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Ayreon: 01011001

Arjen Anthony Lucassen has never created a bad Ayreon album – and for a guy who makes concept records exclusively, that's saying something. His melodic and dramatic sensibilities converge to create memorable double-disc rock operas rich in lyrical and musical emotion. But although the operative word for his latest epic, the awkwardly titled 01011001, seems to be "more" — more guest vocalists singing more multi-part songs with a more-complex plotline — the album doesn't quite live up to the high standards Lucassen set for himself with 2004's The Human Equation.

Some of the same singers who've appeared on some of the previous half-dozen Ayreon projects show up here, too, including Floor Jansen (After Forever) and Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering). But for the most part, Lucassen wipes clean the vocal slate with the addition of Ty Tabor (King's X), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Simone Simons (Epica), and Daniel Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation) — as well as keyboard and guitar solos from Michael Romeo (Symphony X), Lori Linstruth (Stream of Passion), Tomas Bodin (The Flower Kings) and Derek Sherinian (Planet X). Lucassen's ability to take distinguished vocalists and make them sound differently without losing their own identity (Jorn Lande, Magnum's Bob Catley and Evergrey's Tom Englund here, to be sure), help make this tale of technological advancement meets prehistoric evolution as compelling a listen as previous Ayreon releases.

The problem is that Lucassen sounds like he's beginning to repeat musical ideas (although the Renaissance rock of "River of Time" flirts impressively with Blackmore's Night), and the plot of 01011001 — Dinosaurs! Internet sex! Binary code! — seems so convoluted that listeners might find themselves tossing aside the lyrics booklet during the course of the double-disc set's 102 minutes. That said, it's tough to top the ambition of Ayreon, and with an all-star cast making challenging yet appealing music that's better than 90 percent of what was released in 2007, 01011001 could be a very early contender for one of the best albums of 2008.

Track Listing
CD 1:
1) Age of Shadows
2) Comatose
3) Liquid Eternity
4) Connect the Dots
5) Beneath the Waves
6) Newborn Race
7) Ride the Comet
8) Web of Lies

CD 2:
1) The Fifth Extinction
2) Waking Dreams
3) The Truth Is In Here
4) Unnatural Selection
5) River of Time
6) E-MC2
7) The Sixth Extinction

Added: March 29th 2009
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Ayreon Web Site
Hits: 6940
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Ayreon: 01011001
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-03-29 21:11:36
My Score:

Let me say this right from the top: I have been looking forward to this release with great anticipation and am happy to report I really like what I am hearing. Ayreon has outdone himself this time. In fact, this may be my favorite Ayreon release of all and that is saying something considering their last album, The Human Equation, was very strong. For those who do not know, Ayreon is a project fronted by Arjen Anthony Luccasen. The new album is slightly different from his previous releases not so much in the concept as it is a continuation of The Universal Migrator records, but there is an underlying electronic vibe in some of the songs. I found the new songs to be very refreshing and a joy to listen to.

As usual, the guest vocalists do a wonderful job of expressing Arjen's musical ideas and the singing is top notch. Arjen went with a few more singers this time around so their musical passages are sometimes shorter as compared to past works but this in no way takes away from the overall enjoyment of the album.

The music is intense, dramatic, grand in scope, and very melodic progressive rock starting with the opening tune "Age Of Shadows/We Are Forever". With its driving beat, crunchy guitar riffs, myriad of keyboard sounds and great vocals, this is a strong opener. The voice of Jonas P. Renkse is particularly effective.

Perhaps the vocalist who is given the most time to shine is Jorn Lande. His deep, rich voice really suits the music especially in "Comatose". His performance here is top notch hitting some of those low notes effortlessly and is a nice contrast to the beautiful voice of Anneke van Giersbergen making this one of the album's highlights.

The album's greatest hook can be found in "Connect The Dots" a duet between Arjen and King's X singer Ty Tabor. This is a nice slice of melodic prog with plenty of pop sensibility that should also appeal to many non-prog fans. Pure ear candy but highly enjoyable nonetheless! Although there are a couple of shorter progressive pop numbers the album contains quite a few longer compositions such as the last song, "The Sixth Extinction". This is a song filled with metallic riffs (some of the chord progressions reminded me of "The Wall"), a variety of keys, and even some growling vocals which are used to great effect. A fine way to end the album.

This is a strong release that will definitely please Ayreon fans and may even convert a few new ones. This one gets my full recommendation and, in my opinion, is a must purchase.

(Originally written for

Ayreon: 01011001
Posted by Keith Hannaleck, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-05-05 20:44:56
My Score:

Arjen Lucassen continues to astound the world of music worldwide with a string of releases that always seem to raise the bar for everyone else in the prog-rock community.

010110001 is yet another 2 CD set that fans and media are calling a prog-rock opera masterpiece-And with good reason of course and I am in total agreement with those thoughts. So is this the Ayreon Magnum Opus? Well, every time I hear a new album I really want to say that but this time I am not going to count my chickens before they are hatched because he will probably find a way kick it up another notch on the next release. Clearly, this is one of his best albums.

In typical Ayreon style, he put together an incredible cast of characters to contribute and every one of them honored to get the call from the master of the modern day rock opera. Some of the stars that stepped into Arjen's studio were Ty Tabor, Jonas Renkse, Hansi Krusch, Anneke van Giersbergen, Simone Simons, Tom Englund, Michael Romeo and Derek Sherinian to name a few.

I was lucky enough to receive the limited edition from the man himself. Again, his down to earth personality just blows me away for a person of his stature in the world of music. He is successful because he is real and remains so, not only because he happens to be an incredibly talented and respected musician.
The first two discs is the entire story with some the of best prog-rock you will hear this year and the third disc is a DVD that takes you through the behind the scenes recording sessions and all the people that participated including interviews with all of them and their thoughts on the project and how they feel about Arjen. There is also a 5.1 surround sound version of the video "Beneath the Waves." It is unfortunate that the 5.1 conversion process is so cost prohibitive as this recording would be unbelievable in that format. I cannot take anything away from the stereo version though because it is outstanding. Arjen knows exactly what he wants during the recording process and is simply brilliant producing his own work. The separation of instruments is fantastic and it sounded great on my surround system, it really just blew me away entirely.
There is also a section of bloopers on the DVD that is riot…it shows a side we never see as listeners while at the same time shedding some light on our rock star heroes illustrating that they put their pants on every day just like you and me. That is what Arjen is all about; he never takes himself too seriously.

I enjoyed the entire recording but I did have some favorites. The theme is typical Ayreon, with songs based on our dark future and what it will be like because of our poor stewardship of our surrounding environment and where technology rules our every move.

"Unnatural Selection," "Beneath the Waves" (a five-part track) and "Comatose" I feel are classic prog-rock opera tunes, its vintage Ayreon surrounded by some of the best of his contemporaries. This is an environment that he thrives in, getting the energy and input from all the participants. The only drawback with projects like this is that it is highly unlikely you will ever see it hit the road. Not only is it a logistical nightmare, everyone has his or her own bands and projects they are responsible to return to. Perhaps someday I will have the chance to see this legendary musician perform but until then I have his entire catalog to dive into and enjoy and that is quite satisfying to say the least,

010110001 is another template for his peers to judge their success by, if anyone can come close to matching this superlative effort they would have released a fine album.

Ayreon: 01011001
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-02-03 09:25:31
My Score:

Progressive rock and progressive metal fans generally count the days between Ayreon releases, and usually Arjen Anthony Lucassen makes us wait a bit each time. This time, the wait was four long years since the release of The Human Equation, that last platter being perhaps one of the shining jewels in an Ayreon discography filled with wonderful gems. 2008 brings us 01011001, another magnificent opus jammed with guest stars galore and plenty of powerful prog-rock & symphonic metal songs.

The opening epic "Age of Shadows" starts things off with a bang, a dramatic ebb & flow of musical styles featuring a host of guest singers. Evergrey's Tom Englund, along with Pain of Salvation's Daniel Gildenlow & Gotthard's Steve Lee, trade off vocal lines on this one at the outset, before Blind Guardian's Hansi Kursch and After Forever's lovely Floor Jansen come in for the symphonic & bombastic middle section. Immediately after, you get a few moments to catch your breath, as the song then takes an atmospheric, almost Pink Floyd-ish turn, with Katatonia's Jonas Renske and former Gathering diva Anneke van Giersbergen providing some gorgeous, dreamy vocals to the piece. Anneke is especially mesmerizing here, reminding us all that she practically started the whole female fronted prog-metal thing in the first place. The closing segment of this tune brings back Kursch, Jansen, Lee, Gildenlow, and Englund, and rounds it out in dramatic fashion, for perhaps one of the finest opening songs on any Ayreon release. "Comatose" follows, with Anneke returning to share emotional vocals with the David Coverdale-influenced style of the formidable Jorn Lande. This piece is a more subdued number, supported by soft, bubbling keyboards, less of the guitar & synth bombast of the opening number. A similar, atmospheric vibe, mixed with moments of crunchy metal, shows its face on "Liquid Eternity", a song that lets many of the singers strut their stuff. Along with Renske, Gildenlow, Lande, Jansen, and Englund, here we see the first appearance of Magnum's Bob Catley and Virus VI's Magali Luyten. The soaring violin work of Ben Mathot provides a nice counterpart to Lucasson's heavy riffs and insistent keyboard flourishes on this one. "Connect the Dots" is the CD's first catchy pop/prog piece, perfectly tailored to the vocals of Ty Tabor of King's X, as he, along with Lucasson, give this one a very Beatles sort of flair with an irresistible chorus and lots of charm. Another epic than makes its way, the dramatic "Beneath the Waves", giving Gildenlow, Catley, Giersbergen, Lee, Jansen, Lande, Kursch, and Englund plenty of room to impress. One can't help notice how well Lande & Jansen's vocals work together here. Let's hope we see more from this pairing in the future. Celtic themes permeate the upbeat "Newborn Race", an endearing folky number that again sees most of the cast joining in, with Gildenlow, Jansen, and Lande providing the leading vocal performances. Lush with acoustic guitars and synths, the song also has its symphonic moments, and includes a great guitar solo from Stream of Passion's Lori Linstruth. Check out Kursch's multi-tracked vocal segment on this one, giving the song a classic Queen feel at times. "Ride the Comet" is pure, bombastic Ayreon, Luyten giving her all on the symphonic chorus, with Lande, Jansen, Catley, & Renske providing the passion during the verse. The first appearance of Epica's stunning Simone Simons is on CD 1's closer "Web of Lies", a beautiful piece with acoustic guitar and flute, that also features vocalist Phideaux Xavier.

With Disc 2, we go from Planet Y to Earth (of course, with any Ayreon CD there's a detailed storyline), and things kicks off with "The Fifth Extinction", a five part epic with a strong Pink Floyd feel especially as far as the keyboard work is concerned. Anneke, Lande, Catley, Englund, Lee, Gildenlow, Renske, Jansen, and Kursch all show up on this one, and we even get treated to a wild synth solo from Planet X mastermind Derek Sherinian."Waking Dreams" is a nice duet between Renske and Anneke, an atmospheric & spacey prog number that also features a proggy synth solo from The Flower Kings Tomas Bodin, as well as a guitar solo from Lucasson. Haunting Mellotron leads us into "The Truth is in Here", a real 70's styled prog rock number that sees the lead vocal slots going to Lucasson and Liselotte Hegt from the band Dial. "Unnatural Selection" is a moody heavy rocker featuring most of the male singers, with Englund, Lee, Catley, and Lande providing the firepower. On "River of Time" it's Kursch and Catley trading off vocal barbs on what is a quirky folk-metal number, and "E=MC2" sees the first appearance of International singer Wudstik and Marjan Welman from the band Elister. The latter is a powerful symphonic number, and features a jaw-dropping melodic guitar solo from Michael Romeo of Symphony X. The final piece on the CD is another epic, titled "The Sixth Extinction" a six part journey that pulls the entire album together in one lengthy slice of bomast and drama. Featuring plenty of proggy instrumentation, this one also pulls all the singers together in what turns out to be a grand progressive rock opera tour-de-force. Look out for some brief vocal growls from Renske which are a special treat here and really fit in well with the power metal, hard rock, and more operatic styles of the rest of the cast on this song.

What more can you say? 01011001 is indeed a winner on all fronts, and contains everything Ayreon fans have come to love about the music of Arjen Anthony Lucasson. Melodic, bombastic, heavy, proggy, and featuring a host of some of the best singers in the metal and prog genres, this is a must hear for lovers of grandiose concept albums.

» Reader Comments:

Ayreon: 01011001
Posted by Ian H. on 2008-01-31 22:37:05
My Score:

With all due respect, I feel like that was a seriously misleading and weak review. I felt like you were picking all the negatives, yet when I scrolled down I was surprised to see a 4 1/2 star score! At least elaborate a bit on the highlights of the individual songs. C'mon, we've waited 4 years for another Ayreon release, at least provide a more detailed review! Where's Murat when you need him?

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