Ayreon - The Human Equation
InsideOut Music
Progressive Rock Opera
Disc 1: 11 songs (50'48) Disc 2: 9 songs (51'32)
Release year: 2004
Ayreon, InsideOut Music
Reviewed by Marty
Major event
After the hugely successful Star One album and tour, Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen decided he needed to "mellow out" a bit. Having toyed with the idea of a full-blown concept/rock opera type album for his next Ayreon project, Arjen decided that instead of looking to the vastness of space and the sci-fi adventure fantasy concepts he has used in the past, he'd look deep within to the human condition or human "equation" as he aptly calls it. We are all complex beings ourselves and besides all the biological machinery that is required to drive us, we are driven by our emotions and life experiences. How we deal with the consequences of day to day living forms the basis of our personality and things that we repress or choose not to deal with can and most likely will come back to haunt us at some future point in time. In examining this aspect of the human condition, Arjen presents us with a fascinating story about a man who gets into a car accident in broad daylight with no other cars in sight. He ends up in a comatose state in a nearby hospital with his wife and best friend maintaining a vigil by his side. While in this state, the man finds himself in a strange existence whereby all his suppressed feelings and emotions surface and he must face as well as deal with all the choices and mistakes that he's made in his life. The songs on this album basically cover the 20 days that he's in a coma with each song representing one day and take the listener on a journey from one memory to the next as we get deeper and deeper inside the man's mind. Somewhere along this journey, he realizes that in order for him to wake from this coma, he must escape this new "prison" that he finds himself in. He must awake and make things right as well as be at peace with himself and the decisions he has made in his life.

Contributing to this monumental concept is a cast of musicians and vocalists that aside from a select few, Arjen has never worked with before. Some of the vocalists involved are, James LaBrie (Dream Theater) who plays the main character, Marcela Bovio (Elfonia) who portrays his wife, Devin Townshend (Strapping Young Lad), Devon Graves (Dead Soul Tribe), Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn), Irene Jansen (Karma), Magnus Ekwall (The Quill), Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery), Eric Clayton and Michael Akerfeldt (Opeth). Musicians lending a hand are Ed Warbly (drums), Jereon Gossens (flutes, recorders), Martin Orford (synths), Oliver Wakeman (synths) and last but not least, Ken Hensley (Hammond Organ - Uriah Heep) who adds some trademark Hammond organ odysseys to several tracks.

Besides the lead character played by James LaBrie, the other vocalists portray a widely different array of emotions and each represents an obstacle or component of the man's past that he has to deal with. Most of the vocals take on the form of a sort of dialogue style singing and tell the story in a true operatic sense, much like the Into The Electric Castle album. This is not just a collection of songs based around a concept. From the soaring and angelic voices of Irene Jansen and Heather Findlay to the sinister and almost demonic wails of Devin Townsend to the unearthly gutteral growls of Michael Akerfeldt, this album covers all the bases as far as vocal styles and each plays their part to perfection. James LaBrie is in fine voice and he hits some high notes that I haven't heard him hit in years. The cohesiveness and richness of the music and vocal parts is amazing and the fact that artists like Mike Baker, Devon Townsend and Ken Hensley essentially "mailed" their parts in and didn't even make it to Arjen's studio make it even more incredible.

From the first notes of this album right through to the last, this album will capture you and draw you in. Not only do you relive the man's life and experience his emotions, but you find it stirring feelings within yourself about your own life experiences. It is very rare to be able to connect on such a personal level with an album and it's an amazing feeling when you do. Although there are some heavy parts, the music is much lighter than we're used to hearing from Arjen and falls more into the progressive rock category. The heavier parts have a big thundering Savatage type sound and I found that parts of this album reminded me of another fine concept album, Beethoven's Last Night by the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Lots of strings, flutes and recorders grace many tracks and with the abundant use of acoustic guitar, the atmosphere created is breathtaking. With some of the heavier riffing, the use of flutes give many tracks a classic Jethro Tull sound (Arjen is a huge fan) and overall, the musical style with the flutes, organs and especially Ken Hensley's Hammond organ give the album a very 70's sort of progressive rock vibe. The use of Eastern themes and rhythms with acoustic guitar and strings on several tracks bring one back to the classic Led Zeppelin days when they started experimenting with those types of sounds in the early 70's. The classic Pink Floyd sound permeates a few tracks with some David Gilmour style expressive soloing and the way Arjen blends each instrument whether it be flutes, recorders, keyboards or heavy guitar, everything fits beautifully. This album is available in a limited edition which contains a bonus DVD with over 60 minutes of footage including behind the scenes during the recording process, the concept as explained by Arjen himself and a history of Ayreon.

I could write an entire novel on this album (I believe I've already got a good head start!!). It has the sort of breathtaking beauty that is very rare. The concept is a great one and something that is different, unique and I don't believe has ever been attempted before. Fans of almost any style of music whether it be metal, hard rock, progressive rock or 70's rock will certainly like this album. It's the sort of album that doesn't come along very often and may just prove to be the crowning achievement by Arjen Lucassen. It takes several listens to fully appreciate and comprehend what this album is all about but the end result is a concept album that rivals some of the great ones and is certainly one of the best I've heard in many, many years. Each of us will enjoy this album for different reasons; for the memories of first loves, school bullies and the like and everything that we can relate to in the life of the lead character. In his life, we ultimately begin to look inside ourselves and start to feel what he feels. We begin to realize that everything that happens to us in our lifetime "adds up" sooner or later to what we are as a person.....and that's The Human Equation.

Killing Songs :
Isolation, Pain, Voices, Love, Trauma and Pride
Marty quoted 95 / 100
Keegan quoted 97 / 100
Other albums by Ayreon that we have reviewed:
Ayreon - The Source reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Ayreon - The Theory of Everything reviewed by Joel and quoted 100 / 100
Ayreon - Into The Electric Castle: A Space Opera reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
Ayreon - 01011001 reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 91 / 100
Ayreon - Part 2: Flight Of The Migrator reviewed by Claus and quoted 95 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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