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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
Score:
Related Link: Official Ayreon Web Site
Hits: 7010
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 www.progressiveears.com)



» 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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