Up from the second page we go. I know these are taking longer than I'd (and perhaps you guys) like to.
Into the Electric Castle (1998)Release date: October 31st, 1998
Length: 104:47Tracklist:Disc 1:
1. Welcome to the New Dimension
2. Isis and Osiris
I. Let the Journey Begin
II. The Hall of Isis and Osiris
III. Strange Constellations
3. Amazing Flight
I. Amazing Flight in Space
III. Flying Colours
4. Time Beyond Time
5. The Decision Tree (We’re Alive)
6. Tunnel of Light
7. Across the Rainbow BridgeDisc 2:
1. The Garden of Emotions
I. All in the Garden of Emotions
II. Voices in the Sky
III. The Aggression Factor
2. Valley of the Queens
3. The Castle Hall
4. Tower of Hope
5. Cosmic Fusion
I. I Soar on the Breeze
II. Death’s Grunt
III. The Passing of an Eagle
6. The Mirror Maze
I. Inside the Mirror Maze
II. Through the Mirror
7. Evil Devolution
8. The Two Gates
9. “Forever” of the Stars
10. Another Time, Another SpacePersonnel:Arjen Anthony Lucassen
— production and all instruments not mentioned in the section belowOscar Holleman
— mixing and sound engineering Peter van 't Riet
— masteringJef Bertels
— artwork John van den Oetelaar
— layout and image handlingVocalists:Peter Daltrey
(Kaleidoscope) — The VoiceFish
(ex-Marillion) — HighlanderSharon den Adel
(Within Temptation) — IndianDamian Wilson
(Headspace, Threshold) — KnightEdwin Balogh
(ex-Omega) — RomanAnneke van Giersbergen
(ex-The Gathering) — EgyptianJay van Feggelen
(Bodine) — BarbarianArjen Anthony Lucassen
— HippieEdward Reekers
(Kayak) — FuturemanRobert Westerholt
(Within Temptation) and George Oosthoek
(ex-Orphanage) — DeathMusiciansEd Warby
(Gorefest) — drumsRobby Valentine
— all pianos, synth solos on “Let the Journey Begin”, “Amazing Flight in Space” and “Tower of Hope”, mellotron on “Inside the Mirror Maze”Clive Nolan
(Arena) — synth solos on “Flying Colours”Rene Merkelbach
— synth solos on “The Decision Tree (We’re Alive)” and “Evil Devolution”, harpsichord on “Valley of the Queens”Ton Scherpenzeel
(Kayak) — synth solos on “The Passing of an Eagle”Roland Bakker
(Vengeance) — all HammondsThijs van Leer
(Focus) — flute on “Flying Colours”, “Time Beyond Time”, “Valley of the Queens” and “The Castle Hall”Ernő Oláh
— violinsTaco Kooistra
— celliJack Pisters
Welcome! You have entered the cranial vistas of psychogenesis. This is the place of no-time and no-space. Do not be afraid for I am merely the vocal manifestation of your eternal dreams. I am as water, as air—like breath itself. Do not be afraid.
Look around, but linger not. Where I lead you will follow. Mark these words well. Ignite my anger with your delay and punishments will come your way.
You are eight souls of the flesh, chosen from different eras ancient and modern. The trivia of your mortal lives is unimportant to me... Indeed, some may die...
You have a task: to release yourselves from this Web of Wisdom, this knotted Maze of Delirium, you must enter the nuclear portals of the Electric Castle!
Nuclear portals of the Electric Castle, how’s that for you?
All the progressive bands and artists that are famous around the world usually have an album in their discography that is considered to be their “breakthrough” album. It’s that record that garnered them worldwide fame, the record that put them on the world map of progressive music, that brought them to the level of the most successful and famous projects. Images and Words
by Dream Theater is, perhaps, the most relevant example of a breakthrough album for a band. Well, I’m sure I won’t be far off the mark when I say Into the Electric Castle
is exactly this kind of album for Ayreon. You may love it, or you may be ambivalent toward it (as I am), or you may think it’s a bad parody of 70s progressive rock, but there’s no denying this album was what finally settled any doubts about Arjen’s credibility as a musician. This is when it became clear; when it comes to the world’s progressive scene, Arjen Lucassen is a person to be reckoned with.History / BackgroundActual Fantasy
didn’t sell all that well, especially compared to The Final Experiment
. Both the label and Arjen himself were rightly concerned about that. At this point, Arjen realized he had to come up with a perfect album to ensure his musical career would continue. He couldn’t allow himself to release another album that would flop commercially—that would mean the end for Ayreon. This is why the new album—which would turn out to be Into the Electric Castle
—was almost like a reaction to Actual Fantasy
. Arjen deduced that people didn’t like the lack of continuous story and the lack of concept, so he aimed at writing a huge rock opera. He guessed that people wanted to see more famous guests on the record, so he went out of his way to contact several stars from the progressive rock scene of 90s. He came to conclusions that people didn’t like the cold, mechanical, computerized sound on his previous album, so he ensured that the new record would sound as warm and honest as possible, with real drums and other, more eclectic instruments instead of samples. He also allowed the singers to come up with their own melodies and lyrics if they wanted, not adhering strictly to what Arjen had written for them.
Right before Arjen started writing music for Into the Electric Castle
, he moved to another house, which was in the final stages of renovation. There were the renovation workers around all the time, so Arjen stayed in his own room writing music—he didn’t feel like wandering around humming the music while the workers were doing all the tough jobs. And so he spent hours and days in his room, writing, and the ideas just kept coming and coming until he realized it would definitely be a double album this time. First, he came up with all the music, without a definite story or any lyrics. He did have the vocal melodies written, too—a few different versions for each song to see which would work out better with the singers.
Now that Arjen had the music and vocal melodies written, it was time to finalize the story, settle on the list of singers, come up with the characters and write lyrics for their respective parts.Singers and musicians / Choosing the characters
Arjen spent about three months developing the story and bringing it to life. From the very beginning, he wanted the story to feature a number of characters together in a particular situation, but he kept changing and altering the exact details all the time. He worked on a story about the seven seas before arriving at the final version of the album's plot. He didn’t know which characters he would create—he had some vague ideas, but it was also up to the singers. Arjen offered them his ideas, and if they weren’t content with the role they were handed, it was up for discussion. Arjen didn’t want the plot to be taken too seriously, especially after people began comparing the minstrel Ayreon from The Final Experiment
to Christ. He wanted to create a somewhat serious story with exaggerated stereotypes as characters, which he explained to all singers in advance.
Some characters and singers ended up exactly as Arjen envisioned. He wanted to cast Anneke van Giersbergen as the lead female character from the beginning, and he imagined her as someone like an Egyptian. Anneke didn’t agree at first—she didn’t think participating in side projects would go over well with her band, The Gathering—but Arjen kept pestering her, and, finally, she relented—with the condition that her role would be a minor one. Arjen was also able to get Damian Wilson on board, and, apparently because Wilson is British, Arjen handed him the role of Knight of the Round Table—very loosely connecting the story to The Final Experiment
. Once again, Arjen invited Edward Reekers to play a role, and since Arjen saw him as a bit of know-it-all guy, he ended up portraying Futureman: the most educated and science-savvy character in the story.
Some other characters weren’t created that smoothly. Actually, some characters weren’t planned at all. Arjen didn’t plan on inviting Edwin Balogh at all, but Edwin wanted to sing on the album so much that he eventually came to Arjen’s studio, grabbed a guitar and started to sing his lungs out, covering some well-known songs. Arjen was impressed and made a character for him. As it turned out, Edwin was interested in Roman history, so the choice was easy enough. Originally, Arjen didn’t plan on getting two female singers, either, but after reading the interview in Aardschok magazine in which Sharon den Adel said that Arjen was one of her main influences in music, he decided to see Within Temptation live. He met with the band backstage and Sharon said she would be glad to participate in another of Arjen’s rock operas if the opportunity arose. Her voice was different enough from Anneke for Arjen’s purposes, so he opted to include two lead female singers on Into the Electric Castle
, picking an Indian character for Sharon.
Arjen was also able to get Fish on board to sing a few songs; so, naturally, he created a Highlander character for him. Arjen had to fly to Scotland to Fish’s own studio to record three songs with him. He recalls that Fish drank four bottles of wine while recording his vocal parts, but still didn’t miss a note, delivered his lines with the Scottish accent Arjen was hoping for, and also wrote his own lyrics. Arjen explained to him that he was supposed to portray a cowardly Highlander; Fish was nearly offended and retorted that there’s no such thing as a cowardly Highlander—his character was just tired of fighting. Another person who wrote his own lyrics was Jay van Feggelen. Arjen had imagined him as a gangster, but Jay was a huge fan of Conan the Barbarian, so he ended up with a Barbarian character instead.
Last but not least, there was a lot of confusion around the role of Hippie. Originally, Arjen asked Donovan to perform the role; Donovan responded by advising Arjen to ask Jon Anderson, which didn’t work out. Then Arjen found another singer, Mouse from the Dutch band Tuesday Child. Mouse had doubts about the symphonic nature of the record, but he recorded his parts. Then, a few weeks later, Arjen called him and revealed who else would be singing and performing on this record. In the interviews that followed the album’s release, Arjen said he assumed that when Mouse’s manager got this information, he suggested Mouse should ask for something more. When Arjen received the contract from Mouse, there were some additional clauses and restrictions that hadn’t been discussed before. Arjen paid Mouse his money, rejected the contract and recorded all the vocals himself the same night. Mouse called Arjen a week later and apologized for the incident; they reconciled and later Arjen asked him to perform on his next album.
Some other notable contributions are also worth covering. Arjen almost got Ian Anderson to play flute on the album, but at the last moment it didn’t work out. Instead, Arjen invited Thijs van Leer from Focus. This album also marks the first time Arjen collaborated with Ed Warby, a drummer from Gorefest, who would go on to play on many Ayreon albums to follow. Arjen was also able to get more famous musicians on board, like Clive Nolan—who complained that his part on the album was relatively small—and Tom Scherpenzeel from Kayak—who insisted that soloing really wasn’t his specialty, but went ahead and performed his solo anyway.
Now that the characters and musicians were set, Arjen just had to write the lyrics and bring the whole story to life…Plot
These eight characters from different eras and different countries—Highlander, Indian, Knight, Roman, Egyptian, Barbarian, Hippie and Futureman—find themselves in a place they can’t recognize. A disembodied voice greets them from the sky, explaining that they have to find the Electric Castle and enter the portal there to come back to their usual lives (Welcome to the New Dimension
). The characters interpret this according to their own beliefs, myths and superstitions. Highlander believes he has died and is now in hell to pay for his sins, Knight thinks he’s on a quest to find the Holy Grail, Hippie thinks he’s tripping on some drug and the whole thing is a hallucination, and all the while Futureman is trying to find a scientific explanation for the situation. Arguing over this peculiar turn of events, they get acquainted with one another (Isis and Osiris
, Amazing Flight
, Time Beyond Time
Soon enough, they have to face their first trial (The Decision Tree (We’re Alive)
). The team has to pick one of them to die, for only seven people may continue further. Barbarian and Highlander break into an argument. Highlander, convinced he has died anyway, accepts his fate and stays behind (Tunnel of Light
). With seven people left, the party continues Across the Rainbow Bridge
and comes to the foot of the Electric Castle, passing through The Garden of Emotions
. The emotions overload them, and while for Hippie (who is under the influence of drugs most of the time) it’s just another day, Egyptian is overwhelmed by the sudden rush of emotions and becomes convinced Amon-Ra came to take her soul away. Meanwhile, Roman and Barbarian get into a fight about who should lead their small team. Influenced by the heightened emotions of anger and rage, they both threaten to kill each other, while Futureman, who is, apparently, the only one who understands what’s going on, tries to reason with them. Egyptian is left behind to die (Valley of the Queens
The party finally reaches the Electric Castle. They enter The Castle Hall
, where spirits attack those who have killed before. Both Barbarian and Knight struggle to retain their consciousness—it is possible that some of their victims ended up here in the spirit form. Then the team climbs The Tower of Hope
, where they can see a thousand possible futures, that reflect their own desires and dreams. The Indian joins the strange breeze on top of the tower, drawn towards the sun. Roman and Futureman both try to stop her, warning her about the recklessness of this and asking her not to give in, but to no avail. The Indian encounters Death on that breeze and passes away with a scream (Cosmic Fusion
The team—with only five people left now—continues into The Mirror Maze
, where they’re forced to reflect on themselves, their fears and their forgotten memories of the past. Futureman passes through it with a certain ease, but his mind is occupied with the possibility that computers have developed too far and will soon overpower mankind—he’s convinced the voice that guides them is some kind of a computer program, a machine (Evil Devolution
). Finally, the party reaches their point of destination. They stand before The Two Gates
, one of which is golden and new and the other of which is plain and old. The voice tells them that one of the gates will bring them back to their worlds, and another one leads to oblivion. Without a second thought, Barbarian strides to the golden gate and proudly walks through it. Naturally, he fades into oblivion.
The voice reveals itself and tells the remaining four people that he’s “of the stars” and he’s called “Forever”. They’ve an alien race, developed to the point where they’ve lost all their emotions and are living through machines. They’ve vanquished the dinosaurs and planted people on Earth in order to experience the emotions through them, to feel, to at least partially get back what was lost. This whole thing with eight people and the Electric Castle was an experiment—they picked eight people from different eras of history to find out how they’d react to different situations, to see what emotions they’d feel during the trials. The voice tells them they won’t remember anything of this after they walk through the gate (”Forever” of the Stars
). Shortly after, all four people—Roman, Knight, Hippie and Futureman—wake up alive in the real world, wondering, but unable quite to place or remember what has happened to them (Another Time, Another Space