Thursday, February 21, 2008

Review: 01011001 by Ayreon

How can you do better than perfect? Well, somehow Arjen Lucassen manages to do it album after album after album.

Arjen Lucassen is the king of rock opera (or "space opera") as he calls it. He creates these masterpieces under the band name "Ayreon," producing his first in 1995 with the album "The Final Experiment," followed by "Actual Fantasy" a year later.

The first Ayreon album I heard was "Into the Electric Castle." I was listening to an Internet radio station and there was a song that stopped me dead in my tracks. It was so good that I immediately bought the album and (if CDs were wear-out-able) I wore it out by playing it so much.

I was hooked and needed more, so I rushed out and bought the other Ayreon CDs that were available and when "Actual Fantasy" and "The Final Experiment" were re-released I gobbled them up too.

After I heard "Into the Electric Castle" I thought "Wow! What could he possibly do to beat that?" So he went on to do "Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer" and "Universal Migrator Part 2: Flight of the Migrator" and I thought "Wow! What could he possibly do to beat that?" So he produced "The Human Equation" and I thought "This is it. He can't possibly beat that." And so he just had to prove me wrong by coming up with the latest Ayreon album "01011001".

For those of you who are not computers, "01011001" is "Y" to a computer and it stands for the planet "Y". What is the planet "Y" you ask? Well, it's a planet that is part of the story of the rock opera called "01011001". I won't spoil it by giving you the story but what I will do is tell you a bit about the album.

There are 17 (count them 1, 2, 3 ... 15, 16, 17!!!) vocalists on this album, each of them singing the part of a different character. Arjen has an uncanny ability to not only put together vocalists with aesthetically harmonic or complementary voices, but he can also put the right vocalist with the right music.

And on top of all that he plays almost all of the instruments: guitar, bass, keyboards, mandolin, synth programming and probably more that I haven't yet spotted, and he plays them all as a total professional. In addition he invites awesome instrumentalists to join him, so we get the likes of Michael Romeo of "Symphony X", Lori Linstruth of "Stream of Passion", Joost van den Broek of "After Forever" and many others, playing incredible solos.

To get a taste of this album go to the Ayreon website and watch the "trailer" video: Ayreon Home Page

- Arjen Lucassen MySpace site - listen to some clips from the songs then scroll down and play the "Beneath the Waves" video.
- More Videos

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