Ayreon

Actual Fantasy Ayreon - Actual Fantasy (Transmission) 1998

1. "Actual Fantasy" (1:35)
2. "Abbey of Synn" (9:34)
3. "The Stranger from Within" (7:36)
4. "Computer Eyes" (7:31)
5. "Beyond the Last Horizon" (7:34)
6. "Far Side of the World" (6:21)
7. "Back on Planet Earth" (7:01)
8. "Forevermore" (6:10)
9. "The Dawn of Man" (7:30)
10. "The Stranger From Within" [single version] (7:30)

Yet another masterful, melodic progressive rock disc from Aryeon. The music is a bit more digital sounding than I am use to hearing, but it also gives the band a very unique sound. Unlike all other Ayreon releases, this isn't a concept album and doesn't feature a score of guest artists. However, all the songs do have a fantasy-type theme and the music is just as masterful, technical, beautiful and infectious. 'Actual Fantasy' is their second release. My particular copy is a re-issue that contains a couple tracks that were not on the first release. However, from what I have read, there was a pretty cool video on the intial pressing that has been left off the second pressings.

Into the Electric Castle Ayreon - Into The Electric Castle (Hellion) 1998

DISC ONE
1. Welcome to the New Dimension (3:05)
2. Isis and Osiris (11:11)
...a) Let the Journey Begin
...b) The Hall of Isis and Osiris
...c) Strange Constellations
3. Amazing Flight (10:15)
...a) Amazing Flight in Space
...b) Stardance
...c) Flying Colours
4. Time Beyond Time (6:05)
5. The Decision Tree (we're alive) (6:24)
6. Tunnel of Light (4:05)
7. Across the Rainbow Bridge (6:20)
DISC TWO
1. The Garden of Emotions (9:40)
a) In the Garden of Emotions
b) Voices in the Sky
c) The Aggression Factor
2. Valley of the Queens (2:25)
3. The castle hall (5:49)
4. Tower of hope (4:54)
5. Cosmic fusion (7:27)
...a) I soar on the breeze
...b) Death's grunt
...c) The passing of an eagle
6. The Mirror Maze (6:34)
...a) Inside the Mirror Maze
...b) Through the Mirror
7. Evil Devolution (6:31)
8. The Two Gates (6:28)
9. "Forever" of the stars (2:02)
10. Another time, another space (5:20)

Wow! Now this is what progressive rock should sound like! Rather than trying to copy the style of another famous prog band, Arjen's Ayreon take flight and soar into new horizons that are all their own. Sure there are some influences that people will hear, but overall, this is a very unique CD. The music is simply incredible, giving me those same chills that I experienced the first time I heard Nektar's "Recycled" or Yes "Fragile". Yup, it's that good. As with all Ayreon releases, Arjen Anthony Lucassen is the man behind the writing and concept of this album, however, he brings along a large list of guest musicians including ISH (MARILLION), Damian Wilson (THRESHOLD), Edward Reekers (KAYAK), Rene Merkelback (GOREFEST), Ton Scherpenzeel (TAURUS, KAYAK, CAMEL), Thijs v Leer (FOCUS) Clive Nolan (PENDRAGON, ARENA) and Edwin Balogh (OMEGA). Each voice has been casted to sing a part in the play. For me, the storyline isn't as important as the music itself. If the story had been incredible but the music disjointed, I wouldn't have cared at all. However, not even knowing the storyline behind the music, I find this disc to be incredibly enjoyable. The music is dynamic, majestic and demands your attention. Not only does it demand attention, but it really requires a lot of time and attention to listen to this album. Spaced out on two CDs, this is not for those who are only looking for singles. It must be listened to at once to truly be appreciated. After receiving this CD in the mail, it actually took me about a week to finally find the time to sit down and listen from beginning to end. Once I did, I was hooked. Now, I really can't say enough good things about this CD.

Here is a summary of the story from Ayreon's Website:
"'Into the Electric Castle' tells the story of 8 stereotypical characters from different periods of time who suddenly find themselves in another dimension. A Highlander, Knight, Egyptian, Indian, Barbarian, Roman, Hippie and Futureman each try to understand where they are and what they are supposed to do. It is then that a voice rings out from the sky to tell them that the dimension they have arrived in is built on dreams and fears. In order to find their way back to their own dimension and time, they must go in search of The Electric Castle. During the search every character is forced to confront his or her innermost fears, and not everyone survives the treacherous journey to the Castle."

"At the end of the journey those that successfully dealt with their personal demons find out that the voice belongs to an alien named 'Forever of the Stars', a member of an alien race living in a distant galaxy. These aliens created planet Earth and its people as an experiment so they could study, and hopefully one day experience emotions, as they themselves lost feelings eons ago."

Gothic Soul Ayreon - Universal Migrator Part 2: Flight of the Migrator (InsideOut) 1999

1. "Chaos" (5:10)
2. "Dawn of a Million Souls" (7:45)
3. "Journey on the Waves of Time" (5:47)
4. "To the Quasar" (8:42)
* a) The Taurus Pulsar
* b) Quasar 3C273

5. "Into the Black Hole" (10:25)
* a) The Eye of the Universe
* b) Halo of Darkness
* c) The Final Door

6. "Through the Wormhole" (6:05)
7. "Out of the White Hole" (7:11)
* a) M31
* b) Planet Y
* c) The Search Continues

8. "To the Solar System" (6:11)
* a) Planet of Blue
* b) System Alert

9. "The New Migrator" (8:15)
* a) Metamorphosis
* b) Sleeper Awake

This was the first Ayreon album I have ever heard, and oh my, what an album it is. Progressive rock fans rejoice for your time has come. These guys rule and this album simply shreds from beginning to end. Take the best elements of ELP, Nektar, King Crimson, Dream Theater and mix in a healthy dose of heavy metal and you might get an idea of what to expect here. The music is dynamic and technical, though not overly so. The acoustic passages are awesome, while the heavier material is dowright infectious. Just try and ignore the riffs of "Quasar 3C273" or the progressive metal fury of the opening track or even the galloping classic metal stylings of "Out of the White Hole" or the machine like double bass assault of "Planet of Blue". There are plenty of excellent, vocalists on this disc as well including: Bruce Dickinson, Ralf Sheepers (Gamma Ray/Primal Fear), Andi Deris (Helloween), Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius) and the singer from Symphony X. Argh! Yet another band that has moved up on the priority list!

Ayreonauts Only Ayreon - Ayreonauts Only (Transmission) 2000

1. "Into the Black Hole" -vocals: Damian Wilson, Lana Lane (10:46)
2. "Out of the White Hole" -vocals: Robert Soeterboek (7:12)
3. "Through the Wormhole" -vocals: Ian Parry (6:14)
4. "Carpe Diem (Chaos)" -instrumental, 1992 demo (4:15)
5. "Temple of the Cat" -acoustic version; vocals: Astrid van der Veen (3:07)
6. "Original Hippie's Amazing Trip" (6:38)
7. "Beyond the Last Horizon" -new recording (5:34)
8. "The Charm of the Seer" -demo (3:30)
9. "Eyes of Time" -vocals: Leon Goewie (5:10)
10. "Nature's Dance" -demo (2:33)
11. "Cold Metal" -"Ambeon" preview (7:10)

Hmmm, these odds and sods cds, made up of demos and unreleased tracks are pretty popular right now. It seems every band is digging deep into the vaults and pulling out anything they can to release. Well, I guess the reason this disc is called "Ayreonauts Only" is because only the most dedicated fans would be interested in this collection of demos and alternate recordings. I can't say that I am yet one of them, as Ayreon are a new band to me, but since I found this import for a mere $5 I decided to snag it. The thing about many of these types of compilations is that they tend to only get printed in limited quantities and go out of print and circulation soon after their initial release. All the tracks on this disc have been released on other Ayreon recordings, and most with better sonics and singers. There are a few exceptions; an instrumental titled "Beyond the Last Horizon" and "Cold Metal", a "preview" of Arjen's side project Ambeon, which features a 14-year-old female vocalist.

Human Equation Ayreon - The Human Equation (Inside Out) 2004

DISC ONE
1. "Day One: Vigil" (1:33)
2. "Day Two: Isolation" (8:42)
3. "Day Three: Pain" (4:58)
4. "Day Four: Mystery" (5:37)
5. "Day Five: Voices" (7:09)
6. "Day Six: Childhoo" (5:05)
7. "Day Seven: Hope" (2:47)
8. "Day Eight: School" (4:22)
9. "Day Nine: Playground" (2:15)
10. "Day Ten: Memories" (3:57)
11. "Day Eleven: Love" (4:18)
DISC TWO
1. "Day Twelve: Trauma" (8:59)
2. "Day Thirteen: Sign" (4:47)
3. "Day Fourteen: Pride" (4:42)
4. "Day Fifteen: Betrayal" (5:24)
5. "Day Sixteen: Lose" (4:46)
6. "Day Seventeen: Accident?" (5:42)
7. "Day Eighteen: Realization" (4:31)
8. "Day Nineteen: Disclosure" (4:43)
9. "Day Twenty: Confrontation" (7:03)

This CD is a progressive rock/metal masterpiece from Arjen Lucassen! I must confess that this one takes a while to grow on you, but after only a few spins the nuances of the music and the overall emotion ofthe story really begin to come out. I am reminded of so many of the great progressive bands from the 70's while listening to this CD. At times I heard Jethro Tull, Nektar, Genesis, Queen and even some Kansas here and there. However, Ayreon are not a throwback to the 70's either. The modern production coupled with some modern guitar work and a host of other influences works well with the obvious 70's influences. Lucassen actually melds together elements of folk rock, 60's psychedelia, neo-classical metal, classical, progressive rock and traditional heavy metal to bring together the story. Add to this a cast of great musicians and singers as well as a story line that has each singer acting out a part of the story and you have the progressive rock fans dream CD. The story is about a guy (played by LaBrie of Dream Theater) who gets into a crash and ends up into coma. Each track is a day in the life of this man. While in coma he goes in a journey inside of his own mind and explores his own feelings, while his wife and his best friend wait for him to return. Each singer represents one of these feeling. While the story is interesting, it is the music and the overall feeling of the disc that is so enjoyable to me. (Thanks Bob)

The singers on this CD are Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) as Fear, Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery) as Father, Marcela Bovio (Elfonia) as Wife, Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) as Reason, Magnus Ekwall (The Quill) as Pride, Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn) as Love, Devon Graves (Dead Soul Tribe, Aslan) as Agony, Irene Jansen (Karma) as Passion James LaBrie (Dream Theater, Mullmuzzler) as Me, Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad) as Rage, and Arjen Lucassen as Best Friend. Other musicians are Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep/Blackfoot) on keyboards and Ed Warby (Gorefest) on drums.

Ayreon - 01011001 (InsideOut) 2008

DISC ONE
1. Age of Shadows" (10:47)
2. Comatose" (4:26)
3. Liquid Eternity" (8:10)
4. Connect the Dots" (4:13)
5. Beneath the Waves" (8:26)
...a. Beneath the Waves
...b. Face the Facts
...c. But a Memory...
...d. World Without Walls
...e. Reality Bleeds
6. Newborn Race" (7:49)
...a. The Incentive
...b. The Vision
...c. The Procedure
...d. Another Life
...e. Newborn Race
...f. The Conclusion
7. Ride the Comet" (3:29)
8. Web of Lies" (2:50)

DISC TWO
1. "The Fifth Extinction" (10:29)
...a. Glimmer of Hope
...b. World of Tomorrow Dreams
...c. Collision Course
...d. From the Ashes
...e. Glimmer of Hope (Reprise)
2. "Waking Dreams" (6:31)
3. "The Truth is in Here" (5:12)
4. "Unnatural Selection" (7:15)
5. "River of Time" (4:24)
6. "E=MC2" (5:50)
7. The Sixth Extinction" (12:18)
...a. Echoes on the Wind
...b. Radioactive Grave
...c. 2085
...d. To the Planet of Red
...e. Spirit on the Wind
...f. Complete the Circle

DISC THREE (DVD)
1. Behind the Scenes - Making of 01011001
2. Beneath the Waves - CGI Movie (5.1/2.0)
3. Guide Demos (audio) - featuring Arjen on vocals
4. Bloopers (audio)
5. Ed Warby's Session - Recording drums
6. Teaser Trailer

rjen Lucassen and Ayreon returns after a four year absence with his most ambitious, progressive and epic release yet titled "01011001". It is the story of Planet Y, which is the album title in binary computer code, and the struggle for emotional survival in an age of increased technological dependence. Lucassen has again assembled an all star supporting cast including Thomas Englund (Evergrey), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Ty Tabor (King s X), Michael Romeo (Symphony X), Tomas Bodin (The Flower Kings), Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater/Planet X), Ed Warby (Gorefest), Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering) and several others. The list of guests is impressive indeed. However, it's the music that is important to me. I must confess that I owned this album for well over six months before I finally decided to write something about it. While "01011001" is an impressive release, it is also tedious and taxing to listen to, especially in one sitting. Pop music this is not. Rather, this is technical and progressive rock that sometimes sounds as if it should be the soundtrack or score to a sci-fi movie. As would be expected from Ayreon, the musicianship is outstanding, as are all the vocalists. Second track "Comatose" is of particular note as Evergrey's Thomas Englund is particularly outstanding. As would also be expected there is a fair amount of cheese contained herein as well. "Connect the Dot" is the first song that comes to mind when I think of prog-rock-cheese. However, this is to be expected with an epic release such a this. Overall, I was highly impressed by "01011001" and a bit overwhelmed.

The deluxe edition of "01011001" is impressive. Wrapped in a handsome box that houses the three discs and also includes a 32-page, full-color booklet.

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