The epic prog saga of Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Ayreon has reached a very interesting point. With this band, concepts and stories have always been very strong focal points on a majority of their releases. The events and linearity of the tales have often been confusing to say the least, but always interesting. I don’t want to spoil the storyline on 01011001 in any big way here – anyone really interested can either immerse themselves into the lyric sheet, some fan sites or wikipedia. Let’s just say that the relations of humans here on Earth and the alien race known as the Forever are introduced in a very revealing and breaking fashion – with clear references to at least The Final Experiment and both Universal Migrator-discs from Ayreon’s past.
As can be expected, the new album features several guest vocalists and musicians
to accompany Mr Lucassen in bringing his visions to life. Just to name a few,
the microphone is mightily visited by vocal virtuosos from Hansi Kürsch
to Floor Jansen and Daniel Gildenlöw to Anneke van Giersbergen. Everyone
fits in well with the theatre-like setting of switching vocal lines like lines
in a play. I’m really enjoying the detail to which the inner sleeve of
the album has been stretched to. Every singer is given either a name or a symbol
so that they can clearly be made out from the lyrics – who sings what
can be easily figured out with the sheet. An excellent addition to trivia buffs
For I’d say this is definitely Ayreon’s most musically gloomy album. There aren’t many fast-paced moments to be heard, as the crushing heaviness is concentrated on mid-paced steamrollers that most often seem to emphasise the narration. The machine-sounds and ambient, perhaps even slightly industrial vibes are given extra weight for most of the record, even though the beautiful melodies that Arjen has a magnificent knack for haven’t gone anywhere. Lucassen breaks out his love for folk music in the brighter, slightly quicker acoustic moments, like the flute-drenched Jethro Tull-worship of The Truth Is In Here.
Despite all these flavours, the driving force behind the album is of course grandiose, pounding metal, laced with big walls of keyboards and flourishing masses of choirs and harmony vocals. Age Of Shadows, Beneath The Waves and both Extinction “suites” are fine examples of the awesomness that comes when vocalists of this magnitude join their voices in one burst of melody – dare I pretentiously call it a rhapsody? That would at least apply to the insanely catchy and driving chorus sections in Newborn Race, which is definitely my favourite here. The lyrical content – besides carrying the storyline – often goes to heal-the-world -type treehuggery or otherwise borders every day life naiveté (just check out Web Of Lies, which is hard to listen to with a straight face despite Simone Simmons' enchanting delivery). Maybe I’m just too cynical, but likely-minded metalheads, beware.
The production job can be called marvellous as it balances all the very different
elements on this album very well, keeping the heavy sounds pounding and mellow
moments ethereal. I think the versatility also makes 01011001 Ayreon’s
most time-consuming album (as if the previous one’s have not been, I know).
The lack of fast-paced rocking may turn more anxious listeners away, but for
those with the time for thoughtful listening, the pleasures should be immense.
Killing Songs :
Age Of Shadows, Liquid Eternity, Connect The Dots, Beneath The Waves, Newborn Race, Ride The Comet, The Fifth Extinction, Waking Dreams, The Truth Is In Here, Unnatural Selection & The Sixth Extinction
|Aleksie quoted 91 / 100|
There are 33 replies to this review. Last one on Tue Oct 28, 2008 6:28 am
View and Post comments