(Prog) Rock Opera Masterpiece

Well I’ll say one thing for a start and that is that I’ve never reviewed an album and had to be careful I didn’t spoil the plot. At this rate I can apply for a job reviewing for Empire (the movie mag).

Where do you begin with something like Ayreon? If you’ve never wallowed in the delights of this musical enigma, never bathed in its far reaching and epic creations then you’re in for a treat, if you have a single prog rock bone in your body. Ayreon is actually beyond prog rock and into rock opera such is the scale of its compositions.

Ayreon is the brainchild of one man, a guy by the name of Arjen Lucassen and for the last twelve years or so he has been inviting musical luminaries to join him on his albums, and what a list he gets, on his last album alone (The human equation) he had James Labrie (Dream Theater) Devin Townsend (SYL) and Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth) plus lots of other musicians and singers.

So to the latest release, 01011001, this is an octet that adds up to 89 by the way binary counting fans, How it connects to the album I have no idea yet. This is a double disc which is connected most closely to ‘The Universal Migrator’ albums, it takes us back to the planet Y from the Flight of the migrator album to look more closely at the inhabitants, you get to discover what came before that led up to the events in The universal migrator albums. That is as close to telling you what happens as I’m willing to go.

As usual there’s a whole host of guests playing the parts of the various characters, let’s see we’ve got Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian), Floor Jansen (After Forever), Ty Tabor (Kings X), Simone Simons (Epica), Daniel Gildenlow (Pain of Salvation), Tom Englund (Evergrey), and even Bob (Poke your eye out) Catley of Magnum to name but a few, each lending their voice to a tightly woven tapestry of music and counterpointed lyrics.

Speaking of music this reminds me more of ‘Into the Electric castle’ in that it all hangs together as one long story rather than a collection of different songs like ‘Human equation’ and this is played out by the multi faceted Arjen who plays nearly all the instruments with guest musicians adding a solo here and there. This is all backed up by the fantastic Ed Warby (Gorefest) on drums, Ed has played the drums on everything in the last seven years and is as much a part of the Ayreon sound as he could be without being Arjen himself.

The standard of music is superb, mellow, hard hitting, punchy, all tied together with some amazing vocal performances. Many of the guests step outside of their own comfort zones to produce some truly great pieces.

The CD reviewed is the standard version. However if you are prepared to splash out a bit more of your hard earned cash then go for the Limited Deluxe 2 cd/dvd version, which is worth buying just to see the Ed Warby session, and how he did all his drum parts for this album in less than three days • amazing!

Long time fans will not be disappointed as they pick up on musical and lyrical themes that reference other Ayreon albums and I would prick up my ears at a riff or something that made me link it back to an earlier release. If you’re new to Ayreon then go out right now and buy ‘The Universal migrator’ ‘The human equation’ and 01011001, you won’t be disappointed. Arjen is a musical genius.