Ayreon - The Human Equation

Year of Release: 2004
Label: InsideOut Music
Catalog Number: IOMCD 168 / SPV 092-60702
Format: CD
Total Time: 120:14:00

I may be dating myself here, but I grew up playing the best progressive music of the 1970s, often buying my LPs on the day they were released. Of course we didn?t know it as "prog" back then; my contemporaries and I simply thought we were music snobs with tastes that were superior to the mainstream pop-crowd of the day. I hate to admit it, but in retrospect I believe we were the world?s first prog-snobs! Life, family, career and the decline of that august genre of rock took me away from the progressive music scene for a decade, and one of the albums that rekindled my passion for music was Arjen "Ayreon" Lucassen?s The Final Experiment. So - long story short - I owe Ayreon a small debt of gratitude, and am a long-standing fan. But that isn?t why I?m giving The Human Equation a full 5-star rating. This music simply stands head and shoulders above almost anything that has been released in a long time.

The Human Equation is a rock opera featuring a who's who of modern-day artists in a mammoth production spread over a hundred minutes and two CDs. The story is about a man who has an unexplainable auto wreck and is comatose in hospital, while his wife and best friend keep a bedside vigil. There is nothing physically wrong with the victim (shades of Tommy?) but he has to fight his way back to consciousness by working through many memories, including the recent events that built up to the accident. The story?s ending may be predictable to some, but the whole thing is quite fun - and infinitely better than those improbable space stories that defined most of Lucassen previous work.

See below for a full roster of the guest artists. Standouts among them are James LaBrie (no, he sounds nothing like Dream Theater here, and this is probably his best performance ever), Mikael ?kerfeldt of Opeth (relax - there are only 30-seconds of growling on the whole album), Devin Townsend of DTB and SYL, Heather Findlay of Mostly Autumn, Devon Graves of Dead Soul Tribe, Mike Baker of Shadow Gallery - and so many more. Marcela Bovio of Elfonia gives a stellar performance as the wife. And to round out the mix, add a batch of exceptional instrumentalists to the mix - including Ken Hensley, Martin Orford, and Oliver Wakeman - among others. Lucassen himself plays most guitars, Hammond, Mellotron, and bass.

If you?re familiar with Ayreon's music, this is even more operatic than Into The Electric Castle. Each of the 20 tracks represents a day in the story, and each character - or in some cases, each emotion or component of the story - is sung by a different vocalist. The style of the music itself is unmistakably Ayreon. Someone could challenge you to identify the artist without showing you the cover, and you?d get it right in about 5 bars. Yet the whole piece is more sophisticated than his prior records. There are passages of folksy music, tinges of new age, bits of death metal and lots of classic '70s style prog, all wrapped in Ayreon's distinctive prog-metal-lite.

Remember all those 1970s rock operas like Tommy, ...Superstar, Rocky Horror... and The Lamb...? You could follow the whole storyline by listening to the record just once. The Human Equation does not share that simple clarity, and it isn?t always easy to follow the storyline without following the notes.

This is the first Ayreon album since 2000. (I?m deliberately discounting Ayreonauts Only.) Lucassen has been very busy with Star One and Ambeon releases, but the Ayreon projects are grand opuses and are always a treat. The progressive community has treated them harshly, though, using words like over-produced, bombastic, over-the-top, all over the map, album's way too long, and my good Canadian friend calls it "prog-by-numbers." I don?t consider those critiques to be negative. I know my Canadian buddy and my fellow Gnosis raters will not agree with me, but the excellent production, bombast, variety and epic length are exactly what I like about prog. And if that means that I've lost my 1970s status as a prog-snob, that?s fine with me.

Years ago, Ayreon's music helped to show me that progressive rock had not entirely disappeared. It had morphed into something new, and high quality music was still available. Today, Ayreon's music has reinforced that reminder.

Disc One: Day One: Vigil (1:33) / Day Two: Isolation (8:42) / Day Three: Pain (4:58) / Day Four: Mystery (5:37) / Day Five: Voices (7:09) / Day Six: Childhood (5:05) / Day Seven: Hope (2:47) / Day Eight: School (4:22) / Day Nine: Playground (2:15) / Day Ten: Memories (3:57) / Day Eleven: Love (4:18)

Disc Two: Day Twelve: Trauma (8:59) / Day Thirteen: Sign (4:47) / Day Fourteen: Pride (4:42) / Day Fifteen: Betrayal (5:24) / Day Sixteen: Loser (4;46) / Day Seventeen: Accident? (5:42) / Day Eighteen: Realization (4:31) / Day Nineteen: Disclosure (4:42) / Day Twenty: Confrontation (7:03)

Arjen 'Ayreon' Lucassen - electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, analogue synthesizers, Hammond organ, Mellotron, additional keyboards; vocals (as 'Best Friend')
Devon Graves (Dead Soul Tribe) as 'Agony' - vocals
Devin Townsend (SYL) as 'Rage' - vocals
Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) as 'Reason' - vocals
Mikael ?kerfeldt (Opeth) as 'Fear' - vocals
Magnus Ekwall (The Quill) as 'Pride' - vocals
Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn) as 'Love' - vocals
Irene Jansen (Karma) as 'Passion' - vocals
James LaBrie (Dream Theater) as 'Me' - vocals
Marcela Bovio (Elfonia) as 'Wife' - vocals
Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery) as 'Father' - vocals
Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep, Various) - Hammond organ
Oliver Wakeman (Nolan & Wakeman) - keyboards
Martin Orford (IQ, Jadis) - keyboards
Ed Warby (Gorefest, Various) ? drums
Joost van den Broek (Ayreon) ? keyboards
John McManus - low-flute, tin-whistle
Jeroen Goossens ? flute
Robert Baba ? violins
Marieke van der Heyden - cello

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 NL

Added: April 18th 2004
Reviewer: Duncan N Glenday
Artist website: www.ayreon.com
Hits: 1363
Language: english


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