InsideOut Music seems to be using the success of The Human Equation, the sixth Ayreon album from multi-instrumental mastermind Arjen Anthony Lucassen, as a reason to reissue Ayreon's back-catalog. Not that there's anything wrong with that - especially when the reissue in question is the modern-day symphonic-metal classic Into the Electric Castle.
Originally released on the Dutch label Transmission in 1998, the two discs that comprise Into the Electric Castle follow the lives of eight characters from different epochs in history - each blown out of proportion by Lucassen to the point of massive stereotyping - who meet in a lost dimension. A mysterious voice guides them through a maze of trails that leads them to the Electric Castle, in which they must find the gates back to their own centuries. Characters die in different songs, building suspense about who will reach the gates - kind of like a mythological-metal version of Survivor.
If you didn't like or even understand the story the first time around, you won't get much further now. But with an impressive cast of vocalists (including former Marillion throat Fish, The Gathering's Anneke van Giersbergen, ex-Threshold singer Damian Wilson, Within Temptation's Sharon den Adel and longtime Ayreon contributor Edward Meekers), Into the Electric Castle remains a stunning 105-minute piece of music, and it marks the first time Ayreon effectively incorporated so many characters and musical styles ranging from metal to classic progressive rock to folk into one album.
This is not as over the top as The Human Equation, and the vocalists reign in their inspired performances. Musically, too, this is more diverse than other Ayreon releases and certainly not as heavy as some of the project's other titles. Perhaps that's why Into the Electric Castle seems to have a hold on longtime fans as the quintessential Ayreon album. And thanks to the vintage synths and analog equipment that Lucassen used to record Into the Electric Castle, this enhanced "special edition" makes the album's sonics even warmer and more inviting. In lieu of bonus tracks, each disc here contains a video visit with Lucassen as he talks about the album, and the 26-page booklet includes new liner notes penned by the man behind the band.
1) Welcome to the New Dimension (3:05)
2) Isis and Osiris (11:11)
3) Amazing Flight (10:15)
4) Time Beyond Time (6:05)
5) The Decision Tree (We're Alive) (6:24)
6) Tunnel of Light (4:05)
7) Across the Rainbow Bridge (6:20)
1) The Garden of Emotions (9:40)
2) Valley of the Queens (2:25)
3) The Castle Hall (5:49)
4) Tower of Hope (4:54)
5) Cosmic Fusion (7:27)
6) The Mirror Maze (6:34)
7) Evil Devolution (6:31)
8) The Two Gates (6:28)
9) Forever of the Stars (2:02)
10) Another Time, Another Space (5:20)
Total Time: 104:41