Author Topic: Arjen Lucassen Discography Thread v. Bond's drink was stirred not shaken  (Read 5191 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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Hey, the length is fine :azn: Thanks!

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.
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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
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