Ayreon - Actual Fantasy

Year of Release: 1996
Label: InsideOut Music
Catalog Number: MSI0087910
Format: CD
Total Time: 53:20:00

"Actual fantasy" is the opposite of "virtual reality" - and that is the point Arjen (Ayreon) Anthony Lucassen wanted to make with this CD.

Ayreon's style is very distinctive, and although this was just his second album, Lucassen's characteristic sound was already well established. It is heavy, melodic, almost-metallic progressive rock. It is complex with shifts and changes and layers and textures, and the melodic hooks will entrench these tunes in your mind for weeks. With its star-cast of contributing artists, trademark faultless production, ambitious themes and big soundscapes, this is seriously bombastic music - which is not necessarily a bad thing. The music is rich in synthesizers and guitars, and multipart choruses from the numerous guest vocalists. There are plenty of spacey samples, which some will find intrusive. For me, the samples were on the borderline of acceptability.

If you are unfamiliar with Ayreon's music - many writers have called it progressive metal, but I can't apply that label here. This is complex and melodic, yet it is heavier than most symphonic prog. Think of a cross between symphonic prog and prog-metal. If you are familiar with Ayreon?s music - this CD's place in the band's discography is very clear. It isn't as good as its successor Into The Electric Castle, but it is stronger than its forerunner The Final Experiment - A Rock Opera.

This is not a concept album - which is unusual for Ayreon's CDs. Instead, each song tells a separate story. Vague esoteric lyrics are standard practice in progressive music - but with the exception of "Dawn Of Man," there?s not much of that here. The story told by each song is complex and complete - and each story is fully contained within its song. So it isn?t a concept album, but it certainly is themed - with the common element being Steven King-esque vignettes of reality morphed by fantasy.

For example "Abbey Of Synn" was loosely inspired by the Sean Connery movie Name Of The Rose, in which monks die mysteriously because of a diabolical plot to suppress their quest for humor. "Beyond The Last Horizon" deals with death and takes the Hollywood vision of a soul on its final journey into the light - and turns it upside down. Very dark. "Stranger From Within" has a vocal style that would later feature prominently on my favorite Ayreon release, the twin Universal Migrator albums. The storyline here has shades of the recent Human Equation album, in that it deals with the mental gymnastics of someone in a coma.

Regardless of the stories, the music on this album stands proud and will continue to attract many fans even if they don?t study the lyrics - although progressive rock fans seem to be divided by Ayreon?s music. They either love it or hate it, and there seems to be little middle ground. It is my considered opinion that Ayreon has yet to put a foot wrong musically, and Actual Fantasy is actually fantastic - in both senses of that word.

Actual Fantasy / Abbey Of Synn / The Stranger From Within / Computer Eyes / Beyond The Last Horizon / Far Side Of The World / Back On Planet Earth / Forevermore / The Dawn Of Man / The Stranger From Within (single version)

Arjen Lucassen - guitars, keyboards, banjo, bass, Hammond, harpsichord, lute, mandolin, Mellotron, Mini-moog, vocals
Cleem Determeijer - keyboards, piano, synths
Edward Reekers - vocals
Okkie Huysdens - vocals
Ren? Merkelbach - Hammond, harpsichord, keyboards
Robert Soeterboek - 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: Symphonic Prog

Origin NL

Added: August 9th 2004
Reviewer: Duncan N Glenday
Artist website: www.ayreon.com
Hits: 1311
Language: english


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