So, here it is: the newest Album of mastermind Arjen
Lucassen. I have waited a long time very eagerly for it and what can I say? I was blown away once again by the creativity and the genius of Arjen
, he has succeeded in gathering many top-vocalist from all heavy metal branches in his Electric Castle
studio, it`s almost unbelievable who can be found on this album.
But first things first. This album differs from the others as this time the singers do not represent different characters of a story but a great part of them portrait the role of "Forever", the emotionally numb alien from "Into the Electric Castle
". On this album we learn how Forever and his race became these unemotional creatures, how they can´t stand that life and how they designed humans and settled them on Earth
to regain their emotions through them.
Into this story, Arjen
inserts four "scenes" from modern Earth
, that show in two cases how man has degenerated from logic and his nature to become dependend of machines - like Forever himself -, how The Final Experiment
was designed and how Arjen
himself is treated on a psychiatric ward as a schizophrene who talks of preincarnation and the destruction of mankind.
But let`s talk about the music. The overall tone of the album is much darker and heavier than "The Human Equation
", more towards "Flight of the Migrator". Arjen
once more presents his greatest trademarks - Synthie, heavy detuned guitars and unexpected but always natural sounding changes in style and tempo throughout the song. Check out the opener "Age of shadows" that starts of with a really great and aggressive Metalriff, then in the middle turns into this dark atmospheric mood and then for the finale returns to its beginning once more. How magnificent is that! Or take a look at "Beneath
the waves" that is the other way around: starting with a very emotional part and then turning into a riffmonster, before it becomes a mixture of both. Fantastic!
Almost every song has its surprises - at least those of the "Forever" cast.
what a cast that is! Arjen
has always understood how to get the best off his singers. Just remember Bruce Dickinson
´s performance on "Into the Black Hole
"!! If he only sang half as good a song with Maiden!!
Now, look at who is gathered here:
Steve Lee of Gotthard
gives the songs a rock attitude with his raw voice, aided by Jorn Land
, who as always, is just great, great, great and nothing less. This man can sing everything, I swear!
Jansen and Anneke van Giersbergen add the female touch, Floor
the powerful and Annneke the sweet emotional voice. They are old "Ayreon
-Veterans", so there`s no surprise that they once more do a great job.
Renske is the absolute surprise on this album: his dark voice is a real counterpart to all the rock voices and because he has written most of his melodylines himself, he adds a new facette to Arjen
`s sound. Fascinating.
But now let´s look at the rest and this is - I´m afraid - where the album loses a bit of quality. I think Arjen
has overdone it this time and taken too many singers into his group with the consequence that some talents are almost wasted -and that´s a sad thing if you look at whose talents I´m talking about.
Hansi Kürsch is a great singer, but he is reduced to some -very much Blind
-like - choirs and refrains that are dull compared to the parts of for example Jorn
Lande. It would have been great to hear him sing in a completely different kind of style on this album.
is a little more involved but also does not show his greatness (except for the duett with Steve Lee on "Unnatural
selection"). He and Hansi share the lyrics on "River of time" but that is not enough for those fantastic singers.
Daniel Gildenlöw is another mighty voice that disappears within the songs and has no real great moment. The same goes for Tom Englund and Magali Luyten.
then there are the singers for "Man". Arjen
´s voice is cool and "The truth is in here" one of the best songs of the album. But again, the others are wasted. I have looked very much forward to the voice of Simone Simmons, but her Song "Web
of lies" is little more than an interlude in which she sings four times the same melody line and that´s about it. What a shame! The other voices sound exchangeable and really add nothing to the overall sound.
I think, Arjen
would do better if he concentrated on about ten singers and gave them each a good moment of glory. He has done this before on his other albums. I understand that this time it was his concept to show very different facettes of one character and he has done a great job in writing and arranging some awfully great songs once more, but I was a little disappointed by the singer-overkill.
All in all, I will nevertheless state that this album is Ayreon
`s best since "Into the Electric Castle
" but does not quite reach its greatness. Yet this is still a very good album by a very talented musician and songwriter and I am already looking forward to his next releases.
Those who liked his other albums can buy this one without a risk and without thinking twice.
My rating: 18/20