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Ayreon: The Final Experiment (Special Edition)

The Final Experiment is Arjen Lucassen's debut release with his unique project, Ayreon, and this special edition is the reissue of a once-terribly overlooked first album. Despite the relatively unknown musicians on it, this record was by far my favorite Ayreon release. With each passing year Arjen continued to put out great albums with some of the most important figures in rock and metal, but to me, The Final Experiment was unmatchable. When Arjen released his latest album The Human Equation in 2004 this masterpiece was surpassed, but still it remains a favorite.

The sound quality and remixed parts on this reissue sound a lot better. Not that there was anything wrong with the original release, but on this CD the dynamics are stronger and livelier. Peter Vink's bass and Ernst van Ee's drums are stunning, thanks to the crisp and sparse mix. The vocals are placed carefully over delicate song arrangements, allowing each instrument to come through.

The Final Experiment is a concept album, which may have been the reason so many record labels turned Arjen down. In the booklet Arjen has ironically printed the emails he got from the labels and record executives who refused to release this disc, claiming there was no market for this kind of music. Some of those people must be really ashamed now. Anyway, this is a concept record, about a single character named "Ayreon", and the whole story evolves around him (sort of like The Who's Tommy). The year is 2084 (exactly 100 years after George Orwell's 1984) and scientists have developed this program in order to save the world from its downfall. They manage to send signals back in time, which are received by a blind medieval minstrel, who has these visions from the future and takes on a mission to save mankind from its tragic fate. Folk elements are used successfully to portray the medieval times, while occasional electronics represent the future. Needless to say, there is a very clever storyline, with a strong lyrical message to deliver, and on top of all, fantastic musicianship, especially for a debut album.

The album is very diverse musically. At over 70 minutes, epic rock of bands like Queen and Rainbow, atmospheric sounds of Pink Floyd, folk stuff of Led Zeppelin, vocal harmonies of the Beatles, 70's prog of ELP and Yes are all blended in Arjen Lucassen's creative songwriting. In a way, Arjen is paying tribute to his heroes, while at the same time attempting to create something unique. It starts with a spoken voice setting the storyline, quickly giving way to an acoustic guitar-led progressive track featuring a magnificent keyboard solo that is on the same musical path as ELP. More overlapping keyboard solos in the vein of Rick Wakeman are displayed on the following track, "Eyes of Time". Peter Vink's bass tone is simply astounding here -- a great improvement over the original version.

The 11-minute epic, "The Banishment", is a standout song. It melts folk music, symphonic rock and opaque acoustics into a progressive metal masterpiece. Robert Soeterboek's vocals are followed by brutal death vocals from Jan-Chris De Koeijer. Other songs such as "Sail Away to Avalon" and "Game Over" (with Ian Parry singing) are haunting with their catchy choruses and vocal harmonies. Besides playing all guitars, keys, lots of bass, Arjen also sings lead vocals on several songs, and does a great job. However, my favorite singer on this album is Leon Goewie. "Merlin's Will" gives me goose bumps! What a voice. It leaves me breathless every time. Finally, almost all singers appear on the final track, "Ayreon's Fate", which is an extremely emotional song. Again, Leon Goewie proves to be a wonderful vocalist on this one. Lucassen plays several great guitar solos through the album; "Waracle" is fantastic with some flute in the background, as is "The Awareness" with an erupting guitar solo.

There's a 37-minute bonus disc with great singers including Astrid van der Veen from Arjen's Ambeon project, Marcela Bovio and Irene Jansen from the godly album The Human Equation, and some others. Most of the music for these songs are played and recorded from scratch, therefore making it more interesting. The packaging is neat; the booklet is enhanced and has detailed song analysis from Arjen Lucassen, extra pictures, lyrics, etc. In short, two excellent CDs for the price of one. If you're a prog fan, you shouldn't miss this!

Track Listing:

Disc 1
1. Prologue (3:17)
2. The Awareness (6:36)
3. Eyes Of Time (5:06)
4. The Banishment (11:08)
5. Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy (2:46)
6. Sail Away To Avalon (4:02)
7. Nature's Dance (2:28)
8. Computer-Reign (Game Over) (3:25)
9. Waracle (6:44)
10. Listen To The Waves (4:59)
11. Magic Ride (3:36)
12. Merlin's Will (3:20)
13. The Charm Of The Seer (4:12)
14. Swan Song (2:44)
15. Ayreon's Fate (6:56)

Disc 2
1. Dreamtime (4:19)
2. Eyes Of Time (3:25)
3. The Accusation (3:49)
4. Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy (2:50)
5. Sail Away To Avalon (3:26)
6. Nature's Dance (2:03)
7. Waracle (5:16)
8. Merlin's Will (3:29)
9. The Charm Of The Seer (3:29)

Added: March 15th 2005
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Ayreon's Web Site
Hits: 6238
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Ayreon: The Final Experiment (Special Edition)
Posted by rick sheldon on 2005-03-28 11:11:19
My Score:

Great album, great review...only problem is the original disc was not re-worked or re-mastered. I confirmed this directly with Arjen, who reports receiving similar accolades regarding the "improved" sound.


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