The Final Experiment

Ayreon - The Final Experiment ©1995 Transmission Records
1. Prologue
2. The Awareness
3. Eyes Of Time
4. The Banishment
5. Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy
6. Sail Away To Avalon
7. Nature's Dance
8. Computer-reign (game Over)
9. Waracle
10. Listen To The Waves
11. Magic Ride
12. Merlin's Will
13. The Charm Of The Seer
14. Swan Song
15. Ayreon's Fate

Arjen Lucassen is either one charismatic musician whose infectious personality inspires many to contribute to his extravagent, lavish and over the top albums or he has a lot of photographs of folks in compromising positions that he threatens to use as blackmail. Either way, his series of Ayreon concept records is one remarkable batch of music, utilizing over a dozen singers as well as five other musicians to realize his musical vision. Naturally having this approach means that the music is going to be quite lavish and far ranging and The Final Experiment does not fail to deliver on that.

The story behind The Final Experiment deals with both the future and the past. Apparently in 2084 the human race finds itself on the brink of self-destruction and some savvy quantum scientists try a last ditch attempt to warn the human race of its own immolation by sending messages backwards in time to a blind minstrel, who so happens to be named Ayreon. Certainly the story is far-fetched, but you sense you're only supposed to regard the story lightly as the backdrop for the album as a whole. The herd of singers gives each character and song its own identity and surprisingly does not detract from a sense of continuity throughout the album. Musically, Ayreon wanders through pastures of mostly progressive and symphonic metal with a severe emphasis on melody. Keyboards, guitars and voice all mix together in a largescale fashion to create a soundtrack that is bigger than life. The music ranges all over the place from slower, quieter tunes to complete barrages of over the top playing.

While in theory I rather dislike the tendencies of musicians to throw too much into the pot, the Ayreon concept works and I find myself thoroughly enjoying The Final Experiment. Besides, where else are you going to find Lenny Wolf belting out vocal lines (as he does on one of the album's best tracks, "Eyes of Time")? His own career? The Final Experiment is definitely recommended towards those progressive metal fans who truly enjoy an excess of everything and this is one of the rare crossover albums that will appeal to those who aren't so nuts about overblown melodic rock/metal. It is good to find out someone is able to be so blatantly excessive yet pull it off in a convincing fashion.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/2001

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Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer

Ayreon - Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer ©2000 Transmission Records
1. The Dream Sequencer
2. My House On Mars
3. 2084
4. One Small Step
5. The Shooting Company Of Captain Frans B. Cocq
6. Dragon On The Sea
7. Temple Of The Cat
8. Carried By The Wind
9. And The Druids Turn To Stone
10. The First Man On Earth
11. The Dream Sequencer Reprise

With all his side projects, it is amazing that Arjen Anthony Lucassen had the time to not only release this amazing album, but also the second part, Universal Migrator part 2: Flight Of The Migrator. The credits on the two CDs read like those of a major motion picture, spanning the heavy metal / progressive metal / progressive rock genres like a smorgasbord of choice delicacies.

Ayreon has really defined the arena of big productions. He doesn't do anything halfway or cut any corners. The scale of his Final Experiment in 1995 set the stage for the grandly epic Into the Electric Castle. Those familiar with either work will know that tackling an Ayreon CD is a very demanding process. It takes a lot of time to fully realize the subtleties and to hear everything that is going on in the background and foreground. This is deeply layered, richly textured music. Think of Pink Floyd from their Wish You Were Here album, Tangerine Dream from their Stratosfear, Tangram, or Phaedra albums or Yes from their Relayer or Close To The Edge albums. Take that sound and add several dimensions and additional layers of depth. Or think of Trans-Siberian Orchestra tackling a science fiction theme. The end result is a huge production. Influences from all of the above and more can be heard in the music on this CD.

This album boasts a smaller cast of singers than the above cited works, but they are all well known and top of the line. They include Johan Edlund from Tiamat, Lana Lane, Neal Morse from Spock's Beard, Mark McCrite from Rocket Scientists and six others. The musicians include Arjen himself, Erik Norlander from Rocket Scientists and Lana Lane's lest several efforts and Clive Nolan from Pendragon among other listed on the CD credits. This deep pool of talent produces a rich sound that will enthrall progressive music fans across the board. The story is a lot of fun and very surreal, as the title suggests and as is in keeping with the past Ayreon releases. The music is absolutely top-notch progressive atmospheric rock. The singing is magnificent. The album is fun, as simple as that. It offers well over an hour's worth of escapism and shows what progressive atmospheric music should be.

With all the conspiring together that Arjen and Erik Norlander / Lana Lane have done together, it is no accident that a lot of their sound is found on this disc. Or perhaps it is a lot of his sound is found on their discs? Any way you look at it, there are elements of all three artists present on the discs they have produced through their mutual efforts of late. Hopefully the composition and production relationships will continue if music like this is the result.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 08/2000

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Universal Migrator Part 2: Flight Of The Migrator

Ayreon - Universal Migrator Part 2: Flight Of The Migrator ©2000 Transmission Records
1. Chaos
2. Dawn Of A Million Souls
3. Journey On The Waves Of Time
4. To The Quasar
5. Into The Black Hole
6. Through The Wormhole
7. Out Of The White Hole
8. To The Solar System
9. The New Migrator

Part 2 of the Universal Migrator is an unbelievable disc. I don't know when I have heard anything that has stunned me as much as my first listen to this disc . . . unless it was my second, third, fourth, and so on.

The back of the jewel case tells me that the first disc, The Dream Sequencer, is "a song oriented melodic and atmospheric journey." This disc calls itself, "a heavy progressive adventure through time and space." Heavy is one of the words I'd choose. Thunderous is another. Immense, enormous, huge...take your pick.

First, let's run down the list of the featured performers who contribute to the enormity of this project. The musicians include Arjen Anthony Lucassen who IS Ayreon; Ed Warby formerly of Gorefest on drums, Erik Norlander of Rocket Scientists on keyboards; Michael Romeo (!!!) of Symphony X on guitar, Clive Nolan of Arena and Gary Wehrkamp of Shadow Gallery among others. The line up of singers reads like a hall of fame disc: Russell Allen of Symphony X; Damien Wilson of Threshold; Ralf Scheepers of Gamma Ray and Primal Fear; Lana Lane, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden; Fabio Lione from Rhapsody; Timo Kotipelto from Stratovarius; Robert Soeterboek of Ayreon and Ian Parry (!!!) From Elegy and Vengeance.

With a line up like that, one cannot help but produce a stellar album. Flight of the Migrator is a stellar disc. See how that follows? A stellar line up, a stellar disc . . . and note the stellar theme of the disc? See how it all fits together? If you're going to produce a disc about a journey through the stars, you get a bunch of musical "stars" to play and sing for you. I think Arjen will be returning the performance favors for a very long time to come.

Musically, this is a driving, pounding performance by some of the best known names in progressive metal and rock. The guitars absolutely scream in pain or chop with a forceful intensity that will slam you to the wall. The keys do things that you never knew keys could do, trilling, swirling, screaming and thundering all over the place. The vocal melodies are intricate and intense to match the skill and voices of the singers.

Imagine Symphony X doing a science fiction concept disc with all the voices of Trans-Siberian Orchestra behind them and a large crew of additional musicians, and the analogy starts to break down, but you'd have a glimpse into the enormity of the sound of this disc. There simply are no "sounds like" comparisons to be made with this disc; it is just too big.

If you buy only one disc this day / week / month / year, make it this one. You won't be sorry. This is a fantastic performance from some fantastic players all brought together under the umbrella of Arjen Anthony Lucassen to be choreographed into an enormously satisfying hour of musical intensity.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 08/2000

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