Author Topic: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken  (Read 5157 times)

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Offline Evermind

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
« Reply #140 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)




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.

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
« Reply #141 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.
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Offline Evermind

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
« Reply #142 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!

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
« Reply #143 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.
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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
« Reply #144 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

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
« Reply #145 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!

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
« Reply #146 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.
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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
« Reply #147 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.

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Offline Evermind

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
« Reply #148 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!

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
« Reply #149 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

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. The train is moving forward and closer
« Reply #150 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
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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
« Reply #151 on: December 05, 2016, 12:06:13 PM »
Star One — Space Metal (2002)




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.

Offline Bolsters

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
« Reply #152 on: December 05, 2016, 07:40:01 PM »
 :metal

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
« Reply #153 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!
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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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
« Reply #154 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.

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
« Reply #155 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.

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
« Reply #156 on: December 15, 2016, 01:46:48 PM »
Personally I've just never listened to this one  :lol
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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
« Reply #157 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.

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
« Reply #158 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

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
« Reply #159 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.
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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
« Reply #160 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. 
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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
« Reply #161 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.

Offline Cyclopssss

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. I find it hard to escape its attraction
« Reply #162 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.
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....

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The Human Equation (2004)




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.

Offline Evermind

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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


Offline home

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Oh damn, I mizzed this, hope to join the ToE listening session and last
Break the mold, let's shake the ground, wreak havoc!

Offline twosuitsluke

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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.

Online Scorpion

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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.
scorpion is my favorite deathcore lobster
Hey, the length is fine :azn: Thanks!

Offline Tomislav95

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Was anyone there lol? I forgot, too :(
And I knew exactly what to do. But in a much more real sense, I had no idea what to do. - Michael Scott

Offline twosuitsluke

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Can we go again tomorrow night? I'm game  :corn

Offline home

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Can we go again tomorrow night? I'm game  :corn
+1
Break the mold, let's shake the ground, wreak havoc!

Offline Tomislav95

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Tuesday or Wednesday?
And I knew exactly what to do. But in a much more real sense, I had no idea what to do. - Michael Scott

Offline twosuitsluke

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Either will be good for me  :corn

Offline Train of Naught

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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.
IT'S NAUGHT BUT STONE AND SILVEEEEEEER
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