Author Topic: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. A moment lost in time  (Read 8898 times)

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Offline twosuitsluke

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I'll be there as I really enjoyed this album on first listen, more than most other Arjen albums.

I'd also urge everyone to just click the link and give these plug.dj rooms a go, they're a lot of fun.

Offline Scorpion

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Yeah, I really like this album, so I'm pumped for this listening session. :metal
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Offline Cyclopssss

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Great album. I think it surpassed everyone's expectations at the time. Fans were ask to leave voicemessages regarding the theme of the album to be inserted on some of the tracks. Mine didn't make it to the album proper, but I'm somewhere on the bonus tracks. Not gonna tell which.
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 twosuitsluke

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Really good listening session last night, best crowd yet! I really like this album and will certainly be giving it more spins.

Offline jcmoorehead

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Guilt Machine was one of those that when i first got it I didn't really get into. Gave it another spin last year and found myself really enjoying it and it's been in fairly constant rotation since. Opening track is wonderful, also find myself really enjoying Season Of Denial.

Offline Evermind

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This thread isn't dead, by the way. As I warned you guys, a lot of work-related stuff was happening for me in February, so we had to take a break before doing the next writeup (well, I had to take a break, 425 was probably ready to edit the hell out of these writeups any day). Let's get back on track now.



Star One — Victims of the Modern Age (2010)




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


Tracklist:

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

Personnel:

Musicians:

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

Star One singers:

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



History / Background / Writing

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

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

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

Music

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

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

Artwork, reception and possibility of the tour

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

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

My Thoughts

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

With that said, I think some tracks could use some trimming (It All Ends Here) or improving—both Cassandra Complex and It’s Alive, She’s Alive, We’re Alive fall a bit flat for me, which makes for a somewhat blurred and unsatisfying ending to an otherwise fantastic album, in my opinion. On the other hand, this album features two of my favourite Star One tracks, paired, which are Human See, Human Do and the epic 24 Hours. I think for me the highs are higher on this album, while the lows are maybe a bit lower on Space Metal overall, which is why I prefer Victims to it.

Offline Evermind

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I'm really bad at getting the writeups ready at least one day before the listening session, so I'm late with the announcement again.

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

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

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

Offline Evermind

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #217 on: March 16, 2017, 11:10:32 AM »
Now that was a whole lot of interest to this album. I suppose that has something to do with a break I took that lasted a month due to my work schedule, but hey, at least the listening session was a blast. Anyway, I'm determined to finish this and even the lack of replies won't stop me here. :biggrin:



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




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


Tracklist:

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

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

Personnel:

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



History / Background / Writing / Musicians

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

Music / Plot

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

I don’t have a lot to say about this album, short as it is. I applaud Arjen for finally doing a solo album after almost 18 years of waiting, and I applaud his creativity for coming up with the plot and with the songs that would fit his voice. However, out of all Arjen’s projects, this is the one I almost don’t revisit at all, and if he announces another solo album, this would probably be the only Arjen-related thing that wouldn’t warrant an instant pre-order from me.

Offline Evermind

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #218 on: March 16, 2017, 11:12:55 AM »
I'm not going to do a big old announcement because most of the old crowd knows that, but the listening session for this album is happening today at 8 P.M. GMT. See you there.

Offline Ben_Jamin

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #219 on: March 16, 2017, 11:42:08 AM »
I might listen to it now as I most likely won't be able to when the listening session begins.

I haven't listened to it in quite a bit. Its a good album, I enjoy it. Even the 2nd disc.
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Offline Shadow Ninja 2.0

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #220 on: March 16, 2017, 11:46:41 AM »
Honestly, I fucking love this album. It probably ranks higher than at least a few of Arjen's other albums for me.

I really love his voice on here, too. He's always been excellent at getting the best out of the vocalists on his albums, so it's probably not surprising that he does the same for himself.
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Offline twosuitsluke

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #221 on: March 16, 2017, 11:48:22 AM »
I already told Train but sorry, I can't make it tonight  :tdwn

I'd love to be there for this album though  :biggrin:

Offline Tomislav95

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #222 on: March 17, 2017, 04:43:12 AM »
This album is much better that I expected it to be. And I guess I had low expectations because no one ever talk about it :huh: Gonna relisten soon, but yeah, on first listen it was mostly great.
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Offline twosuitsluke

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #223 on: March 17, 2017, 04:50:05 AM »
I only listened through once, before sending my predictions to Evermind, and I just remember it was cheese of the highest order (even by Arjen standards  :lol).

Offline Tomislav95

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #224 on: March 17, 2017, 06:48:00 AM »
I only listened through once, before sending my predictions to Evermind, and I just remember it was cheese of the highest order (even by Arjen standards  :lol).
It's definitely different kind of cheese than Ayreon.   
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Offline ronnibran

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #225 on: March 17, 2017, 07:54:36 PM »
Lost in the New Real is great!  I put it up there maybe right behind 01011001 and The Human Equation.  And the title track on the album is one of my ultimate favorite songs.  So great!

I love disc 2 as well, so many great songs there.  Surprised only half the songs are covers, they all work very well together.

Offline Parama

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #226 on: March 17, 2017, 08:44:03 PM »
it's "connect the dots" and "web of lies" for an entire album

parently etc. garbage is arjen's worst song

i don't really like this album, but a few of the second disc songs are cool

Offline nattmorker

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #227 on: March 27, 2017, 10:57:06 PM »
I really love Arjen's work, he's becoming one of my absolutely favorite musician/composer. Thanks to this thread I've been working my way through the entire discography (previously I only knew THE, The Gentle Storm, SoP, TTOE & parts of 01...), I've been following this thread at my own pace, so far I'm finishing with "Flight Of The Migrator", then I still need to listen to the remaining side projects but I've finally caught up with this thread, so I will be waiting for the next writeup & listening session. So far my favorite Ayreon albums are:

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

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

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

Finally, thanks to Evermind for the writeups! They've been really fun and informative to read.
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Offline twosuitsluke

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #228 on: March 28, 2017, 12:22:37 AM »
When is the next listening session by the way Evermind?

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #229 on: March 28, 2017, 12:52:22 AM »
Lost in the New Real is a fun album, but far from his best. It's a cool concept and some of the artwork is hilarious. Some great covers on here though, especially 'I'm the Slime' and Battle of Evermore.

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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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #230 on: March 28, 2017, 10:12:58 AM »
 :tup

When is the next listening session by the way Evermind?

Originally it was planned to happen on this Thursday, but I'm not sure we can deliver the writeup before that. It's either this Thursday, next Tuesday or next Thursday. :biggrin:

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #231 on: March 28, 2017, 10:22:35 AM »
:tup

When is the next listening session by the way Evermind?

Originally it was planned to happen on this Thursday, but I'm not sure we can deliver the writeup before that. It's either this Thursday, next Tuesday or next Thursday. :biggrin:
I'm really hoping it's next week, I've got a beerpong tourney this thursday  :P
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Offline Parama

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #232 on: March 28, 2017, 10:38:14 AM »
What's next anyways is it already ttoe?


Offline Evermind

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #234 on: March 29, 2017, 11:24:50 AM »
Yeah, it's definitely not going to happen this week, came back from work pretty late and there's no way I can finish it today. I'll probably finish the writeup at weekend, and then we'll see if it's next Tuesday or Thursday. Sorry folks.

Offline Evermind

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #235 on: April 03, 2017, 12:14:46 PM »
Alright then, I apologize for the triple post, but now that we know that for sure—the writeup for TTOE is going to be live tomorrow, and the listening session is also going to happen tomorrow, so I'll just go ahead and post the announcement ahead of the writeup.

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

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

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

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #236 on: April 03, 2017, 02:18:48 PM »
I'm horrifically behind on this thread, but since I've refreshed myself with the Arjen discography over the past couple of weeks, I can now sit down with this thread over coffee and read through this.  I might even see if I can dig up my old lo.com VOTMA review.
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Offline Train of Naught

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #237 on: April 04, 2017, 10:45:55 AM »
I fully intend to
build a new house on the foundation of where the one we just tore down is  :hat

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

As for TTOE, only heard it once but it was really good, looking forward to the sesh. I remember Phase I being my favourite.

Offline twosuitsluke

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #238 on: April 04, 2017, 11:23:36 AM »
Right, just got home from work. Give me 15-20 minutes and I'll be in  :hat

Offline Evermind

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Re: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken
« Reply #239 on: April 04, 2017, 12:34:07 PM »
We begin in ~30 minutes, get in if you still aren't there!

Offline Evermind

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The Theory of Everything (2013)




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


Tracklist:

CD 1 :

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

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

CD 2 :

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

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

Personnel:

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

Vocalists:

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

Musicians

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



8:49 this morning

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


History / Background / Writing

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

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

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

Singers and musicians / Artwork / Lyrics

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

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

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

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

Music

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

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

Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

I’m really glad that Arjen took a break from Ayreon in 2008, because even though I like 01011001 a lot, I still think it could’ve been much better. In my opinion, the break really helped him to recharge his batteries (and we got Guilt Machine and second Star One in the meantime), and he came up with the brilliant album The Theory of Everything is. I wonder what you guys think about it.

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Thanks :tup

't Was a good read.

Enjoying the album in the listening session now!
Hey dude slow the fuck down so we can finish together at the same time.  :biggrin:
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Offline Parama

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I like this album but you could tell me it was written as separate tracks and then jammed together and I'd believe it because it never really sounds like "songs" to me aside from a few spots

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Great listening session again, I really enjoyed it!  ;D This is easily my second favourite Ayreon album after THE. The first part is my favourite, there are some really tasty piano sections in there. I like the story, it's not outstanding but it it's a fitting story for ayreon's music. The open ending is pretty cool too.


I like this album but you could tell me it was written as separate tracks and then jammed together and I'd believe it because it never really sounds like "songs" to me aside from a few spots
I really like the structure in this album actually, especially because most of the parts do flow into each other pretty well.
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I know I'm way late, but my Guilt Machine review: http://wpapu.com/new-releases-50/#034

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

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

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

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

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