Showing posts with label ayreon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ayreon. Show all posts

Friday, May 5, 2017

video review: 'the source' by ayreon

Honestly have no idea how this is going to be received... the album was great but it really should have been better, so much potential if the writing came through... eh, we'll see if it grows on me.

Next up, though, should be interesting... stay tuned!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

album review: 'the source' by ayreon

And now it's time for the big one, folks. The record I've arguably been anticipating the most in 2017, the newest collaboration album from a musical genius and a veteran of progressive metal for the past twenty years. The sort of project that has pulled from dozens of acclaimed metal acts and inspired at least three albums that would chalk as progressive metal stalwarts and one that's a genuine 10/10 classic.

And you all know who it is. Yes, folks, it's Ayreon, the project of Arjen Van Lucassen, who I last discussed in detail when I talked about his side project The Gentle Storm in 2015, and before then when I discussed the Ayreon album The Theory Of Everything in 2013 - which for the record nearly topped my list of the best albums of that year! Now that album did turn out to be a little contentious among some Ayreon fans - the story that felt distinctly separate from the Ayreon universe, the choice to structure the track listing in four mammoth songs each extending over twenty minutes, and a narrative that may have been a tad too abstract for its own good, especially with the ambiguous ending. Now I personally didn't care, but that might have been more because the narrative connected on a deeply emotional level that short-circuited most of my critical analysis: a young man with a neurological condition and complicated relationship with family finds new agency and a quest against a backdrop of theoretical physics, it hit a few too many close notes for me.

But that didn't mean I was inherently skeptical going into The Source - for one, look at that lineup! James LaBrie of Dream Theater, fresh off his own extended progressive metal epic The Astonishing, Tommy Karevik of Kamelot, Tommy Rodgers of Between The Buried And Me, Russell Allen of Symphony X, Floor Jansen of Nightwish, Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian, Mike Mills of Toehider, Simone Simons of Epica, Paul Gilbert formerly of Racer X and Mr. Big, and even Tobias Sammet of the symphonic metal super-project Avantasia, who the music press has loved to paint as a rival to Arjen before they buried the hatchet in 2008. I haven't seen a murderer's row of talent that loaded since Dave Cobb brought together Southern Family. But The Source was promising more: a prequel album to the acclaimed 01011001 from 2008, telling the haunting story behind the collapse of the civilization behind the mysterious Forevers who have lurked behind so much of Ayreon's narrative. So on the one hand, it made plenty of sense for Arjen to cast the record with so many artists he's already worked with to deepen thematic parallels - or from what I could tell, maybe even play the same character again with Hansi Kursch and Floor Jansen - but on the other hand, prequels are always such a dangerous proposition, especially in a universe like Ayreon's with nine records stuffed full of interweaving continuity, with time travel to boot. But as always, my expectations were incredibly high, especially with buzz suggesting this could very well be Ayreon's best project since The Human Equation - does it live up to those expectations?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

video review: 'the diary' by the gentle storm

Man, I wish this had been better. I mean, it's good, but it should have been awesome, and it's still a bit of a letdown. It happens even from the best.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN, and then I have about four or five albums lined up in the queue I could easily cover. What to pick, what to pick... oh hell, I know what I'm covering, and you all should too. Stay tuned!

album review: 'the diary' by the gentle storm

I've been looking forward to this project since the beginning of the year.

Now long time followers of my reviews probably aren't surprised by this, but everyone else is probably perplexed by where this album came from, who this duo is, and why anyone should care. For those who don't know, The Gentle Storm is a project under the direction of Arjen Lucassen, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and creator of the Ayreon project, an ongoing progressive metal act that pulls in vocalists from dozens of the most critically acclaimed acts in symphonic, progressive, folk, and even extreme metal. One of his long-time collaborators is Anneke Van Giersbergen, frontwoman of The Gathering and who has worked with acts as varied as Devin Townsend, Within Temptation, and Napalm Death. Together, the duo decided in 2014 to collaborate on a new project, a double album under the name The Gentle Storm. Both discs would contain the same compositions, but one would be played entirely with folk and acoustic instrumentation and other was all-out symphonic and progressive metal - and both discs would tell the same story, an epic historical romance, one of the few times Arjen Lucassen has ventured away from the sci-fi epics that have been his purview.

Now on some level, I was skeptical of this. With the exception of Guilt Machine, I've had mixed results with Arjen's side projects and solo albums, having never been a big fan of Ambeon and Star One rarely hitting as strongly as I've hoped. Plus, the double disc format struck me as the duo hedging their bets - were the compositions really so strong that they'd be able to be transferred to entirely different instrumentation and maintain their impact? Granted, this isn't the first time Arjen has done this - the first Ayreon release The Final Experiment had an acoustic version as well - but I couldn't help but feel the record might be better if they had just selected the more poignant version of each track and interweaved metal and acoustic together.

But this was the format they chose, and I knew that Arjen Lucassen was a songwriter who had never made an outright bad album. This was a team of veterans in writing and instrumentation, and it certainly wasn't shying away from being an ambitious project, so I gave the double album my full attention - was it worth it?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

the top 25 best albums of 2013

And now we're down to the final list - my top twenty-five albums of 2013. This year, I reviewed 135 albums - and frankly, I should have done more. But I feel it's a plenty big sample size to discuss my choices, and all of these earned their slots on this list. I'll also try to keep this as quick as I possibly can - I've already talked about all of these albums in detail, and you should all check out my reviews if you want a more in-depth discussion. Also, my list isn't exactly going to correspond with common critical consensus - there are albums I have picked that have been ignored, and there are certain albums that some critics lauded that I didn't find nearly as strong. Got all that? Good, because we're not waiting any longer, let's GO!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

video review: 'the theory of everything' by ayreon

Yeah, this album really got to me - but in the good kind of way, so I'm not complaining in the slightest. Seriously though, check it out - it's awesome.

With that in mind, it looks like this week'll be busy enough, with Toby Keith, Thomas Rhett, and Arcade Fire dropping albums before the end of the month (and somebody decided Linkin Park needed a remix album... ugh). Then it's Battle of the Canadian girls as Avril and Celine square off at the beginning of November. Stay tuned!

album review: 'the theory of everything' by ayreon

It is one of the most ambitious and fascinating projects ever undertaken in metal - hell, some could make the argument that it's one of the biggest in music as a whole. The brainchild of a genius singer-songwriter multi-instrumentalist with a love of prog rock, psychedelia, and science fiction. A project that has spanned dozens of metal acts, big and small. For me, it has been the introduction point to so many bands to which I've consequently discovered and loved, and the fact that something coherent and engaging could have been made from it is mind-boggling.

Yes, folks, I'm talking about Ayreon, the multi-album megaproject masterminded by Arjen Lucassen. Started in 1995 with The Final Experiment, the Ayreon 'story' spanned seven albums, all of them which are good and a few are goddamn classics. In that respect, it's a little hard for me to be heavily critical of this project, partially because it played such a huge role in my discovery of progressive metal and partially because it's so goddamn great. I guess if I was going to try here, Arjen Lucassen's closest analogue in another field would be Kenneth Branagh, in that both men are fiendishly ambitious, produce highly cerebral material that can toe the line between epic and camp, and that they both have unbelievable clout in their ability to recruit players from all across their field. You want a short list of bands from where Lucassen has called up performers? How about After Forever, Blind Guardian, Dream Theater, Avantasia, Epica, Kamelot, Nightwish, Gotthard, Iron Maiden, Lacuna Coil, Rhapsody of Fire, Within Temptation, The Flower Kings, Yes, King Crimson, and even Genesis! And really, I left a whole slew of acts off the list - that's how much clout Lucassen has, and it's kind of incredible how he can call up so many different prog and metal performers to work with him time and time again.

But for those of you who don't know, the Ayreon project had its concluding element with 01011001 (the binary term for Y) in 2008, with Lucassen finally setting it aside to go onto other projects, like the follow-up Star One album and the fascinating experimentation of Guilt Machine. Yet, this year, he announced he was calling together a whole new crop of musicians to come work with him on an album titled The Theory of Everything. And as an Ayreon fan and a physics grad, I was more than intrigued by what Lucassen would be able to create from his insane vision and fetish for weird science. Joking aside, this has been my most highly anticipated album of the year thus far. So, did he pull off another classic?