Author Topic: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken  (Read 5196 times)

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Offline Scorpion

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
« Reply #105 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.
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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
« Reply #106 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
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Offline Nick

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
« Reply #107 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.


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Offline Evermind

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
« Reply #108 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.

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. We're on an amazing flight in space
« Reply #109 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.
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Offline Evermind

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The Dream Sequencer (2000)




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.

Offline Evermind

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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 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!

Offline Train of Naught

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Tinychat is up and running, come chill with us and put on some songs if you like!
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Offline twosuitsluke

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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

Offline Tomislav95

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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.
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Offline Cyclopssss

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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.
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Offline home

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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
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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.
There were times when Rik and I were writing together when we almost died laughing. They were some of the most carefree stupid days I ever had, and I feel privileged to have shared them with him. And now he's died for real. Without me. Selfish bastard.

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Lana lane, what a voice! Completly forgot how powerful her voice is on Dragon on the Sea.
There were times when Rik and I were writing together when we almost died laughing. They were some of the most carefree stupid days I ever had, and I feel privileged to have shared them with him. And now he's died for real. Without me. Selfish bastard.

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Offline Cyclopssss

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And on 2084.  :hefdaddy
From the ocean comes the notion that the realise lies in rhythm. The rhythm of vision is dancer, and when you dance you´re always on the one. From the looking comes to see, wondrous realise real eyes....

Offline Evermind

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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

Offline Train of Naught

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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.
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Offline 425

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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.

Offline ErHaO

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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.

Offline mikemangioy

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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.
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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
« Reply #125 on: November 06, 2016, 12:29:26 PM »
Great to see your contribution, guys. Keep it up.



Flight of the Migrator (2000)




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. 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.

Offline Evermind

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
« Reply #126 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 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!

Offline Train of Naught

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
« Reply #127 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
IT'S NAUGHT BUT STONE AND SILVEEEEEEER
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Offline 425

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
« Reply #128 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.

Offline Ben_Jamin

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
« Reply #129 on: November 06, 2016, 07:25:22 PM »
Journey on the Waves of Time is my favorite besides Chaos.
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Offline Scorpion

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
« Reply #130 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.
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Hey, the length is fine :azn: Thanks!

Offline Evermind

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
« Reply #131 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.

Offline Cyclopssss

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
« Reply #132 on: November 07, 2016, 02:16:42 PM »
Dammit, my connection concked out again...sorry guys.  >:(
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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
« Reply #133 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.




There were times when Rik and I were writing together when we almost died laughing. They were some of the most carefree stupid days I ever had, and I feel privileged to have shared them with him. And now he's died for real. Without me. Selfish bastard.

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Offline mikemangioy

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
« Reply #134 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.
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Offline Cyclopssss

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
« Reply #135 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.
From the ocean comes the notion that the realise lies in rhythm. The rhythm of vision is dancer, and when you dance you´re always on the one. From the looking comes to see, wondrous realise real eyes....

Offline Tomislav95

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
« Reply #136 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
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Offline Evermind

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
« Reply #137 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.

Offline twosuitsluke

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
« Reply #138 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

Offline Tomislav95

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Gazing into the eye of the universe
« Reply #139 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.
And I knew exactly what to do. But in a much more real sense, I had no idea what to do. - Michael Scott