Some bands release new albums almost every year, but Ayreon isn’t one of them. Ayreon albums tend to appear every three or four years, and when you listen to them you can understand why. Ayreon’s albums are all concept albums and the stories are all interlinked. Arjen Lucassen had said he was going to break away from that but this new album has ended up with the story linked to the universe he’s created with his other Ayreon albums. The new album is “The Source” and is a prequel to the other albums.
I find Ayreon albums can be enjoyed on two levels – the first is when you first listen to the album an are focussed on the music and the vocals. At that level this album certainly delivers – as always it’s a musical masterpiece. Arjen Lucassen is a superb composer and as he plays almost all the instruments then as you listen, you appreciate his musical talents. The vocals are simply stunning. Like Avantasia, Ayreon albums never rely on a single singer, but instead have an all-star cast. On this album you have vocals from Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Simone Simons (Epica), James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian), Tobias Sammet (Edguy & Avantasia), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot), Michael Eriksen (Circus Maximus), Tommy Giles Rogers (Between the buried and me), Mike Mills (Toehider), Nils K Rue (Pagans mind) and Russell Allen (Symphony X). Add in guitarists such as Paul Gilbert amongst others and it really is a remarkable collection of talented individuals, and that alone should tell you how well respected Arjen Lucassen is among musicians.
As with previous Ayreon albums, there are a couple of instruments that Arjen always includes as well as the usual drums, guitar and bass – the Hammond organ and the flute, which add a lovely rich distinctive sound to the music. It’s best described as Prog, but on an epic scale.
The other level on which you can appreciate Ayreon albums is when you start to pay more attention to the lyrics and take in the story that is told as the album progresses. It’s complex enough to tie the songs on an album together to tell a story, but to make that story tie in with the stories told on every other Ayreon album too, that’s a whole new level of difficulty. The Ayreon universe is a great collection of stories.
I’ve been putting off writing this album review for a few weeks for the simple reason that once I finish it then I need to move on to another album, and honestly this album is just so good I want to keep listening to it. I’ve ordered my copy and I’d definitely recommend this album to anyone.
Chronicle 1: The Frame
1. The day that the world breaks down
2. Sea of machines
3. Everybody dies
Chronicle 2 – The alignment of the ten
4. Star of Sirrah
5. All that was
6. Run Apocalypse run
7. Condemned to live
Chronicle 3 – The transmigration
1. Aquatic race
2. The dream dissolves
3. Deathcry of a race
4. Into the ocean
Chronicle 4 – Into the ocean
5. Bay of dreams
6. Planet Y is alive