Ayreon - The Human Equation

Year of Release: 2004
Label: InsideOut Music
Catalog Number: IOMCD 168/SPV 092-60702 D
Format: CD
Total Time: 102:14:00

What do you do when as artist you are copied by others? Exactly, you change your course. When Arjen Lucassen surprised friend and foe, almost 10 years ago, with his rock opera The Final Experiment, no one could foresee what impact that would have. Since then, several artists have created similar rock operas or concept albums, so Mr. Lucassen turned to a different direction. But now he is back with the sixth Ayreon studio album.

The Human Equation is a rock opera in the vein of Into The Electric Castle, as there are multiple vocalists in the songs. Since Arjen Lucassen wanted to have a fresh sound, he chose to work solely with people who had not [been guests] on his Ayreon project before, although very quickly Arjen found he had to make one exception: Drummer Ed Warby, as there was no drummer who would fit so perfectly than he. Outside that, there are relatively few guest musicians. The story in a nutshell: A man, "Me," lies in a coma after a car accident and by his side are his "Wife," "Best Friend" and "Father". Inside [are] 7 emotions ("Reason," "Love," "Fear," "Pride," "Passion," "Agony" and "Rage") that work in his subconscious. The whole story is divided into 20 comatose days.

Musically The Human Equation is a journey through the Walhalla of progressive rock: it has everything, from beautiful symphonic passages to brutal grunts and screams, from folk to even a hint of pop. With an outstanding cast of male and female vocalists, making you check the booklet time and time again, to see who is singing what in each song. And again Mr. Lucassen has succeeded in lifting the phenomena rock opera, to an even higher level. When looking at the cast, one name is noticed very quickly: Marcela Bovio, who makes her first appearance in the opening track "Day One: Vigil". Through a search-for-unkown-singers call on his website, Arjen got a copy of the self titled album Elfonia, [for whom] Marcela Bovio is lead vocalist. Her vocal efforts are definitely no less than those of Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn) or Irene Jansen (Karma), who play respectively "Love" and "Passion".

Although the album, in my opinion, only has highlights, there still are a few songs that stand out. For example: "Day Three: Pain," mainly because of the combination Devon Graves (Dead Soul Tribe) as "Agony" and Devon Townsend (The Devon Townsend Band), as "Rage," who really make a lasting impression here, and again in "Day Eight: School". Wow, plainly fantastic! To be honest, there is something great to say about each vocalist, as I find this the best and most impressive cast, I have ever heard. Despite the fact that James LaBrie (Dream Theater) plays the lead character, "Me," all vocalists get plenty of room to show their talents and skills. I find it a pleasure to hear Arjen Lucassen as "Best Friend," I love his "Beatlesque" voice and wouldn't mind hearing him more often.

In the midst of all these excellent vocalists, one singer attracts a lot of attention: Eric Clayton, of the cult band Saviour Machine, as "Reason," and especially in "Day Seventeen: Accident?" where his somewhat Bowie-like theatrical vocals are done justice. Also Mikael ?kerfeldt (Opeth) deserves a lot of credit, for his role of "Fear." He shows he is a fantastic singer, but fortunately Mr. Lucassen lets him show his dark side, for example the unearthly grunt in "Day Twelve: Trauma." Of course there is lots to say about the other vocalists, a lot, as they are incredible, but you may find that out yourself!

Besides Ed Warby on drums, Mr. Lucassen himself plays most of the other instruments and we can enjoy those fabulous guitar solos and ethereal synth sounds. But, he did invite some reinforcements: Martin Orford (IQ), Oliver Wakeman (yes, son of ...) played synth solos and Joost van den Broek (ex-Sun Caged, After Forever) played an authentic spinet solo on "Day Thirteen: Sign"! Furthermore all violin, cello and flute parts were played by respectively Robert Baba, Marieke van der Heyden, John McManus (who also blew his part on the Ambeon album) and Jeroen Goossens, who turned out to be extremely versatile, as he brought a huge collection of instruments with him, including a digdiridoo!

This brings me to a song that has become my favourite one: "Day Sixteen: Loser," where this didgeridoo is heard. This song is style-wise a bit different, very theatrical, but after a few spins, I really love this song: a perfect role, played by Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery), who plays a devilishly evil part as the "Father". Halfway this song you get the absolute meanest Hammond solo by none other than Uriah Heep's Ken Hensley; and, to really go over the top, Devon Townsend joins in with his screams in the end.

I could write a book on The Human Equation (and by the looks of this review I am already writing the first chapter), but this is a true masterpiece, that you should hear yourself! Arjen Lucassen has surpassed himself (once again) in what most likely is the best release already of 2004! The production and mix are, as we are somewhat used to, of the highest level. The bonus DVD that is available with two versions of the album is packed with a world of entertainment, like a video clip and a making of, with lots of behind the scenes stuff, such as Arjen's studio, "The Electric Castle." The artwork by Jeff Bertels and Mattias Nor?n (ProgArt) is simply not of this world and top the package off. This is nothing less then a must-have!

[This review originally appeared at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]

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: Symphonic Prog

Origin NL

Added: May 1st 2004
Reviewer: Marcel Haster
Artist website: www.ayreon.com
Hits: 1274
Language: english


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