Ayreon - The Final Experiment

Year of Release: 1995
Label: Transmission Records
Catalog Number: TM001
Format: CD
Total Time: 71:19:00

This past June [2001], Arjen Lucassen - the man behind Ayreon - emailed me with a response to my reviews of three of his albums - Into The Electric Castle, The Universal Migrator: The Dream Sequencer and The Universal Migrator: Flight Of The Migrator. As a result of our subsequent conversation, Arjen sent to me The Final Experiment, as I felt I wanted to start at the beginning. I have been listening to the CD off and on since then, though I'm only now setting down my thoughts on it. This could be a really short review, as I could simply tell you that it is another (the first) terrific outing from Arjen Lucassen as Ayreon, but when I have ever been brief?

As long time readers will no doubt have guessed, I love this style of music - atmospheric classical-symphonic-prog rock-metal. The album opens (after a spoken intro) with the Wakeman-like regal fanfare of "Prologue: Overture," a track that also reminds me of Kansas a bit. We will hear this repeated later, when Ayreon enters Camelot. Edward Reekers has such a terrific voice, and he demonstrates that again on "The Awareness: Dreamtime (Words Become A Song)," a beautiful, powerful piece of melodic hard rock. It is something one could also easily hear Lana Lane perform and includes both a tasty Hammond solo (Cleem Determeijer) and sharp guitar solo (Lucassen). Lenny Wolf (Kingdom Come) sounds a lot like classic Pat Benatar, as do the background vocals of Mirjam Van Doorn and Debby Schreuder, who each take lead roles later in story on "Ayreon's Fate." Okay, I know that Lenny's a guy, but to me, that's what I hear. And I like it, so it's not a bad thing to me. Though, I have to admit that on my first hearing of the album, before I read the credits, I thought it might have been Lana Lane.

Of course, Arjen's appreciation for the Beatles is also evident, especially in "The Banishment: The Accusation," where Ayreon is given voice by Robert Soeterboek, who here sounds like a mix of Glenn Hughes, Billy Joel, Sammy Hagar and Steven Tyler. "The Banishment: The Banishment" is a tour-de-force symphonic rock piece with thundering bass lines from Peter Vink, terrific guitar leads from Arjen, and powerful keyboard work from Determeijer. Even the death-like vocals on "The Banishment: Oblivion" work, here growled by Jan-Chris De Koeijer. "Sail Away To Avalon" is a tight track, with a catchy, memorable chorus. "Swan Song" is a very nice piano and keyboard piece from Determeijer - the keys take on the role of flute and strings ... beautiful. It figures as Ayreon's moment of respite from his visions. "Nature's Dance," which follows "Avalon," harks back to a very mellow, 60s sound -- acoustic guitar, string-like keys in a lush but also sparse arrangment, accented by the chirping of birds. While not exactly pastoral, that is the effect.

With Act III, the music and themes become darker as we see the visions that Ayreon is seeing. The chorus of "Computer-Reign: Game Over" reminds me of Loverboy's "When It's Over," down mostly to the vocals of Ian Parry (Elegy, Consortium Project), while thematically, this ties in with my Progression column regarding dystopias. This part of the The Final Experiment deals with Ayreon's visions of the future. It is at this point, I should back up a few steps and tell you that we start out in the year 2084, as Merlin tells us -- yes, that Merlin. The story is told in four acts. The "Final Experiment" of the title is a "time-telepathy" project, where a sixth century blind minstrel named Ayreon receives these telepathic messages - images of a dystopic future where computers rule ("Computer-Reign: Game Over"), nuclear annihilation is an immediate possibility ("Waracle"), and environmental collapse ("Listen To The Waves"). As he tries to make sense of his visions, the villagers become wary of him (to put it lightly) and banish him from the village -- it is our nature to try to expunge those whom we don't understand or fear because we don't understand them. He arrives in Camelot -- the gleaming castle of King Arthur. It is here that Merlin, distrustful or envious, silences Ayreon. Instantly he regrets having done so, and vows to make sure Ayreon's warnings are heard. It's up to us to heed them.

"Waracle" is a half-spoken, half-sung piece with Jan Van Fegglen handling vocals (with aid from Van Doorn and Schreuder), which during the chorus takes on a heavy blues-gospel aspect all backed by a metal arrangement, including another lead from Lucassen. As this scene/dream ends with chiming bells, my thought is "for whom the bell tolls? It tolls for thee." "Listen To The Waves," the last section of this trio of visions, is very dark indeed. Even with high toned keyboard accents, there is a gloomy pall that hangs over the track, a sky overcast with something other than moisture-filled clouds. "Magic Ride," which ends the act, has a very wet, squelchy sound - otherwordly,

Oh, I know I sound like a "fan-girl" here, or, more accurately, a "fan-woman," but I don't sing this album's praises lightly or without some degree of objectivity. This is a solid, entertaining piece of work, and seems extremely focused ... like all the best drama, we have a beginning, middle and end. And I feel I've only scratched the surface of this work.

Prologue (3:17): A. The Time Telepathy Experiment - B. Overture - C. Ayreon's Quest / Act I: The Dawning: The Awareness (6:36): A. The Premonition - B. Dreamtime (Words Become A Song) - C. The Awakening / Eyes Of Time (5:06): A. Eyes Of Time - B. Brainwaves / The Banishment (11:08): A. A New Dawn - B. The Gathering - C. The Accusation - D. The Banishment - E. Oblivion / Act II: King Arthur's Court: Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy (2:46) / Sail Away To Avalon (4:02) / Nature's Dance (2:28) / Act III: Visual Echoes: Computer-Reign (Game Over) (3:25) / Waracle (6:44) / Listen To The Waves (4:59) / Magic Ride (3:36) / Act IV: Merlin's Will And Ayreon's Fate: Merlin's Will (3:20) / The Charm Of The Seer (4:12) / Swan Song (2:44) / Ayreon's Fate (6:56): A. Ayreon's Fate - B. Merlin's Prophecy - C. Epilogue

Edward Reekers, Lenny Wolf, Robert Soeterboek, Jan-Chris De Koeijer, Ian Parry, Barry Hay, Arjen Lucassen, Jan Van Feggelen, Leon Goewie, Ruud Houweling, Lucie Hillen, Mirjam Van Doorn, Debby Schreuder - vocals
Rene Merkelbach, Jolanda Verduijn - backing vocals
Arjen Lucassen - guitars, keyboards; bass (2B, 9, 10, 12, 13)
Cleem Determeijer - Hammond, minimoog, mellotron, vocoder, Oberheim, Juno, harpsichord, piano and keyboards
Ernst Van Ee - drums
Jolanda Verduijn - bass (4B+C, 6, 15A +B)
Peter Vink - bass (3A+B, 4D+E, 8)
Jan Bijlsma - bass (11)
Barry Hay - alto flute (6)

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: Symphonic Prog

Origin NL

Added: October 26th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.ayreon.com
Hits: 2663
Language: english


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