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Star One, Arjen Anthony Lucassen's,: Space Metal

Fans of Arjen Anthony Lucassen best known as the one-man progressive-rock band Ayreon can be forgiven if they hesitate before spinning Star One, the latest project from the Dutch multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. After all, Lucassen's ambient Ambeon side project last year rarely rocked. But Star One's debut, Space Metal, blasts out of your speakers with a full-on metal assault unlike anything the man has created before. More than a year in the making, Space Metal features an impressive roster of vocalists and musicians some who've appeared on previous Ayreon albums performing songs based on science fiction films. (Figuring out which films, however, isn't always easy.) The result is an ambitious and symphonic powerhouse of a disc that doesn't require a predilection for sci-fi and sees Lucassen branching off in new musical directions.

Nowhere is that more evident than on "Master of Darkness," which finds Lucassen flirting with speed metal, and "Songs of the Ocean," a funky track with a deep groove. Other highlights include "Perfect Survivor," which slams with a smart rhythm section and diverse vocal performances, and "Set Your Controls," a rousing power-metal anthem. Other tracks "The Eye of Ra," "High Moon" and "Intergalactic Space Crusaders" recall material that appeared on Ayreon's six albums. Throughout Space Metal, Star One's master navigator never loses sight of his melodies or his musical direction.

Lucassen plays the majority of music here (guitars, bass, Hammond, Mellotron, analog synths and strings), but he's backed on specific tracks by synth men Erik Norlander (Lana Lane) and Jens Johansson (Stratovarius), guitarist Gary Wehrkemp (Shadow Gallery) and drummer Ed Warby (Ayreon). Singers whose voices are easily discernible from each other include Dan Swano (Nightingale), Russell Allen (Symphony X), Damian Wilson (ex-Threshold), Floor Jansen (After Forever) and Robert Soeterboek (Ayreon). Each singer turns in memorable performances that showcase his or her strengths, culminating in closing track "Starchild," hauntingly sung by Wilson, Soeterboek and Jansen, whose heavenly vocals recall Lana Lane.

A special edition of Space Metal comes in a lush bound package with a magnificent book and a second CD with four tracks that feature Lucassen on all instruments and vocals including a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and a nearly 10-minute Hawkwind medley plus three other tracks. Once again, Lucassen has proven himself one of the progressive rock community's most innovative members.

Added: March 29th 2005
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Ayreon's Official Web Site
Hits: 4826
Language: english

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Star One, Arjen Anthony Lucassen's,: Space Metal
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-03-29 21:44:25
My Score:

After Arjen Lucassen split up his extreme sides on the previous Ayreon albums, The Flight of the Migrator and The Dream Sequencer, he went on to create the highly atmospheric Ambeon record with an unknown, yet very talented, young female singer. Once he got it out of his system as well, he knew it was time to put out something really heavy but, as in the case with Ambeon, he needed to express himself in a different project than Ayreon- so he called it Star One, and the title of the album is Space Metal.

On this record, Arjen wanted to pay homage to all the science fiction movies that take place entirely in space. It is no secret that Arjen was deeply influeced by sci-fi films and apparently he felt he wanted to thank these films for their impact on him. There is no single storyline here, unlike most Ayreon releases. This is a theme album focusing on similar subject matters but each song stands on its own.

Another difference with Ayreon is the number of singers featured here. Arjen chose to work with only four singers this time, and I would consider each and every one of them among the best and most prolific singers in prog metal. Russel Allen from Symphony X is one of the best singers around and his style on Space Metal is no exception. Damian Wilson is Arjen''s long-time friend and we''ve all grown to love his unique and emotional delivery over the years. Then we have a newcomer, Dan Swano, who possesses one of the darkest, deepest and most expressive singing styles I have ever heard. I hope he and Arjen will get together again for other projects in the future. The last singer is female vocalist Floor Jansen of After Forever fame. Jansen sounds nothing like she does in After Forever, she sings more operatic and more progressive. Her high singing provides a nice contrast with Dan and Damien''s deeper expressions. Usually this is complemented by Russel Allen''s sometimes fiery and sometimes painful delivery. Overall each singer seems to be very excited to be part of this project and embraces it as if it were their own. Arjen always knows who he has to work with and how to bring out the best in these talented individuals.

The music is a lot heavier than the previous Ayreon releases, but by "heavy" I mean by Arjen Lucassen''s standards. Don''t go expecting an ultra-aggressive riff and furious drum-bass hybrid. After all this is Arjen Lucassen and his artsy side is always there. It''s this aspect that makes him different from 98% of other prog metal acts. Still there are plenty of gigantic riffs played by Arjen and some really beautiful lead solos that shine with ferocity. Jens Johansson (Stratovarius, Malmsteen, Mastermind) and Erik Norlander (Lana Lane) perform meticulous keyboard sections in quite a few songs. Shadow Gallery guitarist Gary Wehrkamp also offers two leads, one of which sees him duelling with Jens Johansson in the song "Master of Darkness". The usual Ayreon instruments such as the hammond, mellotrons and analog synths are all handled by Arjen himself and long-time drummer Ed Warby is once again sitting behind the drum kit.

It is hard to pick any favourites here but I really like the fierce opening of "Set Your Controls" , which invite all four singers in the mix, the emotional track "Songs of the Ocean" and the heavy "Master of Darkness", both displaying the dynamics we''re familiar with from Ayreon discs. "The Eye of Ra" and the 10-minute epic "Starchild" are most fans'' favourite tunes as they bring heaviness, depth and poignancy into the focus of these tracks and combine them with a strange kind of catchiness that simply draws the
listener''s attention.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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