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General => General Music Discussion => Topic started by: Evermind on September 12, 2016, 11:03:43 AM

Title: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A moment lost in time
Post by: Evermind on September 12, 2016, 11:03:43 AM
Hello and welcome to Arjen Lucassen Discography thread!

This is the place where we'll be discussing most of Arjen's extensive discography in the upcoming months. Since Arjen has been a well-known figure on the world's progressive scene for more than 20 years now, and since he is also quite a prolific musician, this should keep us busy at least until Christmas, and possibly even longer. So buckle up and get ready to share your opinions and facts about everything Arjen-related! Every contribution to this thread is valuable, and every well-constructed and well-reasoned opinion is welcome. I think I won't be lying when I say we're looking forward to see what kind of discussions our writeups will spark.

By "we" I mean yours truly, who comes up with all the information featured in the writeups and who does the actual writing (sheesh, I'm talking about myself in the third person), and 425, who does all the editing. He doesn't know a lot about Ayreon—though I'm sure he indeed owns a few albums—but it's because of his invaluable contribution that my huge posts here will end up being actually readable. You don't want to see the first drafts I sent him, they're horrible. He will probably deny that, though, because he's courteous and polite like that.

Anyway, I thought I'd provide a bit of background information about Arjen for people who are completely unfamiliar with him.

(http://1nboqj4catzo46qj303y5lta.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Arjen.jpg)

Arjen Anthony Lucassen was born in 1960 in Hilversum, Netherlands. He started playing guitar at the age of 14 and participated in several cover bands in school. He was so passionate and enthusiastic about music that he started to neglect his main school duties. Eventually, this resulted in his expulsion and he was sent to an institute for difficult children to complete his education.

After finishing school, Arjen joined the hard rock band Bodine in 1982, under a pseudonym Iron Anthony, as a guitarist. Initially, he auditioned for being a singer, but his voice wasn't what the band was looking for at the time. Arjen recorded two albums with Bodine, but eventually he got bored of the band—all the other members were ten years his senior, which meant no real partying after the show—and they didn't make a lot of money from tours, either. Therefore, when he received a call from the band Vengeance in 1984, asking if he knew a guitar player to join the band, he left Bodine and joined Vengeance instead. With Arjen, they released five studio albums in ten years, becoming one of the most successful Dutch bands. However, the band decided to split up in 1992. Arjen recorded a solo album in 1993, which didn't impress music fans or critics; and then he started Ayreon with The Final Experiment in 1995. And that's where it all began...

As of today, Arjen has released eight Ayreon albums, branched out in several side projects like Star One and Guilt Machine, and put out three live records. He worked with numerous singers and musicians from all over the globe, young talents and rock legends alike. Besides composing music, he also plays multiple instruments on his albums—most notably guitars and keyboards, but he also does bass and some other, more eclectic instruments. His side projects are usually focused on some particular aspects of his music—Star One being all-out heavy, The Gentle Storm being more folk-oriented—while Ayreon albums encompass all the styles from which Arjen draws influence. His latest release, a live theatrical production of one of the Ayreon albums, saw the light of day just a few months ago, and he has already written a secret new record and recorded the guide vocals for it. This secret record is scheduled for release in 2017.

The thread will start in earnest in an hour or two, when I'll post our first writeup; the one for the debut Ayreon album, The Final Experiment. Settle in, sit back, make yourself comfortable and get ready. ;)
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread
Post by: Mosh on September 12, 2016, 11:18:48 AM
Following!
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread
Post by: twosuitsluke on September 12, 2016, 11:23:05 AM
Totally following along with this. I've not actually listened to The Final Experiment yet so this will be good. I'll give it a listen tonight in preparation.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread
Post by: Nick on September 12, 2016, 11:36:57 AM
<3
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread
Post by: Cyclopssss on September 12, 2016, 11:51:06 AM
Totally following.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread
Post by: Tomislav95 on September 12, 2016, 11:57:07 AM
Following :tup
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Evermind on September 12, 2016, 12:21:57 PM
Great to see you guys are following this. I hope we won't disappoint you. ;) Let's get it on with the first writeup.



The Final Experiment (1995)


(https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/76/Ayreon_The_Final_Experiment.jpg)


Release date: October 27th, 1995
Length: 71:17


Tracklist:

1. Prologue
     A. The Time Telepathy Experiment
     B. Overture
     C. Ayreon's Quest

Act I: The Dawning

2. The Awareness
     A. The Premonition
     B. Dreamtime (Words Become a Song)
     C. The Awakening
3. Eyes of Time
     A. Eyes of Time
     B. Brainwaves
4. The Banishment
     A. A New Dawn
     B. The Gathering
     C. The Accusation
     D. The Banishment
     E. Oblivion

Act II: King Arthur's Court

5. Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy
6. Sail Away to Avalon
7. Nature's Dance

Act III: Visual Echoes

8. Computer Reign (Game Over)
9. Waracle
10. Listen to the Waves
11. Magic Ride

Act IV: Merlin's Will and Ayreon's Fate

12. Merlin's Will
13. The Charm of the Seer
14. Swan Song
15. Ayreon's Fate
     A. Ayreon's Fate
     B. Merlin's Prophecy
     C. Epilogue

Personnel:

Arjen Anthony Lucassen - vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, synthesizer, drums, percussion, timpani, audio mixing, sleeve design & photography

Vocalists:

Arjen Anthony Lucassen as Ayreon on "Nature’s Dance," "Listen To The Waves," "Magic Ride" and "Ayreon’s Fate".
Barry Hay (Golden Earring) as Ayreon on "Sail Away To Avalon."
Edward Reekers (Kayak) as Merlin on "Prologue," "The Awareness" and "Ayreon’s Fate" as Ayreon on "The Awareness" and "Ayreon’s Fate".
Ian Parry (Elegy) as Nobleman on "Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy," as Ayreon on "Computer Reign" and as Merlin on "Ayreon’s Fate".
Jan-Chris de Koeijer (Gorefest) as Ayreon on "The Banishment".
Jay van Feggelen (Bodine) as Ayreon on "Waracle" and as Merlin on "Ayreon's Fate".
Lenny Wolf (Kingdom Come) as Ayreon on "Eyes Of Time".
Leon Goewie (Vengeance) as Merlin on "Merlin's Will" and "Ayreon's Fate;" as Ayreon on "Ayreon's Fate".
Robert Soeterboek (Cotton Soeterboek Band) as Villagers on "The Banishment" and as Merlin on "Ayreon's Fate".
Ruud Houweling (Cloudmachine) as Ayreon on "The Charm Of The Seer".
Debby Schreuder as Merlin, Women and Villagers on "Ayreon's Fate;" as Chorus on several tracks.
Mirjam van Doorn as Merlin, Women and Villagers on "Ayreon's Fate;" as Chorus on several tracks.
Lucy Hillen as Ayreon on "The Charm Of The Seer;" as Chorus on several tracks.

Musicians:

Cleem Determeijer — keyboards
Ernst van Ee (Trenody) — drums
Jan Bijlsma — bass
Jolanda Verduijn — bass
Peter Vink — bass
Rene Merkelbach — keyboard

Artwork:

Ruud Houweling
Richèle Nijst
Jacoby Peters




This is the voice of Merlin. Listen well, for it concerns you. This chronicle commences in the year 2084 A.D. Mankind has virtually destroyed itself. Its survival depends on the final experiment.

Scientists from the 21st century have developed a new computer program called “Time Telepathy”. By using this technique, they have sent visions of humanities’ decline back in time. These transmissions have been received by the mind of a blind minstrel who lives in 6th century in Great Britain. His name… is Ayreon.

*synthetic trumpets blow*


Damn, but Arjen surely does know how to make a musical entrance.

It shall be Ayreon’s quest to sing of these visions and thus warn the world of its impending downfall in order to change its future into a long and prosperous one. Let us go back to the dark ages…

Dark ages…

Dark ages…

Dark ages…


No, seriously, that’s how it is on the album.

So, remember those wondrous times when Ayreon albums were concise enough you could fit them on only one CD? Because if you don’t really count two Universal Migrator albums as the separate ones—they were released as two different albums on the same day for the reasons I’ll get into the respective writeup, but essentially, they’re two parts of the same album—then The Final Experiment is one of the only two Ayreon albums that isn’t a double-CD release. Oh, Arjen can write and release concise albums, a bunch of his side-projects being the fine evidence of that, but when it comes to Ayreon albums, you know you’re getting the full package, always more than an hour of music, and considerably more than that in most cases. The Final Experiment, therefore, ends up on the lower end of the scale if you look at the Ayreon album lengths.

History / Background

There are multiple ways of interpreting the album’s title, The Final Experiment. On one hand, it fits right into a concept—of which I’ll speak in a few paragraphs—referencing the last desperate attempt to save humanity from self-destruction. On the other hand, I can’t help but notice how it alludes, perhaps unintentionally, to the whole situation around this release. Arjen, tired of the necessity of making compromises with his fellow band members when it came to writing music and tired of being confined to any particular style of music, decided to go all-out and write a rock opera where all the styles he loved were present. In several interviews he mentions that he always had to cater to someone else’s view of music. His first band, Bodine, tried to play NWOBHM, which was popular at that time; Vengeance followed the styles of the popular bands like Van Halen and (later) AC/DC; and when Arjen wrote his first solo album, Pools of Sorrow, Waves of Joy, he tried to make it as radio-friendly as he could. Most songs on it were radio-oriented, and the record was a commercial flop. Arjen earned quite a lot of money from the Vengeance farewell tour, so he set out to create his ultimate album. Thus The Final Experiment was born. Reflecting on that time, Arjen has stated that he didn’t really care if people liked it and or if it was the last thing he did in music—he just wanted to release something behind which he could stand one hundred percent. As it turned out, the payout from the Vengeance tour wasn’t enough for Arjen to finance the project. The hiring of some rather big names in Dutch music industry drove up costs, and in the end Arjen’s father had to make a financial contribution of his own to ensure that the album saw the light of day.

However, it wasn’t enough to simply write and record the album. Arjen also had to find a label, and he didn’t have a lot of success on that front—basically everyone turned him down when he presented his rock opera. Finally, Arjen met Hans van Vuuren from Pseudonym Records, who really liked the album and agreed to release it. Hans had never handled a new CD release before—he had previously worked only with re-releases—so Arjen was initially apprehensive about this, but Hans’ enthusiasm about the project and the absence of another viable option were enough to convince the maestro to take the leap. Together, they started a label called Transmission, and The Final Experiment was its first release. At the time, Arjen wanted to make only one rock opera, and he didn’t want to label The Final Experiment (which was originally called Ayreon: The Final Experiment) with a band name. However, Hans managed once again to convince Arjen to follow his guidance and include one, since using a band name would be better for marketing purposes. At first, he thought it would be impossible to name the whole project “Ayreon”, since the protagonist died in the end of the first album—and besides, naming the band after the main character in the rock opera was beyond cheesy even for Arjen’s standards. But eventually, Arjen relented and agreed to do just that—a decision which he now admits was a good one. Defending his original opinion about this, he often gave an example of The Who re-naming themselves into Tommy after their rock opera of the same name.

And so The Final Experiment was released. In the subsequent weeks, it would become a commercial success—at least, for a full-fledged rock opera, featuring a spoken prologue and four musical acts.

Plot

The story takes us to the 6th century, to a quiet village in Britain, a home of the renowned blind minstrel, Ayreon. By a mysterious choice of fate, the visions of the future come upon the man, showing him the images of destruction, impending doom and the extinction of the human race (The Awareness). At first, Ayreon doesn’t realize what these visions mean—he only has his suspicions and general ideas. Therefore, when the villagers ask him to shed the light on whatever he sees, he refuses, not fully understanding the nature of the visions himself (Eyes of Time). His strange visions, odd behavior, and the secretive unwillingness to reveal the content of the visions lead the villagers to exile him. Later, we see Ayreon wandering through the forest, exhausted, with only an indistinct sense of accomplishment sustaining him (The Banishment).

Ayreon’s path guides him to Camelot, and he’s invited to the court as a skilled minstrel. (Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy). To prove his worth as a minstrel and to entertain the court, Ayreon quickly whips up a song about Knights of the Round Table (Sail Away to Avalon). The song is well-appreciated, and Ayreon is welcomed to the court. He retreats to the garden and ponders his destiny and his fate in the scheme of things (Nature's Dance). Reluctantly, he embraces his destiny and decides to return to the court to share his visions of the disastrous future, singing about the various disasters he has foreseen. He sings about machines and technology prevailing over human passion and other emotions (Computer Reign (Game Over)), about the uselessness of the countless wars to come (Waracle), and about the eventual future pollution of the atmosphere and the environment (Listen to the Waves). After this is done, Ayreon commands the people who are sending him the visions to grant him another vision in which everything is alright, and he’ll be free of the agony and misery he’s in now (Magic Ride). He receives no answer whatsoever—he still doesn’t understand what is going on. Of course, he has no chance of understanding the events happening. However, something comes out of this desperate move—Merlin notices him and finally decides to interfere with Ayreon’s whole harbinger-of-death agenda.

Merlin strides into the court and declares Ayreon is aiming to deceive everyone at court with his deceptive songs about doom. Merlin then renounces Ayreon’s name (Merlin’s Will). Ayreon realizes he can’t change the minds of whoever was listening to him in the present time because of Merlin’s influence over them, and that he has no way to stop these agonizing visions from coming upon him. He surmises his only choice is to submit himself to Merlin’s killing charm (Charm of the Seer). Merlin grants Ayreon a few moments to compose himself and to remember all his life’s highlights before his death (Swan Song). Ayreon makes a final attempt to convince Merlin about his sincerity, but it doesn’t work because Merlin is, in this story, an envious douchebag. Ayreon dies, and then Merlin has a vision proving Ayreon’s visions were genuine (Ayreon’s Fate). Overcome with grief and shame, and unwillingness to be the one who condemned mankind to its certain death by not spreading the word of the future disaster, he vows that he’ll make sure Ayreon’s word gets heard in 20th century…

The outcome of the final experiment has now been placed in your hands.

Music

Musically, this album is all over the place. The album begins with the classic Ayreon’s song—of course, there were no classic Ayreon songs at all in 1995, but still—The Awareness. This song features some trademark Arjen synth sounds, which provide a haunting atmosphere that is quite fitting for this track. Edward Reekers shines on this one. Eyes of Time reflects Arjen’s hard rock background, which is expected when you have Lenny Wolf at the mic. The Banishment, Arjen’s first attempt at a 10+ minutes long song, isn’t too shabby, but it does feel a bit disjointed. And, of course, there’s that section with growls at the end, which feels way out of place for me. Growls are tricky with Ayreon, because while they’re present in The Final Experiment and later on Into the Electric Castle, I feel the first time Arjen got the growls sections right was on The Human Equation. We’ll definitely touch on this subject again in the future.

Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy offers a nice contrast to the previous songs, being folky and peaceful with accessible melodies and over-the-top lyrics with some old English words like “thy” and “thine.” Sail Away to Avalon is a perfect radio single, or at least as perfect as it gets when we’re talking about a rock opera—catchy, memorable and with famous Dutch singer Barry Hay on vocals—there’s no wonder it won a contest on Dutch Radio 3 and stayed in rotation for five consecutive days.

Arjen himself sings a few songs on this record too, namely Nature’s Dance, Listen to the Waves and Magic Ride. I usually tend to defend Arjen’s singing, because I like how he has no delusions about his voice and I think his voice can be enjoyable on the right song, but for me it mostly became tolerable from The Dream Sequencer onwards. He tended to distort his voice a bit (and sometimes not a bit) on the earlier albums, including here—we’ll talk more about this when we get Into the Electric Castle—and this was where he always lost me, which also happens here.

There are also some rather unpredictable story-telling songs like Merlin’s Will with Leon Goewie as a lead singer, and there are some anthemic numbers like Charm of the Seer, featuring a whole choir and the beautiful vocals from Lucy Hillen. Rock songs, 70-s inspired songs, progressive numbers, folky tunes, atmospheric tracks, metal songs... This record has this unusual variety of styles all tied into a cohesive story, something that, apparently, wasn’t that common in 1995. This rock opera was very ambitious, and its ambition obviously affected the sales in a positive way.

My Thoughts

You know, despite somewhat pretentious moments and pretentious ways the plot was turned into the music here, I think the actual album’s story and plot are somewhat compelling. I mean, yeah, not much even happens throughout the album story-wise, and there is some plot-related filler like Sail Away to Avalon, Nature’s Dance and Magic Ride, all true, but still, I think it was pretty cool idea to have Merlin vow that he will make sure the story will reach all the way into 20th century, and make it so by releasing this album. I mean, I’m usually partial to cheese, so I’m not your best expert on this one, but I’m curiously fond of this idea.

What’s even more interesting is that Arjen himself admits he didn’t think much further than this album about the whole overarching Ayreon sci-fi plot with Forever of the Stars and whatever else came up next. He just wrote this album as a finished story and later couldn’t help himself when the opportunities arose to link the upcoming albums to this one and to the ones after it. And so just like that, The Final Experiment started a plot that lasted for the better part of six albums, excluding Actual Fantasy, something that almost no rock opera before this one managed to achieve. Actually, I can only think of two more examples. 425 kindly informed me that Coheed and Cambria has released seven concept albums related to their "The Amory Wars" storyline; and The Dear Hunter is catching up with Ayreon as we speak, too, with five Acts of a six-album story released already.

I also think that for his finances and popularity at the time, Arjen managed to gather a great cast of singers for this album. Edward Reekers, Ian Parry, Lenny Wolf and of course Barry Hay are close to perfect on their songs, and the songs are well-tailored to fit them, too. However, I feel that the value of the actual rock opera is diminished by the fact they all play the same character on the different songs. Arjen fixed that on Into the Electric Castle and onwards—or at least provided the plot-logical explanations for that—but here we have a rock opera with more or less two prominent characters (not counting the Nobleman in one song and Villagers in two others) and like what, eight people portraying them? This could be a little confusing without the booklet (which also was one my main beefs with The Astonishing)—but with the re-release of the album, I don’t think the booklet is difficult to get your hands on.

In my opinion, this album is a strong beginning for Ayreon (on the odd day, I might even blasphemously prefer it over Into the Electric Castle), and overall is a worthy entry in the whole Ayreon discography. Yeah, it has got some rough edges and it’s certainly not as polished as some records that came after it, but the high points here are wonderful (The Awareness, Sail Away to Avalon, Charm of the Seer). I do think The Final Experiment could benefit from cutting a track or two here and there, though, preferably something Arjen-fronted. But overall I keep coming back to this album, and I’m always caught off-guard by how strong it is for a debut.

And apparently the audience following the progressive rock and metal scene in 1995 shared my opinion, since (as I said before), the sales for the album were fairly impressive—providing the opportunity to do another Ayreon album...
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: twosuitsluke on September 12, 2016, 01:49:55 PM
Ok, so I've read your post on The Final Experiment and I'm about 20 minutes into the album. This is the only Ayreon album, that follows the over arching plot, that I haven't heard.

I had preconceptions that this album would be a really unpolished version of Ayreon. For that reason I have listened to all his other albums before this one. This has given me the kick up the ass to listen to it so that's cool. So far it does kind of sound like I expected but it also has that Ayreon sound in spades. As you said, maybe a little rough around the edges at times but I don't mind that.

Its also a bit heavier than I expected so far, which is a good thing, and has more audible bass than on some of his other albums.

Edit: I quite liked that on first listen. I always imagined there would be a larger progression of Ayreon's sound between this and Into the Electric Castle. I almost thought it would be one of those 'for hardcore fans only' kind of albums.

I liked The Banishment and Waracle. I really didn't mind the growls at the end of The Banishment. I'll definitely pick this album up and give it more listens  :corn

Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: MrBoom_shack-a-lack on September 12, 2016, 01:55:15 PM
Awesome, will follow!  :metal
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: mikeyd23 on September 12, 2016, 02:07:11 PM
Following!

Listening to The Final Experiment now. I've always wanted to dive into Arjen's music but I never really have. This thread seems like a good opportunity to do so!
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: jingle.boy on September 12, 2016, 02:28:29 PM
As Bono once penned ... I will follow.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Parama on September 12, 2016, 03:43:30 PM
I always remember that the chorus of merlin's will is like the most cheesy awesome thing
and this album as a whole is solid, but pales in comparison to most Ayreon stuff
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: wolfking on September 12, 2016, 03:45:16 PM
I should try and follow this thread and listen to everything along with it.  There's some holes in my Arjen discography.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Nick on September 12, 2016, 03:54:08 PM
EASILY the most underrated and underappreciated Ayreon album. From your excellent write up you set the scene as Arjen wanting to, if need be, go out in a blaze of glory. He had never done an album like this before. He lacked the big names and international recognition he would later acquire. The bands he had been in didn't do this style of music. He didn't have a bigger name label.

All of that, and he came out of the gate with a fantastic album. Musically it has some of his best songwriting, and story wise it manages to be cohesive and inviting without being boring. This is tied for my 3rd favorite Ayreon album just a smidge behind the masterpiece THE and the smidge behind ItEC.

And truly, this write up is fantastic, and this thread is off to a great start.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: twosuitsluke on September 12, 2016, 05:29:51 PM
Yea dude, really great write up.

So this thread will have all things Arjen that were released after The Final Experimentation? I have every Ayreon album except The Final Experimentation and Actual Fantasy. Outside of that though I just have the two Star One albums so will look forward to filling in the gaps.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Evermind on September 12, 2016, 11:30:41 PM
Thank you guys.

I always remember that the chorus of merlin's will is like the most cheesy awesome thing
and this album as a whole is solid, but pales in comparison to most Ayreon stuff

The whole song is kind of like that. Leon's portrayal of Merlin is so ridiculously over the top that I can't help but like it. :lol

So this thread will have all things Arjen that were released after The Final Experimentation? I have every Ayreon album except The Final Experimentation and Actual Fantasy. Outside of that though I just have the two Star One albums so will look forward to filling in the gaps.

So far that's the plan, yes. We go forward from The Final Experiment, covering every studio and live album after it (except Strange Hobby). Then, if everything goes well, we go back and cover all the rest of Arjen-related stuff, like Bodine, Vengeance and his first solo album. This will take some time, because I'm not familiar with anything that preceded The Final Experiment.

Something I meant to mention in the first post but forgot to: we're aiming at posting one writeup per week. This schedule can change a bit due to the amount of details I try to include in these posts and also due to the amount of time it takes to edit these walls of text. But the original plan is to do one of these each week.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Parama on September 12, 2016, 11:33:58 PM
oh good, so i have an entire week to read through that novel of text then  :corn
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Evermind on September 13, 2016, 12:25:38 AM
All of that, and he came out of the gate with a fantastic album. Musically it has some of his best songwriting, and story wise it manages to be cohesive and inviting without being boring. This is tied for my 3rd favorite Ayreon album just a smidge behind the masterpiece THE and the smidge behind ItEC.

And truly, this write up is fantastic, and this thread is off to a great start.

In fact, this is something we briefly discussed with 425 just yesterday. What appeals to me about most of Arjen's plots is that they're relatively transparent and easy to follow. I've listed TDH and Coheed and Cambria as the examples of other multiple albums rock operas, and from what I've heard, the plot is much more intricate and difficult to follow from the albums' liner notes.

oh good, so i have an entire week to read through that novel of text then  :corn

Fun fact: the first draft was so huge that it didn't fit in a single post. We had to restructure it severely, as well as cut most of my cheesy jokes about the storyline. :lol
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Train of Naught on September 13, 2016, 12:28:31 AM
Please please please host a teamspeak/skype call with a live listening session so we can comment along the way? That would be the best rendition of a discography thread ever and I would be in like flynn.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Evermind on September 13, 2016, 01:37:41 AM
I suppose that's possible, but it'll be very difficult to get enough people for that to be worth it. All the time zones, work duties, school duties, I'd be surprised if I'll get more than three people at once.

But if there's enough interest, I'm willing to try it out.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Cyclopssss on September 13, 2016, 02:46:02 AM
Great write-up! it's funny, I actually didn't hear about Arjen untill Into the Electric Castle. Suddenly EVERYONE on the Fates Warning forum was talking about this guy.

And I'm like 'WTF?! I'm Dutch and I haven't heard about him?' (turns out later, off course I had, just didn't recognise him).

I will comment later on further in detail, after re-listening to the album.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Kwyjibo on September 13, 2016, 06:41:09 AM
Definitely following  :metal

Will write more later when I get some time
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Nick on September 13, 2016, 12:06:39 PM
All of that, and he came out of the gate with a fantastic album. Musically it has some of his best songwriting, and story wise it manages to be cohesive and inviting without being boring. This is tied for my 3rd favorite Ayreon album just a smidge behind the masterpiece THE and the smidge behind ItEC.

And truly, this write up is fantastic, and this thread is off to a great start.

I'm fact, this is something we briefly discussed with 425 just yesterday. What appeals to me about most of Arjen's plots is that they're relatively transparent and easy to follow. I've listed TDH and Cheese and Cambria as the examples of other multiple albums rock operas, and from what I've heard, the plot is much more intricate and difficult to follow from the albums' liner notes.

Yeah, it's something I've always appreciated in his work as well. On 01 especially he sometimes got a little bit too much to the point, but this album is just perfect. You can just sit back, listen, be entertained and know what's going on. I know some people enjoy the stories from TDH and Coheed, and I'm certainly not knocking all the awesome work that goes into those stories, especially for TDH. Coheed, even with all the novels and comics sometimes seems to be pounding a square peg into a round hole, mainly because Claudio writes what he feels and then twists it to make it work on the albums. With Ayreon though it's just straight up enjoyment, which is good, because when it comes to digging too deep into one record out of thousands, I think Harriet Tubman said it best with "ain't nobody got time for that"*.

*Quote may or may not be properly credited.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Evermind on September 13, 2016, 12:19:21 PM
I just noticed my phone fixed "Coheed and Cambria" as "Cheese and Cambria". :facepalm: That was totally unintentional, but I think that's kind of hilarious too. :lol Sorry about that, C&C fans. From what I've heard, Ayreon is much more cheese-induced, if that helps. And I'm not fact too, that's another autocorrection mistake. It's like I'm turning into King.

I remember Arjen mentioning in the interviews for The Theory of Everything that it was his direct intention to make the story transparent and easy to follow. That was one of the reason he didn't give any names to the characters, and he also wrote some paragraphs in the liner notes explaining the events and when it took place. I think his two non-space stories, THE and TTOE, are the easiest to follow through. They also were the most poignant for me. I don't mind simple lyrics at all, as long as they're doing the job.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Train of Naught on September 14, 2016, 11:51:45 AM
Alright guys, I know just as much about Ayreon as any Nickelback fan like me does, but I decided to step in this.

Just had a teamspeak session with Evermind to check the sound quality and stuff and it turns out the quality is perfect, so the plan to have a live listening session for one (or more, not sure about this yet) of the Arjen Lucassen albums seems pretty realistic now.

The idea is that Ruslan would have the album play through his TeamSpeak and the rest of the guys in the chat could comment along the way (most likely by typing since speaking could kinda ruin the album experiencce). Obviously with all the different timezones it's not going to be easy to please everyone. Right now we're thinking the best option we have is to do it around this time of the day, which means the Europeans would probably be home from work/school, for the rest of you it would be a bit harder to adapt, but maybe some have a day off or work evening/nightjobs or whatever.

If you're up for this let us know and we can start figuring out what the best date+time is for this.


Fill them in in case I've missed something Ruslan!
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Tomislav95 on September 14, 2016, 11:58:03 AM
That seems like a cool idea :tup

BTW I listened to The Final Experiment for the first time yesterday and I really liked it. Planned to read Evermind's post on my 2nd listen because I wanted to fully concentrate on listening so I can't comment on that yet (sorry Ruslan :P ).
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Shadow Ninja 2.0 on September 14, 2016, 12:13:22 PM
The livestream sounds cool; I'll definitely drop in if I can.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Scorpion on September 14, 2016, 12:29:11 PM
I'm definitely in for the livestream if I can make it, time-wise. Best time for me would be 7-11 GMT on pretty much every evening except for Tuesdays, so we should be able to find something that works.

Anyway, I'll hold my first listen off until the livestream (unless it turns out that it won't happen for whatever reason), so I don't have anything to contribute yet, but I want to say that I really liked reading your review; good job Evermind and 425.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Evermind on September 14, 2016, 12:35:42 PM
Alright guys, I know just as much about Ayreon as any Nickelback fan like me does, but I decided to step in this.

Just had a teamspeak session with Evermind to check the sound quality and stuff and it turns out the quality is perfect, so the plan to have a live listening session for one (or more, not sure about this yet) of the Arjen Lucassen albums seems pretty realistic now.

The idea is that Ruslan would have the album play through his TeamSpeak and the rest of the guys in the chat could comment along the way (most likely by typing since speaking could kinda ruin the album experiencce). Obviously with all the different timezones it's not going to be easy to please everyone. Right now we're thinking the best option we have is to do it around this time of the day, which means the Europeans would probably be home from work/school, for the rest of you it would be a bit harder to adapt, but maybe some have a day off or work evening/nightjobs or whatever.

If you're up for this let us know and we can start figuring out what the best date+time is for this.


Fill them in in case I've missed something Ruslan!

No, that's pretty much it! Only, if you guys are up for this, you're better to provide the time you're available at for this, so we could find the best time for everybody. For example, let's use GMT: I'm available every day from 3 P.M. to 10 P.M. (well, not every day, but I can stay until 10 P.M. on certain days for that if needed), and I can do most weekends from 3 P.M. to 11 P.M. This weekend is off bounds since my friends from St. Petersburg are coming over and I'll be kind of busy I guess.

So let us know how you guys feel about something like Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday (or Thursday I guess) next week, any time from 3 P.M. to 10 P.M. GMT.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Train of Naught on September 14, 2016, 02:59:58 PM
My timetables are different every week but between like 4 PM and 9 PM would work best for me personally, and as long as it's planned plenty of time ahead it wouldn't be a problem to reserve 1-2 hours for this when I'm at home.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Zoom E on September 14, 2016, 06:54:24 PM
The Final Experiment is the only Aryeon album I don't own, and I haven't heard one note of it. Thanks to your in depth analysis of the album I may have to rectify this. Nice job  :tup
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Cyclopssss on September 15, 2016, 03:06:37 AM
Played the cd over the last couple of days and I forgot how good it was. Considering the amount of talent on this first effort really, it's staggering. Barry Hay is virtually unrecognisable in the one song he sings (Sail away to Avalon) which is probably a good thing. I love the big keyboard lead lines when they come in. The basswork is pretty good as well. In fact all the instrumentals work very well, mind you, this is Pre-Warby on drums!
I do agree with the comments about the grunting. Not really feeling it here. A lot of these songs were given the live-treatment during the Star One tour in 2003 (jeez, has it been that long?) And very well too.

All in all, great listening experience.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Mosh on September 18, 2016, 11:26:50 AM
Good start. A bit raw and low budget, but some really enjoyable music on here. Looking forward to his more elaborate albums with a full cast of characters and such.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: ronnibran on September 18, 2016, 12:16:50 PM
Following!  Big Arjen fan here.  I have all the Ayreon, Star One, and Guilt Machine albums.  Honestly, I may actually get the most listening these days still from Guilt Machine, just love that album!  Universal Migrator is probably my favorite Ayreon album.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: ErHaO on September 19, 2016, 08:37:58 AM
I will probably not reply very actively, but I am definitely following this thread!

Final Experiment is an amazing debut. Though as a whole it is not close to being one of my favourite Lucassen albums, it does have a few songs I keep coming back to.

And I love the version with the semi-acoustic bonus disc. Not sure if that will be covered later on in this thread. I really like the renditions of Merlin's Will and Sail Away to Avalon in particular, which unlike many acoustic versions of metal songs, retain some of their metal prowress. Actually, I think I prefer the semi-acoustic disc as a whole.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: cramx3 on September 19, 2016, 08:45:13 AM
Following.

I havent really listened to any of his stuff besides The Gentle Storm which I loved so I purchased the new Blu-Ray since I love watching concerts, but haven't had time to watch it yet.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Evermind on September 19, 2016, 09:55:13 AM
To all people who are following, you're welcome, guys! Glad to have you all on board.

And I love the version with the semi-acoustic bonus disc. Not sure if that will be covered later on in this thread. I really like the renditions of Merlin's Will and Sail Away to Avalon in particular, which unlike many acoustic versions of metal songs, retain some of their metal prowress. Actually, I think I prefer the semi-acoustic disc as a whole.

I actually intended to write something about it and I had that wall of text about the album itself, so I decided to exclude the paragraphs I wrote about it. These paragraphs didn't even make the first draft. I think I can do it when we get to the year that edition was released, which is 2005 I think.

Following.

I havent really listened to any of his stuff besides The Gentle Storm which I loved so I purchased the new Blu-Ray since I love watching concerts, but haven't had time to watch it yet.

The Theater Equation? This isn't your usual concert at all, but it's great nonetheless.



So guys, how about September 21st, Wednesday, 7 P.M. GMT for The Final Experiment listening session? I know Train will be able to join, and probably Scorp too, judging by his post earlier in this thread. Anyone else?

If you missed what it's about, here's the post by Train explaining the whole thing:

The idea is that Ruslan would have the album play through his TeamSpeak and the rest of the guys in the chat could comment along the way (most likely by typing since speaking could kinda ruin the album experiencce). Obviously with all the different timezones it's not going to be easy to please everyone. Right now we're thinking the best option we have is to do it around this time of the day, which means the Europeans would probably be home from work/school, for the rest of you it would be a bit harder to adapt, but maybe some have a day off or work evening/nightjobs or whatever.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: cramx3 on September 19, 2016, 10:01:32 AM
Following.

I havent really listened to any of his stuff besides The Gentle Storm which I loved so I purchased the new Blu-Ray since I love watching concerts, but haven't had time to watch it yet.

The Theater Equation? This isn't your usual concert at all, but it's great nonetheless.

Yup, I understand that.  Part of why I went for that instead of just buying an album. 
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Mosh on September 19, 2016, 10:23:38 AM
I might actually be able to participate in the teamspeak thing. I have to be somewhere later but I should have time for the album.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Evermind on September 19, 2016, 12:57:19 PM
I might actually be able to participate in the teamspeak thing. I have to be somewhere later but I should have time for the album.

Sounds great!

I'll write the tutorial of how to download and use Teamspeak to join the listening session, in case anyone needs it. I'll probably post it tomorrow together with guidelines of how the session is going to happen.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Tomislav95 on September 19, 2016, 01:08:06 PM
It's 9 PM my time so I'll probably join if I'm home.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Scorpion on September 19, 2016, 01:10:10 PM
Yeah, I'm in for this. That's 8 P.M., my time, so that should work pretty well.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Tomislav95 on September 19, 2016, 02:49:26 PM
Anyone else think first half of The Banishment sounds like something off The Who's Quadrophenia, especially vocal melodies?
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Evermind on September 20, 2016, 12:46:53 PM
Anyone else think first half of The Banishment sounds like something off The Who's Quadrophenia, especially vocal melodies?

It kind of does now that you say it, but I didn't catch it before I saw your post.

We've tested the sound with Train right now, and it's absolutely not as perfect as he said earlier. The listening is still scheduled for tomorrow evening, but there are some tests to be made (or otherwise you'll be listening to the album in like 128 kbps or something). I'm testing the things now so the tutorial might wait for tomorrow. We'll see how it goes.

Tomislav, if you're reading this, check your PMs.

Okay, scratch this, I've got this. Much better quality now. The tutorial is coming up in an hour.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. TFE Listening Session - Sept 21st, 7 PM GMT
Post by: Evermind on September 20, 2016, 01:58:42 PM
The Final Experiment listening session - Wednesday, September 21st, 7 P.M. GMT!

Since some of you guys asked for these listening sessions, we decided to deliver! I'm honestly not sure how this will go over, but you never know until you try, so here we go.

The listening session will take place in Teamspeak 3. I can't provide you the absolutely clear CD-quality sound since there is compression on the Teamspeak channels (and server with a proper codec for streaming music costs money, I guess; while our server was never intended for that), but I think I've found a combination of settings that will allow you guys to hear the music in decent quality. And if you like what you're hearing, you should  support the artist and buy the album.

For those who aren't familiar with Teamspeak 3, here's what you should do:

1. Get the latest Teamspeak 3.0.19.4 version from here (https://www.teamspeak.com/downloads). Pick the link you need depending on your OS.

2. Install the client. Follow the instructions inside the installing manager.

3. Launch the client. Connect to the server via Connections -> Connect. Put the following address and your own nickname into the respective fields:

(http://i.imgur.com/bu0MCsZ.jpg)

(here's the address for you to copy)
ts3server://ts1.voice-server.ru?port=10370&password=01011

This link contains the one-time password which will work for the next 36 hours. This should allow you to enter our Teamspeak 3 Server. You will be automatically placed in Default Channel. From here, you can also access Open Channel 1 and Open Channel 2 if you need to.

(http://i.imgur.com/4OldhOX.jpg)

Default and Open Channels are the only ones you can enter, the other ones require passwords to enter. The actual listening will be happening in "Arjen Lucassen Listening Sessions" channel (duh). I will drag everyone from Default / Open Channels in there. In case someone will join in just to troll us (which I doubt, but it never hurts to be careful), I will be able to kick the person from that channel and they won't be able to join back.

4. When you're in Teamspeak and in the right channel (or not), be sure to check some of your settings:

- "Settings" -> "Playback" -> Playback Device should be showing your preferred playback device, like speakers or headphones or whatever.

- "Settings" -> "Capture" -> Capture Device should be showing your microphone if you want to talk with people before and after the listening. Be sure to either use "Push to Talk" option which requires you to push the button of your choice to be able to talk, or "Voice Activation Detection" which will automatically react at any noise you made and put your mic on depending on the level of noise.

- Note that you won't be able to talk during the listening itself. We will be able to voice-chat before and after the listening, but to avoid the interruptions, every interaction during the listening should take place in the text-chat. You should mute your microphone for that time just in case.

- I recommend to disable any voice notifications (like the ones that alert you when anyone joins your channel) via "Settings" -> "Notifications" -> pick Sounds Deactivated option.

5. Please note that since it's an extention of the project I'm doing on DTF, most of the rules used on DTF apply. If you're going to criticize the band, try to do it politely, or you'll break my tender heart or something. I mean, just don't go all "hell, this sucks" on me. I won't appreciate that.

6. Despite the session beginning at 7 P.M., I will be in Teamspeak from 6 P.M. onwards. If you want to test your equipment and anything else, I'll be there and I'll be glad to help you.

7. Bring some drinks or whatever. Keep in mind there will be no pauses in listening for full 70 minutes, so you might want to plan for that in advance.

8. Discuss things in chat and have fun!

(Surely I forgot something but it's already 11 P.M. here and it's getting more difficult to write this with each passing second, so that's it for now.)
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. TFE Listening Session - Sept 21st, 7 PM GMT
Post by: Train of Naught on September 20, 2016, 02:26:46 PM
Just remembered that back when we were on teamspeak the other day, even if I didn't hold the press-to-talk key, while you couldn't hear me speak, you were still able to hear my keyboard.

That might be an issue when we're doing a full 70 minute listen because surely I'm going to be typing at some point. Guess we'll figure this out tomorrow before the listening session though.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. TFE Listening Session - Sept 21st, 7 PM GMT
Post by: Cyclopssss on September 21, 2016, 01:55:39 AM
Seems like fun. If I can get everything to work I'll probably will be joining you guys. Thanks for setting this up, Evermind.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. TFE Listening Session - Sept 21st, 7 PM GMT
Post by: Parama on September 21, 2016, 02:06:52 AM
haha 7 PM GMT I'm gonna be at work anyways so oh well  :lol
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. TFE Listening Session - Sept 21st, 7 PM GMT
Post by: Bolsters on September 21, 2016, 02:26:04 AM
Just remembered that back when we were on teamspeak the other day, even if I didn't hold the press-to-talk key, while you couldn't hear me speak, you were still able to hear my keyboard.
I haven't used it in a few years, but is it possible to have push-to-talk and voice detection enabled simultaneously? Maybe voice detection is on and too sensitive, so it turns the mic on when you type.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. TFE Listening Session - Sept 21st, 7 PM GMT
Post by: Train of Naught on September 21, 2016, 09:24:56 AM
I'll check it out later and test it with Evermiño before we start things up.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. TFE Listening Session - Sept 21st, 7 PM GMT
Post by: Cyclopssss on September 21, 2016, 10:13:17 AM
Alright, I'm in teamspeak and testing but I can't see the channel.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. TFE Listening Session - Sept 21st, 7 PM GMT
Post by: Evermind on September 21, 2016, 10:24:48 AM
That's because I suck at Teamspeak. :lol

The channel is back.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. TFE Listening Session - Sept 21st, 7 PM GMT
Post by: Train of Naught on September 21, 2016, 12:20:35 PM
Don't know what's going on but I'm losing connection every other minute or something. My internet connection is fine though..

can't we do this shit through skype or something? :lol
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. TFE Listening Session - Sept 21st, 7 PM GMT
Post by: Evermind on September 21, 2016, 12:50:26 PM
Okay, since Train keeps disconnecting from the Teamspeak, we decided to hold this thing on Skype instead. I'm still sitting in Teamspeak, so if you're going to join, join the Teamspeak and we'll add you on Skype and so on.

Or maybe not, Train seems to be doing fine right now.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. TFE Listening Session - Sept 21st, 7 PM GMT
Post by: Train of Naught on September 21, 2016, 01:10:38 PM
No I'm not.

It's because you stopped playing Native Construct, that was the only thing to keep my connection alive
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. TFE Listening Session - Sept 21st, 7 PM GMT
Post by: Scorpion on September 21, 2016, 01:13:51 PM
This is such a clusterfuck.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. TFE Listening Session - Sept 21st, 7 PM GMT
Post by: Evermind on September 21, 2016, 01:23:44 PM
:lol

We found a solution though. I'm still in TS if anyone wants to join, starting in 5 minutes.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. TFE Listening Session - Sept 21st, 7 PM GMT
Post by: Scorpion on September 21, 2016, 02:41:45 PM
After initial problems, this was a lot of fun! Not a bad album, but probably not something that I'll see myself coming back to too much. I'd give it a 6/10, it'd be higher if the synths weren't so a) omnipresent and b) terrible.

Also, it would at least be a 7.5/10 if the growls in The Banishment weren't the worst growls that I have ever heard.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Train of Naught on September 21, 2016, 03:07:47 PM
Yeah, despite nothing on the album really standing out in a good way, the listening experience was really fun with a live chat.

never listening to The Banishment ever again though
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Evermind on September 21, 2016, 03:14:04 PM
Yeah, that was a lot of fun. The comments really made the listening much more alive. :lol
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Train of Naught on September 21, 2016, 03:53:18 PM
So the next one is on Monday right?

I like the commenting through tinychat during the album, we should keep doing that. But maybe it would be fun to use voice-chat for like a post-album discussion or something for the next one. Thoughts?

If my teamspeak keeps fucking up that'll have to go through skype though
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Shadow Ninja 2.0 on September 21, 2016, 04:00:34 PM
Hey guys, sorry I wasn't there; I had class. I'll definitely try to be there for the next one though!
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Cyclopssss on September 22, 2016, 01:16:59 AM
Yeah sorry guys, had to bail after something came up at home. I was under the impression the whole thing would happen one or two hours earlier so I'd made my planning on that. Turned out it took a while longer before things got going. Perhaps next time I'll have more time. Glad things turned out well in the end though.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Tomislav95 on September 22, 2016, 01:54:33 AM
Forgot to comment here: yep, this was really fun :tup
And I really liked the album, it's pretty good considering it's first Ayreon album. 
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Evermind on September 23, 2016, 08:04:20 AM
I'm going away for the weekend (leaving home in a few minutes). The next writeup is being edited, so I hope I'll be able to post it on Sunday if everything goes fine. With that in mind, we're aiming at Monday, September 26th, 7 P.M. GMT for the next listening session.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Like a rising star, the dream is coming...
Post by: Cool Chris on September 23, 2016, 09:09:51 PM
I only have the Timeline CD set, but I really like it! I have listened to most of the other albums via Spotify, but never bothered buying any of them. I will look forward to your write-ups!
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: Evermind on September 25, 2016, 09:37:02 AM
This isn't one of my favourite writeups—I've struggled to get it done, actually—but at least it's something.



Actual Fantasy (1996)


(http://img2-ak.lst.fm/i/u/ar0/bb4246b1a04c42bca2de9e980563c088)


Release date: October 23rd, 1996
Length: 54:29 (65:44 for 1998 reissue version)


Tracklist:

1. Actual Fantasy
2. Abbey of Synn
3. The Stranger from Within
4. Computer Eyes
5. Beyond the Last Horizon
6. Farside of the World
7. Back on Planet Earth
8. Forevermore
9. The Dawn of Man (1998 reissue only)
10. The Stranger from Within (Single Version) (1998 reissue only)

Personnel:

Arjen Anthony Lucassen – production and all instruments not mentioned in the section below
Oscar Holleman – mixing and engineering

Vocalists:

Okkie Huysdens
Edward Reekers (Kayak)
Robert Soeterboek (Cotton Soeterboek Band)
David Bachwitz as ‘little boy’ on "Actual Fantasy"
Kiki Holleman as ‘baby’ on "Forevermore"

Musicians

Cleem Determeijer - synth solo on "The Stranger from Within"  and "Computer Eyes"; orchestral and string arrangements on "Actual Fantasy", "The Stranger from Within", "Back on Planet Earth" and "Forevermore"
Rene Merkelbach – Hammond organ, synth solo on "Abbey of Synn"



Sit back and relax
Crawl into the maze
Within your mind
Leave it all behind
Now allow yourself to
Slide into a world
As real as you want it to be
Actual fantasy


Actual Fantasy is one of those albums that most people who are familiar with Ayreon haven’t even listened to, or at most tried once or twice. It's certainly a unique Ayreon record, and, perhaps, not in a good way. It has the least amount of singers and instrumentalists involved. It is the only Ayreon album that doesn’t feature any conceptual story. It is the worst-selling Ayreon record to date, and it’s also the shortest. Let’s go back in 1996 and see how it happened.

History / Background

The Final Experiment was a definite success, and Hans van Vuuren—the record label head who had agreed to tackle the release of the debut album—asked Arjen to do another record. Arjen, despite having been convinced to use the Ayreon moniker, still insisted that he wouldn’t do another rock opera; therefore, he opted to create something different. Arjen decided that this time there would be no story weaved throughout the album. He insisted on using the vocals as an instrument, just like any other, with fixed melodies and steady rhythms. He invited way fewer guests on the album than he had before; only three singers and two guest keyboardists—he played the rest of instruments himself. There was no real drummer, either—the drums were all programmed, which Arjen thought was a nice contrast with the fantasy theme running through this record. He basically decided to make the album almost entirely by himself, thinking it would sell just fine based on success of The Final Experiment. In retrospect, he admits this decision was a bit arrogant.

The album didn’t take a lot of time to be recorded, mixed and mastered. It was released only a year after The Final Experiment, and the sales turned out to be considerably lower. Later, Arjen mentioned that he hoped to inspire people to once again use their own imagination, fantasies and ideas with this album, but, apparently, his intentions didn’t quite live up to reality. Perhaps people went into it expecting another rock opera in the vein of the debut. Perhaps people expected a more organic sound—Actual Fantasy ended up being a synth-heavy, vocoder-heavy album—a sound that can be seen as the opposite of inspiration for any fantasies and ideas. Perhaps the songs weren’t up to par with everyone’s expectations. Or maybe it was a combination of all these factors. All in all, the album wasn’t quite a failure—the sales were still enough to cover the expenses and be profitable—especially since the album ended up being a lot cheaper without a drummer and only a few musicians on board. Yet it wasn’t anywhere close to The Final Experiment’s level of success.

However, it doesn’t mean there aren’t some hidden, overlooked gems on this album.

Plot

As mentioned before, there isn’t a continuous story on this record. Instead, each song is based on a separate story, some taken from the movies, some invented by Arjen himself. In order not to bloat this section, I’ll provide a few interesting examples here, and you can find full descriptions of each song in the booklet. I’ll also talk about them at the next listening session.

So, Abbey of Synn is based on a 1986 movie called Name of the Rose, which is in turn based on a novel by Umberto Eco. The events take place in a monastery where laughter is forbidden. The monks die in strange circumstances day by day, and soon they find a comedy book written by Aristotle, which all the victims apparently were reading. It is revealed that the book’s pages are poisoned, and licking a finger to turn the page proves fatal.

Beyond the Last Horizon is based on a story Arjen came up with during the last few days of his father’s life. The story is set in Middle Ages, during the crusades. One of the crusaders is ambushed and killed, and he sees a light at the end of a long road on the horizon. He proudly rides towards the light to find out what awaits him beyond it, but beyond this last horizon is nothing but death. He realizes this in time to gather his last strength and fight his way back to life.

Back on Planet Earth is based on another one of Arjen’s stories. This story details a young boy’s life on a space station in the future. Emotion is a thing of the past, but the boy overhears some older residents of the station speaking of that past, a time when humans lived on planet Earth. Using a computer on board the station, he seeks out information on Earth. What he finds is a chronicle of all the beautiful features found there, but also the turbulent and war-torn history that led to Earth's destruction, and forced humans to move to space to survive. Viewing how people once lived, with laughter and other emotional responses, the boy concludes he would have rather stayed and died on Earth, than live out life on the cold, unfeeling space station. You should remember that there were no plans about the overarching Ayreon story at this time, so this song doesn’t necessarily refer to anything related to it. However, Arjen himself admitted this song must have influenced him to write one particular song—I won’t say which one in case you’re unfamiliar with it yet—from one of the later Ayreon albums, The Dream Sequencer.

Music
 
As I mentioned in a few paragraphs above, the music on this album is consistently synthesizer-heavy. Now, all Ayreon albums are synthesizer-heavy, but Actual Fantasy is also very dark and computer-sounding. The programmed drums also do their share to make the sound even colder. The use of the distorted vocals here and there adds to that, too, and since the melodies for all singers were fixed and allowed no improvisation, they sound quite lifeless in some songs. Distorted vocals are an interesting subject here. Later, after Into the Electric Castle was released. Arjen would say he avoided distorting anyone’s voice without their agreement. During the Actual Fantasy mixing and mastering, however, Arjen applied some distortion to Edward Reekers’ voice, and while the singer didn’t say anything, Arjen later stated that he felt Edward didn’t particularly like it.

To ensure a diversity of atmosphere Arjen invited three singers to perform on this album. Edward Reekers was invited for the melodic parts, as you can hear on the quiet beginning of Abbey of Synn, and the choruses on Computer Eyes and Beyond the Last Horizon. Robert Soeterbroek was hired for powerful and low vocal parts—the rhythmic verses of Beyond the Last Horizon, which sound almost like guitar riffs, are the best example. Okkie Huysdens was picked for the choral passages and some ad libs. His most noticeable parts are the verses on Abbey of Synn and The Stranger from Within.

The resulting sound was certainly way different from The Final Experiment.

Actual Fantasy Revisited

When Arjen switched to InsideOut label—more on that later—the reissues of all previous Ayreon albums were released. This provided a perfect chance to revisit and promote Actual Fantasy, which was still the worst-selling album in the Ayreon discography. Arjen wanted to mix the album in 5.1—which was rather difficult, since eight years later some of the original recorded parts were missing—and he wanted to use real drums now. Ed Warby, who will appear in our write-ups soon enough, agreed to do the job. Funnily enough, he recalls mentioning that Actual Fantasy needed real drums from the beginning, even before he became friends with Arjen.

The songs from this revisited version also underwent some tweaks here and there. The real flute by Ewa Albering was added to the intro track instead of a sample one, and there were some ad libs inserted into several songs.

My Thoughts

If you’ve read it this far, you can probably guess my thoughts about this album. This is my least favourite Ayreon album by a mile, and, therefore, this write-up was way more difficult and demanding to write than The Final Experiment one. It’s not easy to write about the music you don’t like and still come up with something constructive and engaging.

I think the absence of continuous story hurts this album, but it’s not the biggest issue it has, not by far. My main complaint is about the music, which is too electronic and too cold for my taste. There are only a few memorable vocal melodies. Most of the songs just trudge along with vocal melodies that sound not unlike those synths supporting them. There are some great parts, like the choruses in Abbey of Synn and Beyond the Last Horizon, and there are some enjoyable keyboard and guitar solos. Back on Planet Earth is solid all the way through in most aspects, but it loses me with those vocoder-edited vocals. I also felt the lyrics on Actual Fantasy were especially unimpressive by Arjen’s standards. I think the fact he made this album less than in a year might influenced all this too.

I’ve recently bought the revisited edition of this record, mostly because I wanted to complete my collection. The real drums indeed sound better than the drum machine, but overall, my opinion on the album didn’t significantly rise as a result of the revisited version. Arjen says he still thinks it’s a great album after all these years, but, honestly, I would’ve been surprised if he said otherwise. As for me, I like this album for what it is. Arjen tried to do something that wasn’t obvious at that time, and he succeeded in doing that. And yet, in my opinion, he failed to write a good album. The intentions matter, but the music matters more, and with Actual Fantasy, the music is a big miss for me.

Don’t let this opinion discourage you, though. Listen for yourself and let us know your own thoughts about this record.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: Train of Naught on September 25, 2016, 09:52:52 AM
Okay.. I'm going into the listening session tomorrow completely blind again, but "synth-heavy" tells me I will not be enjoying this one too much, judging from the synths on that other album. :lol

I guess this one not being as long is a massive perk though
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: Cyclopssss on September 25, 2016, 10:30:18 AM
Funny, this is actually one of my favourite Ayreon albums.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: Tomislav95 on September 25, 2016, 10:39:55 AM
I will try my best to listen to this this evening. And I believe I will be able to join listening session tomorrow. 
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: Evermind on September 25, 2016, 10:44:03 AM
Funny, this is actually one of my favourite Ayreon albums.

Yeah, it's funny how that works. I'm glad someone actually loves this album, but for me, it just pales in comparison with other Ayreon albums, which are all at least good or great.

I'll post the listening session announcement in an hour or two.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: Evermind on September 25, 2016, 02:04:58 PM
Actual Fantasy listening session - Monday, September 26th, 7 P.M. GMT!

We're hosting a listening session for this album too! We'll gather in Teamspeak around that time, so feel free to join us using the instructions in the previous listening session post. The previous one-time password link won't work, however - I'll post the new one tomorrow, or maybe one of the people I've sent it through Skype will post it here.

We're aiming at pre-listening and post-listening Teamspeak discussion, the actual album listening and a few other things too. Bring some drinks and get ready to have fun!

Link:

ts3server://ts1.voice-server.ru?port=10370&password=54879
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: Cruithne on September 26, 2016, 02:33:42 AM
Funny, this is actually one of my favourite Ayreon albums.

Same here. And I really disliked the version with the re-recorded drums - I like how the original sounds.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: Cyclopssss on September 26, 2016, 06:12:21 AM
What I loved about Actual Fantasy is the use of the vocals on the albums. There's a certain warmth in them, especially from Edward Reekers and Okkie Huysdens. Actual Fantasy, Abbey of Sins and especially the chorus of into the last horizon make this album really special for me. I admit that I like the first half of the album more then the later half, it drags a bit from there. I actually like the re-recorded version better then the Original, but it's fun to compare the two as there are plenty of differences. A lot of songs from this album would form the basis for the Ambeon album, Fate of a dreamer.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: home on September 26, 2016, 08:05:17 AM
I might join in the listening session, seems like fun! I have listened a lot to Ayreon a few years ago, I just love the Human Equation The Theory of Everything but I don't think I've actually heard Actual Fantasy yet.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: Evermind on September 26, 2016, 10:05:16 AM
What I loved about Actual Fantasy is the use of the vocals on the albums. There's a certain warmth in them, especially from Edward Reekers and Okkie Huysdens. Actual Fantasy, Abbey of Sins and especially the chorus of into the last horizon make this album really special for me. I admit that I like the first half of the album more then the later half, it drags a bit from there. I actually like the re-recorded version better then the Original, but it's fun to compare the two as there are plenty of differences. A lot of songs from this album would form the basis for the Ambeon album, Fate of a dreamer.

Yeah, we'll cover Ambeon in this thread too!

Regarding the vocals, true, Edward's voice sounds warm and inviting whenever it isn't distorted. The chorus on Beyond the Last Horizon is the best example I think, could be my favourite moment from the album. I'm not a fan of Okkie's vocals though.

Also, the link for Teamspeak is:

ts3server://ts1.voice-server.ru?port=10370&password=54879
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. AF Listening Session - Sept 26th, 7 PM GMT
Post by: home on September 26, 2016, 12:53:31 PM
I won't be able to join, sorry  :-\ Hopefully I can join you guys the next listening session
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. AF Listening Session - Sept 26th, 7 PM GMT
Post by: Elite on September 26, 2016, 02:34:15 PM
^ I know I'm way too late, but how does that link even work?
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. AF Listening Session - Sept 26th, 7 PM GMT
Post by: Evermind on September 26, 2016, 02:37:34 PM
^ I know I'm way too late, but how does that link even work?

Yeah, I think it worked. The instructions were in the previous listening session post. Five or six people were able to join.

It should work now too. Try it, if it doesn't, we can try to fix it.

Edit: I've misread your post as "does this link even work?" :facepalm: Anyway, the instructions were in the previous listening session post, so there's that. I'll be sure to link it next time.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: Train of Naught on September 28, 2016, 07:08:06 AM
I'll keep it short but I guess I kinda promised to comment about the album in the chat the other day.

As the person least familiar with Ayreon out of all the people in the listening session I guess it doesn't come as a big surprise that I wasn't blown away. And while I thought it was overall a little more consistent than The Final Experiment I probably wouldn't rate any of them anywhere near 01001010101010101 which is the only one I've actually kinda enjoyed so far apart from Guilt Machine.

Final Experiment had some daring moments, probably went a bit too crazy with some of those ideas but hey, I bet Arjen learned and improved from that. Actual Fantasy was meandering a bit too much near the end but had some good moments, mainly some of the guitar solos. Still waiting to be blown away by Ayreon but it might just happen with Into the Electric Castle, who knows.

This has not been said in the thread yet I think, but the next listening session will be hold on the 10th of October. Be there or be square.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: Scorpion on September 28, 2016, 12:54:11 PM
I agree with what Train said, mostly. There was some good stuff and nothing that was outright bad on Actual Fantasy, but what dragged down the album for me massively was the fact that it was super samey throughout. The only songs that I remember good things about are Abbey of Synn and Computer Eyes, which were probably better than anything on TFE. But the rest was just so uninspired and trudging that the album as a whole just felt like a drag to listen to.

I'd give TFE a 6/10 and this a 4.5-5/10. So far, Arjen hasn't impressed me, but I'm looking forward to ItEC to finally do that, I guess.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: 425 on September 28, 2016, 01:50:05 PM
Oh yeah I should probably comment in this thread since I really haven't yet.

I basically agree with Train and Scorp, in that I definitely liked The Final Experiment better and found Actual Fantasy samey, though with some good stuff.

I really liked the ambition of TFE even though some things worked better than others. There were definitely some questionable musical and lyrical choices on that album, but overall there was also a lot of good stuff.

With Actual Fantasy, there was much less ambition and more focus, I guess, on pure songwriting, which wasn't necessarily a good thing, because there were a lot of questionable choices. I felt like almost every song had some good parts, but also had some very weird choice (often having to do with a strange or bad vocal style) that dragged it down. I remember commenting about 80% of the way through Farside of the World, which Evermind had said was one of his least favorites, that I was actually liking the song a fair bit. And no sooner did I say that than the song went into that weird outro instrumental section with the loud fake drums and weird synths.

Overall, both of these albums could use to be revisited to trim out and fix some of the more questionable stuff, but Actual Fantasy is in far more dire need of that. With TFE, it seems like some of that stuff is justified as just an excess in the concept, while AF it just seems like poor songwriting.

TFE: 6.5/10
AF: 4/10
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: MrBoom_shack-a-lack on September 28, 2016, 02:21:30 PM
Computer Eyes is such an awesome song.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: Mosh on September 28, 2016, 08:18:51 PM
This was better than I expected after looking at the cover and reading the write up. Wasn't a masterpiece, but it had some good moments. I enjoy synthy prog metal so I didn't mind that part of it. Not sure if I'd ever go back to this though. This and The Final Experiment were about the same level quality for me.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: Cyclopssss on September 29, 2016, 01:28:31 AM
Well hold on to your socks, folks. Into the Electric Castle was heading in next level territory.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: Tomislav95 on September 29, 2016, 01:54:28 AM
I pretty much liked FE, it is definitely the album I'll come back to. On the other hand, I can't remember much of AF other than Computer Eyes which is awesome.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: Evermind on September 29, 2016, 10:43:42 AM
On the other hand, I can't remember much of AF other than Computer Eyes which is awesome.

What about "I have felt a blade of steel penetrate my armour" though? :D
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: Tomislav95 on September 29, 2016, 12:00:44 PM
On the other hand, I can't remember much of AF other than Computer Eyes which is awesome.

What about "I have felt a blade of steel penetrate my armour" though? :D
:huh:
I find it hard to concentrate while writing blurbs :P
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: Evermind on September 29, 2016, 12:13:02 PM
On the other hand, I can't remember much of AF other than Computer Eyes which is awesome.

What about "I have felt a blade of steel penetrate my armour" though? :D
:huh:
I find it hard to concentrate while writing blurbs :P

Oh, I thought it was you who found it hilarious. Must've been 425 then.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: Tomislav95 on September 29, 2016, 01:18:20 PM
I wouldn't forget it if there was penetration involved :zydarscouch:
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Laughter kills the fear within
Post by: 425 on September 30, 2016, 06:43:04 PM
It was me, I thought that was a fantastic line.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
Post by: Evermind on October 07, 2016, 07:29:25 AM
Up from the second page we go. I know these are taking longer than I'd (and perhaps you guys) like to.



Into the Electric Castle (1998)


(http://new.1000plastinok.net/bigcovers/39100.jpeg)


Release date: October 31st, 1998
Length: 104:47


Tracklist:

Disc 1:

1. Welcome to the New Dimension
2. Isis and Osiris
     I. Let the Journey Begin
     II. The Hall of Isis and Osiris
     III. Strange Constellations
     IV. Reprise
3. Amazing Flight
     I. Amazing Flight in Space
     II. Stardance
     III. Flying Colours
4. Time Beyond Time
5. The Decision Tree (We’re Alive)
6. Tunnel of Light
7. Across the Rainbow Bridge

Disc 2:

1. The Garden of Emotions
     I. All in the Garden of Emotions
     II. Voices in the Sky
     III. The Aggression Factor
2. Valley of the Queens
3. The Castle Hall
4. Tower of Hope
5. Cosmic Fusion
     I. I Soar on the Breeze
     II. Death’s Grunt
     III. The Passing of an Eagle
6. The Mirror Maze
     I. Inside the Mirror Maze
     II. Through the Mirror
7. Evil Devolution
8. The Two Gates
9. “Forever” of the Stars
10. Another Time, Another Space

Personnel:

Arjen Anthony Lucassen — production and all instruments not mentioned in the section below
Oscar Holleman — mixing and sound engineering
Peter van 't Riet — mastering
Jef Bertels — artwork
John van den Oetelaar — layout and image handling

Vocalists:

Peter Daltrey (Kaleidoscope) — The Voice
Fish (ex-Marillion) — Highlander
Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation) — Indian
Damian Wilson (Headspace, Threshold) — Knight
Edwin Balogh (ex-Omega) — Roman
Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering) — Egyptian
Jay van Feggelen (Bodine) — Barbarian
Arjen Anthony Lucassen — Hippie
Edward Reekers (Kayak) — Futureman
Robert Westerholt (Within Temptation) and George Oosthoek (ex-Orphanage) — Death

Musicians

Ed Warby (Gorefest) — drums
Robby Valentine — all pianos, synth solos on “Let the Journey Begin”, “Amazing Flight in Space” and “Tower of Hope”, mellotron on “Inside the Mirror Maze”
Clive Nolan (Arena) — synth solos on “Flying Colours”
Rene Merkelbach — synth solos on “The Decision Tree (We’re Alive)” and “Evil Devolution”, harpsichord on “Valley of the Queens”
Ton Scherpenzeel (Kayak) — synth solos on “The Passing of an Eagle”
Roland Bakker (Vengeance) — all Hammonds
Thijs van Leer (Focus) — flute on “Flying Colours”, “Time Beyond Time”, “Valley of the Queens” and “The Castle Hall”
Ernő Oláh — violins
Taco Kooistra — celli
Jack Pisters — sitar



Welcome! You have entered the cranial vistas of psychogenesis. This is the place of no-time and no-space. Do not be afraid for I am merely the vocal manifestation of your eternal dreams. I am as water, as air—like breath itself. Do not be afraid.

Look around, but linger not. Where I lead you will follow. Mark these words well. Ignite my anger with your delay and punishments will come your way.

You are eight souls of the flesh, chosen from different eras ancient and modern. The trivia of your mortal lives is unimportant to me... Indeed, some may die...

You have a task: to release yourselves from this Web of Wisdom, this knotted Maze of Delirium, you must enter the nuclear portals of the Electric Castle!


Nuclear portals of the Electric Castle, how’s that for you?

All the progressive bands and artists that are famous around the world usually have an album in their discography that is considered to be their “breakthrough” album. It’s that record that garnered them worldwide fame, the record that put them on the world map of progressive music, that brought them to the level of the most successful and famous projects. Images and Words by Dream Theater is, perhaps, the most relevant example of a breakthrough album for a band. Well, I’m sure I won’t be far off the mark when I say Into the Electric Castle is exactly this kind of album for Ayreon. You may love it, or you may be ambivalent toward it (as I am), or you may think it’s a bad parody of 70s progressive rock, but there’s no denying this album was what finally settled any doubts about Arjen’s credibility as a musician. This is when it became clear; when it comes to the world’s progressive scene, Arjen Lucassen is a person to be reckoned with.

History / Background

Actual Fantasy didn’t sell all that well, especially compared to The Final Experiment. Both the label and Arjen himself were rightly concerned about that. At this point, Arjen realized he had to come up with a perfect album to ensure his musical career would continue. He couldn’t allow himself to release another album that would flop commercially—that would mean the end for Ayreon. This is why the new album—which would turn out to be Into the Electric Castle—was almost like a reaction to Actual Fantasy. Arjen deduced that people didn’t like the lack of continuous story and the lack of concept, so he aimed at writing a huge rock opera. He guessed that people wanted to see more famous guests on the record, so he went out of his way to contact several stars from the progressive rock scene of 90s. He came to conclusions that people didn’t like the cold, mechanical, computerized sound on his previous album, so he ensured that the new record would sound as warm and honest as possible, with real drums and other, more eclectic instruments instead of samples. He also allowed the singers to come up with their own melodies and lyrics if they wanted, not adhering strictly to what Arjen had written for them.

Right before Arjen started writing music for Into the Electric Castle, he moved to another house, which was in the final stages of renovation. There were the renovation workers around all the time, so Arjen stayed in his own room writing music—he didn’t feel like wandering around humming the music while the workers were doing all the tough jobs. And so he spent hours and days in his room, writing, and the ideas just kept coming and coming until he realized it would definitely be a double album this time. First, he came up with all the music, without a definite story or any lyrics. He did have the vocal melodies written, too—a few different versions for each song to see which would work out better with the singers.

Now that Arjen had the music and vocal melodies written, it was time to finalize the story, settle on the list of singers, come up with the characters and write lyrics for their respective parts.

Singers and musicians / Choosing the characters

Arjen spent about three months developing the story and bringing it to life. From the very beginning, he wanted the story to feature a number of characters together in a particular situation, but he kept changing and altering the exact details all the time. He worked on a story about the seven seas before arriving at the final version of the album's plot. He didn’t know which characters he would create—he had some vague ideas, but it was also up to the singers. Arjen offered them his ideas, and if they weren’t content with the role they were handed, it was up for discussion. Arjen didn’t want the plot to be taken too seriously, especially after people began comparing the minstrel Ayreon from The Final Experiment to Christ. He wanted to create a somewhat serious story with exaggerated stereotypes as characters, which he explained to all singers in advance.

Some characters and singers ended up exactly as Arjen envisioned. He wanted to cast Anneke van Giersbergen as the lead female character from the beginning, and he imagined her as someone like an Egyptian. Anneke didn’t agree at first—she didn’t think participating in side projects would go over well with her band, The Gathering—but Arjen kept pestering her, and, finally, she relented—with the condition that her role would be a minor one. Arjen was also able to get Damian Wilson on board, and, apparently because Wilson is British, Arjen handed him the role of Knight of the Round Table—very loosely connecting the story to The Final Experiment. Once again, Arjen invited Edward Reekers to play a role, and since Arjen saw him as a bit of know-it-all guy, he ended up portraying Futureman: the most educated and science-savvy character in the story.

Some other characters weren’t created that smoothly. Actually, some characters weren’t planned at all. Arjen didn’t plan on inviting Edwin Balogh at all, but Edwin wanted to sing on the album so much that he eventually came to Arjen’s studio, grabbed a guitar and started to sing his lungs out, covering some well-known songs. Arjen was impressed and made a character for him. As it turned out, Edwin was interested in Roman history, so the choice was easy enough. Originally, Arjen didn’t plan on getting two female singers, either, but after reading the interview in Aardschok magazine in which Sharon den Adel said that Arjen was one of her main influences in music, he decided to see Within Temptation live. He met with the band backstage and Sharon said she would be glad to participate in another of Arjen’s rock operas if the opportunity arose. Her voice was different enough from Anneke for Arjen’s purposes, so he opted to include two lead female singers on Into the Electric Castle, picking an Indian character for Sharon.

Arjen was also able to get Fish on board to sing a few songs; so, naturally, he created a Highlander character for him. Arjen had to fly to Scotland to Fish’s own studio to record three songs with him. He recalls that Fish drank four bottles of wine while recording his vocal parts, but still didn’t miss a note, delivered his lines with the Scottish accent Arjen was hoping for, and also wrote his own lyrics. Arjen explained to him that he was supposed to portray a cowardly Highlander; Fish was nearly offended and retorted that there’s no such thing as a cowardly Highlander—his character was just tired of fighting. Another person who wrote his own lyrics was Jay van Feggelen. Arjen had imagined him as a gangster, but Jay was a huge fan of Conan the Barbarian, so he ended up with a Barbarian character instead.

Last but not least, there was a lot of confusion around the role of Hippie. Originally, Arjen asked Donovan to perform the role; Donovan responded by advising Arjen to ask Jon Anderson, which didn’t work out. Then Arjen found another singer, Mouse from the Dutch band Tuesday Child. Mouse had doubts about the symphonic nature of the record, but he recorded his parts. Then, a few weeks later, Arjen called him and revealed who else would be singing and performing on this record. In the interviews that followed the album’s release, Arjen said he assumed that when Mouse’s manager got this information, he suggested Mouse should ask for something more. When Arjen received the contract from Mouse, there were some additional clauses and restrictions that hadn’t been discussed before. Arjen paid Mouse his money, rejected the contract and recorded all the vocals himself the same night. Mouse called Arjen a week later and apologized for the incident; they reconciled and later Arjen asked him to perform on his next album.

Some other notable contributions are also worth covering. Arjen almost got Ian Anderson to play flute on the album, but at the last moment it didn’t work out. Instead, Arjen invited Thijs van Leer from Focus. This album also marks the first time Arjen collaborated with Ed Warby, a drummer from Gorefest, who would go on to play on many Ayreon albums to follow. Arjen was also able to get more famous musicians on board, like Clive Nolan—who complained that his part on the album was relatively small—and Tom Scherpenzeel from Kayak—who insisted that soloing really wasn’t his specialty, but went ahead and performed his solo anyway.

Now that the characters and musicians were set, Arjen just had to write the lyrics and bring the whole story to life…

Plot

These eight characters from different eras and different countries—Highlander, Indian, Knight, Roman, Egyptian, Barbarian, Hippie and Futureman—find themselves in a place they can’t recognize. A disembodied voice greets them from the sky, explaining that they have to find the Electric Castle and enter the portal there to come back to their usual lives (Welcome to the New Dimension). The characters interpret this according to their own beliefs, myths and superstitions. Highlander believes he has died and is now in hell to pay for his sins, Knight thinks he’s on a quest to find the Holy Grail, Hippie thinks he’s tripping on some drug and the whole thing is a hallucination, and all the while Futureman is trying to find a scientific explanation for the situation. Arguing over this peculiar turn of events, they get acquainted with one another (Isis and Osiris, Amazing Flight, Time Beyond Time).

Soon enough, they have to face their first trial (The Decision Tree (We’re Alive)). The team has to pick one of them to die, for only seven people may continue further. Barbarian and Highlander break into an argument. Highlander, convinced he has died anyway, accepts his fate and stays behind (Tunnel of Light). With seven people left, the party continues Across the Rainbow Bridge and comes to the foot of the Electric Castle, passing through The Garden of Emotions. The emotions overload them, and while for Hippie (who is under the influence of drugs most of the time) it’s just another day, Egyptian is overwhelmed by the sudden rush of emotions and becomes convinced Amon-Ra came to take her soul away. Meanwhile, Roman and Barbarian get into a fight about who should lead their small team. Influenced by the heightened emotions of anger and rage, they both threaten to kill each other, while Futureman, who is, apparently, the only one who understands what’s going on, tries to reason with them. Egyptian is left behind to die (Valley of the Queens).

The party finally reaches the Electric Castle. They enter The Castle Hall, where spirits attack those who have killed before. Both Barbarian and Knight struggle to retain their consciousness—it is possible that some of their victims ended up here in the spirit form. Then the team climbs The Tower of Hope, where they can see a thousand possible futures, that reflect their own desires and dreams. The Indian joins the strange breeze on top of the tower, drawn towards the sun. Roman and Futureman both try to stop her, warning her about the recklessness of this and asking her not to give in, but to no avail. The Indian encounters Death on that breeze and passes away with a scream (Cosmic Fusion).

The team—with only five people left now—continues into The Mirror Maze, where they’re forced to reflect on themselves, their fears and their forgotten memories of the past. Futureman passes through it with a certain ease, but his mind is occupied with the possibility that computers have developed too far and will soon overpower mankind—he’s convinced the voice that guides them is some kind of a computer program, a machine (Evil Devolution). Finally, the party reaches their point of destination. They stand before The Two Gates, one of which is golden and new and the other of which is plain and old. The voice tells them that one of the gates will bring them back to their worlds, and another one leads to oblivion. Without a second thought, Barbarian strides to the golden gate and proudly walks through it. Naturally, he fades into oblivion.

The voice reveals itself and tells the remaining four people that he’s “of the stars” and he’s called “Forever”. They’ve an alien race, developed to the point where they’ve lost all their emotions and are living through machines. They’ve vanquished the dinosaurs and planted people on Earth in order to experience the emotions through them, to feel, to at least partially get back what was lost. This whole thing with eight people and the Electric Castle was an experiment—they picked eight people from different eras of history to find out how they’d react to different situations, to see what emotions they’d feel during the trials. The voice tells them they won’t remember anything of this after they walk through the gate (”Forever” of the Stars). Shortly after, all four people—Roman, Knight, Hippie and Futureman—wake up alive in the real world, wondering, but unable quite to place or remember what has happened to them (Another Time, Another Space).
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
Post by: Evermind on October 07, 2016, 07:29:44 AM
Music

Into the Electric Castle features what should be probably called the “trademark Ayreon sound”. While both The Final Experiment and Actual Fantasy showed some traces of it here and there, it’s on this album that Arjen finally found his sound. While blending a lot of his favourite styles seamlessly, he managed to use his favourite synths to an extent that some would call excessive, and also incorporate some of the instruments you don’t usually find in a standard band setup, like flute, violin, cello and sitar. Lots of synths, lots of other eclectic instruments, lots of stylistically different singers, and lots of genres blended together—I think it’s a good description for the Ayreon sound. And of course, don’t forget the drums by Ed Warby.

Still, while the modern Ayreon albums sound, well, way more modern, this record’s sound is deeply rooted in 70s progressive rock. The songwriting here is way more focused than on The Final Experiment, despite the album clocking in at over a hundred minutes. Both ten-minute-long epics, Isis and Osiris and Amazing Flight, stay cohesive and tight, even with the number of singers and styles featured in them. The former switches from acoustic and folky to pounding and heavy without visible effort. Arjen said he had that acoustic riff from Isis and Osiris in his head before he started writing the album—it was his very first idea and it started everything that followed. Amazing Flight has some bluesy parts before switching into a sprawling instrumental section that takes up almost half of the song. While there are more songs clocking in at around eight or nine minutes, like The Garden of Emotions and Cosmic Fusion, there are also some short numbers that are also quite memorable. The ballads on this album, Valley of the Queens and Time Beyond Time, are top-notch, and when Arjen decides to go into straightforward rock territory with Across the Rainbow Bridge, The Decision Tree (We’re Alive) or commercial pop-rock territory with The Tower of Hope, the results are also solid.

The guitars also appear way more frequently throughout the album, be that in the form of acoustic chords, heavy distorted riffs, or clean guitar solos. While the synths heavily prevailed over the guitars on the first two records, I would say the presence of the two is almost equal on Into the Electric Castle, and it definitely makes the album more balanced.

Artwork, album release and reception

Arjen was sure this album was something special even before they started mixing it. Hans van Vuuren and the Transmission label had their doubts after Actual Fantasy, but Arjen was immediately sure that this release would be a success. However, Arjen decided that he didn’t want the album to be as expensive as double albums usually are. He wanted it to be sold at a price of single album. The label told him they could sell it for a price a bit higher than a single album, but he would have to pay all the expenses from his own pocket—the double pressing costs, the double copyrights costs, and other expenses. Arjen agreed to this offer—taking a significant personal risk in so doing. In the end, it proved to be the right decision—after all, eighteen years and five Ayreon records later, Into the Electric Castle remains Arjen's best selling record worldwide.

And, of course, there was the matter of the artwork. Arjen wanted the cover art of Into the Electric Castle to be more old school and eclectic, in contrast to Actual Fantasy. He went into a few art galleries, searching for a fitting artist. Then his brother, Gjalt, called him on the phone and said he found an amazing Belgian painter, Jef Bertels. Arjen and John van den Oetelaar (who was responsible for booklet layout) went to his house, where Arjen kept exclaiming at each exhibited picture in utter delight, while John told him to shut up each time: he expected the price would rise considerably because of Arjen’s outbursts. Arjen ended up buying the final painting and hanging it in his house… and this was just the beginning of his collaboration with Bertels.

My Thoughts

Well, here I go. I’m a bit indifferent towards this album. My appreciation certainly went up a notch after I listened to it a whole week in preparation for this writeup, but I still would pick about four Ayreon albums over this one.

The album starts off very strong, I’ll give it that. Both epics are fantastic and, along with Valley of the Queens, are my favourite tracks from the album. The first CD takes a dip after Time Beyond Time, but it’s still pretty good and enjoyable. But I can’t help but notice that the second disc drags immensely for me. Everything that comes after The Castle Hall isn’t enough to hold my interest, and my mind begins to wander off during The Tower of Hope, The Mirror Maze and Evil Devolution. I love Arjen, but I wish he could get either Donovan or Jon Anderson for the role of Hippie, as he originally intended. His voice is always distorted on this album, and the only time it works, in my opinion, is in the beginning of The Garden of Emotions. The Mirror Maze is the worst offender here; I just can’t stand the first part at all.

Nevertheless, the strong parts are among the best Arjen has even done. Valley of the Queens may just be my favourite Ayreon ballad, Across the Rainbow Bridge is how you do a rock mini-epic right, and of course, the first two songs are flawless. However, compared to some of the following Ayreon material, I find this one lacking still. Perhaps it’s a matter of singers—out of big names present here, I’m not a big fan of Damian’s voice, and I don’t think Fish is a great singer either (lyricist, yes; singer, no). That leaves Anneke and Sharon, along with Edwin, who I’d say pleasantly surprised me on this album, but still, it’s a bit dry in the singers’ department, especially when you compare Into the Electric Castle with the records that came after it.

And did I say The Mirror Maze was the worst offender? Well, another contender here is that Death’s Grunt part, where we have a grunt duet over that brass section. No offense to anyone involved in this part, but it feels like it came straight out of How To Write Cheesy Death Metal Grunt Sections 101. It feels unnecessary and forced by the story—which I know it isn’t, since Arjen had written all the music before the story—and I can’t help but feel this section is severely out of place. Could be my inner hatred of growls showing, though.

Still, I enjoy this album. I actually enjoy it a lot, for what it’s worth. But whenever I want to listen to some Ayreon, I pick some other album to spin, be that The Dream Sequencer or The Human Equation or anything that came after it.

I guess this is going to be good for the write-ups, since we’re heading straight to that Ayreon era after this album…
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
Post by: Evermind on October 07, 2016, 07:46:23 AM
Into the Electric Castle listening session - Monday, October 10th, 7 P.M. GMT!

We're holding a listening session for this album! I'll post the updated instructions for joining us at Sunday. If the time suits you, check this thread in two days to find the instructions. Meanwhile, feel free to discuss the album and/or the writeup.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
Post by: Train of Naught on October 07, 2016, 08:19:14 AM
Are we attempting skype and teamspeak again or are we just sticking to tinychat (or whatever it was called) this time around? I got a new modem so my connection might be fine now but if we are not going to bother with skype/teamspeak I'll just stick to my desktop.

Might read that ITEC write-up depending on how much spare time I have left during the weekend :lol never seen a write-up this enormous before on DTF I think! Just skimming through the line-up though I'm psyched to hear Damian Wilson on one of these albums.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
Post by: Mosh on October 07, 2016, 08:33:28 AM
Just wanted to say that this is a good pace for me. These albums are long so I don't always have time to listen to them right away, I'm also trying to get more than one listens in if possible.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
Post by: Bolsters on October 07, 2016, 08:34:41 AM
This is the best them.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
Post by: Cyclopssss on October 07, 2016, 09:37:41 AM
Great album although I do agree on a couple of points. Arjen have never had any luck with grunting on his records. When it's in free flow (Amazing Flight, Isis and Osiris, The Two Gates, Castle Hall) the music doesn't get any better or proggier for me. When it doesn't, it drags. Still I consider this Arjen's first great Journey into Ayreon Land.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
Post by: Shadow Ninja 2.0 on October 07, 2016, 09:47:34 AM
My favorite Ayreon album. I really like the growl section, too.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
Post by: Ben_Jamin on October 07, 2016, 11:46:50 AM
My favorite Ayreon album. I really like the growl section, too.

It's a great buildup.

My favorite is Isis and Osiris. Love that riff before Strange Constellations begins. And Annekes vocal harmonies.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
Post by: Evermind on October 09, 2016, 08:39:29 AM
Are we attempting skype and teamspeak again or are we just sticking to tinychat (or whatever it was called) this time around? I got a new modem so my connection might be fine now but if we are not going to bother with skype/teamspeak I'll just stick to my desktop.

Might read that ITEC write-up depending on how much spare time I have left during the weekend :lol never seen a write-up this enormous before on DTF I think! Just skimming through the line-up though I'm psyched to hear Damian Wilson on one of these albums.

I think it's too much trouble with Skype and Teamspeak to be honest. But if you stop disconnecting every few seconds, I'm up for it, mostly I just want to hear your recap of Actual Fantasy I guess. :lol

I'll post the instructions a few hours later. I guess I may as well include the tinychat link in that post, so people won't have to bother with Teamspeak.

Great album although I do agree on a couple of points. Arjen have never had any luck with grunting on his records. When it's in free flow (Amazing Flight, Isis and Osiris, The Two Gates, Castle Hall) the music doesn't get any better or proggier for me. When it doesn't, it drags. Still I consider this Arjen's first great Journey into Ayreon Land.

Well, I think the growls on THE and 01011001 are well done and fit the music rather well, too. Here, not so much.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
Post by: Train of Naught on October 09, 2016, 08:44:43 AM
That's so annoying tbh because I actually did my full recap (it was probably no longer than 30 seconds though) and afterwards I was like "do you have anything to add to that guys?" and no one responded...

5 sec later I hear that stupid TS voice tell me that I had been disconnected, probably started DC'ing even before I started with my recap.  :rollin

I'd be happy to do one again though I personally prefer a free-flow discussion rather than one person doing a recap, but me being a total dumbass when it comes to Arjen probably makes it all the more enjoyable for you to hear it from me.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
Post by: Evermind on October 09, 2016, 12:14:25 PM
That's so annoying tbh because I actually did my full recap (it was probably no longer than 30 seconds though) and afterwards I was like "do you have anything to add to that guys?" and no one responded...

5 sec later I hear that stupid TS voice tell me that I had been disconnected, probably started DC'ing even before I started with my recap.  :rollin

I'd be happy to do one again though I personally prefer a free-flow discussion rather than one person doing a recap, but me being a total dumbass when it comes to Arjen probably makes it all the more enjoyable for you to hear it from me.

Yeah, this is exactly what happened. :lol

I don't think a free-flow discussion will work, since there are usually only five of us. Scorp has this awful background noise even with noise reduction, and Tomislav doesn't speak at all. But I do want to hear a recap, exactly for the reasons you mentioned.

I think I'll do the instructions post tomorrow before the session. Gonna watch another episode of True Detective instead, just so I can discuss it with Tomislav tomorrow.

Is anyone else going to join the listening session tomorrow besides our usual crowd?
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
Post by: home on October 09, 2016, 12:38:16 PM
Is anyone else going to join the listening session tomorrow besides our usual crowd?
If I finish my homework assignments in time I will join! it's been almost two years since listening to this album :azn: I'm in for a skype/teamspeak discussion afterwards too then.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. ITEC Listening Session - Oct 10th, 7 PM GMT
Post by: Evermind on October 10, 2016, 11:53:53 AM
Okay, so, to join our listening session you will need:

- Join the DTF tinychat following this link (http://tinychat.com/DTForums). This is where the actual listening will be happening.

- Join the Teamspeak for possible discussions and stuff. Here's how you can do it (I mostly copied it from the previous post, so let me know if it doesn't work):

1. Get the latest Teamspeak 3.0.19.4 version from here (https://www.teamspeak.com/downloads). Pick the link you need depending on your OS.

2. Install the client. Follow the instructions inside the installing manager.

3. Launch the client. Connect to the server via Connections -> Connect. Put the following address and your own nickname into the respective fields:

(http://i.imgur.com/bu0MCsZ.jpg)

(here's the address for you to copy)
ts3server://ts1.voice-server.ru?port=10370&password=01011

This link contains the one-time password which will work for the next 24hours. This should allow you to enter our Teamspeak 3 Server. You will be automatically placed in Default Channel. From here, you can also access Open Channel 1 and Open Channel 2 if you need to.

(http://i.imgur.com/4OldhOX.jpg)

Default and Open Channels are the only ones you can enter, the other ones require passwords to enter. The actual listening will be happening in "Arjen Lucassen Listening Session" channel (duh). I will drag everyone from Default / Open Channels in there. In case someone will join in just to troll us (which I doubt, but it never hurts to be careful), I will be able to kick the person from that channel and they won't be able to join back.

4. When you're in Teamspeak and in the right channel (or not), be sure to check some of your settings:

- "Settings" -> "Playback" -> Playback Device should be showing your preferred playback device, like speakers or headphones or whatever.

- "Settings" -> "Capture" -> Capture Device should be showing your microphone if you want to talk with people before and after the listening. Be sure to either use "Push to Talk" option which requires you to push the button of your choice to be able to talk, or "Voice Activation Detection" which will automatically react at any noise you made and put your mic on depending on the level of noise.

5. Please note that since it's an extention of the project I'm doing on DTF, most of the rules used on DTF apply. If you're going to criticize the band, try to do it politely, or you'll break my tender heart or something. I mean, just don't go all "hell, this sucks" on me. I won't appreciate that.

6. Despite the session beginning at 7 P.M., I will be in Teamspeak from 6 P.M. onwards. If you want to test your equipment and anything else, I'll be there and I'll be glad to help you.

7. Bring some drinks or whatever.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
Post by: Scorpion on October 11, 2016, 04:31:59 PM
Okay, so I liked this album a lot better than TFE and AF. Uneven in quality at times,  but still pretty good. The first album was pretty awesome, though everything between Amazing Flight and Across the Rainbow Bridge was kinda forgettable. All in all, the second side was a little weaker, but more consistant throughout. I'll have a few more listens on my own, but I really dug that album. I'd give it a tentative 8/10.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
Post by: home on October 12, 2016, 02:10:55 AM
I quite liked this album too, it has some really great moments, really liked the use of the flute. Anneke van Giersbergen's vocals are just  :angel: The growl section was a little dissapointing. Also feel like Arjen just throws in random scientific terms to make it sounds more sophisticated, but actually he just makes it more cheesy most of the time. But well's its good cheese at least. The listening session was a lot of fun btw, it's a really nice way of listening to music! The hippie was the star of the show though: Hey Dude, your so uncool!  :lol
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
Post by: Nick on October 20, 2016, 07:33:17 AM
Sorry I've been less active in this thread than I hoped, but once again Evermind is doing a phenomenal job with these write ups.

Actual Fantasy for me is an album I've always enjoyed, even if I acknowledge it is likely the least best Ayreon album. I think it helps to have become a fan with THE, and to have a bunch of other albums to listen to already. I think it would have been harder if I was coming off of only having TFE and then got the hard turn into Actual Fantasy.

I love the mood of the album, and there is a lot of great stuff out of it, and of course Arjen got a great performance from the limited vocalists/musicians he had on that particular record. The 5.1 mix that came out years later was a bit of a novelty in how it was done, but is still a nice upgrade to the album. It should come as no surprise, since I consider Arjen my favorite songwriter, that even a "weak" album such as that one I would still likely give a B or B- to.



As for Into the Electric Castle, not sure I can say anything that hasn't been said on that one. A return to form in a spectacular way. He went all out and nailed every aspect of that album that he had to. For starters, the songwriting was clearly still top notch. The analog synths and production brought proper warmth back to the music. The characters returned with a large helping of big names to fuel them. It was just a perfect storm to either put Ayreon on the map permanently (which thankfully it did), or a perfect way to go out in a blaze of glory. It reminds me of 2112 in that way.

Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
Post by: Evermind on October 20, 2016, 09:10:54 AM
Sorry I've been less active in this thread than I hoped, but once again Evermind is doing a phenomenal job with these write ups.

Thank you Nick, that means a lot coming from the biggest Ayreon fan on this board. Me and 425 are doing our best. I'd also like you to contribute more, your insight is always welcome (duh, basically everyone's insight is welcome here). :biggrin:

The Dream Sequencer
writeup should be up in two or three days, and we're planning to host a listening session for it at October 24th, 7 PM GMT as usual.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
Post by: Train of Naught on October 20, 2016, 09:26:04 AM
Should say that while I will still probably make it to the listening session, like I said during the previous one I am being bombarded with exams and deadlines. So I won't be nearly as active in chat.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The honor of one's name, what is it worth?
Post by: Evermind on October 23, 2016, 05:19:36 AM
The Dream Sequencer (2000)


(https://eratian.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/the-dream-sequencer.jpg)


Release date: June 20th, 2000
Length: 70:14


Tracklist:

1. The Dream Sequencer
2. My House on Mars
3. 2084
4. One Small Step
5. The Shooting Company of Captain Frans B. Cocq
6. Dragon on the Sea
7. Temple of the Cat
8. Carried by the Wind
9. And the Druids Turn to Stone
10. The First Man on Earth
11. The Dream Sequencer (Reprise)

Personnel:

Arjen Anthony Lucassen — production and all instruments not mentioned in the sections below
Oscar Holleman — mixing and sound engineering
Stephen van Haestregt — assisting engineer
Peter van 't Riet — mastering
Jef Bertels — artwork

Vocalists:

Lana Lane — lead vocals on “The Dream Sequencer”, “2084” and “Dragon on the Sea”, backing vocals on “One Small Step” and “The Shooting Company of Captain Frans B. Cocq”
Johan Edlund (Tiamat) — lead vocals on “My House on Mars"
Floor Jansen (After Forever, Nightwish) — lead vocals on “My House on Mars”
Edward Reekers (Kayak) — lead vocals on “One Small Step”
Mouse (Tuesday Child) — lead vocals on “The Shooting Company of Captain Frans B. Cocq”
Jacqueline Govaert (Krezip) — lead vocals on “Temple of the Cat”
Arjen Lucassen — lead vocals on “Carried by the Wind”
Damian Wilson (Headspace, Threshold) — lead vocals on “And the Druids Turn to Stone”
Neal Morse (Spock's Beard, The Neal Morse Band) — lead vocals on “The First Man on Earth”
Mark McCrite — backing vocals on “The First Man on Earth”

Musicians:

Rob Snijders — drums
Erik Norlander — analog synthesizers, piano, vocoder, Hammond and additional keyboards
Clive Nolan (Arena) — synth solo on “2084”
Peter Siedlach — strings



It is the 22nd century. I am the last of the Mars Colonists. The air supply has almost run out on this desolate Mars colony, and the food supplies from Earth have stopped arriving since the final war of 2084. I am walking through the tunnel towards our recreation machine called the Dream Sequencer. I hope it will sweeten my final days...

Dream Sequencer system online.

Good morning, colonist. You have selected the Universal Migrator program. Please lie down in the energy tank and place the electrodes on your temples. Think of your designation number and drink the fluid from the vessel at the left terminal.

Program loaded. Commencing U.M. preincarnation protocol.

Now focus on the music as I take you back to your childhood… and beyond…

You know it’s a great intro when I have nothing to add to it.

History / Background

After the immense success of Into the Electric Castle, Arjen started writing material for the next Ayreon album. Once again, he was determined not to repeat himself. At the same time, the new album had to be commercially successful—when Arjen went for a different sound last time with Actual Fantasy, the result wasn’t too encouraging. That was a challenge, and to add to that, Arjen aimed at creating a double album again. However, he couldn’t afford to sell it for the price of one CD, as he did with Into the Electric Castle. Eventually, he decided to divide the material into two albums. The first album was supposed to feature a calm, quiet atmosphere and mellow sound to appeal to the fans of progressive rock; the second disc was meant to be more intense, heavy metal oriented. The idea was to release each disc separately. Arjen believed his fanbase ultimately came from two music genres, progressive rock and heavy metal, and he expected that the fans of each genre would pick the album that suited them more.

This decision posed a problem: Arjen had to figure out a story that would work with such a structure. At first, he planned the quiet record to feature female singers only, and the heavy album was meant to feature male vocalists. That idea didn’t work out—Arjen was unable to find enough female singers willing to guest on the album. Another idea was to set both albums in the year 2084. The quiet album was meant to tell a story of a world where people listened to the blind minstrel Ayreon from The Final Experiment, a happy world saved from the impending doom and destruction; and, naturally, the heavy album was meant to tell a story where Ayreon’s prophecies haven’t been heard. Arjen scrapped this idea, because, as he later said, the story was heavily leaning towards being “moralistic”, and he didn’t want it to go in that direction.

He tried a lot of different approaches to the story until he finally decided he didn’t want the album to be a rock opera in its traditional sense. Instead of having different characters and singers interacting with each other, Arjen went another route: giving each singer a certain song to perform on. With this in mind, he came up with a story in which a man revisits his former lives under a hypnosis, and that’s how the Dream Sequencer concept was brought to life.

Choosing singers and musicians

As it was the case with Into the Electric Castle, Arjen invited some of the Ayreon veterans for The Dream Sequencer, and also got a lot of new faces on board. One of the most notable names among the new singers was Floor Jansen, who performed a duet with Johan Edlund—another new singer for Ayreon—on “My House on Mars.” Interestingly, these two singers never met during the album recording—they recorded their parts separately.

Another famous vocalist that Arjen managed to get on board was Neal Morse. Neal was impressed with Into the Electric Castle and accepted Arjen’s invitation to sing on this record. Arjen gave him a choice, to sing a heavy song on the album’s counterpart, Flight of the Migrator (which will be the subject of the next writeup), or to perform a Beatles-like song on The Dream Sequencer. Arjen described it being a no-brainer to Neal, who instantly picked a Beatles-influenced track, “The First Man on Earth.” Neal’s vocals were recorded in Los Angeles together with Lana Lane’s vocal tracks and Erik Norlander’s keyboards. 

Curiously, “The First Man on Earth” wasn’t even originally meant for Neal Morse to sing—Arjen intended to get Sarah Bettens to perform the vocals, but she didn’t dare to sing in a progressive rock opera, not being a part of the prog scene. She probably didn’t need to worry about that—the album features a few people who aren’t a part of the prog scene, either. Take Mouse, for example. He almost appeared on Into the Electric Castle, but later was replaced by Arjen himself due to a contractual dispute. Then there is Jacqueline Govaert from Krezip, who performed on “Temple of the Cat”—after the album was released, Arjen admitted this song turned out to be his least favourite Ayreon track, but he still praised Jacqueline’s voice.

From the Ayreon old-timers, we have Edward Reekers, who appeared on every Ayreon album up to this one. There is also Damian Wilson, who played Knight of the Round Table on Into the Electric Castle. This time, he performed on “And the Druids Turn to Stone,” a song that takes place in Wiltshire, England, at the place that later would be known as Stonehenge. Damian didn’t like the song at all at first, but Arjen convinced him to sing on it—there wasn’t another song for him to perform on, anyway—and Damian changed his mind after hearing the final result. Arjen was also concerned about Damian’s pronunciation of “Salisbury Plain” (the lyric that occurs in the song), to which Damian responded he surely knew how to pronounce it—he was passing this place on his bicycle every day, after all.

One noticeable change in the musicians’ line-up is that Ed Warby isn’t playing drums this time. Arjen thought of Ed as more of a power-drumming specialist, and he wanted the drumming to be softer and mellower for this record. He wrote an e-mail to Chris Maitland from Porcupine Tree, but didn’t get a reply. After that, Arjen asked Rob Snijders to play drums on the album, an offer Rob agreed to. Ironically, the next morning Arjen received an e-mail from Chris Maitland, who said he’d be happy to play on the record.

Finally, there’s Arjen Lucassen himself, singing as minstrel Ayreon on “Carried by the Wind.” The song was originally meant for Angelo Branduardi, but it didn’t work out, and Arjen recorded the song on his own. The song neatly ties The Dream Sequencer storyline to the one in The Final Experiment, being a callback to a central character in that story. Previous Ayreon albums might’ve left the listener scratching his head about how the concepts from each album were related. This record answers some of the questions, and it also adds more layers to the story. What is life on Mars like? Did people heed Ayreon’s prophetic visions in the 20th century? How was the Stonehenge created?...

Plot

The story is set in the 22nd century. All civilization on Earth has perished in the final world war in 2084, and the only people left alive were the ones who managed to escape to Mars during the final years of war. They’ve brought the resources and supplies from Earth and established a colony on Mars. Since the Earth became a hollow, desolate planet after the war, there was no way for the colonists to replenish their supplies. Slowly but surely, the colonists started to die of starvation and lack of air, until only one of them—as far as he knows—remained alive. As the air supply on the last colonist’s station is about to run out, he heads to the Dream Sequencer—the machine the scientists on Mars have developed to kill some free time and chase the boredom away. The Dream Sequencer allows the user to relive his past, his youth, and even go beyond it—to relive the lives of previous reincarnations of the user’s soul.

The colonist—born and raised on Mars—uses the Dream Sequencer and returns to his youth, to the end of 21st century, when he and his sister realize they will never see the planet Earth (My House on Mars). Their father went to fight the final war on Earth, promising the children he would take them to Earth one day, and never returned. Then the colonist is brought back in time to the year 2084 as a woman who fought in the final war. As he hovers over the woman’s (or, as he thinks, his own) dead body, he realizes that the Final Experiment has failed, and the war that was foretold by the minstrel Ayreon has come to pass. The Earth was completely destroyed and is utterly devoid of life now (2084).

The colonist reincarnates back in 1969 as a little boy, who is being woken up by his dad, so they could witness a first manned moon landing on TV. The whole town watches the landing in their houses (One Small Step). Then he jumps to the 1642, where he is a noble ensign-bearer of Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, posing for Rembrandt van Rijn for the painting that later would be known as The Night Watch (The Shooting Company of Captain Frans B. Cocq). Going further back in time, the colonist reincarnates as a Queen Elizabeth in 1588, sending her fleet, led by the captain Sir Francis Drake, to fight against the Spanish Armada. The English fleet was victorious in that battle (Dragon on the Sea).

The colonist continues his journey travelling back to the 8th century to the Central American continent, living the life of a Mayan girl heading to the temple (Temple of the Cat). Next, he reincarnates as the blind minstrel Ayreon in the 6th century. He was killed by Merlin’s charm, as we witnessed in The Final Experiment, but his spirit roams free, and when Ayreon’s consciousness intertwines with the colonist’s consciousness, Ayreon’s spirit sees that the Final Experiment has failed and now thinks that Mars is mankind’s new hope (Carried by the Wind).

Then the colonist witnesses the creation of Stonehenge in year 2000 B.C. in Wiltshire, England. He sees the druids standing in circle, relentlessly chanting some unknown spell, and when the spell is done, they all turn into statues made of stone (And the Druids Turn to Stone). Going further and further back in time, the colonist reincarnates as the first man on Earth, finding himself in a fields of nature untouched by men, and being the first to stand on two legs among the ape-like creatures surrounding him (The First Man on Earth).

The first part of the Universal Migrator program ends, and the colonist finds himself back in the 22nd century, lying in an energy tank in the Dream Sequencer [The Dream Sequencer (Reprise)]. However, since he knows he is living his final days on Mars, he wants to go back even further and find out everything about the creation of human soul…

Music

A lot of Ayreon music was influenced by the music of Pink Floyd. As Arjen himself said in one of his numerous interviews, he always tends to label his musical ideas after the band that inspired him to write the particular section, like “Camel #1”, “Pink Floyd #1”, or, here’s the direct quote from Arjen, «rather “Pink Floyd #17”, as it always sounds like Pink Floyd». Well, of all the Ayreon albums, this one is the most Floyd-influenced for sure, especially if you consider the mellow instrumental intro and outro.

The Dream Sequencer features more clean electric guitar (Fender Stratocaster, I think) solos from Arjen than any other Ayreon album, and all of them are very spacey, calm and unhurried compositions. The whole album is slow-paced, tranquil and mellow—which was Arjen’s intention precisely. He had to put away all the heavy ideas that were constantly occurring to him during the writing sessions to place them on the album’s heavy counterpart. Of course, some of the bombastic moments went through anyway—the climaxes of “My House on Mars” and “2084” instantly come to mind.

The music ranges from the slow, serene progressive rock with that space-like feel to some folk songs and even the pop-rock tunes, all the while keeping a feeling of cohesiveness, which adds a certain level of integrity to the album. Whether it’s Johan Edlund with his low and foreboding vocals, or Jacqueline Govaert with her chirpy voice, or Mouse with his distorted and careless delivery, or Neal Morse with his rock-oriented style—no singer and no song feels out of place on this album. Each song adds its color to the whole picture of travelling back in time through the centuries.

My Thoughts

That brings us to this section, and I’ve got to say, this is one of my favourite Ayreon albums. It made my Top 50 two years ago, and overall I think it’s almost a perfect effort from Arjen.

As I said, no song feels out of place on this album. Even the tunes I’m not too fond of, “Temple of the Cat” and “The First Man on Earth,” they both add a certain charm to the record. And when it comes to the songs I love here, well, let’s just say that category includes every other song.

I won’t get into each song, but I’ve just got to mention how I adore Arjen’s guitar playing here. My favourite guitar player is David Gilmour, and you can easily trace his influences on Arjen’s playing here, on almost every solo. The synths are also perfect—the first Ayreon album where I can honestly say that. A lot of singers here aren’t that famous—I’ve never listened to Tiamat, and therefore to Johan Edlund, and neither did I know who Lana Lane is—but they do their very best to bring the songs to life. Even the Arjen-fronted song, “Carried by the Wind,” is excellent this time around. It seems to me that Arjen finally embraced his vocal capabilities here and didn’t apply any distortion to his voice, and the song turned out to be fantastic.

All in all, whether it’s a desolate landscape of Mars, or the Earth in utter turmoil, or the significant historical events happening way back in the past, Arjen managed to bring those scenes and images into the music on The Dream Sequencer as vividly as I could’ve hoped. It’s as simple as that—I love this album.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The honor of one's name, what is it worth?
Post by: Evermind on October 23, 2016, 05:26:01 AM
The Dream Sequencer listening session - Monday, October 24th, 7 P.M. GMT!

We're holding a listening session for this album! Due to the fact I'm on vacation until the next Friday, this session will take place only at Tinychat—no Teamspeak, since I don't have any hardware for it here. Use this link (http://tinychat.com/DTForums) to join us in Tinychat tomorrow. You can also come earlier than 7 P.M.—you'll probably get to hear some music our fellow participants will put on live for us.

See you there tomorrow!
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The honor of one's name, what is it worth?
Post by: Train of Naught on October 24, 2016, 12:22:24 PM
Tinychat is up and running, come chill with us and put on some songs if you like!
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The honor of one's name, what is it worth?
Post by: twosuitsluke on October 26, 2016, 10:09:06 AM
Haven't listened to this for a few months but got it on right now. Easily one of my favourites by Ayreon and my #1 out of the albums featured so far  :hat
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The honor of one's name, what is it worth?
Post by: Tomislav95 on October 26, 2016, 10:52:42 AM
I can't say I like it that much. But also, I heard it only 3 times. It has some really cool songs like And The Druids Turn To Stone and Dragon On The Sea. As a whole I'd say it's tied with The Final Experiment on #2 out of first 4 albums.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The honor of one's name, what is it worth?
Post by: Cyclopssss on October 27, 2016, 01:55:29 AM
One of my favourite Ayreon albums, probably on third place to THE and Universal Migrator. I remember this coming out and buying Migrator first. That was quite a heavy shocker with loads of goodness, but that's for later I guess. When I purchased this I was surprised by the consistancy in quality and great melodies. One small step, The shooting company of Frans B. Coque, Dragon of the seas, The druids turned to stone and carried by the wind are all fantastic songs. The last man on earth is also a favourite of mine. This really takes you on a great mellow trip and Arjen's guitar playing on this album is exceptionally good. I wasn't a big fan of 'Temple of the Cat sung by Jaqueline Govaerts, until I heard the version with Astrid van der Veen (on Ayreonauts only). This young girls takes the original and shoots holes in it, propells it to new hights in my opinion, but a lot of people seem to disagree. Anyway, together with Universal Migrator this was a fantastic highlight in prog rock/metal for me and this cemented Ayreon as a staple in the genre forever for me.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The honor of one's name, what is it worth?
Post by: home on October 27, 2016, 10:15:53 AM
I enjoyed listening to The Dream Sequencer, the overall sound is really nice. I do find quite a lot of it not too memorable, some songs just don't stick or something. Carried by the Wind and The Druids Turn to Stone are the only songs I remember actually. I love the keyboard melody in Carried  by the Wind. The listening session was again a lot of fun  ;D
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The honor of one's name, what is it worth?
Post by: MrBoom_shack-a-lack on October 28, 2016, 04:59:46 AM
My first introduction to Ayreon however I heard UM first. These two albums are just brilliant. The Dream Sequencer has so many ambient moments along with great melodies and song structure. One of my favourite Ayreon albums although I do count both albums as one which makes them even stronger.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The honor of one's name, what is it worth?
Post by: MrBoom_shack-a-lack on October 28, 2016, 05:28:50 AM
Lana lane, what a voice! Completly forgot how powerful her voice is on Dragon on the Sea.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The honor of one's name, what is it worth?
Post by: Cyclopssss on October 28, 2016, 07:11:59 AM
And on 2084.  :hefdaddy
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The honor of one's name, what is it worth?
Post by: Evermind on October 29, 2016, 11:35:07 AM
Lana lane, what a voice! Completly forgot how powerful her voice is on Dragon on the Sea.

I totally agree. For the first time I've heard this song, I thought "Wow, who the hell is this singer? Her voice is so powerful!". I actually didn't recognize that was her on "2084", too, until I've read the booklet. :D
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The honor of one's name, what is it worth?
Post by: Train of Naught on October 30, 2016, 11:03:02 AM
The albums seem to get better as time goes on, I really liked most of this one. Granted, I was a bit busy with other stuff so my attention was not with the record 100% but I remember liking a lot of stuff on here, mainly the cool guitarwork in some of the first few tracks. The highlight for me was the song with Damian Wilson, that's his best Ayreon performance I've heard so far and definitely up there with some of his stronger songs with Headspace IMO.

The female vocals were soothing but not standouts to me, then again I'm usually less inclined to go crazy about female vox in anything rock/metal than male vox.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The honor of one's name, what is it worth?
Post by: 425 on November 01, 2016, 11:16:46 PM
This is the first album we've gotten to that I own. I like this one, though I'll admit I'm not nearly as huge a fan of it as Evermind is. I think this has a lot of very strong songwriting, good guitar work from Arjen, and some great vocal performances. And the Druids Turn to Stone is an absolutely fantastic song with an amazing performance from Damian Wilson. I'm also a big fan of 2084, Dragon on the Sea and The First Man On Earth.

Maybe this album hasn't totally sunken in for me yet, but I'd say that I do struggle to get entirely into all the tracks, only because the album can be a bit samey at times. That usually means it'll take longer for me to really get into it, and maybe I need to take that time, I don't know.

I do think this release is balanced quite nicely by Flight of the Migrator. I think I like that one better than Evermind does, and this one somewhat less. But we'll get to that soon, I suppose.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The honor of one's name, what is it worth?
Post by: ErHaO on November 02, 2016, 04:40:24 AM
I really like this one, but it is not an album I listen to very much as a whole. I agree with 425 in regards to my favourite songs. Especially And the Druids Turn to Stone is mesmerizing, probably one of my favourite Ayreon songs and vocal performances by Wilson in general. Also, I actually really like Temple of the Cat (also the acoustic version on Ayreonauts Only), but I often see people (including Arjen himself apparently) reffering to that song as one of the lesser ones.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The honor of one's name, what is it worth?
Post by: mikemangioy on November 02, 2016, 06:19:56 AM
Just noticed that this was happening, I love Ayreon but I don't know much of the other projects, so I'll just jump in.

Anyway, Universal Migrator part 1 is amazing through and through, it was a bit tough to get into it at first, but I love the dark, sad and melanchonic atmosphere.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
Post by: Evermind on November 06, 2016, 12:29:26 PM
Great to see your contribution, guys. Keep it up.



Flight of the Migrator (2000)


(https://fanart.tv/fanart/music/7bbfd77c-1102-4831-9ba8-246fb67460b3/albumcover/universal-migrator-part-2-flight-of-the-migrator-4fa3952c94343.jpg)


Release date: June 20th, 2000
Length: 65:34


Tracklist:

1. Chaos
2. Dawn of a Million Souls
3. Journey on the Waves of Time
4. To the Quasar
     I. The Taurus Pulsar
     II. Quasar 3C273
5. Into the Black Hole
     I. The Eye of the Universe
     II. Halo of Darkness
     III. The Final Door
6. Through the Wormhole
7. Out of the White Hole
     I. M31
     II. Planet Y
     III. The Search Continues
8. To the Solar System
     I. Planet of Blue
     II. System Alert
9. The New Migrator
     I. Metamorphosis
     II. Sleeper Awake

Personnel:

Arjen Anthony Lucassen — production and all instruments not mentioned in the sections below
Oscar Holleman — mixing and sound engineering
Stephen van Haestregt — assisting engineer
Peter van 't Riet — mastering
Stefan Schipper — artwork

Vocalists:

Lana Lane — voice on “Chaos”, backing vocals on “To the Quasar”, “Into the Black Hole”, “Through the Wormhole” and “The New Migrator”
Sir Russell Allen (Symphony X) — lead vocals on “Dawn of a Million Souls”
Damian Wilson (Headspace, Threshold) — backing vocals on “Dawn of a Million Souls”
Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear) — lead vocals on “Journey on the Waves of Time”
Andi Deris (Helloween) — lead vocals on “To the Quasar”
Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) — lead vocals on “Into the Black Hole”
Fabio Lione (ex-Rhapsody of Fire) — lead vocals on “Through the Wormhole”
Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius) — lead vocals on “Out of the White Hole”
Robert Soeterboek (Cotton Soeterboek Band)  — lead vocals on “To the Solar System”
Ian Parry (Elegy) — lead vocals on “The New Migrator”

Musicians

Ed Warby (Gorefest) — drums
Erik Norlander — analog synthesizers, vocoder, Taurus pedal, Hammond and additional keyboards
Michael Romeo (Symphony X) — guitar solo on “Dawn of a Million Souls”
Oscar Holleman — guitar solo on “To the Quasar”
Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery) — guitar and synth solo on “Through the Wormhole”
Rene Merkelbach — synth solo on “To the Quasar”
Clive Nolan (Arena) — synth solo on “Into the Black Hole”
Keiko Kumagai — synth solo and Hammond on “The New Migrator”
Peter Siedlach — strings



I am the last human being alive. I am inside a machine called the Dream Sequencer on a deserted Mars colony. I have selected the program called "Universal Migrator". This program creates a form of hypnosis which allows me to return to the very beginning of life itself. From the safety of the energy tank in which I lie, I travel all the way back to the period before The Big Bang where matter, energy and time itself all intermingle in the chaotic unformed vacuum of proto space.

Dream Sequencer system online.

I will now take you back to the time before the big bang and the birth of the very first soul called the Universal Migrator. However, system protocols require confirmation of risk factor. No user has ever preincarnated back this far before.

Are you sure you want to continue?

Writing / Album release and reception

Both The Dream Sequencer and Flight of the Migrator were written as one big project and released in one day, which means the background beneath both albums is pretty much identical. You can read it in The Dream Sequencer writeup (http://www.dreamtheaterforums.org/boards/index.php?topic=48422.msg2229533#msg2229533). However, the writing process for these records wasn’t identical. Furthermore, the sales and reception were noticeably different for each album, and are therefore worth looking into a bit more closely.

Even though these albums share a release date, they weren’t written simultaneously. Arjen wrote the songs for The Dream Sequencer first, but, naturally, heavier ideas kept occurring to him during the writing sessions. He had to force himself to put them away, so he could use them later for Flight of the Migrator. In the interviews after the release, Arjen admitted he spent about four times as long on the quiet album, and worked much harder at it, too—and as a result, Arjen thought, The Dream Sequencer has better songs from a compositional standpoint. Due to all the heavy ideas he was able to store up during these months of writing, he was able to finish Flight of the Migrator in just two or three months. As Arjen himself admitted, he never could have made either of these records without the other.

The early sales numbers of the two albums were approximately equal. A few weeks after the release date Flight of the Migrator started to sell significantly better than its counterpart. The Dream Sequencer caught up to its rival later on, and now both albums are selling evenly again. Obviously, the InsideOut reissue edition that includes both CDs in one package has helped with that, but even before Arjen switched to InsideOut and released the double CD set, Ayreon fans were inclined to buy both records at once. The initial sales advantage of Flight of the Migrator was probably a result of the promotion Arjen did in metal fans’ circles. He mentioned that the interviews he did in support of the releases were mostly to metal magazines. Given this promotional strategy, the early sales differential was to be expected—while The Dream Sequencer featured a few well-known names on the progressive scene along with a bunch of the singers most people had no idea about, Flight of the Migrator had a full-blown cast of heavy metal stars from 90s and 2000s. It took only one look at the singers’ list for any metalhead to be interested—no, to be hooked.

Choosing singers and musicians

And make no mistake—the list of singers is as impressive now as it was sixteen years ago. The lead singers of Primal Fear, Helloween, Stratovarius and—until this year—Rhapsody of Fire singing together on the same album… Well, these names alone should be enough to send shivers down the spine of any heavy / power metal fan, but that’s not the whole list. This is where it gets really good.

Michael Romeo, the guitarist from Symphony X, liked Arjen’s work a lot—unbeknownst to Arjen himself. The webmaster of the Symphony X site informed Arjen of this fact, and Arjen immediately sent his work over to Russell Allen—who had no idea what Arjen’s music was like. Russell, too, was impressed by it, and that’s how this collaboration happened. Both Russell and Michael performed on “Dawn of a Million Souls”, and this collaboration opened another door for Arjen and Russell to perform together just a few years later.

Arjen was a big fan of Samson, the band with which Bruce Dickinson performed before he joined Iron Maiden (he was credited as “Bruce Bruce” on the Samson CDs). The manager of Helloween, who helped Arjen get Andi Deris on board for the album, also had contacts with Iron Maiden management. He sent a letter to Bruce with a copy of Into the Electric Castle, and Bruce was excited and quite enthusiastic to perform on an Ayreon album. When the material was ready, the songs written, Arjen called Bruce to schedule the time when the Iron Maiden frontman would have to visit Arjen’s home studio to record the vocal tracks. Bruce was on tour with Irons at the time, so he told Arjen to call him again in two weeks. Arjen did that and got the exact same answer, over and over. Finally, tired of being strung along, he recorded two alternative versions of the song meant for Dickinson, “Into the Black Hole”, featuring Damian Wilson and Lana Lane. Finally, Arjen called Bruce for the last time, and explained to him that his time was up, either he could come over and perform on the song, or he wouldn’t be on the album at all. Bruce agreed and made time in his schedule for the recording session, arrived at Arjen’s studio and recorded the song in three takes in one evening. Arjen described it as “a great experience and a wonderful performance.”

Plot

After preincarnating—which, by Arjen’s terminology, means something along the lines of “reincarnating back in time”—from his childhood to the times of the first people on Earth, the colonist decides to go further back in time. The Dream Sequencer takes him to the times before the Big Bang—warning him about the risk of preincarnating this far back in time (Chaos).

The colonist witnesses the birth of the ultimate soul—called the Universal Migrator—that then divides into an infinite number of souls (Dawn of a Million Souls). The pieces of Migrator’s soul spread out in all directions, and the colonist joins the piece heading to Earth on its journey (Journey on the Waves of Time). He witnesses various astronomical phenomena on his way. The piece of Migrator’s soul and the colonist head to one of the quasars, hoping to find a black hole in its center (To the Quasar). The colonist is sure the black hole will bring them to their final destination, planet Earth—but of course, he isn’t exactly sure what will happen once they dive Into the Black Hole.

After diving into a black hole, the colonist—along with the shard of Migrator’s soul—embarks on a bumpy journey Through the Wormhole, and then emerges back to the universe through the white hole. The colonist passes the inhabited planet called Planet Y, where he sees the strange emotionless, numb creatures all gazing at the sky in a comatose state. One of the creatures chants his name into the silent emptiness—this is the race known to us as Forever of the Stars. The colonist decides to continue the search for life (Out of the White Hole).

As the colonist enters the solar system and heads towards the Earth, the Dream Sequencer begins to overload. It warns the colonist, urging him to wake up and return to consciousness, but to no avail—the protagonist dies in the machine (To the Solar System). The Migrator communicates with the colonist, telling him that while his physical body has died inside the Dream Sequencer, his soul and consciousness must awake to eternity that lies before him. He proclaims him The New Migrator.

Music

It’s evident just from the cast of the singers that the music on Flight of the Migrator is much heavier than on its counterpart, The Dream Sequencer. The songs are mostly written in heavy and power metal style, with crunchy electric guitars, pounding riffs, and spacey, mysterious and epic synthesizer sounds. Ed Warby is back on drums for this album, and he adds another layer to the songs, laying some complex and intricate patterns, as well as playing some of the passages quite straightforwardly.

While the album was indeed intended to be heavy, there are enough quiet moments to ensure there is some diversity in the sound; just like how The Dream Sequencer had its share of bombastic moments among the prevailing musical serenity. Both Dawn of a Million Souls and Into the Black Hole have calm, quiet verses—the former is actually bordering on some blues with Russell’s delivery. The first movement of To the Quasar actually borders on psychedelic metal—if that’s even a thing—with the chirpy acoustic riff and somewhat trippy vocal delivery.

Overall, Flight of the Migrator has a lot of trademark Ayreon features: a variety of well-known vocalists, very Arjen-like melodies, lots of Hammond and synths. The biggest difference is that it’s considerably more metal-oriented than your usual Ayreon record.

My Thoughts

I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of this album, which probably sounds really weird to you. I mean, it’s a whole album of epic, somewhat pretentious heavy and power metal, and here I am, saying I don’t like it that much.

Well, first off, I don’t think the album has enough to offer for its length (over 50 minutes). While it has some brilliant standouts, a lot of songs are bland and quite forgettable, in my opinion (To the Quasar and pretty much everything after Into the Black Hole). The instrumentation is good enough, but most of the vocal melodies fall flat for me. Second, I don’t think Arjen utilized the voices of singers he was able to get for Flight of the Migrator well enough. Some singers do shine on the album, indeed, but when it comes to Ralf Scheepers or Andi Deris, I don’t think he did them justice here. Just listen to some of the recent Primal Fear albums—Ralf sounds amazing there, but on Journey on the Waves of Time he sounds curiously bland, even though the actual melodies are catchy and inspired, in my opinion.

However, some of the songs here are among Arjen’s best. Chaos and Dawn of a Million Souls together are a hell of a way to open the album with a bang; and Into the Black Hole is definitely one of my favourite songs ever written by Arjen. Bruce’s delivery on this one is chilling, awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping; and the music has just the right vibe for it, the dark grandness mixed with fascinating mystery. Perhaps it’s the reason I’m losing attention to the album after Into the Black Hole—this song is so overwhelmingly awesome, that everything after it pales in comparison.

425: As a pretty big Iron Maiden fan, I have to say that this is actually one of my favorite performances I’ve ever heard from Bruce (off the top of my head, I’d say top 20 or so). It’s a bit different than most of what he sings in Iron Maiden, in that he gets more of an opportunity to do long, slow, operatic notes here, which really highlights his vocal range and power. If you’re a Maiden or Bruce fan at all, you simply have to check this one out, because Arjen got a spectacular performance out of him on a really good song here.

All in all, I still like this album. Yes, it’s in the lower half of my Ayreon rankings, along with Actual Fantasy, The Final Experiment and Into the Electric Castle, but I think it’s more or less successful in what it’s trying to achieve. However, I have to agree with Arjen—The Dream Sequencer definitely has stronger songs, and I would say it’s way more cohesive, captivating and inspired.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
Post by: Evermind on November 06, 2016, 12:35:08 PM
Flight of the Migrator listening session - Monday, November 7th, 7 P.M. GMT!

Flight of the Migrator gets its own listening session, too!

This session will take place only at Tinychat—it's too much work to use the Teamspeak. Use this link (http://tinychat.com/DTForums) to join us in Tinychat tomorrow. You can also come earlier than 7 P.M.—you'll probably get to hear some music our fellow participants will put on live for us.

Everyone is welcome. Hope to see you there tomorrow!
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
Post by: Train of Naught on November 06, 2016, 01:08:28 PM
I will wait with this one until tomorrow, but it actually sounds like I could really enjoy this one despite your comments. We'll see
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
Post by: 425 on November 06, 2016, 02:24:53 PM
I kind of agree with a lot of Evermind's comments, but I enjoy it more than he seems to. I think the good songs on here are really, really good which kind of overwhelms the mediocrity of some of the others.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
Post by: Ben_Jamin on November 06, 2016, 07:25:22 PM
Journey on the Waves of Time is my favorite besides Chaos.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
Post by: Scorpion on November 07, 2016, 09:42:04 AM
Currently in the Tinychat, jamming a few tunes, so if any of you fine people want to join me there, please do.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
Post by: Evermind on November 07, 2016, 12:04:31 PM
Hey Cyclops, come back, it was just a one-off thing. :biggrin:

Also, Tomislav, if you were going to join in today, better do it now, we're starting really soon.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
Post by: Cyclopssss on November 07, 2016, 02:16:42 PM
Dammit, my connection concked out again...sorry guys.  >:(
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
Post by: MrBoom_shack-a-lack on November 07, 2016, 02:33:04 PM
I have to say that the album isn't as amazing as I used to think, it's still great though. I enjoy the instrumental part of the album and the musicianship and all the instrumentalists the most.
Chaos is the best instrumental track and opener by Arjen imo and I think many will agree. It's just so chaotic in a beautiful way without being too over the top. It's virtuostic, fast, melodic, progressive and I think Arjens guitar chops truely shines like never before both on this album and on The Dream Sequencer. Many great solos like Michaels out of this world solo in "Dawn of a..." and Garys synth and guitar solo on "Through the Wormhole".  :metal

The galopping feel along with Eds drumbeat in Through The Wormhole is really cool. The heavy section at 3:48 in To The Quasar is epic and so is the even heavier part at 5:58 in Into The Black Hole, holy cow that's heavy! 2:02 in To The Solar System is another cool section with riff, simple yet it sounds awesome. There's alot of small nuggets like that on the album which I enjoy.

My favourite vocal parts are of course both Russell and Bruce. Russell is always amazing but Bruce really surprised me. Fabio, Robert Soeterboek and Ian Parry have all great parts especially Ians. Speaking of, I think The New Migrator never gets the recognition it deservers imo, I really love that song. The intro is epic and the intro to the actual song is really cool, with the Hammond and everything. Arjens tapping part in The New Migrator followed by Keiko Kumagai solo is sweet.

Overall there's alot of nostalgica listening to this album for me since I discovered Ayreon and this album pretty much on release day so the album has been with me for along time. It may not be my favourite Ayreon album anymore but it's still very important to me.




Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
Post by: mikemangioy on November 08, 2016, 12:57:55 PM
I agree with Ev's opinion: this album has a lot of cool moments but as a whole isn't that awesome as compared to the rest of the discography (especially looking at what albums succeed it.). Still, a few songs are among Ayreon's finest, namely Into The Black Hole (incredible track) and Chaos. I also really like Through The Wormhole.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
Post by: Cyclopssss on November 10, 2016, 01:40:46 AM
We're getting to the 'good stuff'!  ;D I'm actually surpised you don't like this one that much. For me, this was a great surprise. Arjen could actually maintain a whole cd worth of heavy stuff.
Chaos starts off with a 'bang'. It's the perfect opening for an album like this, virtuoso, tight playing. Actually he'd already written this song somewhere back in '97 or something, there's a demo version of this on Ayreonauts Only which isn't very different from the released version. Next up is Dawn of a Million Souls, one of my alltime favourite Ayreon songs. Both Allen and Romeo shine on this one, but the drum and keyboardwork isn't shitty either. I was one of the few lucky ones to witnessed this played live on the Star One tour, and Russel Allen really proved to be one of the greatest rock/metal vocalists out there for me. Other favourites are off course To the Quasar, Into the black hole, Through the wormhole and The new Migrator. That last song is another favourite of mine, Ian Parry's vocals really take the song to a new hight. The chorus, sleeper, sleeper awake, sleeper, just stick in the brain. A great way to end the cd. This is what finally made me a fan of Arjen's work. I got to know some great singers I hadn't heard of before with this release, which was pretty cool as well.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
Post by: Tomislav95 on November 10, 2016, 02:05:44 AM
As you who were there know, I didn't like this one a lot but I'll give it another apin (today). Maybe it's just wasn't a good day for Ayreon :P
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
Post by: Evermind on November 10, 2016, 11:24:37 AM
I also think I've read somewhere that Arjen wrote The New Migrator (The "Sleeper Awake" part, to be precise) back when he was in Vengeance. Ian Parry had to rewrite the lyrics to fit it on the album.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
Post by: twosuitsluke on November 10, 2016, 11:40:32 AM
This is easily on of my top Ayreon albums.

Chaos is just  :metal :metal :metal :metal :metal :metal :metal :metal :metal :metal :metal :metal :metal :metal
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
Post by: Tomislav95 on November 13, 2016, 08:11:16 AM
I forgot to write about my impressions after a relisten. I definitely like it more now, opener is really cool  (I missed it on listening session). My favorite on the whole album is probably Dawn of a Million Souls, not just because of Russell but he definitely makes it even better. Also, that solo :metal Into the Black Hole gets better with every listen, I love those vocal melodies. Contrary to DoaMS, I don't think I'd like it that much if Bruce wasn't singing. Closer is great as well, very energetic, just plain good prog-power.
I think I like it a bit more than part 1 but they are pretty close.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
Post by: Evermind on November 16, 2016, 08:22:45 AM
Nice to see love for Flight of the Migrator, even though I don't quite share it. :tup  Now, for the next album...



Ambeon — Fate of a Dreamer (2001)


(https://fanart.tv/fanart/music/92cd0826-11fd-40e5-9ac7-f69b193063a9/albumcover/fate-of-a-dreamer-548c8aba23bdf.jpg)


Release date: 2001
Length: 51:29


Tracklist:

1. Estranged
2. Ashes
3. High
4. Cold Metal
5. Fate
6. Sick Ceremony
7. Lost Message
8. Surreal
9. Sweet Little Brother
10. Dreamer

Personnel:

Arjen Anthony Lucassen — acoustic and electric guitar, keys, samples
Astrid van der Veen — vocals, background vocals
Stephen van Haestregt — acoustic and electronic drums, percussions
Walter Latupeirissa — bass, fretless bass
John McManus — alto flute, uilleann pipes
Pat McManus — viola
Erik Norlander — synthesizers
Lana Lane — reversed background vocals



Ambeon is the first Arjen side project, and it would be fair to say it’s probably his least famous and least popular one. It’s the only album of his I actually don’t own—therefore, I apologize for any mistakes I may make in the writeup because I don’t have a booklet to consult.

Disclaimer: the length of the side projects’ write-ups may vary substantially.

Background / Writing / Album release and reception

After the release of The Dream Sequencer and Flight of the Migrator, Arjen decided to change his recording method. He bought a new recording system called ProTools. Unwilling to read the manual to learn the ropes, he went the more adventurous route—he decided to tinker with the Ayreon tracks he released before, experimenting with them using ProTools. He reworked some of the tracks, making the sound effects darker, sometimes stripping the songs to the basic keyboard sounds and recording new guitar and keyboard tracks over them. He also wanted to have “a fragile female voice” over some tracks, as he said in some interviews before recording the album.

A “fragile female voice” turned out to be a 14-years-old Dutch singer, Astrid van der Veen. Someone sent a recording of Astrid’s performance to Arjen; he listened to it and decided to put her on a few tracks, while the rest of the album was supposed to be instrumental. Eventually, Arjen decided the mostly instrumental album would sound like too much like a Tangerine Dream record, and he liked Astrid’s voice a lot—and the album became a female-fronted one with only two instrumental tracks instead. Worried that the album would sound too much like Ayreon, too—all the tracks are reworked Ayreon songs, after all—Arjen gave Astrid creative freedom in writing both vocal melodies and lyrics for the songs.

The result was an interesting album with Arjen and Astrid turning some older Ayreon songs into a new ones, sometimes recognizable and sometimes not. After the release, Arjen said he wasn’t 100% behind the album, like he usually is when it’s an Ayreon release—he mentioned the album is still very good, but it could’ve been better. The album didn't sell that well after its release, which Arjen thought was at least partly a result of the label's inadequate promotion. Fortunately, Arjen didn't have to spend a lot of money to make this record. He also repeatedly mentioned that, even though this album wasn’t as strong as some of his other works, he felt it had a lot of potential.

Music

As I mentioned before, all the songs here are rearranged and reworked Ayreon songs, only with darker sound and additional guitars and layers of synths. And, of course, there is Astrid’s voice, which is, possibly, the biggest surprise of this album—it’s rare to hear such maturity and beauty in such a young person’s voice, despite some occasional questionable moments here and there.

The songs themselves are ranging from being pretty obvious Ayreon rearrangements to being changed radically. For example, it’s clear that High is a rewritten A Shooting Company of Captain Frans B. Cocq and Lost Message is a combination of Charm of the Seer and Carried by the Wind, but you’d have to try incredibly hard to recognize the samples of Into the Black Hole on Cold Metal, the album’s lead single. The new vocal melodies make everything even more confusing, and that’s why, mostly, the songs on the album can stand on their own without even being associated with their Ayreon siblings—except for the trademark Arjen’s guitar and synth sound.

My Thoughts

Well, despite a short writeup (definitely the shortest one yet), I actually enjoy this album quite a bit. I like Astrid’s voice a lot, and I like some of the melodies she came up with, mostly in the first half of the album—Estranged, Ashes and High are probably my highlights here. I know I enjoy the lower notes by Astrid more, and when she goes higher, like in Cold Metal chorus, she loses the maturity in her voice and her tone becomes a bit unnerving.

Arjen’s instrumentals here are nothing to write home about, and neither are some of the songs in the latter half. Both Sick Ceremony and Sweet Little Brother mostly do nothing for me. The latter is one of the tracks on the album when I question the choice of lyrics—but in all fairness to Astrid, I probably couldn’t have written anything coherent nine years ago, when I was 14, and certainly not an album full of songs.

Fate of a Dreamer doesn’t get into my constant rotation, but I do spin it from time to time, and while it’s not quite as great as some of Arjen’s other work, I do think it’s a worthy addition to his ever-growing discography.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
Post by: Cyclopssss on November 16, 2016, 08:28:27 AM
First off, I'm in love with Astrid's voice, so I'm very biased... very interesting release, with some strong and some lesser or even weak moments.
But to really apreciate it, you should get the 2014 re-release with an entire cd full of accoustic demo versions of Ayreon songs, sung by Astrid.
This is where some of the real magic is happening.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
Post by: Evermind on November 16, 2016, 08:37:00 AM
Yeah, I have my eyes on it, but shipping to Russia from Arjen's own webshop is so damn expensive. I will probably get this re-release with the start of pre-orders for the new Ayreon album. :tup

Also, regarding the listening session, it's actually today.



Fate of a Dreamer listening session - Wednesday, November 16th, 7 P.M. GMT!

We will do a listening session for this Ambeon album. Today, in fact. Sorry for the late announcement.

This session will take place at plug.dj site, for a change. It's more convenient than Tinychat, anyway. I created a room for these listening sessions, and barring some unforeseen obstacles, the sessions will take place there from now on. Here's the link:

https://plug.dj/ayreon-listening-sessions

Everyone is welcome. Hope to see you there in a few hours!
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
Post by: MrBoom_shack-a-lack on November 16, 2016, 08:49:41 AM
Nice you included this one instead of going directly to Star One. Haven't listen to this in ages, should be interesting. I do remember I liked her voice and some of the songs but I don't think I ever gave the album a proper listen though.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
Post by: twosuitsluke on November 16, 2016, 09:13:10 AM
I'll be dropping in and out as much as I can. I'm at work again fml
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
Post by: Evermind on November 16, 2016, 11:46:21 AM
The listening session starts in ~15 minutes. Come join if you're curious about the album or just want to revisit and discuss it!
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
Post by: Scorpion on November 16, 2016, 01:39:40 PM
Sorry that I can't make it guys. :( I'll have to give the album a listen on my own time.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
Post by: Nick on November 17, 2016, 01:16:02 PM
I remember l listened to Dream Sequencer and Universal Migrator prior to their write-ups to be ready for them and am just now coming back to finally read them.

I will say this, Ruslan, while you called me the forums biggest Ayreon/Arjen fan, I could not have come close to pulling this off as well. Arjen is indeed my favorite songwriter, but I only got into him in 2004, and while that's a shocking 12 years ago now, I don't think I have as great a clasp on the early years as you do. Whether it was experienced or researched you make things sound as if you were living by Arjen's side during these times, which makes them fascinating.

My favorite four Ayreon albums are Human Equation, Into the Electric Castle, Theory of Everything, and The Final Experiment (with those last two interchangeable), so it should come as no surprise that I prefer to have vocalists working with and against one another on each track. That being said featuring one or two vocalists per track on this pair of records really helped them assert their sound in their time. I agree that Into the Black Hole features a fantastic performance from Bruce Dickinson, and many others played to their strength as well to their specially tuned song.

I've always boxed back and forth which one of these albums I prefer, and have just come to the conclusion that it matters what I'm in the mood for. It makes The Gentle Storm a bit more of an anomaly now, because even when using the exact same songs I have a clear preference for the gentle version of the album.

Though I've never been much of one for lyrics, I can say that's one area where I prefer The Dream Sequencer for sure. The focus on more concrete events and settings suits my tastes better.

Turning forward then to Ambeon, you might laugh, but I don't think I heard that album in full until the re-issue finally came out a few years ago. I may have downloaded it and listened once or twice, but I naturally stray away from digital music, and simply don't listen to it that much. It was already out of print when I became a fan and was pursuing it, and the cost always kept me away. Was very happy when the re-issue finally came out. It met my tempered expectations with re-worked tracks and a beautiful voice.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
Post by: Evermind on December 04, 2016, 11:57:09 AM
I know that will sound a bit silly since I haven't posted a writeup yet, but it's being edited right now and I'm fairly confident we will be able to post it in ~22 hours from now on. Sorry for the long delay between writeups, I always have to work overtime when it comes to the end of the year (it's like there's a tradition to miss all the long-term deadlines and then try to catch up in late November / December), so that definitely played its part. I'll try to do better next time.

Just so it won't be a complete surprise, I'm going to announce the listening session for the next album right now, and post the writeup when it gets back to me from my editor. (I just like how pompous this statement is, haha)



Space Metal listening session - Monday, December 5th, 7 P.M. GMT!

The first Star One album gets a listening session! There is no writeup posted yet, but it's coming either really soon or tomorrow.

Star One is one of Arjen's side projects and, arguably, the most popular one. It's a hard rock / heavy metal project that features Russell Allen, Damian Wilson, Dan Swano and Floor Jansen on vocals. I basically posted the singers lineup to attract some more crowd to these sessions, since I think this album is really excellent.

This session will take place at plug.dj site. To join the room, use the link below.

https://plug.dj/ayreon-listening-sessions

These things are usually a lot of fun with all the chatting and sharing opinions about the album, so I hope to see you guys there tomorrow!
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
Post by: twosuitsluke on December 04, 2016, 01:14:10 PM
I'll be in, I really like this album and I think it was the first Arjen album I heard, back in 2012  :corn
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
Post by: Scorpion on December 05, 2016, 11:01:29 AM
I'm already in the room, jamming some Dan Swanö in preparation for Space Metal. :metal :metal
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
Post by: Evermind on December 05, 2016, 12:06:13 PM
Star One — Space Metal (2002)


(http://en.metal-tracker.com/torrents/images/788200.jpg)


Release date: May 11th, 2002
Length: 55:49


Tracklist:

1. Lift Off
2. Set Your Controls
3. High Moon
4. Songs of the Ocean
5. Master of Darkness
     A. Master of Darkness
     B. Laserfight
6. The Eye of Ra
     A. Gateway to the Stars
     B. The Eye of Ra
     C. The Seventh Sign
7. Sandrider
8. Perfect Survivor
9. Intergalactic Space Crusaders
10. Starchild
     A. One by Four by Nine
     B. Starchild
     C. A New Sun

Personnel:

Musicians:

Arjen Anthony Lucassen — guitars, keyboards, Hammond organ
Ed Warby — drums
Peter Vink — bass

Star One singers:

Sir Russell Allen (Symphony X) — vocals
Damian Wilson (Headspace, Threshold) — vocals
Floor Jansen (After Forever, Nightwish) — vocals
Dan Swano (Nightingale, Witherscape) — vocals

Additional musicians:

Jens Johansson — keyboards
Erik Norlander — keyboards
Gary Wehrkamp — guitar
Robert Soeterboek — backing vocals




History / Background / Writing

Arjen usually spends at least a year to make any album, whether for Ayreon or for any of his side projects. Ambeon’s Fate of a Dreamer was no exception—Arjen sat for most of a year behind the computer, learning the ropes of how to use the mixing program called ProTools, and on some rare occasions playing the new guitar and keyboard parts scattered throughout the Ambeon album. While he found the process enjoyable, since the songs themselves ended up being quite satisfying, he wanted to blow off some steam with some heavier music next. He aimed at doing some honest music, with minimal editing via audio production software. Heavy musical ideas had pooled up during the Ambeon recording sessions, so Arjen settled on that heavier approach for this as yet untitled new album.

During the Flight of the Migrator recording sessions, Arjen managed to work with Bruce Dickinson (who performed on the album), and both musicians enjoyed the collaboration so much that they agreed to do an album together in the upcoming years. After finishing the Ambeon project, Arjen started writing the music for this new heavy record. Bruce mentioned he’d like the album to be in the style of Hawkwind and 70s Deep Purple—and Arjen shared the same viewpoint, so soon Arjen ended up with twelve instrumental tracks which he sent to Bruce. Bruce started writing the lyrics, and in no time the four songs were already finished. However, at this point Arjen was so excited that he decided to send his mail-subscriber fanbase a message about his collaboration with Bruce—which, as Arjen admitted in retrospect, was a pretty stupid move. Bruce contacted Arjen about this, asking him why would he make this yet unfinished collaboration a public knowledge, to which Arjen responded he only sent a round of e-mails to his dedicated fans. Bruce seemed to be alright with this until his manager heard about the whole deal and cancelled the collaboration right off. This seems to be an official version of what happened according to Arjen; still, there are several versions of Bruce’s and Arjen’s accounts of these events, each of them pretty different depending on the year in which each musician gave it. Gauge their trustworthiness at your own risk.

Feeling let down after the collaboration with Bruce had failed, left with 12 written songs and no lyrics, and unsure if he should pursue this project further, Arjen picked the only natural thing to do—he watched some of his favourite sci-fi movies. It’s no secret that your favourite things can inspire you like nothing else can—and soon Arjen had the lyrics and the songs completed.

Musicians

With the songs done, Arjen had to look for the singers and musicians to perform them—now that Bruce was out and he had no singer. To find the vocalists, Arjen reached out to some of the singers who performed on the Universal Migrator albums. Russell Allen and Floor Jansen agreed instantly, as did Damian Wilson, who, by that point, could have been considered an Ayreon veteran. Arjen was aiming to get a palette of different voices, and with Damian doing mostly soulful and clear, quiet parts, Russell doing the gritty, powerful and epic lines, Floor doing the high parts, he lacked a low, brooding voice, so he asked Dan Swano to contribute his deep voice on Space Metal. Later, around the release of the second Star One album, Arjen admitted that Star One was always mostly about the variety of male singers, and back in 2002 he thought that the best way of employing Floor’s voice was to use it in the choruses. Later, he revised this opinion, giving her lead vocals on 01011001 and another Star One album, Victims of the Modern Age.

Finding the musicians for this project was easy. Arjen wanted the instrumental lineup to be simple and straightforward, like in the most metal bands—guitars, keyboards, bass and drums. Ed Warby once again took a place behind the drumkit, and Peter Vink, who had been a hero for the young Arjen and produced Arjen’s first demo when Arjen was 17, was asked to play bass. Arjen himself played some of the guitars, keyboards and Hammond organ, and Gary Wehrkamp, Jens Johansson and Erik Norlander all contributed some solos for the album.

Music / Plot

This lineup and overall the writing direction for this record made it very hard rock and metal-oriented, which mostly allowed for straightforward, catchy tunes that are easy to digest. The music definitely has the 70s Deep Purple vibes along with the sound Rainbow had on the album Rising, with synths and plenty of Hammond organ ingrained in the songs. Among the other influences, Arjen also cited Hawkwind, Ken Hensley, Laurens Hammond and, as always, Pink Floyd—for the quiet moments.

The music on both Star One albums, but particularly on Space Metal, is probably the most accessible of all Arjen’s side projects. The mostly fast pace of the songs makes them perfect to rock out to, and the distinctive voices of four singers create a nice contrast, entertaining the listener and enhancing the variety of music and mood. What could be a repetitive album with only one singer on board became an interesting record with alternating vocal parts and singer duets—the verses of Intergalactic Space Crusaders where Damian and Russell take turns singing on the verses is the best example of this.

Dan Swano’s contribution on Space Metal is sparse, partly because of the fact that, according to Arjen, Dan didn’t view himself as a lead singer then, and partly because of the fact that Arjen didn’t know Dan’s vocal capabilities. He got a much larger and varied part on the next Star One album. Floor Jansen sings mostly on choruses, and her vocals always have either another singer backing her up, or a few vocal tracks by Floor to make it sound more rich and overwhelming.
Regarding the plot, this album doesn’t have a cohesive story or an overarching album concept like most of the Ayreon albums do. Instead, every song on the album is based on a different well-known sci-fi space movie of which Arjen is a big fan. If you’re not a sci-fi movie fan, you will probably get lost trying to connect songs and movies, but you probably still will be able to recognize such famous movies like Alien, The Empire Strikes Back and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The lyrics mostly describe the events taking place in the movies, often from the first person point of view, which makes some of them sound a bit pretentious. Because the subject is narrowed to space science fiction, the same rhymes and words often appear in different songs. For example, both “survive / life / alive” and “space / race / place” rhymes appear in five songs out of nine. Considering the lighter nature of this album, the lyrics aren’t out of place, but it makes you wonder what kind of lyrics Bruce would’ve come up with.

Artwork, reception and Intergalactic Space Crusaders tour

Arjen wanted to have a science fiction-oriented artwork this time, so instead of approaching Jef Bertels again, he searched for the artwork on the web. He stumbled upon a picture by Vincent DiFate, who worked for NASA at the time. That very picture later became the artwork for Space Metal, since, as it turned out, this picture hadn’t been used anywhere else before. According to DiFate, the artwork was originally planned for Boston, but it never ended up being used.

The album was very well received, and InsideOut, the record company that released the album, talked Arjen into supporting it with a tour. Arjen thought that Star One was a perfect band to play live, since the music didn’t involve any complicated arrangements or a huge cast of singers. He called the musicians involved in the project, and they mostly were up for it. Dan Swano refused to perform live with the band, so Arjen had to ask Robert Soeterboek to sing Dan’s vocal parts. Instead of using the backing tracks for Floor’s voice, Arjen also invited her sister Irene Jansen to join the band on scene. Overall, the tour was a short one, featuring only seven dates across Netherlands, Germany and Belgium—Arjen received a lot of different offers to come to US, Japan and other countries, but the costs were too high to do any of these shows. The setlist was one-third Star One songs and two-thirds Ayreon songs, which Arjen presented as “Star One covering Ayreon”. The Live on Earth DVD was recorded during the tour. Curiously, one of the tour shows was played at 013 Poppodium in Tilburg at September 29th, 2002; and soon, almost after 15 years, Arjen will return there to play a full-blown Ayreon production.

My Thoughts

Arjen’s heavy, or I guess you can call it “metal” side is hit and miss with me. I don’t like Flight of the Migrator as much as I should, but I absolutely love both Star One albums. I would probably pick Victims of the Modern Age over Space Metal—mostly because the guitar sound is vastly improved on the former—but both albums are fantastic, if you ask me. The metal style here is right up my alley, Damian and especially Russell are on top of their game, the songs are actually so much fun I can’t help but smile during the most of them… —what’s not to like?

Yet, there are some things that could be improved, in my opinion. As I said earlier in this writeup: I feel like Dan and Floor could’ve been given more presence on the album, and I think some lyrics could be improved. However, even with those complaints, Space Metal is definitely in the top half of Arjen’s albums for me. It’s always a great experience and a lot of fun to spin this CD, and since Star One is the most famous of Arjen’s side projects, I suppose the fans agree with me here. I can’t wait to see if something from this album will be played live next year on the Ayreon Universe shows.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
Post by: Bolsters on December 05, 2016, 07:40:01 PM
 :metal
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
Post by: MrBoom_shack-a-lack on December 06, 2016, 05:28:06 AM
Nice writeup!  :tup

I wasn't that into this album when it released but it has grown on me alot. The Eye of Ra is epic!

the verses of Intergalactic Space Crusaders where Damian and Russell take turns singing on the verses is the best example of this.
Speaking of, they have alot of fun with this song live on the Live on Earth DVD. The chorus is so catchy yet hilariously cheesy but I love it!
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
Post by: Evermind on December 06, 2016, 11:13:21 AM
The writeup is now replaced with an edited one. No major changes of the content, mostly the things that make me sound more like a person who knows English much better than I do. :lol

the verses of Intergalactic Space Crusaders where Damian and Russell take turns singing on the verses is the best example of this.
Speaking of, they have alot of fun with this song live on the Live on Earth DVD. The chorus is so catchy yet hilariously cheesy but I love it!

Definitely one of my favourite songs from the album, along with Eye of Ra and Master of Darkness! And I just love the whole Live on Earth DVD. It's clear all the guys are having fun there.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
Post by: Evermind on December 15, 2016, 01:14:46 PM
Apparently I'm one of the only DTFers that are crazy about Space Metal. I really think this is one of the finest Arjen's albums, and seeing how there were five or six people on the listening session (hell, even Nick made it!), I expected a bit more activity in this thread. Sorry that it died down again.

The Human Equation writeup will probably be posted on Sunday, and the following listening session will take place on Monday, usual time.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
Post by: Parama on December 15, 2016, 01:46:48 PM
Personally I've just never listened to this one  :lol
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
Post by: Nick on December 15, 2016, 01:50:33 PM
I adore Space Metal, and am really torn about what it was vs. what it could be. On one hand you could have had Arjen and Bruce for a full album, and on the other the multitude of singers that did work on it really made it that much greater. Who knows how much better or worse it could have been.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
Post by: twosuitsluke on December 15, 2016, 03:11:56 PM
Yea, sorry, I forgot to post. I like Star One in general and I prefer Arjen's straight up metal. I prefer this album over a fair few of his Ayreon albums.

That didn't really add a lot, but there you have it :lol
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
Post by: Train of Naught on December 15, 2016, 04:21:21 PM
Like most of the albums I've heard I didn't remember any of the tracks specifically, but I do remember liking this album more than most of the other Arjen albums we have listened to beforehand. Had some more cool straight-up metal riffs to peek my attention. Guess I'm not all about those attention-required concept albums with all kinds of crazy reprises and stuff, since we're listening to all of the albums just once and I haven't taken the effort to listen to them on my own terms.

I will definitely do this for 0101010101000001010110101, THE and TTOE though.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
Post by: Tomislav95 on December 15, 2016, 04:32:22 PM
I like Set Your Controls and Intergalactic Space Crusaders but I can't say I like it as a whole :/ I prefer most of the Ayreon albums. 
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
Post by: ErHaO on December 15, 2016, 04:44:28 PM
I like it more than I remember, actually. I mostly listen to the live album of Star One and think the live versions are mostly better than those on the album (especially Intergalactic Space Crusaders live is amazing). But upon listening to this one, it definitely clicked more than it did a few years back. I do think I prefer the songwriting of the original to Victims of the Modern Age, but the latter is just produced better overall.

In regards to Ambeon, I like it but can't say I have listened to it very much. It does really stand out as something of its own amongst Arjen's projects though, moreso than the others in my opinion.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
Post by: Cyclopssss on December 16, 2016, 12:13:11 AM
I love Star One. It gave Arjen an excuse to unabashingly wrtite about all his favourite sci-fi movies/shows. The voices fit well together for some reason.
My favourites are High Moon, Intergalactic Space Cruisaders (which I performed live once), Eye of Ra and songs of the ocean.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: Evermind on December 19, 2016, 10:03:10 AM
 
The Human Equation (2004)


(http://www.revelationz.net/images/covers/mc/AyreonTheHumanEquation1321_f.jpg)


Release date: May 25th, 2004
Length: 102:14


Tracklist:

Disc 1:

1. Day One: Vigil
2. Day Two: Isolation
3. Day Three: Pain
4. Day Four: Mystery
5. Day Five: Voices
6. Day Six: Childhood
7. Day Seven: Hope
8. Day Eight: School
9. Day Nine: Playground
10. Day Ten: Memories
11. Day Eleven: Love

Disc 2:

12. Day Twelve: Trauma
13. Day Thirteen: Sign
14. Day Fourteen: Pride
15. Day Fifteen: Betrayal
16. Day Sixteen: Loser
17. Day Seventeen: Accident?
18. Day Eighteen: Realization
19. Day Nineteen: Disclosure
20. Day Twenty: Confrontation

Personnel:

Arjen Anthony Lucassen — production, mixing and all instruments not mentioned in the section below
Pieter Kop — mastering
Jef Bertels — artwork
Matties Noren — layout and booklet
Yvette Boertje — artists photographs

Vocalists:

Arjen Lucassen — Best Friend
Marcela Bovio (ex-Stream of Passion) — Wife
James LaBrie (Dream Theater) — Me
Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth) — Fear
Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) — Reason
Irene Jansen — Passion
Magnus Ekwall (The Quill) — Pride
Heather Findlay (ex-Mostly Autumn) — Love
Devon Graves (ex-Psychotic Waltz) — Agony
Devin Townsend — Rage
Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery) — Father

Musicians

Ed Warby — drums and percussion
Robert Baba — violin
Marieke van der Heyden — cello
John McManus — low flute on Days 13, 16 and 18; whistle on Day 18
Jeroen Goossens — flute on Days 3, 5, 9, 14 and 18; alto-flute on Day 2; bass flute on Days 5 and 14; panpipes on  Day 6, descant and treble recorder on Day 13, didgeridoo on Day 16; bassoon on Day 18
Joost van den Broek — synth solo on Day 2; spinet on Day 13
Martin Orford (ex-IQ) — synth solo on Day 15
Ken Hensley (ex-Uriah Heep) — Hammond solo on Day 16
Oliver Wakeman — synth solo on Day 17



Best Friend:

Did he open up his eyes?
Did he try to touch my hand
Or is my mind playing tricks on me…

Do you think he hears us cry?
Does he understand
We are here by his side


Wife:

Why are you so concerned?
Do you really care
Or do you feel responsible?

Now the tide has turned
Won’t you try to clear the air?
Let your conscience be your guide…


History / Background

After releasing two albums in a row under the names of side projects, Ambeon and Star One, Arjen was reluctant and a bit afraid to start working on a new Ayreon album because of how successful his previous Ayreon releases, Into the Electric Castle and both Universal Migrator records, were. However, during the writing and subsequent touring for Space Metal, Arjen managed to record a few musical ideas, and they served as a starting point for the sixth Ayreon album.

Once again, as he did with most of the Ayreon albums, Arjen aimed to create something different from the records he had already put out under the project’s name. Trying to achieve that, he made a decision to work only with people he never worked with before. Not only that, but he also chose to set the main story in a real world on Earth and make it realistic, instead of writing a sci-fi scenario once again. Finally, for this album—and for the following two Ayreon albums—Arjen moved on to work with a bigger music label, InsideOut—the one that released Space Metal. On earlier albums, Transmission Records—Arjen’s label until the Star One project—pushed him to get the big names in the industry to perform vocals on their albums, explaining it would help to boost the albums’ sales. InsideOut gave Arjen creative freedom in picking the singers and instrumentalists, insisting that people are buying the albums based on Ayreon and Arjen’s popularity, not the big names.

Singers and musicians / Choosing the characters

However, Arjen being who he is, there was no way he would’ve passed a chance to invite some of the most famous people from progressive scene to sing on this album. The easiest person to get was probably James LaBrie, who discovered Arjen’s music through Gary Wehrkamp (who, in turn, played on Space Metal). James was impressed with Ayreon project and mentioned he’d like to participate if Arjen had some material for him in the future. When Arjen offered him the main role in the story, James instantly agreed, saying, “I’ll sing as much as you want me to.” Mikael Akerfeldt was rather easy to get, too. Arjen decided he wanted Mikael on the album after one of the fans recommended Opeth’s Damnation to him. As it turned out, Mikael owned some of the previous Ayreon albums and agreed to sing on the record. Arjen picked the role of Fear for him, which suited both Mikael’s haunting clean singing style and his aggressive growling.

Getting another huge name on the progressive scene, Devin Townsend, proved to be a challenge. Devin refused Arjen’s first offer, but later he agreed to perform on the album—with the condition he would be allowed write his own melodies and lyrics. In the interviews following the album release, Arjen stated he sent Devin the tapes and he didn’t know what to expect, but the result exceeded all his expectations. On the other hand, Devin recalls that he received the tapes, left them on the shelf for three months, and when Arjen pressed him with the deadline, he played them and put some random stuff he wrote over it without much consideration and thinking.

Devin was one of two singers who weren’t recorded in Arjen’s home studio. The second one was Mike Baker. Arjen contacted him through Gary Wehrkamp, and this time Arjen had a fitting song with an Alice-Cooper-like character for Mike to portray, which he instantly agreed to do. It didn’t take a lot of time to record his vocals—Mike is only present on one song—and the recording took place at Mike’s garage studio instead of the Electric Castle.

Among the other, less known, though still pretty famous male singers there are Eric Clayton playing Reason with his full, deep voice (Arjen discovered his band, Saviour Machine, when an interviewer gave him a couple of their CDs), Magnus Ekwall portraying a reckless Pride (Arjen found out of him via a CD attached to one of the music magazines he bought) and Devon Graves playing Agony with his incredibly versatile performance (Arjen asked Devon to sing after someone recommended Psychotic Waltz to him). There are plenty of female singers on this album, too. Arjen invited Irene Jansen to perform as Passion, since he needed a powerful female voice and Irene had proven her talents on the Intergalactic Space Crusaders tour for Space Metal. He also asked Heather Findlay to perform on the album—he saw her on tour supporting Blackmore’s Night, but didn’t know her name at the time.Then Damian Wilson brought her over to Arjen’s house (she was Damian’s girlfriend at the time), and that was when Arjen recognized her and offered her the part of Love on the upcoming album.

After working with Astrid van der Veen on Fate of a Dreamer, Arjen wondered if there are more unknown talented female singers elsewhere in the world. He encouraged everyone to send their recordings to him, saying he would pick the person whose voice he liked the most to perform on the upcoming Ayreon album. It turned out to be Marcela Bovio from Mexico, who ended up portraying Wife on the album. A year later, Arjen would record an album with her under the name Stream of Passion.

Arjen was unable to find anyone to sing the vocal parts of Best Friend role—all his potential singers declined the invitation—so he sang the parts himself. And in the end, he didn’t quite manage to work with all the new people—he had to invite Ed Warby to play drums once again, and he also had to ask Jef Bertels to paint the artwork (the artist he picked first asked for too much money). Arjen also asked Mattias Noren, who worked on the Star One booklet, to design the booklet for The Human Equation.

Plot

A protagonist—a businessman, director of a well-known firm suffers a car incident and ends up in a hospital in a comatose state. The story is set up in two parallel dimensions. In the real world, the wife and the man’s best friend are staying by his hospital bed, praying for him to recover and discussing the mystery of the accident. In the protagonist’s mind, however, his emotions are alive and raging, fighting with each other while all act true to their natures—positive emotions like Love and Reason are there to comfort the protagonist, while Fear and Agony work on discouraging him and bringing him down. The man doesn’t seem to remember anything about the accident. It seems that in order to awake, he has to remember and experience all the events of his life that led him to his current state, facing his deepest fears, embracing and amending his actions during his difficult life.

The story begins with Wife and Best Friend sitting at the protagonist’s (Me) bed (Vigil). The protagonist meets all the emotions inside its mind (Isolation, Pain), while in the real world, Wife and Best Friend are pondering all the unusual circumstances behind the road accident, such as the absence of the other vehicles on the road and the fine, clear weather during the day the crash had happened (Mystery). The protagonist recalls his childhood, growing up with his abusive father (Childhood). While the protagonist relives the horrors of his childhood and school years (School), the Best Friend tries to persuade him to come back to life (Hope); and while the protagonist remembers sitting alone in an abandoned schoolyard on a merry-go-round (Playground), the Best Friend and Wife, backed up by Pride and Love, try to remind Me of the positive moments in his life (Memories), bringing up the fondest memories of their time together. It works, and instead of reliving the hard times of his youth, the protagonist moves on and remembers the particular Friday evening party where he met his future wife (Love).

However, since the protagonist is moving chronologically through his most vivid memories in his comatose state, the next one isn’t all that bright—he remembers the day his father left them, the same day his mother died (Trauma). This is where the negative emotions like Fear and Agony thrive on Me’s anguish, intent on driving him down to the deepest pits of his mind; but then Love appears, reminding him of everything good that’s still left in his life (Sign), and the protagonist begins to show signs of life in the real world. It is then revealed that Me didn’t want the businessman job he’s at now, but he didn’t dare to contradict his father and was determined to show him he was up for it (Pride). When the competition for the firm’s director came down to two people, the protagonist and his best friend, Me found out that his best friend was faking the documents. He left the evidence for the whole office to see, which resulted in his best friend being fired and Me being appointed as director (Betrayal).

The protagonist’s Father makes a brief appearance during his comatose state, mocking him about basically everything (Loser). Then the scene of accident plays out to us, showing us exactly how it happened from Me’s view. While driving, he sees his best friend making out with his wife, whom he neglected in favour of his neverending, overwhelming work. He loses control and takes the nearby tree for his father standing at the road’s edge, decided he doesn’t care anymore and turns the wheel to run his father over (Accident?). After seeing this, the protagonist finally decides it’s time for him to get back in the real world and clear the air between him and both his wife and best friend (Realization). They both feel the same, and they explain the whole situation to his still-comatose body (Disclosure). Finally the protagonist awakes and after some explaining, the trio reconciles happily. Fear is still trying to sow doubt in Me’s mind, but to no avail. Me decides to live, announcing it to the world (Confrontation).

In the final twist, it turns out the whole story was a programmed scenario for the Dream Sequencer. A Forever of the Stars (Peter Daltrey) was using it, trying to understand and remember emotions lost for them long ago.

Music

On the behind-the-scenes documentary that comes with the album’s special edition, Arjen mentions that The Human Equation encompasses all the previous Ayreon albums in a musical sense. It’s a fair assessment, since this album features everything the fans learned to expect from Ayreon, be it heavy or calm passages, progressive rock or heavy metal influences, the use of unusual and eclectic instruments, and a wide array of singers from all over the world. The songs are diverse enough, but they all have the instantly recognizable Ayreon sound.

The Human Equation shines in the vocal department, especially considering the amount of lesser-known singers Arjen got for the album. The credit goes both ways, though—the singers are talented beyond belief, of course, but it’s also a matter of excellent vocal melodies, which, one can argue, set the album apart from the rest of Ayreon work. Be it the operatic passages by Irene Jansen, quirky interpretation of the Father’s role by Mike Baker or somber clean vocal delivery of Mikael (flowing into the deep guttural growls a few times) the vocals are definitely the high point of the album.

The instrumentals aren’t far behind on the quality scale, though. The constant usage of flute, violin and cello, as well as other, more eclectic instruments like didgeridoo add an extra layer to the music. The solos provided by Martin Orford, Joost van den Broek and Ken Helsley serve as a breath of fresh air to the music, enhancing  tracks like Isolation and Betrayal.

All in all, the best way to describe the music on The Human Equation is probably to say it epitomizes the music Arjen has created his whole career.

My Thoughts

Well, what can I say? I’m madly in love with this album, and you all probably already know that.

I can’t find enough superlatives for this album, and I struggled not to use most of them in the upper part of this writeup, which is supposed to be more detached and neutral. Almost everything about this album appeals to me. First of all, there’s the storyline of the album, which—along with The Old Man and the Spirit by Beyond the Bridge—is probably my favourite concept album storyline ever. I liked both instances of Arjen writing Ayreon stories set in the real world, and while the execution of lyrics on The Theory of Everything is lacking a bit, he struck gold with the lyrics on The Human Equation. This album’s lyrics remain my favourite from the whole Arjen’s catalogue.

The interesting thing is, I’m not a big fan of each singer in particular—unlike 01011001, where Arjen gathered a lot of my favourite singers—but on the whole, the singing on this album is astounding. And it’s the least known vocalists that amaze me the most, particularly Magnus Ekwall (who was also outstanding on The Theater Equation) and Heather Findlay—I checked out Mostly Autumn because of her performance on this album. In fact, the only vocal parts I don’t like—and the only part of the album I don’t like—is Devin Townsend’s wall-of-sound chorus part on Pain. I really enjoy his section on Loser, though.

I will probably gush over this album in more detail during the listening session, but I think it’s sufficient to say this is my favourite Ayreon album, and actually my second favourite album of all time right now.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: Evermind on December 19, 2016, 10:05:46 AM
The Human Equation listening session - Monday, December 19th, 7 P.M. GMT!

Next listening session is for The Human Equation! One of Arjen's most popular albums, a concept double-disc record over a hundred minutes long, The Human Equation is a masterpiece as far as I'm concerned, so I'm really excited for this one!

This session will take place at plug.dj site. To join the room, use the link below.

https://plug.dj/ayreon-listening-sessions
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: Evermind on December 19, 2016, 12:10:12 PM
Sorry for the triple post, but the session is up and running. Day Two: Isolation just started.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: home on December 19, 2016, 03:24:22 PM
Oh damn, I mizzed this, hope to join the ToE listening session and last
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: twosuitsluke on December 19, 2016, 05:01:26 PM
Damn, forgot all about this. Was busy doing write ups for my roulette.

I'll try and make the next one as they are a good time.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: Scorpion on December 19, 2016, 05:36:40 PM
I was in the cinema, dammit. I would have liked to be part of this listening session, THE is pretty awesome and I would have loved to experience it with you guys.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: Tomislav95 on December 19, 2016, 05:44:43 PM
Was anyone there lol? I forgot, too :(
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: twosuitsluke on December 19, 2016, 06:55:19 PM
Can we go again tomorrow night? I'm game  :corn
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: home on December 19, 2016, 07:30:54 PM
Can we go again tomorrow night? I'm game  :corn
+1
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: Tomislav95 on December 20, 2016, 04:11:55 AM
Tuesday or Wednesday?
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: twosuitsluke on December 20, 2016, 04:37:50 AM
Either will be good for me  :corn
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: Train of Naught on December 20, 2016, 09:37:01 AM
It was literally just Evermind, 425 and me :lol

I could probably show up tomorrow for round 2 though, not sure yet.

About the album, I was pleasantly surprised. I didn't like the album at first, and while I'm still not a huge fan, there are some absolutely killer songs on the album (most notably on the second disc). The highlight of the album was most definitely the last track of the second disc, Confrontation. The ending with the various layered vocals, just wow.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: Evermind on December 20, 2016, 10:20:50 AM
It was literally just Evermind, 425 and me :lol

Yeah, this, and it was a lot of fun still, at least for me.

I would be up for another listening session for THE tomorrow (Wednesday), starting at either 8 or 9 P.M.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: twosuitsluke on December 20, 2016, 10:28:35 AM
I should be able to participate in that. Maybe not for the whole session but hopefully for most of it.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: home on December 20, 2016, 10:43:35 AM
I should be able to join to if nothing unexpected happens.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: home on December 21, 2016, 08:25:56 AM
So is another listening session happening today? :azn:
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: Evermind on December 21, 2016, 08:36:32 AM
I will be in Ayreon Listening Sessions plug.dj room from 7.30 P.M. GMT onwards. If at least three more people will come until 9 P.M. GMT, I guess yeah, we'll do another listening session. :tup
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: twosuitsluke on December 21, 2016, 10:00:40 AM
I'm going to do my best to be there  :biggrin:
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: Tomislav95 on December 21, 2016, 10:06:37 AM
I think I won't be able to get there, again :/
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: Evermind on December 21, 2016, 10:35:12 AM
No no, I actually fucked up the time, sorry. It's 5.30 GMT right now and I'm in. The listening session should begin at 7 P.M. GMT (usual time).

Edit: sent a round of PMs to people interested.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Close your eyes, listen to your heartbeat
Post by: Evermind on January 04, 2017, 07:46:20 AM
I know we have huge gaps between posts in this thread, but still, I wanted to remind everyone that this thread hasn't died or anything. I was away due to the holidays, but now I'm reasonably sure that Embrace the Storm writeup will go up this week. I wanted to remind anyone who is interested that the next listening session will be hosted at January 9th.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Life, the finest thread, wears easily
Post by: Evermind on January 08, 2017, 07:41:21 AM
Stream of Passion — Embrace the Storm (2005)


(http://www.marcelabovio.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/embrace-the-storm.jpg)


Release date: 2005
Length: 53:45


Tracklist:

1. Spellbound
2. Passion
3. Deceiver
4. I’ll Keep on Dreaming
5. Haunted
6. Wherever You Are
7. Open Your Eyes
8. Embrace the Storm
9. Breathing Again
10. Out in the Real World
11. Nostalgia
12. Calliopeia

Personnel:

Band members:

Arjen Anthony Lucassen — guitars, keyboards
Marcela Bovio — lead vocals, backing vocals, violin
Lori Linstruth — guitars
Johan van Stratum — bass
Alejandro Millán — piano
Davy Mickers — drums

Additional musicians:

Robert Baba, Jenneke Tesselaar, Herrman van Haaren, Friedmar Hitzer — violins
Marieke van der Heyden, Tjakina Oosting, Jacqueline Hamelink — celli



Background / Writing and recording

Much like how he took a break after releasing two Universal Migrator albums by working on the Ambeon and Star One side projects, Arjen didn’t immediately start writing for new Ayreon record after releasing the critically acclaimed The Human Equation. He opted to collaborate with one of the singers present on that album, Marcela Bovio, a female singer from Mexico, who earned her place in The Human Equation lineup by winning the online contest Arjen organized in search of young singer talents. In the interviews, Arjen often mentioned that he was extremely fond of Marcela’s performance as Wife on The Human Equation, but he also felt that she was restricted by being required to sing Arjen’s melodies and lyrics instead of her own. As a result, Stream of Passion was born.

More precisely, the initial idea, as Arjen envisioned it, was to put out an acoustic album either as a new project or under Marcela’s name. He used a few ideas left from The Human Equation, wrote a few more ideas and riffs—all on acoustic guitar—and sent them to Marcela, who was living in her home country, Mexico, at the time. She would write her melodies and lyrics over them and send it back, and that’s how the work on the new record went on for a time. Arjen then would add instrumentation to the sketches of songs they had; somewhere along the way, the album naturally evolved from purely acoustic to heavier, more rock- and metal-oriented. When they had enough ideas and material, Arjen asked Marcela about the nature of this project, and she suggested forming a band for the upcoming album and going on tour—with Arjen’s involvement, they could also fill the gaps in the setlist with Ayreon songs, since the material from the album wouldn’t be enough. She also suggested picking musicians that weren’t famous at the time, to give them more exposure and experience playing live with a band.

Music

Embrace the Storm is probably one of the least Ayreon-sounding albums among all the records for which Arjen wrote music. The vocal melodies and lyrics written by Marcela make this album a lot different from Ayreon, being more intimate, emotional and personal, but there’s also the matter of Arjen aiming for a different sound, cutting the amount of synthesizers and using a real piano instead (played by Marcela’s boyfriend at the time, Alejandro Millán). The difference between Embrace the Storm and Ayreon is also enhanced by the nature of music on this record—somber, haunting and dark in places. The combination of all these factors makes this album quite unique in the context of Arjen’s output over the years.

The music, the lyrics and Marcela’s haunting voice complement each other beautifully, and the presence of additional violins and celli adds a whole other layer to this album, bringing it into something like symphonic progressive gothic metal department, as far as genres go. The album is mostly dramatic and filled with tension, and when the tension gets released in the passionate, climactic moments like in choruses of Passion and Haunted, it makes listening to the album an even more satisfying experience. Most lyrics are written in English, although there are some Spanish lyrics on the album, written by Marcela at Arjen’s suggestion. Another thing that inevitably grabs listeners’ attention on this record is the guitar solos, performed by Arjen and Lori Linstruth—we’ll see her appear on other Arjen’s projects later on.

All three Arjen’s side projects featuring only female singers ended up being so different genre-wise. Ambeon’s Fate of a Dreamer was closer to pop-rock ambient genre due to songs being stripped down to the bone and Astrid’s adventurous voice and her vocal delivery; The Gentle Storm’s The Diary (released in 2015) is closer to a folk record with a lot of flute and violin present on the record, and very organic and clean sound overall (at least if you consider Gentle disc of that record); and Embrace the Storm sounds like Arjen’s and Marcela’s attempt on writing dark symphonic metal, and while the album delves into more genres along the way, one could say the attempt was successful.

Live in the Real World / Future of the band

The band embarked on tour called Live in the Real World (named after one of the album’s tracks, Out in the Real World) in January 2006, playing in the number of Western European countries like Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium and a few more. The setlist featured a lot of Stream of Passion songs, along with Ayreon songs like Computer Eyes, Valley of the Queens, Day Three: Pain, Day Eleven: Love, Into the Black Hole and a few more. The band also played a Star One cover, and, curiously, a cover of Led Zeppelin’s When the Levee Breaks. The backing vocals on the show were provided by Marcela’s sister, Diana.

After the tour concluded in 2007 with two cancelled UK dates, Arjen left the band to continue on his own projects. There were no hard feelings between both sides, because Arjen always said he would be there for one album and subsequent tour, and after that he could give no promises—his original intention was to get the band off the ground and then focus on his own music. Later that year, Lori Linstruth and Alejandro Millán also called it quits, but the band found replacements and went on to release The Flame Within in 2009, Darker Days in 2011 and A War of Our Own in 2014 (this album was financed by a crowdfunding campaign). A War of Our Own ended up being the last album by the band. Stream of Passion disbanded at the end of 2016 after performing their final farewell gig on December 28th in Utrecht, Netherlands.

My Thoughts

While I can’t say this album is fantastic, it’s certainly one of the most interesting of Arjen’s non-Ayreon records, rivaled only by Guilt Machine in terms of novelty and unexpectedness, as far as I’m concerned. Of course, it’s not strictly his side project, because it’s a full band effort for a change, but still, I tend to view it as one of Arjen’s brainchildren.

I also can’t compare it to other Arjen’s side projects, because they’re all rooted in different genres. Star One offers us hard rock and heavy metal, Guilt Machine is brooding, atmospheric and progressive, The Gentle Storm is folky and natural, Arjen’s solo album is quirky and fun, and Embrace the Storm is emotional, somber and maybe even gothic (although I know Arjen himself doesn’t think it’s gothic, he said “if that’s how people want to label it, so be it.”). But if I had to rank Embrace the Storm among the other albums Arjen released under other monikers, I’d say it’s certainly above his solo work and Ambeon, and certainly below both Star One efforts and The Gentle Storm album; probably somewhere in the middle with Guilt Machine. This means, this album is pretty damn good, in my opinion.

That’s not to say it doesn’t have flaws, because it certainly does. There are one or two songs I don’t even remember anything from, and there are irritating moments on the record, like the spoken verses on Haunted, but they’re mostly outshined by how many good moments there are on this record. I’m a sucker for string instruments, and the constant—and very appropriate—usage of violins and celli elevates this album, bringing it to another level for me. Marcela’s voice sounds excellent, and melodies like I’m willing to surrender in Passion are what makes this album so good, in my opinion.

This album isn’t something I would recommend anyone to get acquainted with Arjen’s work, but it’s a great introduction to Marcela’s music, and it convinced me to check Stream of Passion further; and while it’s not the greatest music I’ve ever heard, I wasn’t disappointed by their further albums (without Arjen) in the slightest.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Life, the finest thread, wears easily
Post by: Evermind on January 08, 2017, 07:44:00 AM
Embrace the Storm listening session - Monday, January 9th, 7 P.M. GMT!

We continue to run these listening sessions in 2017, and our next one is for Embrace the Storm, the album by Stream of Passion. While the band kept carrying on without Arjen after their first album, Arjen was one of the band's founders and he wrote the music for this album, which is why it's included in this discography thread. Come and check it out!

This session will take place at plug.dj site. To join the room, use the link below.

https://plug.dj/ayreon-listening-sessions
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Life, the finest thread, wears easily
Post by: Nick on January 08, 2017, 08:16:12 AM
Ah, Stream of Passion...

Since I became a fan with THE, this marks the first release from Arjen after I became a fan. I was thrilled he was doing something extensive with Marcella as I loved her voice. I appreciated the different approach to the album, and there are quite a few really good tracks on the album. I kinda liken this project from Arjen to Blackfield for Steven Wilson, in how both have to somewhat step back and slow down in what they want to do. I loved that the project got Arjen back out on the stage, and love some of the Ayreon live tunes, especially Computer Eyes. I ended up getting the album, single, and live album all straight from Arjen for this cycle.

Once we go beyond that album though, it's rather downhill sadly. As you said the band had a lot of turnover, with Arjen the biggest obvious piece missing. Darker Days was a step down but alright, and things just got worse with the next two albums. I was fortunate to see them perform at ProgPower for their first and last US show, and while I enjoyed it a lot, they were frankly blown away by the exponentially better The Gentle Storm, despite sharing a few members.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Life, the finest thread, wears easily
Post by: twosuitsluke on January 10, 2017, 02:51:19 AM
I missed this one  :sadpanda:  but will hopefully make the next one.

I'll try and give this album a listen this week and post my thoughts, this is one Arjen album I've not listened to yet  :corn

 
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Life, the finest thread, wears easily
Post by: Train of Naught on January 19, 2017, 11:20:20 AM
I'm binge listening to Ayreon today :lol I've listened to 01010100101010101010101 and The Human Equation (yes, this one again), The Final Experiment (yesterday) and listening to Flight of the Migrator in the DTF plug right now. It's a lot of fun, and The Human Equation especially is really growing on me. 0101 has some amazing songs but not that consistent imo.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Life, the finest thread, wears easily
Post by: Cyclopssss on January 20, 2017, 12:36:18 AM
Forgot to react to Stream of Passion. The Human Equation had just cemented my fandom and I had started visiting the Arjen Anthony Lucassen forum online. It was a fun little community, growing steadily with loads of fun characters. When SOP hit, we were basically all very pleasantly surprised. The album had a lot going for it, great melodies, still heavy riffing, fantastic sound and an increddible lead singer. Pretty much all of the members of the band were pretty actively posting in the forums so, it was easy to connect with them. It didn't take long before I visited SOP concerts and meeting them they were all very nice people and easy to get along with. Although rumours of Arjen's divorce and health problems were already spreading before the (short) tour was over. A fan-meet was organised in Zeist and on the forum the idea of a tribute band 'Team of Passion' was formed and I joined as one of the vocalists. There were two great female singers as well, one of them being Marjan Welman, later to feature on '0100110etc'. She just blew me away from the start. And she cracks everyone up all the time. We did just two or three short bandrehearsals in Amersfoort and then performed 6 sings at the fanmeet in Zeist, in front of a packed house and with Marcela, Alejandro, Johan and Davy in attendance who came up to us before and after the gig. It was all very loose and relaxed and fun (except for the gig, ahem, nerves!). After that tour they did a short 'european tour' which ended in Brittain and recorded a live dvd, with Damian Wilson as guest performer.
Not long after that, the health rumours about Arjen were confirmed (losing all taste and sense of smell) and he announced his retirement from the band, with Lori, Davy and Alejandro soon following. The band continued with new members, which changed the sound to some degree. My opinion has always been that they were a pretty solid live unit and the three albums they put out after the debut although perhaps lacking the creative spark of Embrace the Storm, are all worth listening to in my opinion.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Life, the finest thread, wears easily
Post by: Bertielee on January 26, 2017, 10:34:15 AM
New ayreon track featuring JLB, and the singer of Seventh Wonder among others entitled The Day That The World Breaks Down taken from The Source. :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFuMKdrzPqU (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFuMKdrzPqU)

Awesome track if you ask me.


B.Lee
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Life, the finest thread, wears easily
Post by: Nick on January 26, 2017, 10:43:54 AM
New ayreon track featuring JLB, and the singer of Seventh Wonder among others entitled The Day That The World Breaks Down taken from The Source. :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFuMKdrzPqU (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFuMKdrzPqU)

Awesome track if you ask me.


B.Lee

Not a big worry, but this is already being discussed in the main Ayreon thread if you want to hop on over. :D
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Life, the finest thread, wears easily
Post by: Evermind on January 26, 2017, 10:57:31 AM
But thank you for bumping this thread. :biggrin:

I actually finished 01011001 writeup an hour ago and sent it for editing. I think it'll be ready on Sunday.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Life, the finest thread, wears easily
Post by: Bertielee on January 26, 2017, 11:06:01 AM
New ayreon track featuring JLB, and the singer of Seventh Wonder among others entitled The Day That The World Breaks Down taken from The Source. :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFuMKdrzPqU (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFuMKdrzPqU)

Awesome track if you ask me.


B.Lee

Not a big worry, but this is already being discussed in the main Ayreon thread if you want to hop on over. :D

Shame on me and my lazy ass! :blush  :rollin

B.Lee
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The meaning of life is to give life meaning
Post by: Evermind on January 29, 2017, 01:27:58 PM
 
01011001 (2008)


(http://ladyobscure.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/1000x10001.jpg)


Release date: January 25th, 2008
Length: 102:16


Tracklist:

CD 1 : Y

1. Age of Shadows (incl. We are Forever)
2. Comatose
3. Liquid Eternity
4. Connect the Dots
5. Beneath the Waves
     I. Beneath the Waves
     II. Face the Facts
     III. But a Memory…
     IV. World Without Walls
     V. Reality Bleeds
6. Newborn Race
     I. The Incentive
     II. The Vision
     III. The Procedure
     IV. Another Life
     V. Newborn Race
     VI. The Conclusion
7. Ride the Comet
8. Web of Lies

CD 2: Earth

1. The Fifth Extinction
     I. Glimmer of Hope
     II. World of Tomorrow Dreams
     III. Collision Course
     IV. From the Ashes
     V. Glimmer of Hope (reprise)
2. Waking Dreams
3. The Truth is in Here
4. Unnatural Selection
5. River of Time
6. E=mc²
7. The Sixth Extinction
     I. Echoes on the Wind
     II. Radioactive Grave
     III. 2085
     IV. To the Planet of Red
     V. Spirit on the Wind
     VI. Complete the Circle

Personnel:

Arjen Anthony Lucassen — recording, production, mixing, mastering and all instruments not mentioned in the section below
Jef Bertels — artwork
Felipe Machado Franco — lay-out and illustrations
Simon van Vegten — 3D illustrations for CD1

Vocalists:

Forever:

Tom S. Englund (Evergrey)
Steve Lee (Gotthard)
Daniel Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation)
Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian)
Floor Jansen (Nightwish)
Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering, VUUR)
Jonas Renske (Katatonia)
Jorn Lande (Allen/Lande, Masterplan)
Magali Luyten
Bob Catley (Magnum)

Men:

Ty Tabor (King’s X) — an average middle-class worker on “Connect the Dots”
Simone Simons (Epica) — Simone on “Web of Lies”
Phideaux Xavier (Phideaux) — PX on “Web of Lies”
Arjen Anthony Lucassen — Mr. L on “The Truth is in Here” and backing vocals on “Connect the Dots”
Liselotte Hegt (Dial) — Mr. L’s nurse on “The Truth is in Here”
Wudstik — a 21st-century scientist on “E=mc²”
Marjan Welman — a 21st-century scientist on “E=mc²”

Musicians

Ed Warby — drums and percussion
Ben Mathot — violin
David Faber — cello
Jeroen Goossens — flute on “Age of Shadows”, “Comatose”, “Liquid Eternity”, “Beneath the Waves”, “Web of Lies”, “The Truth is in Here”, “Unnatural Selection” and “River of Time”; soprano and tenor recorder or “The Truth is in Here”, bass flute on “Unnatural Selection”, tin whistle on “River of Time”
Lori Linstruth — guitar solo on “Newborn Race”
Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater) — synth solo on “The Fifth Extinction”
Tomas Bodin (The Flower Kings) — synth solo on “Waking Dreams”
Michael Romeo (Symphony X) — guitar solo on “E=mc²”
Joost van den Broek — synth solo and piano on “The Sixth Extinction”



History / Background

The period after the release of Embrace the Storm and before the next Ayreon album was the most difficult and most painful for Arjen. He and his wife went through a divorce, which, in some later interviews, he attributed to him spending most of his time engaged in creating music. In 2007, while going out with Heather Findlay, who performed on The Human Equation, Arjen apparently caught a virus which caused him to suffer from anosmia, a disease which causes the loss of taste and smell. The combination of anosmia and the divorce caused him to fall into a deep depression. Not only that, but his long-time manager decided to pursue her own goals and quit the job. Arjen had to climb out from the deep pit of depression he found himself in, and he did that by pouring his feelings into the music.

After the divorce, he moved into his own house and set up his studio over there, calling it The Electric Garage—which was, admittedly, smaller than The Electric Castle he was recording in previously. He changed his approach to writing music—for The Human Equation, he had most of the ideas before he entered the studio to properly record them; for the new album, he did most of his writing in the studio. He had a difficult time coming up with new material, and all the songs he managed to write turned out to be hopeless and dark. It came to the point he called his label, InsideOut and told them that this time it would be a single Ayreon album, a gloomy and dark one. Still, they gave him the green light for it.

However, during the writing process, musical ideas started popping up that were more uplifting and hopeful in comparison to Arjen’s first written material for the album. The ideas grew into songs, and the album went from single to double. As Arjen repeatedly mentioned in interviews given shortly after the album’s release, the music turned out to be the best healer for him. The album’s mood, while mostly dark and gloomy, was diluted by a few genuinely bright, hopeful moments among the doom, stagnation and hopelessness—the battle of emotions that became sort of a theme for the album.

Singers and musicians / Choosing the characters

That being said, the album’s mood wasn’t that obvious in the choice of singers. A lot of singers performing on this record are well-known by their progressive or power metal bands (Blind Guardian, Pain of Salvation, Evergrey and so on); as Arjen admitted later, he was simply looking for some well-known singers whose voice would give him goosebumps. However, by the time Arjen finished writing the material, he was still struggling with depression. He had no confidence in the material he wrote, and he had no idea how anyone would take it, because this time, more than ever, it came straight from the feelings and thoughts he was harbouring inside. He sent e-mails to some musicians, planning to have his usual amount of nine or ten different singers, but none of them responded for a few weeks. A little bit desperate, Arjen contacted other musicians, and then within a week most of his e-mails received a positive response—so he ended up with 17 different singers on one album.

Note: this information is different from interview to interview, but sometimes Arjen provided this version of events, and sometimes he said he was a bit insecure so he contacted all singers at once, suspecting most of them would reject the invitations—which of course didn’t happen.

All of the above doesn’t mean that Arjen picked the singers spontaneously. Jorn Lande was planned to have the biggest vocal role on the album, and this plan was fulfilled—he’s the most featured singer on the record, and his voice is always instantly recognizable. In interviews, Arjen received questions about Jorn and his willingness to participate in every guest project he was invited to; Arjen responded that if this guy gets so many invitations, he’s probably one of the best singers in the world. However, not all the plans Arjen had for the lineup worked. For example, Roy Khan was actually asked to perform on this album—he never appeared on anything Arjen-related—but he declined, and Daniel Gildenlöw was chosen to sing Khan’s parts.

While there are too many talented and famous singers on this album to describe in full detail, a special mention should be given to the late Steve Lee from Gotthard, the man who once auditioned for Vengeance, Arjen’s band from 80s. Arjen had wanted to collaborate with him ever since he started Ayreon, but it never worked out due to time limitations and other reasons. On this album, the collaboration finally came to life. When Steve Lee came to Arjen’s studio, his manager warned Arjen that Steve can only be featured on four tracks. Steve recorded those four tracks in two hours, and when he was finished, he wanted more parts to sing; Arjen tried to protest, because of what Steve’s manager had said, but Steve insisted, saying something along the lines of “oh, fuck the manager,” and he ended up performing on eight songs. That was one of his last studio performances, along with Gotthard album called Need to Believe, before his death in 2010.

The singers weren’t only performing Arjen’s material—some of them actually wrote their own vocal melodies. Anneke van Giersbergen, who also wrote her own melodies for a few songs on Into the Electric Castle, wrote her parts on Age of Shadows and Waking Dreams, and Jonas Renske from Katatonia wrote all his melodies for the album. The plentiful ad libs on this album, which reflect an unusual approach for Ayreon, were also free for the musicians to improvise.

The huge number of singers on this album resulted in a lack of lengthy passages from the characters, and instead they’re mostly trading one-line responses to each other. While some of the singers have the dramatic, operatic voices that are meant to impress the listener, some of the guests have more ordinary voices... which fits exactly into the plot Arjen wrote for this album.

Plot

The action takes place simultaneously on two planets: Y (which is the planet where the race Forever of the Stars dwells—it’s name could be pronounced as “why?”, and it’s name is also reflected in the album’s name—01011001 is the letter Y in ASCII code); and Earth. While the first CD is called “Y” and the second CD is called “Earth”, there are songs from each planet on both CDs.

Note: I saw discussions of whether the multiple singers represent different characters from the Forever race, or if it’s all the same being arguing with himself. I’m going to assume the former, because the latter strikes me as a bit silly.

The following events happen during the times dinosaurs roamed the Earth. The race of aquatic beings called Forever is living on Planet Y, having lost all their emotions in exchange for immortality, living through machines (Age of Shadows, Comatose). Some of the Forever aren’t happy with this and seek to regain their emotions back, even if it means losing their immortality, while the conservative members of society oppose them—each side brings their own arguments to the discussion (Liquid Eternity, Beneath the Waves). As the discussion progresses, Forever decide to plant a newborn race on a fitting planet to revitalize their race and regain their emotions by living through the newborn species (Newborn Race), so they plant their DNA on a comet that is on a collision course with Earth (Ride the Comet).

Meanwhile, in the 21st century, the things on Earth are going in due course—we see a middle-class worker spending his usual days polluting the Earth using his car and polluting himself with cigarettes and fast-food (Connect the Dots), then we see a pair trying to hook up via an Internet dating website (Web of Lies).

The comet with Forever DNA finds its way to Earth, and despite the heated discussion between the Forever regarding whether it’s the right way to do things, it collides with the planet, and the explosion’s impact exterminates the dinosaurs in what would later be known as The Fifth Extinction. A new race, humans, arises from Forever DNA, and through human dreams, Forever are able to relive the emotions they once used to feel (Waking Dreams). However, the people who were once influenced by Forever appear to have visions of their previous encounters, which scares people like Mr. L’s nurse—Mr. L, who, apparently, was the Hippie who travelled Into the Electric Castle (The Truth is in Here), is now treated with pills to sedate him.

Everything is going quite well until some of the Forever are dismayed with the people’s incompetence and inability to overcome the simplest problems on Earth, such as microbes and illnesses. They propose to speed up the humans’ evolution, and despite the reasonable protests that this would lead to overpopulation and other scary things, the Forever share their knowledge with humans, which results in humans developing the same problem the Forever did once: they become technology-dependant, losing their emotions and wanting to resolve their problems with wars and conflicts (Unnatural Selection). Realizing their mistake, Forever try to find a way to warn human race of their inevitable demise, teaching them to send the telepathic messages back in time (River of Time). The knowledge reaches two human scientists in a dream, and they try to pass it back to the previous centuries, but they aren’t sure if their messages are getting through (E=mc²). As of the year 2085, the humans on Earth have exterminated themselves in a series of nuclear wars, and Forever are about to lose their chance to regain emotions. The whole race is in despair, and the bravest of them advices the others to “stop the machines, prepare to die” (The Sixth Extinction).

As there are no humans left on Earth, Forever now focus on the last surviving humans on Mars. They witness the eventual death of all the humans inhabiting the red planet, including the last surviving colonist, who uses The Dream Sequencer to preincarnate back in time, and eventually becomes the New Migrator. He then sets on a quest to free Forever from their dependence on machines and rekindle their capacity for emotion.

Music

As I said above, the music on this album is darker and heavier than on the whole than on the album’s predecessor, The Human Equation. The songs can be mostly divided in two categories musically, apparently depending on the planet they take place. When the song is set on Planet Y featuring Forever’s thoughts and discussions, it’s usually more brooding and epic sounding, with distinctive dramatic approach to the vocals, mostly operatic and powerful. When the song is set on Earth, the music is simpler, more approachable, and more mundane—reflecting the differences between two races. However, since according to the plot, the humans began their existence from Forever DNA, and therefore have similarities to them, so do the songs—despite the various different factors in writing and execution, they still sound similar enough to recognize the familiar Ayreon sound.

As opposed to the more organic and natural sound of Into the Electric Castle and The Human Equation, 01011001 has a lot of sci-fi themed synths on it, which, along with distorted guitar riffs, make the album sound more computerized. That sound, including the heaviness, goes hand-in-hand with raw vocal power of all the singers invited. Still, there is enough diversity to the album for it to retain a sense of flow. There are long, multi-section epics like The Fifth Extinction and The Sixth Extinction, there are ballads and softer songs like Comatose and Waking Dreams, there are folk-oriented songs like River of Time and maybe Newborn Race, and then there is one obligatory song with Pink Floyd influence written all over it, Beneath the Waves.

All in all, despite the darker mood, the album has plenty of typical Ayreon fare. Critics accused 01011001 of bringing nothing new to the table in terms of Ayreon music, and Arjen said in the several interviews that “if you hate my music, you’re going to hate this album, and if you like what I do, you’ll probably going to like this one.”

My Thoughts

First of all, I really like this album. The high moments are incredible, like those Jorn Lande / Floor Jansen trade-offs during Liquid Eternity and Beneath the Waves, or the Bob Catley / Daniel Gildenlöw quiet moments in The Sixth Extinction, or Jonas Renske on Waking Dreams… I could go on and on. There are a lot of things to like on 01011001, and it’s probably my 4th favourite Ayreon album overall.

But there are a few things that make me enjoy this album a bit less. First, I don’t think it needed to be as long as it is. It’s longer than The Human Equation by two seconds, but while I feel that The Human Equation has perfect flow and no filler whatsoever, I can’t say the same for this record. I mean, I’m not going to call any song here “filler”, but my attention tends to wander during songs like Connect the Dots, Web of Lies or Unnatural Selection, and I wouldn’t miss any of those. I know that, technically, Unnatural Selection is important plot-wise, but I just dislike that song. Second, the number of singers is overwhelming, and they don’t get their time to shine except maybe Jorn, Floor, Anneke and Steve Lee. I’ve listened to this album a lot of times, and if you ask me which songs have Tom Englund or Daniel Gildenlow, I could only name you one or two for certain, and for the others, I would have to guess. Third, there are some instrumental sections that go on for too long, in my opinion, like the one in The Fifth Extinction. It has a few decent ideas, but by repeating them over and over it becomes too predictable and too boring. The one in Liquid Eternity might also fall into that category, but at least it has as a long buildup with an incredible payoff.

While I have those criticisms about music, I’ve got no objections about the plot of this album. I like it a lot, more than any other Forever-related Ayreon album, (not counting The Human Equation). I like how Arjen wrapped the story up, or at least it seemed so back then—with the announcement of The Source, we know the story isn’t done, even though the album would take place before the events depicted on this album. And overall, it’s a damn fine album, a great conclusion to the story and a worthy addition to Ayreon discography.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The meaning of life is to give life meaning
Post by: Evermind on January 29, 2017, 01:32:15 PM
Before I post the next listening session time, I want to thank you guys for all your fantastic contribution to this thread! Nick's and Cyclopssss's posts were great to read. I know Stream of Passion album wasn't that popular, so I'm glad we've got at least a few posts about it. Now, let's move on.

01011001 listening session - Monday, January 30th, 7 P.M. GMT!

Despite my problems with plug.dj recently, we will try to run this session tomorrow at our usual time! Feel free to join us to discuss the plot, the music, the shows you've been watching recently and whatever the hell you want. It's a lot of fun.

This session will take place at plug.dj site. To join the room, use the link below.

https://plug.dj/ayreon-listening-sessions
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The meaning of life is to give life meaning
Post by: home on January 29, 2017, 01:41:12 PM
I'll try to be there but won't be participating much in the chat, I've got two exams tuesday  :P
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The meaning of life is to give life meaning
Post by: Tomislav95 on January 29, 2017, 02:11:13 PM
I'm listening to it right now!
I heard this album a few time a while ago and recently I've been listening it again in preparation for survivor and I liked it more than I remember. Actually, I think it is awesome.
Also, great write-up :tup (did 425 change anything in your dramatic introduction? :P)
Quote from: Evermind
...and Jonas Renske from Katatonia wrote all his melodies for the album...
Obviously :lol
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The meaning of life is to give life meaning
Post by: Shadow Ninja 2.0 on January 29, 2017, 02:31:21 PM
This was my first Ayreon album (also one of the first three albums I bought), and it's still one of my favorites. I think that the abundance of singers does kind of hamper it a bit, since most of them don't really have enough time in the spotlight, but musically I think it's one of Arjen's best. Maybe that's just a 'first Aryeon album' thing? Dunno. I really like it though.

Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The meaning of life is to give life meaning
Post by: PixelDream on January 29, 2017, 03:29:03 PM
I did not feel it lived up to The Human Equation, and perhaps that's also because it's a very similar type of record. Still, some real bangers on there. Love the opening track, E=MC2 (that Michael Romeo solo is awesome), and both the 'Extinction' tracks.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The meaning of life is to give life meaning
Post by: Evermind on January 30, 2017, 10:02:55 AM
Good to see all the positive thoughts about the album. :tup As I said, I think it does have some flaws, but some moments and songs are brilliant.

Also, great write-up :tup (did 425 change anything in your dramatic introduction? :P)

Actually, he didn't, and that's why I forgot to cut this comment from the final draft. :lol

Listening session will begin in two hours from now on!
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The meaning of life is to give life meaning
Post by: twosuitsluke on January 30, 2017, 10:19:04 AM
I'm hoping to make it in tonight  :tup I'm at work so the best I can do is drop in and out (and time it that I'm there for the songs I like most)
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The meaning of life is to give life meaning
Post by: Scorpion on January 30, 2017, 10:35:57 AM
I really really like this album. It could probably be shortened to a long one-disc album and still leave the best stuff in there, but when it's amazing, it's out of this world. Age of Shadows, Liquid Eternity, Beneath the Waves, The Fifth Extinction, River of Time, E=mc² and The Sixth Extinction are some of my favourite Ayreon songs.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The meaning of life is to give life meaning
Post by: Big Hath on January 30, 2017, 11:40:28 AM
potentially my favorite Ayreon.  Love it!
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The meaning of life is to give life meaning
Post by: 425 on January 30, 2017, 11:48:57 AM
Also, great write-up :tup (did 425 change anything in your dramatic introduction? :P)

Actually, he didn't, and that's why I forgot to cut this comment from the final draft. :lol

Ha, I probably should have cut that comment myself!

This is very close to the top of my Ayreon rankings. It's probably a close #2 to The Human Equation among the ones I'm familiar with. A few of the songs are a little fillery, but the high points are really good.

Beyond the obvious Age of Shadows, Beneath the Waves and the two Extinctions, I'd put two shorter songs among the high points of this one: Comatose and The Truth is in Here. Comatose might actually be my favorite track on the album; Jorn's performance is so impressive and it's just such a good song. The Truth is in Here is just exactly the type of quirky song that works for me. It really tells a self-contained story that becomes that much more when you add in the context of the whole Ayreon story. It's pretty evocative and awesome in that context. I think the female vocalist on there does a good job at character and counterpoint, and Arjen absolutely goes for it in what is my favorite of his vocal performances—he really embodies the character. It's my favorite Arjen-fronted song, just ahead of Carried by the Wind.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The meaning of life is to give life meaning
Post by: Nick on January 30, 2017, 10:08:44 PM
It's so interesting to read this one compared to the rest as it was the first new Ayreon release for me.

It was also one of the first reviews I ever wrote. I certainly cringe at writing from a year ago, let alone close to a decade. That said, here it is for everyone: http://wpapu.com/new-releases-025/#006

There are things I love about this album, but plenty that isn't quite as well executed as most Ayreon is. That said it's a perfect example of why I love Arjen so much. This album is either my least favorite or close to it, and yet I still stand by the B+ rating I gave it, or perhaps a B at worst. There is truly nothing with the Ayreon name on it I don't thoroughly enjoy.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The meaning of life is to give life meaning
Post by: Cyclopssss on February 03, 2017, 12:46:51 AM
I remember this being released and being excited that my girl Marjan Welman would be on it! I remember playing it through for the first time, not really grasping the storyline.
I remember being impressed with Anneke v. Giersbergen and Jonas Renske's parts, being blown away by Jorn Lande, being totally underwhelmed by Daniel Gildenlow's contributions as I found him totally unrecognisable! Other than that it sounds great, musically and mix-wise. It sounds futuristic and folky at the same time at certain points, in a typical Ayreon fashion. Ultimately, my conclusion was that it didn't make as big of an impression on me the way The Human Equation did. I remember playing the album, that was just released, on the way to the releaseparty in Stairway to Heaven in Utrecht and when arriving there, the lonoooong line that formed in front of the entrance. (really, theys should've gone for a much larger venue. When I got to the front, they were just about to announce that the place was packed and couldn't allow anymore of the audience in. When Yvette Boertje, Arjen's (former) PA saw me standing outside she motioned me inside, all part of being a former Ayreonote and Team of Passion member, I guess. It was so packed inside you couldn't even get a good view of the stage when Wudstick, Arjen, Marjan, Floor, Hansi Kurch  and Ed Warby performed some of the songs accoustic, to great applause. I remember being VERY impressed by a towering brunette with the greatest blue eyes I'd ever seen and thinking 'Where do I know this chick from?' Offcourse, it was Floor  :facepalm: After that short acoustic gig, they all went outside and played a few songs for the people that were still outside and couldn't get in. It was that kind of an afternoon.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The meaning of life is to give life meaning
Post by: Evermind on February 03, 2017, 11:54:09 AM
It's so interesting to read this one compared to the rest as it was the first new Ayreon release for me.

It was also one of the first reviews I ever wrote. I certainly cringe at writing from a year ago, let alone close to a decade. That said, here it is for everyone: http://wpapu.com/new-releases-025/#006

Same here. I also noticed a few cringy things in this review indeed. :biggrin: Still, it was pretty good I think.

I remember this being released and being excited that my girl Marjan Welman would be on it! I remember playing it through for the first time, not really grasping the storyline.
I remember being impressed with Anneke v. Giersbergen and Jonas Renske's parts, being blown away by Jorn Lande, being totally underwhelmed by Daniel Gildenlow's contributions as I found him totally unrecognisable! Other than that it sounds great, musically and mix-wise. It sounds futuristic and folky at the same time at certain points, in a typical Ayreon fashion. Ultimately, my conclusion was that it didn't make as big of an impression on me the way The Human Equation did. I remember playing the album, that was just released, on the way to the releaseparty in Stairway to Heaven in Utrecht and when arriving there, the lonoooong line that formed in front of the entrance. (really, theys should've gone for a much larger venue. When I got to the front, they were just about to announce that the place was packed and couldn't allow anymore of the audience in. When Yvette Boertje, Arjen's (former) PA saw me standing outside she motioned me inside, all part of being a former Ayreonote and Team of Passion member, I guess. It was so packed inside you couldn't even get a good view of the stage when Wudstick, Arjen, Marjan, Floor, Hansi Kurch  and Ed Warby performed some of the songs accoustic, to great applause. I remember being VERY impressed by a towering brunette with the greatest blue eyes I'd ever seen and thinking 'Where do I know this chick from?' Offcourse, it was Floor  :facepalm: After that short acoustic gig, they all went outside and played a few songs for the people that were still outside and couldn't get in. It was that kind of an afternoon.

Now that's an awesome story. I have no idea how can you not recognize Floor, though. :lol
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Turn around and face the darker side of you
Post by: Evermind on February 07, 2017, 10:41:33 AM
Guilt Machine – On this Perfect Day (2009)


(http://www.arjenlucassen.com/content/wp-content/uploads/gm_cover_1024.jpg)


Release date: August 28th, 2009
Length: 57:37


Tracklist:

1. Twisted Coil
2. Leland Street
3. Green and Cream
4. Season of Denial
5. Over
6. Perfection?

Personnel:

Band members:

Jasper Steverlinck — vocals
Lori Linstruth — lead guitar
Chris Maitland (ex-Porcupine Tree) — drums
Arjen Anthony Lucassen — electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, bass guitar, keyboards and vocals

Additional musicians:

Ben Mathot — violin
David Faber — cello



History / Background / Choosing the musicians

Despite announcing her intention to pursue her own goals, Arjen’s manager Yvette Boertje stayed with him until 01011001 was released, and only then quit her job. Arjen needed a new manager right then, and he didn’t want a manager who was only interested in cash—he needed someone who would be a stimulating force to him, a person whose opinion he would always be able to ask for, and whose opinion he would value. Yvette recommended him Lori Linstruth—the guitar player for Stream of Passion back in 2005—she and Arjen got along really well during the first Stream of Passion tour. Arjen considered it and offered her the position, going out of his comfort zone and adding that the position also included living with him. At that time, Lori was fighting depression like Arjen—she recently broke up with her boyfriend and didn’t know what to do with her life—so one could say two kindred spirits found each other in this case. Lori agreed to give Arjen’s proposal a try, and thus a new period of life began for both of them.

Now that Arjen’s life was back on track, the inspiration started flowing for him, and new songs began coming up effortlessly. Originally, Arjen planned this project to be a solo album, with laid-back Floyd-influenced music, but then Lori heard his ideas and insisted on adding heavy guitars to them. Naturally, then, a laid-back album didn’t happen. Arjen decided to abandon that “solo album” idea, and when he did, he became quite sure what this album was going to sound like: melancholic, heavy at times, with some Floyd-influences—most importantly, it was going to be more consistent in terms of the sound and vocals. In contrast to 01011001, Arjen wanted to get only one singer for the whole album; and since he had released Fate of a Dreamer and Embrace the Storm with female singers, he decided that this time the singer had to be male.

There were other requirements for the singer, such as having good pronunciation in English and not being too well-known on progressive rock or metal scene—Russell Allen was briefly considered, but Arjen didn’t want to send expectations through the roof, so he didn’t ask Russell to participate. One fan sent Arjen a message regarding the singer of a Belgian band called Arid, and Arjen and Lori went to see him performing live. The singer—Jasper Steverlinck—blew them away, and they offered him the position, but he wasn’t interested in it at first. It took a few months for Jasper to think about it, and then he contacted Arjen, saying he was willing to sing on a track called The Memory Remains from Timeline.

After collaborating on The Memory Remains, Jasper agreed to sing on Guilt Machine, but the problem was that Arjen had all the melodies written, but didn’t have any lyrics. He turned to Lori, and she was quick to supply him with lyrics for one song, the opener of the album. Arjen liked them so much, he asked her to write the rest of the lyrics; and she did, focusing her writing on dark emotions like guilt, sadness and regret. The resulting record isn’t a concept album in the sense of having one continuous storyline, but all the songs are built around the same emotions of guilt, regret and inner struggle.

Writing / Recording

In the several interviews that followed the release of On this Perfect Day, Arjen described the writing process for this album as “very relaxed.” The inspiration kept flowing, and the songs were growing from the mere ideas to the full-blown 10-minute epics in no time, with one exception called Over, the shortest song on the album. The band struggled with this one, and even the ideas that everyone contributed to it weren’t doing any good, according to Arjen—the song ended up being a “problem child” of the album.

Arjen finally managed to get Chris Maitland to play on his record—he tried to get him for The Dream Sequencer, but Chris didn’t answer Arjen’s e-mails for a few days, and when he did, Arjen had already asked another drummer to perform on that album. Arjen chose Chris Maitland over usual Ayreon drummer Ed Warby because he thought that Chris could perform the intricate, groovy passages on the slower, subtler songs better than Ed. Though Ed can definitely perform those types of passages well, he would probably not do so as well as Chris, since he is more of a powerhouse drummer. Chris flew over to Netherlands and recorded his drums there.

All the people who were involved in recording this album had a chance to contribute their own ideas to the music Arjen wrote. In case of Chris, Arjen sent him the tracks with programmed drums over them. Naturally, Chris told him that wasn’t the way he was going to play it. Arjen responded that this was exactly the answer he had hoped for. Similarly, Jasper had guide vocals from Arjen, but being a better singer with a higher range, he went all out on the songs, sometimes abandoning the guide vocals entirely. Arjen only encouraged that, because it gave additional depth to the songs, making them more impressive and adventurous.

Music

The music on On this Perfect Day, perhaps, resembles Ayreon more than any of Arjen’s other side projects do. It has those signature synth sounds you can notice on 01011001, it has those long songs with intricate song structures and different sections, it even has those machine sounds—curiously, not synth-produced—which were recorded in a magnesium oxide industrial plant. The machine sounds weren’t originally in the cards for this album, but Arjen and Lori added them after they settled on the project’s name: looking at the lyrics, the only reasonable name that wasn’t already taken was Guilt Machine, and that justified the machine sounds. Arjen and Lori also decided to include a form of interaction with the fans where every fan could call and leave the message on their answering machine in their native language (also providing the translation), and the ones that they liked the most ended up being on the actual album.

Anyway, most of the material on Guilt Machine is depressing and written in a minor key; except for Over, which features some happy major chords and, as I said, was the most problematic song on this album. Still, there are some songs on the album that carry depressing, guilt-ridden messages, yet still manage to stay cheerful enough, like Green and Cream; and then there are also the songs that embrace the “guilt” concept to the core, like Season of Denial.

My Thoughts

Uh, my first thought is that this writeup is rushed as hell and I wasn’t able to do this album justice because of my job and the stupid business trip to Egypt scheduled for this weekend and beyond.

Regarding the album, I’ve got to say that I really like it. Not as much as I like some of Arjen’s other projects, like The Gentle Storm, which is my personal #1, and Star One, which is my personal #2; but this Guilt Machine album is a damn fine offering from Arjen, and it’s probably my #3 among his side projects. It’s not hugely popular, and it’s true that the sales for this album were pretty low, but I’m proud to own it, because while I think it’s not absolute musical perfection, I still think it’s a hell of an effort. The effort went somewhat unnoticed, even though Arjen was behind it, but the album is actually way better than a lot of records that were released in 2009—in my opinion, it’s better than Black Clouds & Silver Linings, for instance.

There are songs I’m not too fond of, like Over and Green and Cream, but then there are songs I’m totally in love with, like Season of Denial and Perfection?, so while I can’t say this album is very consistent, it has a lot to offer to any fellow progressive rock-/metal-head. It’s usual Arjen music with a dark, melancholic twist to it, and also with a singer you probably haven’t ever encountered—while you may think that’s not a big deal, there’s a good chance that he’s going to blow your mind. Because Jasper Steverlinck is that good on On this Perfect Day, in my opinion.

All in all, it’s not Arjen’s best side project for me, but it’s far from the worst, either. Very solid album.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Turn around and face the darker side of you
Post by: Evermind on February 07, 2017, 10:44:57 AM
I know it's late for the announcement, but all the usual crowd knew this time in advance, and if you just stumble upon this, feel free to join us!

Guilt Machine - On this Perfect Day listening session - Tuesday, February 7th, 7 P.M. GMT!

This session will take place at plug.dj site. To join the room, use the link below.

https://plug.dj/ayreon-listening-sessions
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Turn around and face the darker side of you
Post by: twosuitsluke on February 07, 2017, 10:48:58 AM
I'll be there as I really enjoyed this album on first listen, more than most other Arjen albums.

I'd also urge everyone to just click the link and give these plug.dj rooms a go, they're a lot of fun.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Turn around and face the darker side of you
Post by: Scorpion on February 07, 2017, 10:53:28 AM
Yeah, I really like this album, so I'm pumped for this listening session. :metal
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Turn around and face the darker side of you
Post by: Cyclopssss on February 08, 2017, 01:04:59 AM
Great album. I think it surpassed everyone's expectations at the time. Fans were ask to leave voicemessages regarding the theme of the album to be inserted on some of the tracks. Mine didn't make it to the album proper, but I'm somewhere on the bonus tracks. Not gonna tell which.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Turn around and face the darker side of you
Post by: twosuitsluke on February 08, 2017, 02:59:04 AM
Really good listening session last night, best crowd yet! I really like this album and will certainly be giving it more spins.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Turn around and face the darker side of you
Post by: jcmoorehead on February 08, 2017, 03:17:07 AM
Guilt Machine was one of those that when i first got it I didn't really get into. Gave it another spin last year and found myself really enjoying it and it's been in fairly constant rotation since. Opening track is wonderful, also find myself really enjoying Season Of Denial.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Once you go in, you are never coming out
Post by: Evermind on March 02, 2017, 08:47:51 AM
This thread isn't dead, by the way. As I warned you guys, a lot of work-related stuff was happening for me in February, so we had to take a break before doing the next writeup (well, I had to take a break, 425 was probably ready to edit the hell out of these writeups any day). Let's get back on track now.



Star One — Victims of the Modern Age (2010)


(http://www.metal-archives.com/images/2/8/4/4/284495.jpg)


Release date: November 1st, 2010
Length: 53:09


Tracklist:

1. Down the Rabbit Hole
2. Digital Rain
3. Earth That Was
4. Victim of the Modern Age
5. Human See, Human Do
6. 24 Hours
7. Cassandra Complex
8. It’s Alive, She’s Alive, We’re Alive
9. It All Ends Here
     A. I Think Therefore I Am
     B. Four Years
     C. It All Ends Here

Personnel:

Musicians:

Arjen Anthony Lucassen — guitars, Hammond, Mellotron, analog synths, Solina strings
Ed Warby — drums
Peter Vink — bass
Joost van den Broek — keyboard solos on “Digital Rain”, “Earth That Was”, “Human See, Human Do” and “It’s Alive, She’s Alive, We’re Alive”
Gary Wehrkamp — guitar solos on “Digital Rain”, “Earth That Was”, “Human See, Human Do” and “Cassandra Complex”

Star One singers:

Sir Russell Allen (Symphony X) — vocals
Damian Wilson (Headspace, Threshold) — vocals
Floor Jansen (After Forever, Nightwish) — vocals
Dan Swano (Nightingale, Witherscape) — vocals



History / Background / Writing

Guilt Machine’s On this Perfect Day wasn’t even released yet, but in 2009 Arjen had already begun collecting and writing down ideas for his next album. On this Perfect Day, despite being heavy in places, was also atmospheric and moody, and relied on longer tracks that took their time to build up to an emotional climax. As usual, Arjen wanted to change something from this formula for his next album, and as a consequence, he opted to challenge himself and make another Star One album, with more straightforward, heavy music. The challenge was to create a better album than the first Star One record, Space Metal, which was very well received by critics and fans alike back in 2002.

The first thing Arjen was determined to do in order to make sure the album would compare positively with Space Metal was improve the production. Arjen especially wanted to get a better guitar sound, because he decided to write the songs around guitar riffs, so he started experimenting with the sound before he wrote anything substantial this time. Once he perfected the guitar sound, it was time to write the material, and, naturally, the question of which singers to invite arose. Arjen’s first thought was to pick different vocalists than he did for Space Metal—he didn’t think he could top that record with the same set of singers. However, that plan was scrapped after a discussion with Gary Wehrkamp, who opined that with Ayreon being the project known for different vocalists on each album, Star One might as well be an actual band with the constant lineup. Besides, all four people from original lineup were world-class singers as well as Arjen’s friends—and therefore easily approachable.

That decided, Arjen started writing in earnest, and with the inspiration flowing, he came up with more than ten songs, eight of which (not including the short introduction piece) ended up on an actual album. Like on Space Metal, all the songs were based on different movies of which Arjen was fond. This time, however, the focus was on the post-apocalyptic and dystopian movies instead of films set in space. The lyrical approach was also different—on Victims of the Modern Age, Arjen attempted to focus on one aspect of the story in each movie and expand on and develop it, instead of trying to cram whole movies into songs as he did with lyrics on Space Metal.

Music

The music is also similar to the first Star One album, and some direct comparisons can be drawn between the tracks from both records. For example, Arjen himself compared Cassandra Complex to Intergalactic Space Crusaders from Space Metal, both being more commercial and catchy songs; and one can also find him comparing the fast, double-bass driven song Human See, Human Do to Set Your Controls in interviews around the time of the album’s release. That said, however, it would be a huge stretch to call any song from Victims of the Modern Age a rip-off from Space Metal.

For the most part, the singers’ voices are utilized the same way they were on the album’s predecessor. Possibly the biggest difference here is the increased presence of Dan Swanö across the record, sometimes with a well-timed growl here and there, sometimes with his deep voice on verses. In some interviews, Arjen admitted that, along with the toughened and enriched guitar sound, Dan’s performance was a huge improvement in sound over the first album. The other musicians sound mostly the same, though: Russell still belts out epic, soaring passages, Damian still delivers the lines with his crystal clear voice, and Floor’s powerful performance is all over the choruses (and, in case of Cassandra Complex, she actually has a lead passages on the verses too). The material is, perhaps, a bit more varied on Victims, mostly due to the inclusion of tracks like 24 Hours with its progressive vibe, and It All Ends Here, which, one could say, goes somewhere near the doom metal territory.

Artwork, reception and possibility of the tour

Like Guilt Machine’s On this Perfect Day, the artwork for Victims of the Modern Age was created by Christophe Dessaigne. This time, Arjen choose an older artwork that Christophe had previously created, and requested to alter it a bit, changing the scale of some of the elements on it. The artwork is based on an actual monument in remembrance of the Holocaust, located in Berlin.

Once again, the reception to the album was generally positive, and, naturally, Arjen was bombarded with countless questions about the possibility of another Star One tour. The musicians and singers were on board with it, as long as they were available for the dates selected. However, as all singers had their own touring bands, the scheduling of such a tour proved unfeasible—and, perhaps, Arjen’s own reluctance to perform live at that point played a role, too. The tour didn’t happen, and by the time Victims of the Modern Age was released in USA and Europe, Arjen had already started working on his next project, this time clearly defined from the very beginning: his second solo album.

My Thoughts

As I said in my Space Metal writeup, I probably prefer Victims over the first Star One effort, and the production plays a huge role in this. I’m not a huge Dan Swanö fan, so his increased presence doesn’t do that much for me (the growls scattered through the album are really good, though), but the new guitar sound is something to die for, especially compared to what we had on Space Metal. I like how seven string guitars are used here; I assume they’re responsible for the heavier and darker sound overall.

With that said, I think some tracks could use some trimming (It All Ends Here) or improving—both Cassandra Complex and It’s Alive, She’s Alive, We’re Alive fall a bit flat for me, which makes for a somewhat blurred and unsatisfying ending to an otherwise fantastic album, in my opinion. On the other hand, this album features two of my favourite Star One tracks, paired, which are Human See, Human Do and the epic 24 Hours. I think for me the highs are higher on this album, while the lows are maybe a bit lower on Space Metal overall, which is why I prefer Victims to it.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Once you go in, you are never coming out
Post by: Evermind on March 02, 2017, 09:06:57 AM
I'm really bad at getting the writeups ready at least one day before the listening session, so I'm late with the announcement again.

Star One - Victims of the Modern Age listening session - Thursday, March 2nd, 7 P.M. GMT!

This session will take place at plug.dj site. To join the room, use the link below.

https://plug.dj/ayreon-listening-sessions
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: Evermind on March 16, 2017, 11:10:32 AM
Now that was a whole lot of interest to this album. I suppose that has something to do with a break I took that lasted a month due to my work schedule, but hey, at least the listening session was a blast. Anyway, I'm determined to finish this and even the lack of replies won't stop me here. :biggrin:



Arjen Anthony Lucassen – Lost in the New Real (2012)


(https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/ru/e/e5/Arjen_Anthony_Lucassen_Lost_In_The_New_Real.jpeg)


Release date: April 23rd, 2012
Length: 47:00 (1CD) or 90:20 (2CD)*


Tracklist:

1. The New Real
2. Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin
3. Parental Procreation Permit
4. When I’m a Hundred Sixty-Four
5. E-Police
6. Don’t Switch Me Off
7. Dr. Slumber’s Eternity Home
8. Yellowstone Memorial Day
9. Where Pigs Fly
10. Lost in the New Real

Note: Arjen himself considers Lost in the New Real to be a double album. Arjen wrote fifteen original songs for this album; the first CD contains ten of them, the second CD features five original songs and five cover songs. I certainly don’t want to contradict the author himself, but for the purposes of this writeup, I will be referring to the first CD only, because it feels like a complete album with the plot that begins in the first song and is brought to conclusion in the last one.

Personnel:

Arjen Anthony Lucassen as Mr. L — lead vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, other instruments not mentioned below
Rutger Hauer as Voight-Kampff — spoken vocals / narration
Wilmer Waarbroek — backing vocals, grunts on “Parental Procreation Permit”
Ed Warby — drums
Ben Mathot — violin
Maaike Peterse — cello
Jeroen Goossens — flute
Rob Snijders — drums
Elvya Dulcimer — hammered dulcimer



History / Background / Writing / Musicians

By the time Victims of the Modern Age, the second album by his side project Star One, was released in the USA and Europe, Arjen had already started working on his next project. He aimed to write, record and release a solo album this time, setting this goal for himself from the very beginning of writing. Of course, that didn’t mean much—Arjen had aimed to do the same thing when he started composing 01011001, Guilt Machine’s On this Perfect Day and Star One’s Victims of the Modern Age. Each time something had interfered with his plans, but this time he felt it was perfect time to go through with it. It also fell in line with his approach to choosing new projects to work on—while the three albums mentioned were quite different from each other, they also shared some similarities in being somber and dark. Arjen’s voice isn’t particularly suited to perform somber and dark pieces of music, therefore it was only natural to make his solo album like Lost in the New Real.
 
As usual, writing music for the album took Arjen a little more than a year. He recorded most of the vocals and instruments himself, but in some cases he had to ask other people to perform on the album. Arjen didn’t want to use programmed drums for this record, so he approached his usual partner-in-crime Ed Warby, who gladly agreed to help once again. Arjen wrote some of the choruses for Lost in the New Real with backing vocals in mind, so he asked Wilmer Waarbroek, a singer with a higher range than Arjen, to perform those. Finally, for violin, cello and flute parts Arjen invited the musicians who performed on 01011001—Ben Mathot, Maaike Peterse and Jeroen Goossens respectively—to play those parts.

Music / Plot

For this album Arjen had the complete artistic freedom—he didn’t have to meet any expectations from fans like he did with Ayreon and latest Star One records. He didn’t have to pick a handful of singers and then hope the audience would be satisfied with his choices, and he didn’t have to write music to suit their voices. He only had his voice to tailor the songs to, and he could use his creative talent and imagination to come up with anything… as long as he could sing it. This was something of a drawback for this solo album—he could only write music that would fit his own voice and make it shine. Thus, the absence of any other lead singers was both the blessing and the limitation—Arjen isn’t famous for his singing abilities.

Despite this, he managed to come up with a good number of songs. There isn’t a lot of variety in his singing on the record—the variety is mostly in the usage of different voice effects alternating with his clean voice—but there is some variety in the actual music. There are classic rock numbers like Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin (yes, this is the real title of the song), there are songs in a progressive vein like [/b]The New Real[/b] and Lost in the New Real, there is Where Pigs Fly, which is similar to some Ayreon songs Arjen sang before, and there is even a metal track called Parental Procreation Permit (curiously, the cover of Pink Floyd’s Welcome to the Machine from the second CD features the same riff). There are tracks that feel serious, and there are tracks that feel more like comic relief and are light-hearted in their nature. Most of the songs are also short, from three to four and a half minutes, with the notable exceptions of the album’s opener and closer.

But there’s more—Lost in the New Real is actually a concept album. The story focuses around Mr. L, a man who was dying from cancer in the 21st century and was cryopreserved at the moment of his clinical death (we met Mr. L in The Truth is in Here from 01011001, and, possibly, during Into the Electric Castle). The years have passed, and the technology has advanced enough to cure a lot of diseases that were considered deadly in the 21st century, including Mr. L’s cancer. Now, cured, Mr. L awakens in the future, and the world around him isn’t the same world he can remember from his previous life—everything has changed to the point where he isn’t sure what is real, and what is not. Voight-Kampff, the psychological advisor appointed to Mr. L to help him adapt to the new world, explains the key points of view of the new, advanced civilization—such as the problems of overpopulation on Earth, the abuse of drugs, the invention of cyber police, the music done totally by computers, the computers evolving to the level they could be mistaken with humans, and so on. The flow of the new information is so overwhelming that Mr. L isn’t sure what to believe, and in the end, he decides that all that is happening around him isn’t real, and asks to be put out of his misery.

My Thoughts

Well, this is somewhat of a polarizing album for me.

I really enjoy it for what it is. There are some good songs, enjoyable and catchy, and Arjen does a good job on the most of the material, keeping in interesting and not too overwhelming. On the other hand, I like every other Arjen project more, including Ambeon.

It probably has a lot to do with the fact I need to enjoy the singer in my music, and in the most cases, if I find the singer to be mediocre or even less than that, I won’t enjoy the music as much as I could have. I mean, all instruments could be perfect, but if the singer isn’t up to par, my impression of the album would be somewhat dampened. Now, there are some brilliant instrumental albums out there, and I love many of them (Jon Lord’s Sarabande is in my Top 10), and then there are not-all-that-impressive singers that I also love (like Mark Knopfler, or young Ian Anderson, or even Leonard Cohen on You Want It Darker), but something about Arjen’s singing just doesn’t do it for me on Lost in the New Real. I think it also has to do something with the songs—for example, I really like both Carried by the Wind and The Truth is in Here, and I also like some of the songs on this album, namely Pink Beatles and the title track, but on most of the tracks his singing falls a bit flat for me. It also doesn’t help that some songs are short and without any development, When I’m a Hundred Sixty-Four being the best example.

I don’t have a lot to say about this album, short as it is. I applaud Arjen for finally doing a solo album after almost 18 years of waiting, and I applaud his creativity for coming up with the plot and with the songs that would fit his voice. However, out of all Arjen’s projects, this is the one I almost don’t revisit at all, and if he announces another solo album, this would probably be the only Arjen-related thing that wouldn’t warrant an instant pre-order from me.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: Evermind on March 16, 2017, 11:12:55 AM
I'm not going to do a big old announcement because most of the old crowd knows that, but the listening session for this album is happening today at 8 P.M. GMT. See you there.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: Ben_Jamin on March 16, 2017, 11:42:08 AM
I might listen to it now as I most likely won't be able to when the listening session begins.

I haven't listened to it in quite a bit. Its a good album, I enjoy it. Even the 2nd disc.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: Shadow Ninja 2.0 on March 16, 2017, 11:46:41 AM
Honestly, I fucking love this album. It probably ranks higher than at least a few of Arjen's other albums for me.

I really love his voice on here, too. He's always been excellent at getting the best out of the vocalists on his albums, so it's probably not surprising that he does the same for himself.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: twosuitsluke on March 16, 2017, 11:48:22 AM
I already told Train but sorry, I can't make it tonight  :tdwn

I'd love to be there for this album though  :biggrin:
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: Tomislav95 on March 17, 2017, 04:43:12 AM
This album is much better that I expected it to be. And I guess I had low expectations because no one ever talk about it :huh: Gonna relisten soon, but yeah, on first listen it was mostly great.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: twosuitsluke on March 17, 2017, 04:50:05 AM
I only listened through once, before sending my predictions to Evermind, and I just remember it was cheese of the highest order (even by Arjen standards  :lol).
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: Tomislav95 on March 17, 2017, 06:48:00 AM
I only listened through once, before sending my predictions to Evermind, and I just remember it was cheese of the highest order (even by Arjen standards  :lol).
It's definitely different kind of cheese than Ayreon.   
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: ronnibran on March 17, 2017, 07:54:36 PM
Lost in the New Real is great!  I put it up there maybe right behind 01011001 and The Human Equation.  And the title track on the album is one of my ultimate favorite songs.  So great!

I love disc 2 as well, so many great songs there.  Surprised only half the songs are covers, they all work very well together.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: Parama on March 17, 2017, 08:44:03 PM
it's "connect the dots" and "web of lies" for an entire album

parently etc. garbage is arjen's worst song

i don't really like this album, but a few of the second disc songs are cool
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: nattmorker on March 27, 2017, 10:57:06 PM
I really love Arjen's work, he's becoming one of my absolutely favorite musician/composer. Thanks to this thread I've been working my way through the entire discography (previously I only knew THE, The Gentle Storm, SoP, TTOE & parts of 01...), I've been following this thread at my own pace, so far I'm finishing with "Flight Of The Migrator", then I still need to listen to the remaining side projects but I've finally caught up with this thread, so I will be waiting for the next writeup & listening session. So far my favorite Ayreon albums are:

Top tier: THE, TTOE, 01..., The Dream Sequencer (Temple of the cat & And The Druids Turn To Stone are some of my favorite Ayreon songs).
Middle tier: Flight Of The Migrator, TFE.
Bottom tier: The electric castle (although I don't find it bad, I just like the others a lot more). 

Regarding 01... I guess I'm in the minority that really likes songs like Connect the dots, Web of lies, etc. Besides, those songs got me into this album, this was the most difficult album for me to get into, but now I love it!

Regarding TTOE, I really love this album, I like the way is divided into smaller bits. Besides I'm a mathematician (I'm close to get my phd) and some parts of the lyrics really speak to me, that frustration of feeling close to the solution of a problem, but never really get there.

Finally, thanks to Evermind for the writeups! They've been really fun and informative to read.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: twosuitsluke on March 28, 2017, 12:22:37 AM
When is the next listening session by the way Evermind?
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: Cyclopssss on March 28, 2017, 12:52:22 AM
Lost in the New Real is a fun album, but far from his best. It's a cool concept and some of the artwork is hilarious. Some great covers on here though, especially 'I'm the Slime' and Battle of Evermore.

Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: Evermind on March 28, 2017, 10:12:58 AM
 :tup

When is the next listening session by the way Evermind?

Originally it was planned to happen on this Thursday, but I'm not sure we can deliver the writeup before that. It's either this Thursday, next Tuesday or next Thursday. :biggrin:
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: home on March 28, 2017, 10:22:35 AM
:tup

When is the next listening session by the way Evermind?

Originally it was planned to happen on this Thursday, but I'm not sure we can deliver the writeup before that. It's either this Thursday, next Tuesday or next Thursday. :biggrin:
I'm really hoping it's next week, I've got a beerpong tourney this thursday  :P
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: Parama on March 28, 2017, 10:38:14 AM
What's next anyways is it already ttoe?
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: Evermind on March 28, 2017, 11:04:55 AM
It is indeed.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: Evermind on March 29, 2017, 11:24:50 AM
Yeah, it's definitely not going to happen this week, came back from work pretty late and there's no way I can finish it today. I'll probably finish the writeup at weekend, and then we'll see if it's next Tuesday or Thursday. Sorry folks.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: Evermind on April 03, 2017, 12:14:46 PM
Alright then, I apologize for the triple post, but now that we know that for sure—the writeup for TTOE is going to be live tomorrow, and the listening session is also going to happen tomorrow, so I'll just go ahead and post the announcement ahead of the writeup.

The Theory of Everything listening session - Tuesday, April 4th, 7 P.M. GMT!

This session will take place at plug.dj site. To join the room, use the link below.

https://plug.dj/ayreon-listening-sessions
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: jingle.boy on April 03, 2017, 02:18:48 PM
I'm horrifically behind on this thread, but since I've refreshed myself with the Arjen discography over the past couple of weeks, I can now sit down with this thread over coffee and read through this.  I might even see if I can dig up my old lo.com VOTMA review.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: Train of Naught on April 04, 2017, 10:45:55 AM
I fully intend to
build a new house on the foundation of where the one we just tore down is  :hat

In other words, I'm in the plug room now waiting for other mortal souls to join me and will then continue to drop my playlist of 12 (and counting) juicy Scar-approved songs.

As for TTOE, only heard it once but it was really good, looking forward to the sesh. I remember Phase I being my favourite.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: twosuitsluke on April 04, 2017, 11:23:36 AM
Right, just got home from work. Give me 15-20 minutes and I'll be in  :hat
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
Post by: Evermind on April 04, 2017, 12:34:07 PM
We begin in ~30 minutes, get in if you still aren't there!
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: Evermind on April 04, 2017, 01:24:39 PM
 
The Theory of Everything (2013)


(http://www.arjenlucassen.com/content/wp-content/uploads/toe_cover_2000px.jpg)


Release date: October 28th, 2013
Length: 89:33


Tracklist:

CD 1 :

Phase I: Singularity
1. Prologue: The Blackboard
2. The Theory of Everything Part I
3. Patterns
4. The Prodigy’s World
5. The Teacher’s Discovery
6. Love and Envy
7. Progressive Waves
8. The Gift
9. The Eleventh Dimension
10. Inertia
11. The Theory of Everything Part 2

Phase II: Symmetry
12. The Consultation
13. Diagnosis
14. The Argument 1
15. The Rival’s Dilemma
16. Surface Tension
17. A Reason to Live
18. Potential
19. Quantum Chaos
20. Dark Medicine
21. Alive!
22. The Prediction

CD 2 :

Phase III: Entanglement
1. Fluctuations
2. Transformation
3. Collision
4. Side Effects
5. Frequency Modulation
6. Magnetism
7. Quid Pro Quo
8. String Theory
9. Fortune?

Phase IV: Unification
10. Mirror of Dreams
11. The Lighthouse
12. The Argument 2
13. The Parting
14. The Visitation
15. The Breakthrough
16. The Note
17. The Uncertainty Principle
18. Dark Energy
19. The Theory of Everything Part 3
20. The Blackboard (reprise)

Personnel:

Arjen Anthony Lucassen — electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, mandolin, analog synthesizers, Hammond, Solina Strings, recording, production, mixing
Jef Bertels — artwork
Brett Caldas-Lima — mastering
Christophe Dessaigne — artwork photography
Lori Linstruth — lyrics (co-written with Arjen), artists’ photographs

Vocalists:

JB (Grand Magus) — The Teacher
Sara Squadrani (Ancient Bards) — The Girl
Michael Mills (Toehider) — The Father
Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) — The Mother
Tommy Karevik (Seventh Wonder, Kamelot) — The Prodigy
Marco Hietala (Nightwish) — The Rival
John Wetton (Asia) — The Psychiatrist
Wilmer Waarbroek — backing vocals and guide vocals

Musicians

Ed Warby — drums and percussion
Rick Wakeman — minimoog solo on “Diagnosis”, synthesizer solo on “Surface Tension”, piano
Keith Emerson — modular moog solo on “Progressive Waves”
Jordan Rudess — synthesizer solo on “Progressive Waves”
Steve Hackett — guitar solo on “The Parting”
Troy Donockley — uilleann pipas, whistles
Ben Mathot — violin
Maaike Peterse — cello
Siddharta Barnhoorn — orchestrations
Michael Mills — irish bouzouki
Jeroen Goossens — flute, bass flute, piccolo, bamboo flute and contrabass flute



8:49 this morning

The dew of morning still glistens on the salt grass that grows along the foundation of the old Lighthouse. It isn’t in active service anymore, but has been renovated to serve as a private dwelling. High in the tower inside, a young man is slumped on the floor in the corner of the room, apparently in some kind of trance. Someone has put a blanket over him. He is deathly pale, but the steady, almost imperceptible rise and fall of his chest shows that he still clings to life. Standing next to him are young woman and an older man. Both are obviously shocked and distressed. Their frequent glances toward the door give the impression that they’re waiting for someone who is yet to arrive. On the wall next to them is a blackboard covered with impenetrable mathematical equations. The older man is holding a crumpled piece of paper—it appears to be a note scribbled in haste by an unsteady hand. What follows is the story of what happened…


History / Background / Writing

With main Ayreon story finished on 01011001, Arjen put the project on an indefinite hiatus. He kept writing music, however, and released albums under the Guilt Machine and Star One projects. He also released his second solo album, Lost in the New Real, on which he played most of the instruments and sang most of the vocals himself. As he admitted in several interviews back in 2013, the liberating experience of doing the solo album with only a few guest musicians, combined with the subsequent positive response to it from fans and critics alike, was what gave him inspiration and prompted him to record a new Ayreon album. However, as the main sci-fi storyline about the Forever race and the extinction of the humanity was concluded, Arjen had to come up with a new concept for the album. The inspiration for that came one day from a Steven Hawking science documentary on TV. It was focused on the theory of everything, and Arjen thought that would be a perfect fit for the new album’s title.

As usual, Arjen’s goal was to write an album that would be stylistically different from his previous Ayreon effort. 01011001 was darker, heavier-sounding, so for the new album Arjen wanted to have a lighter, more organic and natural sound, like on Into the Electric Castle. He also wanted the singers to have more breathing space and to flesh out the characters more—he wasn’t satisfied with the number of singers he had on 01011001, repeatedly saying that hiring seventeen singers for the album was probably a mistake. Last but not least, he wanted the story to be more clear and less ambiguous than some of the other concepts he did with Ayreon. With these goals in mind, he began to write.

Unlike all the previous Ayreon albums, Arjen wrote this one chronologically from beginning to end, intending to create one long musical story. After months of writing, he had four tracks over 20 minutes long, and that was how he intended the album to be released—just four long tracks (which was perfect for the vinyl release). However, he made a last-minute decision to split the tracks to make it easier for the listener to pick and fast-forward to their favourite part if needed, and Arjen ended up splitting up the tracks into the smaller parts—and naming them on the fly—and Arjen being who he is, he divided them in the way that there would be 42 tracks total, a reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Singers and musicians / Artwork / Lyrics

For The Theory of Everything, Arjen decided to go with a theatrical, operatic approach to the singing. He wanted the singers to really get into their roles in order to give their best performance. With that in mind, he started to approach various singers from his long list of people with whom he wanted to work one day. Some singers did decline, as usual—Arjen didn’t disclose in the interviews who refused his invitation, although there was a suggestion he tried to get Kate Bush for this album. Some singers were easy to convince—Arjen reached Tommy Karevik on Facebook and got a positive answer in a few hours, and Marco Hietala actually asked to star in one of Arjen’s projects himself. Some weren’t that easy to be persuaded—JB declined at first, then reconsidered during another phone call Arjen made to him, and to record John Wetton’s vocals, Arjen had to fly to England to John’s studio there.

With the musicians, Arjen got back some familiar Ayreon names on board, like Ed Warby on drums, Maaike, Ben and Jeroen on cello, violin and flute. However, he also managed to get some famous musicians for solo spots and other parts, particularly keyboardists. Both Keith Emerson and Jordan Rudess performed their solos on the track called Progressive Waves, and Rick Wakeman played two solos and the piano throughout the record. Steve Hackett played a guitar solo for the album, and Troy Donockley also lent his services as a fulfillment of his long-standing promise to collaborate with Arjen someday.

Because of the theatrical, operatic nature of the vocal lines, this time Arjen asked Wilmer Waarbroek to sing the guide vocals for the album, instead of performing them himself. Wilmer had worked with Arjen before, singing the backing vocals on Lost in the New Real, and he agreed to do the guide vocals for all the album. Arjen later posted all four tracks with Wilmer’s vocals on YouTube. Not only were the guide vocals not done by Arjen this time, but The Theory of Everything ended up to be the first album where Arjen and the invited singers weren’t the sole writers of the lyrics. This time, Arjen wrote all the lyrics and then Arjen’s partner and manager, Lori Linstruth, edited them, fixing the wording, striking some lines and adding some of her own.

However, what stayed unchanged is the quality of the artwork—Arjen worked with Jef Bertels once again, and once again the Belgian painter created a huge artwork depicting a lighthouse on seashore, which is a location where some of the story in the album takes place. As opposed to the sci-fi nature of the artwork for The Dream Sequencer or the darker mood of 01011001 cover art, this one is done in lighter tones with blue being the dominant color—fitting the mood of the music really well.

Music

The Theory of Everything is probably the least heavy Ayreon album since The Dream Sequencer. There are heavy parts, sure, but it never gets as heavy as The Human Equation or 01011001. This is achieved both by the choice of instruments for the musical compositions and the choice of singers. Heavy guitar sounds aren’t the norm here, and even when they’re present, they don’t feel that heavy; lots of flute, violin and cello, combined with Troy’s pipes and whistles almost give the album a folky vibe in some places. The singers, once again, mostly do clean and soaring passages or calm, reserved ones in a dialogue style. Marco and JB do let grit into their voices sometimes, as does Tommy Karevik, but most of the singing is pure and clean, which fits the music well. However, the quiet, calm moments are balanced with bombastic ones, where the singers go for soaring high notes with the orchestration beneath them.

The structure of the album doesn’t lend itself to casual listening, because despite being divided into 42 tracks, it really is four long songs, and, what’s more, it’s a one big story meant to be listened together. There are very few choruses on the album, and while there are a lot of recurring parts, large and small, throughout the album, they are scattered throughout all four songs—not necessarily recurring in the same ones. While each song has its climax in the final part, it also has several ones along the way, and it’s difficult to perceive and judge the songs as typical progressive rock and metal epics with movements, because there are basically no movements—the songs just flow naturally, narrating the story.

Plot

The plot revolves around seven characters, all of whom have prominent roles on the record. The Father, who is a remarkable scientist, has devoted his life to developing The Theory of Everything, the equation that will fully explain and unite all the physical forces of the universe. He feels that he is close to the answer, working on it relentlessly day and night, neglecting to care about his asocial and introverted son, the Prodigy, and his wife, the Mother (The Theory of Everything Part I). As the years pass, the Prodigy eventually begins his education at school. During a test in one of his science classes, a gust of wind brings a sheet of paper from the Teacher’s desk to his feet. The Prodigy has already finished the test, so he picks up the paper and begins to solve the equations on it. The Teacher notices it and is astounded—the boy just solved a problem that he’d been working on for years. The pupils in the class react differently to that—the Rival is envious and tries to convince the Teacher that Prodigy is a fraud, while the Girl takes Prodigy’s side and defends him from Rival’s accusations (The Teacher’s Discovery, Love and Envy). The Teacher approaches the Father later, revealing to him that his son has an enormous natural talent for science. The Father isn’t convinced, but agrees to give his son a chance and take him to therapy to see if anything can help him with his psychological struggles (The Gift, The Theory of Everything Part II).

The family brings their son to The Psychiatrist. After performing a series of tests, he informs Mother and Father that their son is a rare and exceptional savant, whose mind is constantly distracted and unable to focus on anything. He suggests trying an experimental drug, which is still in the middle of testing, with possible unproven side effects like extreme delusions. Father is all for it, willing to sign his son to the clinical trial on the spot, and Mother is entirely against it, unwilling to risk the life of her only child (The Consultation, Diagnosis). Meanwhile, the Teacher and the Girl both have their own reasons to help the Prodigy. The Teacher realizes he spent his life achieving nothing, but if he would be associated with Prodigy as his mentor, it could be his last chance to get on the road to fame. The Girl just likes the boy, and genuinely wants to help him (A Reason to Live, Potential). As more years pass, the Prodigy’s condition seems to get gradually worse, and his Father visits the Psychiatrist again, alone this time. He agrees to test the drug on his son, with the mutual agreement that no one else needs to know about it (Dark Medicine). Father begins secretly putting the drug into Prodigy’s meals, and the effect is instant and wondrous—Prodigy seems to connect with the real world, finally and for the first time in his life living to the fullest (Alive). Mother, unaware of the reasons of this sudden change, rejoices and proudly tells her son that he will show the whole world how brilliant he is (The Prediction).

The Teacher is also glad for Prodigy’s recovery, but is also suspicious about its sudden nature (Transformation). Feeling glorious, The Prodigy finally stands up to the Rival, stating that he never realized before how insignificant the Rival was (Collision). However, a year later the side effects of the drug are confirmed, and the Psychiatrist insists that Father should stop drugging his son and come clean to him. The Prodigy doesn’t take the news well and leaves his home, frustrated (Side Effects). He runs to the school to find Teacher, but meets the Girl and the Rival instead, telling them both about the drug. The Girl suggests that he could live at her home for a time being (Magnetism). However, as the chaos returns to his mind without the drug, the Prodigy can’t stand living without it, and when the Rival comes up with a suggestion—he can make more of the drug in exchange for Prodigy’s help in robbing a bank—the desperate protagonist agrees to this scheme. They succeed, but the Girl can’t bring herself to live with a criminal, and tells Prodigy to get out of her life. Meanwhile, the Rival walks into the sunset with his share of money (Quid Pro Quo, Fortune?).

About a year and a half after that, neither the Girl nor the Mother have seen Prodigy, and they gather together to discuss if there could be anything more they could’ve done not to lose him like that (Mirror of Dreams). The Prodigy, after being rejected by the Girl, turned to his only remaining friend, the Teacher, asking him to find a safe place where he could work on his own to finish the theory once and for all. With his supply of the drug and the money from the bank robbery, finding such a place isn’t a problem—the Prodigy buys an abandoned lighthouse and lives as a recluse there. The only person who knows his location is the Teacher, who visits him every day (The Lighthouse).

The Father begins another heated argument with Mother, pleading her to bring their son back; otherwise the Father can never solve The Theory of Everything. Fed up with his selfishness and ignorance, the Mother leaves her husband. Depressed, unable to finish the task he worked his whole life on, and this time truly alone, the Father decides to end the pain and do the only reasonable thing at this point (The Argument 2, The Parting).

The Prodigy is relentlessly working on the solution when he sees his Father on the lighthouse’s front doorstep. After a brief argument, they start to work together, Prodigy taking an excessive amount of the drug to speed up his thinking process, just until the solution is found. Together, they manage to solve the theory. The Prodigy, mentally exhausted and on the verge of the collapse, manages to summon the last of his strength to write a note to the Teacher (The Visitation, The Breakthrough, The Note).

When the Teacher comes on his daily visit next day, he finds the Prodigy in the catatonic state. He finds the note and also sees the blackboard in the room, which is filled with impenetrable equations. He immediately calls the Girl, and when she arrives, tells her that The Theory of Everything was apparently solved, but only the Father would have all the answers they need. However, the Girl was on the phone with Mother, who told her that Father took his own life at the last day’s sunset (The Uncertainty Principle).

The Mother arrives, and together with the Girl they mourn the loss of their son and love, respectively (The Theory of Everything Part III). After a while, they leave, and only the Teacher is left in the room, still trying to figure out the meaning of the equations on the blackboard. He doesn’t succeed in that; however, he notices that there are two different types of handwriting on the board… (The Blackboard (reprise)).

My Thoughts

I’m going to be brief here, because I wasn’t brief in the Plot section.

Well, this is my second favourite album by Arjen, and probably a Top 5 album of all time for me. If not, it’s definitely in my Top 10. I pretty much love everything about it, which is probably obvious, if you read the writeup. The plot is intense and interesting, the music is Ayreon at its finest, the choice of singers is impeccable, and the artwork is glorious. I would say, my only complaint is about the lyrics being too simplistic and downright silly sometimes (everyone who is familiar with the album knows which moment I’m talking about), but it doesn’t take away any of my enjoyment.

I’m really glad that Arjen took a break from Ayreon in 2008, because even though I like 01011001 a lot, I still think it could’ve been much better. In my opinion, the break really helped him to recharge his batteries (and we got Guilt Machine and second Star One in the meantime), and he came up with the brilliant album The Theory of Everything is. I wonder what you guys think about it.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: Elite on April 04, 2017, 01:36:41 PM
Thanks :tup

't Was a good read.

Enjoying the album in the listening session now!
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: Parama on April 04, 2017, 01:40:30 PM
I like this album but you could tell me it was written as separate tracks and then jammed together and I'd believe it because it never really sounds like "songs" to me aside from a few spots
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: home on April 05, 2017, 01:51:05 PM
Great listening session again, I really enjoyed it!  ;D This is easily my second favourite Ayreon album after THE. The first part is my favourite, there are some really tasty piano sections in there. I like the story, it's not outstanding but it it's a fitting story for ayreon's music. The open ending is pretty cool too.


I like this album but you could tell me it was written as separate tracks and then jammed together and I'd believe it because it never really sounds like "songs" to me aside from a few spots
I really like the structure in this album actually, especially because most of the parts do flow into each other pretty well.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: Nick on April 06, 2017, 08:08:39 AM
I know I'm way late, but my Guilt Machine review: http://wpapu.com/new-releases-50/#034

Victims of the Modern Age: http://wpapu.com/new-releases-50/#045

And as I did not review Lost in the New Real or Theory of Everything I'll certainly give me thoughts here.

I'm not going to stand here and say that Lost is some sort of masterpiece, but I find it a very enjoyable listen against the rest of Arjen's work. Unlike Evermind I would certainly buy a new solo album in an instant. I love the more drawn back and simple singer/songwriter aspect of it, although it's of course has more involved moments. Frankly the subject matter on much of it also appeals to me greatly. I don't often get too involved in lyrics but looking ahead, especially with population growth and the problems that will cause the looks at different steps that might become normal and accepted in the future is of great interest to me. And hey, it's just super catchy and fun. E-Police, PPP, Pink Beatles, are all just great to follow along to.

On Theory I am very much locked in with Evermind in my love for that album. While I don't know if I'd say it's my second favorite, simply due to how much I love Into the Electric Castle, it is most likely my third favorite. Musically it was basically everything I abstractly hoped for after 01 and Guilt Machine. It managed to be a two disc concept album but still be very fresh and new for Arjen. It flowed well and was very organic, with such great sound from all the analog equipment and strings. Lyrically I don't know if Arjen will ever quite have a perfect album, but this was one of his stronger efforts, paired with a strong story that was, much like THE, fresh and easy to take hold of. Aided by the fact that I often just throw on the vinyl and kick back, I probably couldn't name half of the 42 tracks, or at least couldn't match all the names perfectly with the music without a refresher, but I find that to be a testament to how well it all works and flows as opposed to any knock on it. Vocally it's fair to say Tommy turned in one of the more impressive Ayreon performances to date, and I'm thrilled he's doing it again on the new album.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: jingle.boy on April 07, 2017, 09:59:21 AM
Lots of fantastic reading.  I'm caught up to Space Metal, so I'll put out my thoughts on the albums up to that point.

First, I'm pissed that this started when I wasn't too active here (not at Ruslan, just in general), and wasn't able to participate as this happened - particularly with the listening sessions.  Hopefully I can make myself available for The Gentle Storm listening session.

Second, while I inherently knew the storylines/concepts of the albums, it's really great to see them laid out so neatly and concisely.  I just read Nick's post about how impressive these writeups are, and couldn't agree more.  Just phenomenal.  It's too bad there isn't more participation here.

Lastly... you've all got a bit of an edge with the Survivor predictions on some of these, cuz ya'll discussed your favorites a few months ago!   :biggrin:

My random thoughts/comments on each of the first few albums:

The Final Experiment
You mentioned Arjen has three live albums - I assume you're counting Live in the Real World, or am I having a total brain fart?
Ian Parry - You forgot to mention here (though mentioned it later) that he was also from Vengeance
As far as Multi-album Cohesive rock opera's - Consortium Project is a five-album pentalogy.  For those that don't know it, ironically, Ian Parry is the composer, and Arjen has some guest appearances. 
I also don't like when multiple vocalists sing the same character - and it was especially brutal with the last Flaming Row album when not only were multiple vocalists singing the same character, but some vocalists also sang multiple characters!  :zeltar:

Actual Fantasy
"And yet, in my opinion, he failed to write a good album." - sums it up pretty well.  I wouldn't call it bad, but it's not terribly good.
Not sure if if I've ever heard the revisited version. Gonna have to spin the it on Spotify to see.
As Nick mentioned, I too became a fan at THE, so easing into AF after getting the flavour of all his releases was ok.  It is by far the "least best" album as he put it.

Into the Electric Castle
Brilliant writeup - especially when you're "ambivalent".  I'm truly stunned that anyone could rate 01 ahead of this - more on that later.
Grunts are really A) unnecessary here, or B) poorly done. Could also be my general dislike of Cookie Monster growls.
It ranked in my original Top 50, and my 2nd favorite "Ayreon" album

The Dream Sequencer
For me, his one is hit and miss. I prefer Arjen's more upbeat and 'rockin' music, so this was a tough one for me to digest initially. It has aged well however, as for the longest time THIS was my least favourite Ayreon album.  And having been a fan of Lane/Norlander for a while, it was somewhat of a shock that I didn't love this one. 

Flight of the Migrator
Song-for-song, I believe this is the most consistent disc through the the Ayreon discography. There is nothing here that I don't dislike.  And if I didn't consider it to be part of a double "Universal Migrator" album, I'm sure I'd rate it higher than ITEC.

Ambeon
Never knew they were reworked Ayreon tracks. Gonna have to go back and listen to it again ... again.  Astrid is an absolute gem here. Ya'll failed in the vocal performance Survivor.   ;) :P
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: Evermind on April 07, 2017, 01:37:16 PM
Lots of fantastic reading.  I'm caught up to Space Metal, so I'll put out my thoughts on the albums up to that point.

First, I'm pissed that this started when I wasn't too active here (not at Ruslan, just in general), and wasn't able to participate as this happened - particularly with the listening sessions.  Hopefully I can make myself available for The Gentle Storm listening session.

Second, while I inherently knew the storylines/concepts of the albums, it's really great to see them laid out so neatly and concisely.  I just read Nick's post about how impressive these writeups are, and couldn't agree more.  Just phenomenal.  It's too bad there isn't more participation here.

I can't even express how glad I am to see these kind of posts from the seasoned Ayreon/Arjen DTF fans. I mean, I'm really glad to see these kinds of posts from anyone, naturally, but these are even more special (especially special?). Thank you!

Lastly... you've all got a bit of an edge with the Survivor predictions on some of these, cuz ya'll discussed your favorites a few months ago!

Don't forget that they also had do their predictions months ago, I think it was between Embrace the Storm / 01011001 writeups. There are a lot of random predictions that are totally off-base, in my opinion. :biggrin:

You mentioned Arjen has three live albums - I assume you're counting Live in the Real World, or am I having a total brain fart?

Well, I think I was counting Live in the Real World. Either that, or I had a total brain fart. :lol But I'm pretty sure it was the former.

And I really should get into the last Flaming Row, plot-wise. I like the album, and I have it (and I saw your name there as the part of honorable pre-order team), but for some reason I've never properly delved into the booklet.

Regarding Ambeon, some tracks are really obvious, and some are way more subtle. Astrid gives all the tracks her own spin for sure. The really impressive thing is not only her vocal abilities (and they're damn well impressive), but the fact that she came up with the melodies on her own.

On Theory I am very much locked in with Evermind in my love for that album. While I don't know if I'd say it's my second favorite, simply due to how much I love Into the Electric Castle, it is most likely my third favorite. Musically it was basically everything I abstractly hoped for after 01 and Guilt Machine. It managed to be a two disc concept album but still be very fresh and new for Arjen. It flowed well and was very organic, with such great sound from all the analog equipment and strings. Lyrically I don't know if Arjen will ever quite have a perfect album, but this was one of his stronger efforts, paired with a strong story that was, much like THE, fresh and easy to take hold of. Aided by the fact that I often just throw on the vinyl and kick back, I probably couldn't name half of the 42 tracks, or at least couldn't match all the names perfectly with the music without a refresher, but I find that to be a testament to how well it all works and flows as opposed to any knock on it. Vocally it's fair to say Tommy turned in one of the more impressive Ayreon performances to date, and I'm thrilled he's doing it again on the new album.

I can agree with that, except the ITEC bit.

Also, I think the listening sessions are partially to blame for the lack of participation in the thread. People give a lot of their opinions and thoughts on the music and plot in the chat, and I suppose it feels somewhat redundant to go and post the same thing here in this thread after that. I'm really satisfied with how the listening sessions are now, last time for TTOE we had eight of nine people and constant discussion going. I know the time we pick isn't the best for NA, but I guess there's just no way to please everyone. Still, I think this thread is going well, all things considered.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: jingle.boy on April 07, 2017, 02:41:57 PM
Well, seeing as how I'm unemployed, I should be able to make something that is mid-late afternoon my time.  I just missed the post about the time for TTOE (Monday was my anniversary, and I was busy most of the day).

As I said, I should be able to make The Gentle Storm.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: twosuitsluke on April 08, 2017, 03:00:36 PM
Yea, I'd second that the lack of posting in this thread is likely due to the listening sessions. They really are a great way to compliment a thread like this and I urge people to join in if they can. I probably would have posted more were it not for the plug.dj sessions.

Also, as others have said, kudos to Evermind for all his effort in this thread and with the survivor.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: jingle.boy on April 10, 2017, 02:40:34 PM
Alright... I'm happily caught up completely now.

Space Metal
"Apparently I'm one of the only DTFers that are crazy about Space Metal."  Hardly Ruslan... it's a top 5 album of all time for me.  There isn't a damned thing about it that I don't like.  I agree with ErHaO - Intergalactic Space Crusaders is way better / more fun on the DVD, especially to watch the exchanges between Allen and Wilson.
Footnote re: Live on Earth - could there be a bigger difference in the "quality" of performance as a frontman between Soeterbock and Allen?  The former is awkward as hell (though, a great singer), and the latter is so smokin cool that I'd switch teams for a night with him.  :heybaby:

The Human Equation
This was my first full Ayreon album, and I was completely blown away by it.  Ruslan, you and I are on the exact same wavelength with this album. #2 all time in the jingle.boy books.  It's absolutely flawless in my opinion.  Everything works perfectly.  There are certain moments (Day 10/11; Day 18) that still give me chills everytime I listen to them

Embrace the Storm
Fantastic album... no clunkers at all.  Great blend of Arjen's different styles to give us a keyboard led metal album.  I loved it start to bottom.  Every subsequent SOP album got progressively forgettable unfortunately.

01011001 (curious, why is it so goddamned hard for people to remember the actual name of this album?)
Lyrically, it's just awful in certain places - Web of Lies and Connect the Dots in particular (and The Truth is in Here ain't great either).  I get they all have their purpose to the story, but man, they are sooooo bad.  Those two could be the worst songs in the Ayreon discography - at least, lyrically.  The zero/one, on/off, no/yeah part of Age of Shadows drags on a little too long.  There's a few that are musically bad as well.  The distorted vocal effects - while part of the whole vibe of the album/story - get tiresome after a while.  There are just too many bad moments that end up being distractions that take away from the great parts.

Then there's the vocalist issue - way too many of them, and even Arjen acknowledges that now (and why he only used 7 on TTOE).  None of them get the chance to shine, which is why I'm thrilled that Floor (for an Ayreon album), Hansi and Simone are back for another shot.  Would love to see Englund and Luyten have another chance too. 

Overall, the highs are very high, but the lows are very low.  IMO, this is the most inconsistent album in his discography - at least Actual Fantasy was consistently mediocre.   :lol

The Guilt Machine
At first (and for a long time), this album didn't click with me, and I shelved it.  It actually wasn't until this (and the Survivor) thread that had me spin this.  Dunno if my tastes have changed, or if I just didn't give it a chance, but I liked this a LOT more than I remembered.  "More consistent" is right.  Dark, melancholic, Floyd-like, and heavy are very apt ways to describe the mood and vibe of this album.  Better than BCSL... uh, yeah.  By miles.

Spotify has a "bonus track" - a cover of Leonard Cohen's The Stranger Song.  First time I ever heard this.  Was pretty cool.

Victims of the Modern Age
Wow... no commentary on this one!?!?!?  Well, let me offer more than my fair share then.
Wasn't the (lack of) tour also impeded due to Floor's bout with exhaustion?
Swap It All Ends Here with As The Crow Flies, and this is absolutely a flawless album (and would probably rate higher than Space Metal).  I know that the latter fits with the bonus set of songs, since it's Mike Anderson solely on the mic (whose voice I absolutely adore).  But I just can't stand the "doom" (very well put, Ruslan) aspect of the former.
On my last.fm profile, Human See Human Do and Digital Rain are #1 and #2 as my most listened to tracks, and 7 of my top 10 is from VOTMA (only the bookend tracks of Rabbit Hole and It All Ends Here don't make my Top 10 listened to tracks since Sept 2011).
See next post for the Lady Obscure review I wrote of this album for more thoughts.

Lost In The New Real
I too feel this is the least enjoyable out of anything Arjen has done since '95.  Some good tracks, but mostly clunkers - not aided by Arjen taking the vocal duties.  To tell you the truth, I prefer the covers over his material on this one - and the very cool arrangements he came up with.  Disc 2 is far more consistent than Disc 1.  I wouldn't mind another solo album, so long as he had someone else on the mic.  There are some very good musical moments here, but the wackiness of the lyrics to fit the theme - and his dogged determination with the call-backs to his musical inspirations - just don't float my boat.
@ Parama... lol... I feel mostly the same way.

The Theory of Everything
@ Parama... lol... I feel mostly the same way.
Just too much "stitching" together of different and non-cohesive musical thoughts. For instance, Emerson's solo just feels so out of place and unlike any other sound in Phase 1, and the obvious transition between Lake/Emerson/JR solos is anything but smooth.
The story was excellent, and Tommy/Marco/Cristina/Sara knock it out of the park.  I'm not really a fan of Wetton's voice, and my enjoyment of JB/Mills range from "a lot" to "meh".
I feel it's a chore to digest it - even at 90 minutes... where as listening all of his other double albums (including both discs of The Universal Migrator) seems to make the 100-ish minutes fly by
One (very minor) thing that always bugged me was the line that The Prodigy was "one in a million".  If that's the case, then there are 70,000 people across the world just like him?  I'll never know why the lyric wasn't "one in a billion".
Curious... which lyric are you referring to that is "downright silly"?
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: jingle.boy on April 10, 2017, 02:42:34 PM
Quote from: jingle.boy(Ladyobscure.com)
Arjen Lucassen writes the coolest and most creative of concepts. Personally, I think he’s a musical genius. Reuniting the Avengers-like assembly of amazing vocalists (Floor Jansen, Russell Allen, Dan Swanö and Damian Wilson), Arjen follows up 2003’s Space Metal with another masterpiece of songs linked by a similar movie theme, this time around post-apocalyptic/dystopian story lines. Just as with Star One’s previous release, Arjen’s interpretation of these movies is absolutely flawless. Listening to Digital Rain takes you right back to the Matrix; when I hear Floor and Russell in Cassandra Complex, I can’t help but picture Madeleine Stowe and Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys. Arjen perfectly recreates the moods of the movies, either taking the listener right back to the first time they saw them, or inspiring one to go back and watch them again, or for the first time. I’d never seen Planet of the Apes, Escape From New York, Children of Men, The Road or Gattaca, and this album compelled me to go watch them. The three track run of Human See, Human Do/24 Hours/Cassandra Complex is as good as any three songs ever in prog metal… up there with Take the Time/Surrounded/Metropolis, or Tom Sawyer/Red Barchetta/YYZ.

Heavier than Arjen’s other projects, Star One is his outlet to get his metal on (or out), composing simpler and more straight-forward music off of coarse, deep and wicked guitar riffs. The opening atmospheric setting puts you in the mood for the futuristic music you’re about to become immersed in, leading in to the ferocity of Digital Rain that has a fantastic blend of keyboard and guitar. Fast and Furious is not a movie that Arjen pulled from, but it certainly describes what you’re going to find out of the gate, and throughout the rest of the album… interspersed with a few slower paced songs (24 Hours, It All Ends Here, Lastday). Throughout the album you’ll also find slow and grinding riffs, keyboard melodies and harmonies to keep that sci-fi feel, a rhythm section that sounds like organized chaos at times, catchy chorus’s and psychedelic keyboard and guitar solos… there just isn’t a bad track here at all.

Floor takes more of a lead role on this album than on Space Metal, and the overall output is enhanced by it. Swanö makes people who aren’t a huge fan of growls/screams appreciate – even enjoy – them. Wilson as always is magical, and the notes he holds in 24 Hours are absolutely angelic. Sir Russell Allen delivers his usual powerful and aggressive vocal performance. Though they are the lead vocalists in their respective acts, these four know that the combined whole of their performances is greater than the sum of each individual, none hogging the spotlight whatsoever. Through this recognition, Arjen gets the absolute best out of them (and his musicians for that matter), and makes you want to learn more about their music (if you didn’t already know them).
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: Evermind on April 13, 2017, 09:06:55 AM
The Human Equation
This was my first full Ayreon album, and I was completely blown away by it.  Ruslan, you and I are on the exact same wavelength with this album. #2 all time in the jingle.boy books.  It's absolutely flawless in my opinion.  Everything works perfectly.  There are certain moments (Day 10/11; Day 18) that still give me chills everytime I listen to them

I don't spin it often, because when I do, I want to be fully immersed in that album, but I also always get chills on Days 10, 11, 13, 18, 19, 20 and probably on more of them I'm currently forgetting. Absolutely flawless is a good way to describe it.

Victims of the Modern Age

Wasn't the (lack of) tour also impeded due to Floor's bout with exhaustion?

Hey, I didn't know that! I still think it was Arjen's reluctance from the start, and Floor's just reinforced it; but it's a nice piece on information to have.

Regarding TTOE, I think (for all it's worth as I'm not a native English speaker) "one in a million" sounds way better singing-wise than "one in a billion", and it's probably more like an idiom. Something like "not in a thousand years" (why not 1500 years or 2000 years?), perhaps.

Silly lyrics are, for me, Rival's lines on Love and Envy. I get that the characters are supposed to be really young at that time, but it just sounds so silly in an otherwise serious and beautiful song.

Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: jingle.boy on April 13, 2017, 11:03:48 AM
re: Floor... she had to cancel tours/shows with ReVamp.  Here's a good statement by her about it - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-cIitpvUTQ
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: Evermind on April 19, 2017, 12:37:51 PM
Hey to all the followers of this thread, just wanted to inform you that the next listening session (The Gentle Storm one) will take place at Tuesday, April 25th. The Gentle Storm writeup itself is in the works, I will probably finish it tomorrow, but as I'm travelling to another city to visit my friends on weekend, it will be posted either on Monday or on Tuesday (it takes time to edit out my hilarious mistakes because apparently I couldn't write anything in English even if my life depended on it). Anyway, I hope to see you folks in our plug.dj room at April 25th, 7 P.M. GMT for this listening session.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: jingle.boy on April 19, 2017, 01:45:12 PM
I fully anticipate making it.  Are we listening to Gentle, Storm, or both?
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: Evermind on April 19, 2017, 01:57:50 PM
That was a difficult decision, but after careful consideration, we're listening to a mixed album, which basically means five Gentle songs and five Storm songs (counting New Horizons and Epilogue as one song). Not going to reveal which songs will be played as Gentle versions and which as the Storm ones, but you guys are free to speculate. ;)
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: jingle.boy on April 24, 2017, 06:15:20 PM
So... maybe we should postpone The Gentle Storm listening session until the post about it is up?
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: Evermind on April 25, 2017, 10:20:02 AM
The post is being edited by 425 right now, so I think it'll be up in an hour. I think it's a little late for postponing, so I suppose we're going to go ahead and do the session today, despite at least two people (Rich and Train) being unable to show up.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A dazzling symphony of cosmic strings
Post by: Parama on April 25, 2017, 11:02:35 AM
new survivor round when  :corn
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A moment lost in time
Post by: Evermind on April 25, 2017, 11:05:52 AM
The Gentle Storm — The Diary (2015)


(http://www.angrymetalguy.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/The-Gentle-Storm-The-Diary.jpg)


Release date: March 23rd, 2015
Length: 57:03 / 56:53


Tracklist:

1. Endless Sea
2. Heart of Amsterdam
3. The Greatest Love
4. Shores of India
5. Cape of Storms
6. The Moment
7. The Storm
8. Eyes of Michiel
9. Brightest Light
10. New Horizons
11. Epilogue: The Final Entry

Personnel:

Anneke van Giersbergen — all vocals
Arjen Anthony Lucassen — electric and acoustic guitars, acoustic bass guitar, banjo, mandolin, percussion and hammered dulcimer
Ed Warby — drums
Rob Snijders — percussion
Jeroen Goossens — piccolo, flute, alto flute, bass flute, contrabass flute, oboe, English horn, contrabassoon, shakuhachi, bansuri, sampona, soprano recorder, alto recorder, tenor recorder, traverse, tin whistle, low whistle, didgeridoo, bullroarer
Johan van Stratum — electric bass
Ben Mathot — violins
Maaike Peterse — cellos
Joost van den Broek — grand piano
Hinse Mutter — double bass
Jenneke de Jonge — French horn
Jack Pisters — sitar and coral
Timo Somers — guitar solo in “Heart of Amsterdam”
Michael Mills — Irish bouzouki
Remco Helbers — surbahar
Nathanael van Zuilen — table
Epic Rock Choir — choir



As soon as my eyes fell on the old chest nestled between boxes and suitcases in a corner of the attic, I knew I’d found something significant. Made of dark wood, intricately carved, its metal fittings exquisitely hand crafted, the chest was a relic of an era long past. In contained only one item: a small book, its brown leather cover cracked and crumbling. It looked like a diary. As I gently lifted it from where it had rested for who knows how long, a packet of letters fell from between its pages. My mind raced with a thousand questions: who did the diary belong to? What stories might be waiting inside? As I reached out to open it, I realized I was holding my breath…

History / Background / Writing and recording

A few months after the successful release of The Theory of Everything—a new Ayreon album after a five-year hiatus—Arjen, as usual, found enough inspiration to start writing for his next project. He wrote a couple of songs with basic classical instruments, namely double bass, violin and cello. Arjen then posted a question to his fans on Facebook, asking them about the style of music they would like to hear on his next album. A lot of people voted for a heavier, Star One type of music, but there was also a significant number of fans that chose the folk music option. Seeing this division among his fans, Arjen decided to do both albums, with a type of release that isn’t exactly common in the current music scene—two different versions of the same album.

As it wasn’t another Ayreon album, Arjen wanted to pick only one singer for this project. With both heavy and acoustic folk music in mind, Arjen had to find someone who would be able to perform vocals for both styles of music. He had his sights on Anneke van Giersbergen for this role and even talked with one of the InsideOut managers about her involvement in the project. However, he kept delaying the actual message to her, waiting until he had written more songs for this project. But then something unexpected happened—Anneke herself sent an e-mail to Arjen about a completely different subject with a postscript at the bottom that said that they should work together on some music in the future, perhaps create some project with only the two of them as the songwriters. At that point, Arjen had demo versions of two new songs. He sent them to Anneke, saying that he wanted to do both heavy and softer approach for these tracks, and just like that, the two musicians agreed to work together on what later would become The Gentle Storm.

Arjen and Anneke mostly divided their musical duties for the purposes of this record—Arjen wrote most of the music, Anneke provided most of the lyrics. However, it was still a collaborative effort. Anneke altered the vocal melodies where she saw fit, discussing that with Arjen, of course; and Arjen added some details to the concept—Anneke was pushing for the love story as the core of the record’s concept, while Arjen insisted on including more drama in it.

Instead of doing another progressive album like The Theory of Everything, Arjen focused on writing concise songs with strong choruses this time. Given the century the story takes place in, Arjen also chose to use a lot of eclectic and rare instruments, especially on the acoustic folk version (called the Gentle version). While some of the Ayreon albums have over ten different singers, this one has a ridiculous amount of musical instruments involved—fewer on the heavier version of the album (the Storm version), but still enough for it to be quite fascinating. Not only the instruments are different from version to version—Anneke had to record her vocals for each version separately, because of the different emotional context to both of the versions’ songs, basically recording two albums worth of vocals.

Music

When talking about the music on The Diary, it’s impossible to fit all the different thoughts and feelings in a few words. First off, as mentioned above, there are two different versions of the album—the Gentle one and the Storm one—which are quite different music-wise, the Gentle one being softer and more eclectic, while the Storm one is more “in your face” with electric guitars, drums, appearances of the Epic Rock Choir and, overall, a more direct approach. The Storm version is grand and pompous, while the Gentle one is subtler and lets all the small details shine—and, curiously, features way more instruments than the Storm one.

The Gentle version is all about acoustic instruments. For The Diary, taking into account the century the events are taking place, Arjen wanted the album to be authentic and eclectic, and he also wanted to put the focus on the singer—hence the lack of synthesizers on the album. The synths are noticeably absent on both versions, but the Gentle version also lacks drums from Ed Warby and any presence of electric guitars or bass guitars. Anneke’s voice is also more melodic and soothing, and less aggressive on this version, with a lot of moments where her voice is only accompanied by the occasional piano notes or double bass rhythmic presence. The Storm version mixes these acoustic instruments with some usual rock instruments, like electric guitars, bass guitars and drums. The violin solos on the Gentle version become guitar solos in Storm version in some places, and the double bass rhythm parts are usually supported by electric guitar riffs. The apt and clever usage of choir, and also drums and electric guitar intros make the Storm version songs seem more bombastic and grand, providing the necessary texture for the songs to be taken out on tour, which was Anneke’s intention from the beginning.

However, despite the different arrangements and different vocal approach for each version, the songs are still similar, and there’s one more thing they’re united in—they all tell the same story.

Plot

Note: the timeline included in the deluxe earbook edition doesn’t exactly match the order of songs. For example, according to the timeline, Susanne’s illness begins after her son, Michiel, is born; but on the album itself, the illness is brought up before that point.

The Diary tells a story of a young Dutch couple living in 17th century (the story covers three years from 1666 to 1669) in Amsterdam: Joseph Warwijck and Susanne Vermeer, married in 1666. Susanne is the daughter of a wealthy merchant, and Joseph is a young officer serving on a ship called Merchant, which belongs to the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, abbreviated VOC). The VOC ships that sail to Asia are known to sail away from home for trading purposes for two or three years straight. Joseph’s ship Merchant is among one of these, and in December 1666, he and Susanne has to say farewell to each other as he sails away towards the distant exotic lands. Their only way to communicate with each other now is through hand-written letters. However, given the distance, the fact the ship is often moving from one trading port to another, and the presence pirates and sea battles, the letters arrive to their recipients with a huge delay (usually 6-9 months), if at all.

While waiting in Amsterdam for her husband to return, Susanne keeps a diary. Immediately after Joseph’s departure, she writes an entry about how she misses him so much already, wishing him luck and good winds in his travels on the sea (Endless Sea). One day, when the weather is exceptionally good, she goes for a walk in the streets of Amsterdam, thinking of the beauty and historical legacy of the city (Heart of Amsterdam). In February 1667, Susanne finds out she is pregnant. Overjoyed, she immediately writes Joseph a letter, telling him he will become a father soon (The Greatest Love).

Meanwhile, Joseph is half a world away from Susanne. He writes her a letter from a port in India, describing all the exotic things he saw there (Shores of India). In May 1667, the Merchant—the ship Joseph is on—arrives at the Cape of Good Hope. He writes another letter to Susanne, intending to send it home with the next ship from Holland. In the letter, he mentions that the Cape was called Cape of Storms in the old days, and that this name suits the place far better because of the treacherous waters around it—seven members of the ship’s crew died at sea around it. The ship leaves the Cape in June, and it is caught in a fierce storm shortly after leaving. Joseph himself survives, but another thirteen crew members perish (The Storm). None of Susanne’s letters have arrived yet.
In September 1667, Susanne gives birth to a son. She names him after admiral Michiel de Ruyter, and proceeds to write a letter to Joseph about this wonderful turn of events (Eyes of Michiel). In February 1668, Joseph, who is currently in Batavia, receives the first letters from Susanne. However, as the first ship from Batavia to Holland will not sail until December, he can’t send his response until then. In March 1668, Susanne begins to get ill, feeling progressively wearier and more tired each day. The doctors diagnose her with a chill of the blood and prescribe her medicine, which does not seem to help. Susanne writes a letter to Joseph, hinting at her illness and hoping that Joseph is on his way home (The Moment). This letter reaches Joseph in Batavia six months later, in October.

In December 1668, Joseph departs from Batavia, starting the long journey back to Amsterdam and his beloved wife. He send her a letter, sharing these wonderful news, in which he promises to do everything in his power to get back quickly (Brightest Light). As Susanne gets worse, she tries to write a cheerful letter to Joseph, but her attempts prove unsuccessful, and her letters turn out to be more on the melancholic than optimistic side. She feels that she is dying, and she only hopes to live to the day Joseph gets home and sees their beautiful son (New Horizons). Susanne dies on May 7th, 1669.

Two months later, on July 1st, 1669, Joseph arrives at his house in Amsterdam. He learns about Susanne’s death and meets Michiel. He discovers his wife’s diary with the entries she wrote over those three years, as well as his letters wedged in between the diary’s pages. In grief, he writes one final entry in the diary, thanking Susanne for giving him his son and saying that she and her memory will live on through him. He places Susanne’s letter to him in the diary as well, preserving it for Michiel and the coming generations.

My Thoughts

The existence of two different versions is what makes The Diary a curious album, to say the least. Some people prefer the Gentle one, some people prefer the Storm one—and that’s great, because it gives everyone a choice. However, this also raises questions. Does the album suffer because one of the versions is, perhaps, not as great as the other? Should that diminish the enjoyment we take from listening to the album? Personally, I’m a fan of the Gentle version (I find the Storm one to be alright, yet not nearly as good as the Gentle one), and whenever I listen to The Diary, I treat the Gentle version as the album. I love the Gentle version, and therefore I love the album just as much. In my perspective, the Storm version is just a bonus CD. Before all the Storm fans jump down my throat because of that statement, I don’t imply it is a bonus CD. It’s simply how I treat it; I’m sure that somewhere in the world there are people who treat the Gentle version as a bonus CD. So I hope you will excuse the fact that I will be talking about the Gentle version here, and perhaps 425, as a Storm fan, will provide his insightful thoughts about the Storm version.

Out of all Arjen’s side projects, this one is right about the top for me. While still maintaining Arjen’s trademark sound and songwriting, this record sounds fresh and exciting, with its lack of drums, bass guitars, electric guitars, and especially synthesizers. Everything in these ten songs is so honest, from crystal clear piano to Anneke’s mesmerizing voice—I feel like this album is one of her finest vocal performances to date. The different acoustic instruments are everywhere on this record, and while violins, different flutes and cellos are prevalent, there are plenty of other sounds woven throughout the songs. Of course, the effect wouldn’t be achieved without such a crystal clear mix, where one can hear pretty much everything going on. And even with all the acoustic instruments and the lack of drums, there are menacing and somewhat heavy songs like Cape of Storms, which, I think, is a very well-done song. My other highlights from the record are Endless Sea, The Moment and New Horizons.

425's Thoughts

It’s interesting that Evermind says that he thinks of the Gentle version as “the album,” while he thinks of the Storm version as a bonus CD, because I have the same mindset in reverse. I mean no insult to the Gentle version—I appreciate the stylistic risk it represents, and I’m impressed by the diversity of instruments on it—but my preference is definitely for the Storm version. Why do I prefer that version? I think the main reason is that I’m simply a fan of dynamics and variation within individual songs, which the Storm version provides in spades. I think a lot of the songs on this album, which tend to be on the longer side given their verse-chorus type structure, really benefit from the added dimension provided by the selective use of rock instrumentation on the Storm disc. Arjen did a very good job, in my opinion, of using rock instrumentation in the right proportion for each song—he didn’t go overboard and make the Storm version into a super heavy album just to contrast with the Gentle version. My favorite aspect of the Storm version is the way that the rock instruments come in at the right time to enhance some of the album’s best, most epic choruses, like on Endless Sea, Heart of Amsterdam, and my personal favorite song from the album, New Horizons. The way the electric guitars and Ed Warby’s drums drive that chorus is worth the price of the album all by itself, and luckily the album has a lot of other good songs as well. I really appreciate Arjen’s idea to give us two very different versions of the same album to enjoy—there are a lot of cool aspects to notice comparing between the two versions, and it resulted in Evermind and me both finding albums to enjoy.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A moment lost in time
Post by: jingle.boy on April 25, 2017, 12:51:14 PM
Well, looks like I won't be reading this before the listening session.  What's the URL for that, btw?
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A moment lost in time
Post by: home on April 25, 2017, 12:54:14 PM
What's the URL for that, btw?

https://plug.dj/ayreon-listening-sessions  (https://plug.dj/ayreon-listening-sessions)  :hat
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A moment lost in time
Post by: twosuitsluke on April 25, 2017, 01:02:24 PM
Missing out again  :tdwn  time is always against me  :yeahright
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A moment lost in time
Post by: Evermind on April 25, 2017, 03:07:32 PM
Alrighty, we had a full listen to the Storm version of the album with 425, home, Tomislav and Chad. :tup If the people who missed the session wish to go ahead and participate in another one where we would listen to the Gentle version, go ahead and let me know here or write me on Facebook. The available days are Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A moment lost in time
Post by: jingle.boy on April 25, 2017, 03:58:34 PM
I'm game, but I likely wouldn't be able to do this Thursday
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A moment lost in time
Post by: twosuitsluke on April 26, 2017, 01:09:44 AM
I'm game, but I likely wouldn't be able to do this Thursday

Basically this.

I'm going to a gig Thursday otherwise I'd have been all over it. Think I'm free next Thursday though?
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A moment lost in time
Post by: Cyclopssss on April 26, 2017, 01:43:20 AM
I'm glad Arjen released two versions of this albums. I myself are more prone to the 'Storm' version, but I love the fact that there is an alternative verrsion around. Also, I thought Marcela Bovio was part of the recording, but I might be mistaking her performing on the live-band with them on tour.  Special mention for the fantastic concept and artwork!
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A moment lost in time
Post by: ZirconBlue on June 11, 2017, 09:28:18 AM
Any updates forthcoming?  I got The Source recently, and that has gotten me interested in exploring the back catalog.

Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A moment lost in time
Post by: Evermind on June 11, 2017, 09:41:32 AM
Any updates forthcoming?  I got The Source recently, and that has gotten me interested in exploring the back catalog.

The Source writeup is definitely coming soon, I wanted to digest the album before doing it. I would say you guys can reasonably expect it to be posted either next week or the week after that.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A moment lost in time
Post by: MirrorMask on June 11, 2017, 10:07:15 AM
Massively late but let me chime in (for the first time in this thread!) to compliment the latest album discussed - The Diary.

I absolutely adore and love the album. It's just fantastic. I agree that the Gentle version is "the" album and the Storm version is the bonus disc, just because, aside from being disc one, it's more unusual and original, with the focus more on folkish and acoustic instruments.

All the songs are great, from start to bottom the album flows brilliantly and the storyline is heartwrenching. Anneke shines on this record, I knew who she was but this album made me want to check out the rest of her work. She portrays brilliantly the characters and the unfolding of the story.

I can't even pick a favorite song 'cause they're all so gorgeous: Endless Sea, Heart of Amsterdam (which I heard on location, hehe), The Moment, Cape of Storms and New Horizons are the definite highlights, but all the songs are equally great.

I compiled a "single disc" version, with songs from both versions, here's my tracklist and the reasons:

Endless Sea - Storm. The album has to start off strong.
Heart of Amsterdam - Gentle. The folkish atmosphere of ancient Amsterdam gets lost in the electric version.
The Greatest Love - Storm. Bombastic chorus that benefits from the whole band.
Shores of India - Gentle. Same as Amsterdam, the folk / acoustic version highlights the atmosphere.
Cape of Storms - A personal edit, the first half is Gentle (once again I feel a song about a specific place is helped by the folk arrangement) and then the Storm part kicks in when things get going after the second chorus.
The Moment - Gentle. Delicate and sorrowful ballad, it needs to be acoustic.
The Storm  - Storm. Well, d'uh.  ;D
Eyes of Michael - Gentle. No strong reason, it's for balance mostly.
Brightest Light - Storm. The climax of the album approaches and it's time to go all out.
New Horizons - Storm. Same as bove.
Epilogue - Gentle. I prefer more this ending to the album, opposed to the heavier one.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A moment lost in time
Post by: Ben_Jamin on September 02, 2017, 12:08:07 PM
So what happened to this...

Anyways..

I finally got around to buying This. Its fantastic. I prefer the Gentle version as it suits the vibe and concept more. Although some tracks sound better with the storm version.
Title: Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A moment lost in time
Post by: home on September 02, 2017, 12:55:48 PM
It's about time to plan the listening session for The Source I think  :hat