that quite easily matches the highs of the singers from The Human Equation. If you were hoping to her Arjen sing again however, I must disappoint you by saying that he doesn't sing on this one at all! I was suprised myself, but considering the characters and the story his voice would have a hard time fitting in.

Likewise the slew of quest musicians who provide various solos, especially keyboard legend Rick Wakeman (ex-Yes) delivers a fantastic solo on phase two, followed up by another great solo from Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater). Everyone contributes something valuable and it's amazing to listen too.

All this is even more solidfied by the usual excellent playing of Arjen who once again shows that he's got talent, and his drummer-in-crime Ed Warby delivers one of his best drumming on an Ayreon drumming.

The album is a welcome return for Ayreon and reminds us why this project has been so special throughout the years, even though the album loses steam by the last phase and the tracklist doing it's best to butcher the listening experience. I still recommend finding a way to split the album into the four tracks that it's meant to be listened as, as it improves the experience immensley. But still: Welcome back Ayreon you have been missed!

 The Human Equation by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.18 | 1075 ratings

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The Human Equation
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by Insin

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 even more pretentious, and far less technical, with proggy moments but not whole songs -- they need to show off more. Their style is not exactly what comes to mind upon hearing the words 'progressive metal.' But what could be more prog than a concept album? The element of a storyline (and Akerfeldt) is the only thing keeping me from drifting off near the latter portion of this 100+ minute ordeal. At least the plot prevents the album from being boring. Few of the Human Equation's plentiful twenty songs have a hard edge to them either, and the ones that do are balanced out by agonizingly soft, cheesy ballads and pop-influenced songs.

So what is the Human Equation? Isn't it classified as progressive metal? No, that hardly seems accurate: it's a rock opera, highly vocal-based and completely annoying. Arjen Lucassen has recruited some high-profile vocalists for this effort; James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Devin Townsend, and Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth) stand out on the list of no less than eleven singers. This vocal domination would be a bigger problem than it is if the singers didn't usually perform well. The exceptions to the general quality of vocal delivery are Irene Jansen (singing as Passion), who utilizes awful Styx-like harmonies (which, I might add, is another incredibly cheesy band), and Eric Clayton, singing as Reason, who just has a really annoying voice. But these two are exceptions to the rule, and everyone else performs well enough. The major issue with the vocals is that you don't need a choir to play on a (supposedly) metal album. Each vocalist sings overly dramatically and 'in front' of the rest of the music, putting the focus on them ' necessary for this album but awful and irritating all the same. The Human Equation is simply overcrowded with guest vocalists, and this is the main source of its pretentiousness. It sounds like a musical. Like show tunes.

The over-abundance of singers leaves little room for the rest of the music to develop. The instrumental portions are forgettable and, while eclectic, strikingly not metal. There is little technicality, much of the album devoted to cheesy balladry or acoustic and slow parts (Love, Memories, Sign, Disclosure). Transitions between parts of the songs are sometimes jarring and poorly done; good riffs are few and far between. Some of the songs have a folk edge, bringing in flutes and similar instruments, and spacey keyboards are used frequently and well. When it sounds like a song's instrumental break is actually starting to go somewhere entertaining, the tracks disappointingly end or revert to vocals. Overall, the musical composition is mediocre, though the album has its moments in the rare instrumental breaks when someone will spit out a passable solo -- which tend to be the album's highlights (see Day Two: Isolation and Day Four: Mystery). The song Day Sixteen: Loser has to be mentioned -- it's not necessarily good, but it's an interesting piece. The Father sounds like a theatrical villain' it's not surprising Arjen is adapting the Human Equation for the stage. Loser has strongly Irish vibe, followed by Devin Townsend screaming over the song's folksy riff, juxtaposition if there ever was such a thing.

As much as I've bashed the composition of the songs, the Human Equation's conceptual and plot-based elements redeem it somewhat, saving it from being a being nearly worthless. Is the album completely overblown and pretentious, and does the 'concept album' idea contribute? Yes. Is the plot mildly entertaining? Also yes. Ayreon's only non-sci-fi album, The Human Equation revolves around James LaBrie, playing the role of 'Me.' He has experienced an accident under mysterious circumstances, causing him to fall into a coma. He journeys through his past, each song representing one day, until he realizes that he witnessed his wife cheating on him with his best friend. He had crashed his car in anger and despair, the reason for his coma. Not the most original thing ever' the coma idea is one that sounds suspiciously familiar.

Contrarily, the story is told very clearly relative to some other concept albums, as long as you keep track of the characters and pay attention to the lyrics (lyrics shouldn't be difficult considering most delivery is clean singing). As pretentious as the vocals are, it is doubtful that the story could have been told the way it was without all eleven singers involved. In general, the intensity of the music and the subject matter of the lyrics fit together well enough (Love is an incredibly cheesy and cringeworthy ballad and the lyrics are about exactly what the title suggests; Pride is a stormy, heavier piece and the lyrics reflect an angry argument between LaBrie and Pride). The 'plot twist' of LaBrie's wife and best friend's affair is hinted at ('I don't think he knows'), and as LaBrie's internal struggles and the dialogue of the wife and best friend combine, the two plot lines are woven together, ending with forgiveness on all parts. A much more metal thing to do would be to have a Human Equation Part Two based around LaBrie seeking revenge, but obviously that's not happening. Not that I would want to listen to a potential part two of this piece of crap anyway.

To put it quite simply, the Human Equation is overrated. The effort and ambition put into this is respectable and appreciable, but in the end, it's really not a masterpiece. It is musically weak, though not without some good instrumental breaks, and too vocally dominated. While the storyline saves the album to a degree; it is not exactly genius, though told creatively and clearly. I would not recommend this to a fan of progressive metal, but maybe a fan of the rock opera could find some value in this. I dub Ayreon 'cheese rock.'

Originally posted to the www.metal-archives.com

 Actual Fantasy by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.20 | 222 ratings

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Actual Fantasy
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by stewe

5 stars The best Arjen Lucassen's album ever. It took me few years to fully realize this. But, as much as I admire its more famous and grandiose successors, namely Into the Electric Castle and Universal Migrator (especially Dream Sequencer part) and even Star One's Space Metal, Actual Fantasy has certain depths that Arjen never reached again. Perhaps the key of this album lies in its relative kind of modesty and straightforwardness compared to other efforts. Drum-machine, often viewed as a weakness, is fitting needs of this music, doesn't degrade it at all. On the contrary it gives the album its "cold" feeling. Partly because of this sort of simplification, Arjen's stellar guitar work, especially Gilmour-like parts, including great slide guitar, has plenty of space to shine.

Actual Fantasy is Lucassen's darkest, quite fast-paced, melodically most convincing album, with perfect flow, pulsating synthetic rhythmicity and magnificent spacey arrangements. Balanced with no weak places - every song stands out on its own. Gone are constant sudden and predictably unpredictable changes, gone are hundreds of instruments that Arjen practice in his rock operas. On the other hand, tempo within the pieces is quite steady with great build-ups and several intricate moments and twists here and there, with occasional synth/guitar bursts and battles throughout. Three singers perfectly complement each other trading the lead vocals within individual songs. Every single piece has infectious hooks filled with intense, freezing atmosphere sending shivers down the spine. This music takes you on the journey into distant cold deserts revealing post-apocalyptic portrayal of wastelands of human civilization and shady perspectives of tech-future. It makes you reflect about depths of space as well as fundamental philosophy and a bitter fate of humankind. It makes you feel despair and anxiety as well as glimpses of hope and love.

For all those emotions and visions that Arjen has been able to project and deliver to me, I perceive Actual Fantasy as a peak of his creativity and energy and consequently as his masterpiece.

 The Human Equation by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.18 | 1075 ratings

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The Human Equation
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

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.

 The Human Equation by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.18 | 1075 ratings

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The Human Equation
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

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.

 Universal Migrator, Part 2: Flight Of The Migrator by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.62 | 386 ratings

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Universal Migrator, Part 2: Flight Of The Migrator
Ayreon Progressive Metal

Review by Chalcobalt

5 stars In the early days of my Ayreon endeavors The Dream Sequencer was by far my favourite album of the Universal Migrator duo, while I could not really get into Flight of the Migrator. It may have been too much non-stop heavy riffs thrown at me at once, a compact sound matt impossible to take in and sort out on a few listens. It took a while but after putting the disc on every once in a while for several years, progressively (in several meanings, obviously) it grew and eventually the melodies started to fall into place in my head, and my head accordingly started to dig. These days I regard Flight of the Migrator as one of Arjen's prime compositions. My experience is that this album may require time, patience and extended faith (numerous listens despite it does not makes sense, that is) before substantial appreciation develops.

The music can be described as majestic progressive space-themed metal with very few quiet moments. Melodies are driven by endless catchy guitar riffs, but the keyboard and deep bass layers essentially contribute to the rich, saturated collective sound that I relish so much. The very varied vocals throughout are not standing out, but are still outstanding (if you can recognize that difference) and are very well chosen to suite the bumpy musical landscapes. The cosmic lyrics eminently crown the associations obtained from the music.

All tracks are compelling without exceptions, with Chaos as an especially noteworthy moment. For me progressive metal does not get much better than this. This album is very similar to the progressive space metal side project called Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Star One, which is also highly recommended.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to aapatsos for the last updates

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