Anxious is the word to describe how we felt waiting for Mr Arjen Anthony Lucassen´s new album under the name of Ayreon. Apart from his other experimental works as Ambeon or Star One we are be able to say that Ayreon has always been a blend of all his influences mixed in an album. Because of that and of many other reasons the expectation was maximum for what would he bring us again.
“The Human Equation” is the name of this new album. Lucassen brings us a double CD with more than 100 minutes of great music. The cover painting of the album has been made by the great Jef Bertels who already worked for him in previous Ayreon albums. The album is presented in 3 formats: one is a Deluxe edition, perfect for his unconditional fans, with DVD and extensive booklet, another one contains only the album and the DVD in a boxset, and the third one only with the CDs. The DVD includes the typical making of and other rarities of Mr Lucassen´s works and his musical projects.
As it´s usual, in this new album there is a great collection of famous musicians (especially the singers). These are the great voices of this new album: James LaBrie (Dream Theater) as "me", Marcela Bovio (Elfonia) as "Wife", Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) "Fear", Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) as "Reason", Devin Townsend as "Rage", Heather Findlay (Mostly Autum) as "Love", Magnus Ekwall (The Quill) as "Pride", Devon Graves (Dead Soul Tribe) as "Agony", Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery) as "Father", Irene Jansen (Karma) "Passion" and of course Arjen Lucassen (...) as "Best Friend". Again Ed Warby collaborates on drums and among the lucky keyboard players that have had the chance to appear in this new album Ken Hensley, Joost van der Broek, Martin Orford and Oliver Wackeman. Many new musicans for this great album.
Already from the beginning we perceive that this it won't be only another Ayreon album. The concept of the history changes radically again. This time space and medieval things disappear (a thing to thank because it could be repetitive) and it´s focused on the real world. We could say that this time he has opted for social context real as life. The album has been divided in 20 tracks. These 20 tracks are the 20 days the main character is in coma. From the very first two songs "Vigil" and "Isolation" we feel the radical and innovative change in his music. A great dark atmosphere, even darker that in his previous works. We also find a great sound quality. His best work so far if we talk about sound quality. We continue with "Pain" and is in this song where we begin to understand the evolution of this great Dutch musician. Intriguing melodies between dark and melancholic in which we must highlight the voice of Devon Graves and mainly the strange but really great vocal lines of Devin Townsend. "Mystery" catches all our atention and we have to close the door of our room so that anybody break the magic of the album. Marcela Bovio has been a great discovery. An extremely sweet voice but at the same time full of power (bravo Marcela!). The work spent in the conversations among the characters was very meticulous. In "Voices", our main character played by LaBrie show us the situation in which he is: An accident, the hospital and mainly their internal fight to be able to wake up. Jethro Tull, Gothic, rock, psychedelic, metal... it is difficult to find a clear style in his music and it is the good thing of to listen Ayreon albums. In "Childhood" LaBrie faces his memories of a heartless father and a weak and coward mother. A song dedicated to his more symphonic influences, but without losing that touch "a la Ayreon". The seventh day is called "Hope". A pure Beatles style song. This time Arjen takes the lead and finally... we can hear his voice without those effects that he usually applies on his voice!!!. A conversation between Arjen and LaBrie in a song full of melody. Continuing with the flashbacks we find the tortuous school days "School". Another unthinkable mixture of melody, brutality and psicodelia. I highlight the vocal battle among Magnus Ekwall and Eric Clayton, excellent!. "Playground" is the only instrumental song of the album. A kind of medieval song. Simple and melodic but at the same time extremely catching. We continue with "Memories". In this song we can perceive his influences from the 70s. Memories about the childhood and the good moments of the main character of the history. We continue with "Love". The last song of the first CD. A song in 3/4 beat simulating a school party dance where our main character knows her future wife. One great example about the fears, the courage, the passion and other things of love when someone is young. An excellent work in the voices and harmonies arrangement. I´ll highlight the powerful voice of Irene Jansen.
After listening this first CD, we will take a rest of 10 minutes to
continue the listening.
We start again, now with twelfth day. "Trauma" explains to us how the main character should face a tortuous past, an evil father, a weak mother and a difficult childhood. A dark song in which Mikael Åkerfeldt makes one of the best immpresive gutturals that I have ever hear. Incredible!. Undoubtely this is one of the best songs of the album, full of melancholy and feeling. "Sign" radically changes the musical style and we return to a relaxed acoustic song where the voice of Heather Findlay takes the lead this time. Also a good work by Marcela Bovio. If somebody had been sleeping we continue with an "in your face" song called "Pride". An incredible battle between James LaBrie and Magnus Ekwall. "Betrayal" is another turn toward his darker and melancholic influences in which we can find a great keyboard solo by Martin Orford. "Loser" is the elected song for the stellar collaboration of Mike Baker. With a country/celtic/metal style we can say that this is the most psychedelic and original song of this album. A great Hammond solo by Ken Hensley. And... why not? to conclude the song a new vocal surprise courtesy of Devin Townsend. "Accident" can remember us in some moments to some songs of “Actual Fantasy”. It´s in this song where we can appreciate this kind of "soap opera" that is this history created by Lucasen. Love, jealousies, supposed infidelities, accidents.... Another great keyboard solo, this time by Oliver Wakeman. It is curious how Arjen has taken care even to the minimum details of this composition. In "Realization" radically changes again the style but without losing the musical identity of the whole album. An almost instrumental with not so much electric guitars. We are near to finish with "Disclosure". Very melodic and full of feeling. We end up with the 20th day. Our main character awakes from his coma but he should face a hard recovery and mainly to his fears in the real life. A really great end like in “Final Experiment” album. GREAT!
What can I say about this album... Undoubtely the best work so far of this great musician named Arjen Anthony Lucassen. He knows how to evolve without losing his musical identity. A perfect mixture full of quality and a lot of styles. A history that catches you like a Venezuelan soap opera. New and incredible voices, amazing collaborations and mainly great music. When you look for Rock Opera in your dictionary you are sure that you will find the name of Arjen Anthony Lucasen.