If it was at all possible to construct an A to Z of modern progressive music in the shape a purpose made descriptively engineered CD which covers and illustrates all aspects of this ever widening and fascinating genre of rock music, well this “Ayreon” album would without doubt be it,the penultimate reference to all things progressive. Packaged very much in the style of a conceptual rock opera the subject matter of which concerns an alien race who are inhabitants of the planet Alpha. Unfortunately these poor souls of Alpha are facing global catastrophes of pandemic proportions. All of which is far too complicated to explain here and as such any interested parties are recommended to refer to the many internet sites which detail the entire story in all its gruesome glory.
With respect to the music, this is the ninth studio album composed, arranged, and assembled under the “Ayreon” moniker by Dutch musician supreme Arjen Anthony Lucassen. The rock opera concept is truly and purposely reinforced with each of the characters, in the story, being assigned to the role of a specific vocalist and who then plays the part throughout as the story unfolds. A point to note is the intensity of the lyrical projection of the individual vocalists as they portray their various parts, indeed it is a special skill to be able to sing so dramatically and to totally and fully absorb the essence of the character. There is a noticeable variation in terms of style and arrangement throughout the various tracks, not so much with deftly administered time changes but more so with an abundance of beautifully layered textures of sound which gradually build into towering crescendos climaxing with wonderful vocal arrangements driven by equally wonderful instrumental passages. Even if the storyline is a bit, excuse the pun, out of this world, it is an album best listened to in its entirety from start to finish following the given track order when you can then best appreciate the story-line intentions set down by the author. There is throughout this intricate work some totally fantastic interplay between the lead guitar and keyboards with plenty of exciting heavy metal riffing on top of wonderfully coordinated percussion. The level of composition and musical preparations necessary to integrate both the human voice and instrumental arrangements to such perfection is quite amazing and indeed a joy to behold. This in my opinion is a truly “must have” album to be included in the collection of any aficionado of progressive rock.
Summary; A masterful, interesting and beautifully constructed album full of great songs and wonderful musicianship.
Artwork: Very professional and beautifully produced informative CD booklet.
Vocalists 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), Tommy Rogers (Between the Buried and Me)
Arjen Anthony Lucassen: - Is a Dutch singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has, to date, composed and put together nine Ayreon related projects. Lucassen started his career in 1980 as a guitarist with the Dutch band “Bodine” before joining hard rock band “Vengeance” in 1984. In 1995, he recorded a self-penned solo album entitled “Agrion: The Final Experiment “on which he sang and played the majority of instruments. This particular project received a great deal of praise from the music press and was the catalyst for his success as a top composer of the successive “Ayreon” series of progressive rock operas.
Chronicle 1. “The Frame”
1 The Day The World Breaks Down.
2 Sea of Machines.
3 Everybody Dies.
Chronicle 2. “The Aligning of the Ten”
4 Star of Sirrah.
5 All That Was.
6 Run, Apocolypse Run.
7 Condemned To Live.
Chronicle 3 “The Trans Migration”
8 Aquatic Race.
9 The Dream Disolves.
10. Deathcry of A Race.
11. Into The Ocean
Chronicle 4”The Rebirth”
12. Bay of Dreams.
13. Planet Y is Alive.
14. The Source Will Follow.
15. Journey To Forever.
16. The Human Compulsion.
17. March of the Machines.