Ayreon - 01011001

Year of Release: 2008
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: SPV 79682 DCD IOMCD 288
Format: CD
Total Time: 102:15:00

Ayreon's new epic opus is 0101101. As with recent past Ayreon releases, this is a star-studded affair? and there are "celebrity" guests, too. No, seriously; this new two-disc release continues in the SF theme that Arjen Anthony Lucassen has pursued, here a tale about a race of beings called Forever, who leave their homeworld and come to Earth. The story of Forever is mirrored in the story of humans, and in fact, Lucassen proffers that Forever gave rise to humans ? but that aside, it is the evolution from ocean to land to space, and this path is encapsulated in the intro to the first track "Age Of Shadows," where the sound of the sea becomes ever more industrialized which leads right into the percussive rhythm of the main track. This churning rhythm is repeated throughout the whole album; utilizing different tones and instruments, to be sure, but it continues to pulse as a through line. It also represents the point the story is trying to make about society?

The start and end points of this path form the same divide between two factions of Forever. The start (water) is reflected in the retrospective "Beneath The Waves," where members of this species long for their "simpler times" (a feeling echoed again in the next track, "Newborn Race," which, I'll note here, features a brief, screaming guitar solo from Lori Linstruth). Of course, there is a chorus of voices (figuratively and literally) in "Beneath?" that argues that the direction to look in is forward, not back, and in a different direction than they have been going. The gentle washes - a watery feel - that most of the track suggests suddenly shifts to reflect the industrialized people they've become.

"Connect The Dots" is a piece that is part progressive rock, part progressive metal, both elements with a strong synthetic feel as befits the subject? which really is the disintegration of our western society, making an ecological, technological, medicologial (as in medical, to coin a word?) statement. In a broad sense the more organic, acoustic pieces relate to Man, the heavier, more metallic pieces relate to Forever. It's a thought out story and is detailed on the Ayreon website, so I won't go into detail.

If you have heard any Ayreon then you know what to expect. It's big, chugging and heavy, each song driving forward and driving the story forward; "Ride The Comet" is the expected "rollercoaster" rhythm, though it isn't quite as breathless as "Through The Wormhole" on Flight Of The Migrator. And yes, because it's an Ayreon release, which we might say has a trademark sound, there's the sweetly dramatic and operatic voices of Floor Jansen and Anneka Van Giesbergen, for example, as well as the equally dramatic and, at times, operatic voices of the male guests - this time out Tom Englund (Evergey), Jorn Lande (ARK, Masterplan), Daniel Gildenlöw (Pain Of Salvation) and others. In fact, even as the mix of male voices all seem to share similar qualities, their subtleties add character, Lande's being the deepest of the group, Bob Catley of Magnum being the "highest" (though no voice really rises above the "midline" to competes with Jansen and Van Giesbergen). Each voice is a character, although they aren't named -- well, sometimes they "suspiciously" have the name of their "actor"; they are aspects, points of view of this group entity called Forever. . I don't want to suggest, however, that if you've heard one Ayreon release, you've heard them all, as there is an excitement and energy to found here that WILL NOT have you shrug it off as just another Ayreon release

There's a lot of material here, and many of the tracks are lengthy, containing a multitude of dynamics, the others shorter, more direct. I'll talk about some that, while don't break away from the "brand," do do something different that we've not heard before in an Ayreon release - at least I think so - or I just want to mention. First up, "Comatose," the second track in. It is a dark track, letting vocals of Van Giesbergen and Lande carry the song, accompanied by the deep-chested wheezing of keyboards and the synth-sounding percussion. It has a dreamy-nightmare feel about it, a sense of suspended animation.

"Liquid Eternity" alternates the fuzzy buzz of guitars over the familiar industrial rhythm, with a squelchy, liquid arrangement of the same? these "mellower" aspects sucking one into the vortex of the more "violent" aspects of the arrangements. A classical section at the four and half minute mark - lead by violin - provides yet another contrast to what is, essentially, a debate between the voices of Forever.

There are some interesting musical dynamics in "Newborn Race," where Kursch sings a line that features a series of internal rhymes that contain their own sense of rhythm and interjects a mellower rock moment into this throbbing rocker -- "And on that shining day there is a way for our DNA to reach a world to stay" ? I draw attention to it because it is a simple line in that the rhyme is no way forced or shoehorned in; in fact, except that the instrumental rhythm around it matches Kursch's cadence, you'd almost think it was accidental. That is, it's a sentence that flows naturally, but is also clever in that has the internal rhyme. To make it work, naturally, the rhythm and pacing of the song has to shift to match, but even that doesn't seem forced or unnatural. What does seem out of place here is Lande's added "yeahs" on his lines that follow? adding sort of a David Coverdale element to the songs. Then again, he does make the use of the (made up) word "extremophiles" work in the percussion heavy, racing "Ride The Comet", and that's not a word that comes naturally.

We peek at Man again in "Web of Lies" - a juxtaposition of the sound of a dial-up modem (how quaint, but DSL/Cable makes no sound) to start the piece off with old world acoustic instrumentation including flute (Jeroen Goossens). How romantic as our two protagonists - Simone Simons (as Simone Simons) and Phideaux Xavier (as Phideaux Xavier) who have encountered each other in some cyberworld; just think about the anonymous nature of cyberdating, and the transitory nature that type of "dating" engenders. I like this track for the very irony it has, all in the space of a little over two-and-half minutes (how long does it take to get to know someone online). Oh, we've had songs on this kind of topic before, though this brings this topic into the 00s.

"The Fifth Extinction" is the heaviest, chunkiest of the tracks thus far, especially in part B "World Of Tomorrow Dreams" and part D "From The Ashes"; it's also the most prog-fusion when get to the instrumental section "Collision Course," which is launched by a searing synth solo from Derek Sherinian. In the midst, we do get a short flute-based passage (between Sherinian's solo and "Collision Course").

"Waking Dreams" takes the watery element we have heard and employs it in a darker, moodier manner that reminds me of the contemporary instrumental music used for computer animation, only this isn't instrumental as we have the smooth voice of Renkse and the lilting, joyous voice of Van Giesbergen (both in lead and background vocals roles). It's like a confluence of Tangerine Dream and Alan Parsons Project. I might have said that Ayreon has shown no new moves, but this belies that claim. Flute-like synths (though clearly synths), trill and sing (Tomas Bodin); echoed by searing and soaring guitar (Lucassen).

Lucassen sings leads on the folk metal piece "The Truth Is In Here," the warm to Liselotte Hegt's cooler, digitized vocals. The folk element is owed to the use flute, the metal down to the ever-present percussion, here churning in double-time. This is a track that has a Beatle/Pink Floyd element to it as well, more in the structure of the arrangement (the former) and the dreamy quality that coats the whole piece (the latter). It is another peek at Man in this epic. And, if you study the lyrics, there are several layers to this scene or chapter - on the surface, we have the character of Mr. L who has these visions, half-remembering another existence, beneath that we have the character of Mr. L, who is this composer who has had these visions that he's written about, and then of course, we have Mr. L, the composer of this piece about the composer Mr. L who has these visions that include Mr. L having these visions. The song is quite serious within the context of the story and the whole broader concept that Lucassen has developed with all of his Ayreon-branded releases, but also a wink to all long-time fans by inserting a version of himself into his own story?

If the debate amongst the people of Forever was about what do in their present circumstances was at the center of disc one, this argument comes around again on disc two, but now it becomes what to do about Man, his development, and what role they should and have played?. This debate comes to fore in "Unnatural Selection," another darkly churning piece, that becomes at one point a "shouting match" between two factions - as voiced by Bob Catley and Steve Lee, the voices of reason being Jorn Lande and Hansi Kursch ("Listen to the warning?" and "Don't want to live in a world that's dying / I'd rather die in a world that's living").

Folk/old world elements return in "River Of Time" - mandolin and violin strum their way through a wall of guitars into what becomes a march of percussion. It's strident and purposeful, as Bob and Hansi plan how to save Man from the same fate that befell the people of Forever.

The concluding epic is "The Sixth Extinction" - the end of Man. Musically, it is both a driving metal track and a brooding throb that suggest a larger musical explosion to come. This comes in the Part C "2085" which gives off this strange mix between industrial and silence; it's a moment that hangs there through to the instrumental "To The Red Planet" a squeaky/squealing synth solo from Joost Van Den Broek, the musical explosion that we've been expecting. Out the other side, we get the chugging metal machine trundling along the musical landscape; soloing guitar cutting across, leading us into the single moment when the two sides can finally agree on their future in "Complete The Circle" - they speak/sing in one voice, then speak separately echoing each other's feelings (it's all ad-lib so what's being said isn't written down, but we can tell they are not in conflict anymore).

It's another fine entry into the Ayreon oeuvre. I sometimes think some of the tracks are little longer than they need to be; but then on other occasions in playing this, that opinion shifts. Chalk it up to the fact that sometimes I was listening to this all once, at other times in segments and not at full volume. No question that Ayreon has again chosen the right voices to bring his story to life and there are no moments where you question who he invited. Instrumentally and vocally this is fantastic. While I've not given this a full set of stars, I think over time that may change and that final star will reach a fuller magnitude.

Disc 1 - Y: Age Of Shadows / Comatose / Liquid Eternity / Connect The Dots / Beneath The Waves / Newborn Race / Ride The Comet / Web Of Lies

Disc 2 - Earth: The Fifth Extinction / Waking Dream / The Truth Is In Here / Unnatural Selection / River Of Time / E=MC2 / The Sixth Extinction

Arjen Lucassen - all electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitars, mandolin, keyboards, synthesizers, Hammond, Solina and (backing) vocals
Ed Warby - all drums and percussion
Ben Mahtot - violin
David Faber - cello
Jeroen Goossens - flute, bass flute, tin whistle, soprano and tenor recorder
Lori Linstruth - guitar solo (CD1: 6)
Derek Sherinian - synth solo (CD2: 1)
Tomas Bodin - synth solo (CD2: 2)
Michael Romeo - guitar solo (CD2: 6)
Joost van den Broek - synth solo and piano (CD2: 7)
Tom Englund, Steve Lee, Daniel Gildenl?w, Hansi Kursch, Floor Jansen, Anneke van Giersbergen, Jonas P Renkse, Jorn Lande, Magali Luyten, Bob Catley, Ty Tabor, Simone Simmons, Phideaux Xavier, Liselotte Hegt, Wudstik, Marjan Welman - vocals

Ayreon - The Final Experiment (1995)
Ayreon - Actual Fantasy (1996)
Ayreon - Into The Electric Castle (1998)
Ayreon - The Univeral Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer (2000)
Ayreon - The Universal Migrator Part 2: Flight Of The Migrator (2000)
Ayreon - Ayreonnauts Only (2000)
Ambeon - Fate Of A Dreamer (2001)
Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Star One - Space Metal (2002)
Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Star One - Live On Earth (2003)
Ayreon - The Human Equation (2004)
Ayreon - Actual Fantasy Revisited (2004)
Ayreon - The Final Experiment - Special Edition (2005)
Ayreon - 01011001 (2008)
Ayreon - Timeline (2008)
Arjen Lucassen's Guilt Machine - Arjen Lucassen's Guilt Machine (2009)
Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Star One - Victims Of The Modern Age (2010)
Arjen Anthony Lucassen - Lost In The New Real (2012)
Ayreon - The Theory Of Everything (2013)
Ayreon - The Theater Equation (CD/DVD) (2016)
Ayreon - The Source (CD/DVD) (2017)
Ayreon - Ayreon Universe - Best Of Ayreon Live (2018)

Ayreon - The Theater Equation (BR) (2016) Ayreon - Ayreon Universe - Best Of Ayreon Live (DVD/BR) (2018)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin VA

Added: February 24th 2008
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.ayreon.com
Hits: 1375
Language: english


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