Ayreon, the artistic vessel of the brilliant and crazy Arjen Lucassen, will be releasing The Source later this year, in April. As is the case with Ayreon releases, it will feature a cast of vocalists that play different characters (12 to be exact), a host of musical contributors, and an ambitious overall concept and science fiction/fantasy storyline. Arjen released a video for ‘The Day That The World Breaks Down’, but it also features videos of the different contributors recording their tracks and some insightful commentary from Arjen. We at Proglodytes thought we would assemble and talk about our first impressions.
Jared Everett: One of the best things about a new Ayreon album is finding out what ludicrously talented line-up of guest vocalists will be involved—especially if you’re a singer like me. As usual, Arjen has assembled an impressive cast of vocalists to realize his artistic vision on The Source. But perhaps even more impressive is that he managed to feature all 11 of them on the album opener, “The Day that the World Breaks Down.” Many of my favorite Ayreon alumni have returned… too many to name, but I will call out James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Russell Allen (Symphony X), and Tommy Karevik (Seventh Wonder, Kamelot) as a few standouts. I’m also excited to see three of my personal favorite vocalists inducted into the ranks: Michael Eriksen (Circus Maximus), Nils K. Rue (Pagan’s Mind), and Zaher Zorgati (Myrath).
This video is amazing, not only because the song itself rocks, but also because of the interesting commentary throughout from Arjen himself. He talks about the concept for the album, which is set on Planet Alpha, home of our human ancestors. The storyline predates the previous Planet Y / Forever storylines. He also provides a lot of insight into the music and its making, which is a real treat if you’re an Ayreon fan. The music is very much in the typical Ayreon idiom: heavy, dynamic, epic, and melodic. However, there is one part where Arjen busts out a blues solo on a Fender strat—an indication that he’s not afraid to interject something new. There is also an extended section in the middle with Michael Mills (Toehider) singing in binary (i.e. 011… etc.). Since the first time I heard Rush’s “The Body Electric,” I have found it hard not to laugh at binary lyrics. Nevertheless, the vocal harmonies here are pretty amazing and remind me a lot of Queen’s “The Prophet’s Song.” (Incidentally, the lyrics are 8-bit UTF-8 encoding of the phrase “trust TH1,” a reference to Mills’ cryptic character name.)
Bottom line: if this track is an accurate indication of things to come, this will be an amazing album worthy of bearing the Ayreon moniker. Do yourself a favor and watch the video rather than just listening on Amazon or Spotify.
Thomas: So I’ll admit that I’m really late on the Ayreon train. I am into bombast and theatrics, and very much into progressive music, so I almost feel embarrassed to be so late in getting around to Ayreon. I went back and listened to The Human Equation last year, based on the recommendations of a few friends, and I am a huge fan of what I’ve heard. Having said that, I am really excited to hear the latest contribution from Mr. Lucassen. In regards to this specific track, I’ll say what most would say about Ayreon- it’s cheesy as hell. And really, that’s what makes it awesome. One of my favorite things about Arjen Lucassen is that he is not this brooding figure who believes he is better than everyone. He is a brilliant musician and composer who loves progressive music and science fiction/fantasy, and is basically living his awesome dream. And in all media and interviews I’ve seen with him, he seems really approachable and fun. So I love him.
Arjen introduces each of the singers on this track, along with several of the musicians. I was really excited to hear Tommy Rogers from Between the Buried and Me, along with Russel Allen from Symphony X. And the inclusion of Hansi Kursch from Blind Guardian is really exciting as well. The sleeper of this video is the incredible midsection by Mike Mills from Australian band Toehider, passionately singing his 0’s and 1’s in beautiful harmonies (thank you, Jared, for translating!) . And really? Floor Jansen could sing me the phone book and I’d love it. Her voice is so powerful and incredible. If you are a fan of progressive rock, and don’t like Ayreon, you should think about why. It’s all of your favorite vocalists, getting together and doing a prog rock opera about aliens and robots and stuff. That is like, Magma level prog.
Guest Reviewer-TH-1: 01010000 01110010 01101111 01100111 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01110010 01101111 01100010 01101111 01110100 01110011. Click here for a text to binary converter.
Ayreon’s The Source (InsideOut) will be out on April 28, 2017. Pre-order here.