on 20 November 2004
This is quite simply a magnificent opus.
It is a concept album (with the unlikely story of a man in a coma and all who are close to him) that keeps one enthralled from the very first note to the last. In my opinion there is not a weak or unimaginative track on either CD.
If you veer towards prog metal or are an out and out progster (as I am), this double CD will reward you with its superb musicainship, excellent lyrics and music. Above all else is something that you will find yourself playing in full again and again.
The different styles blend together superbly to make what for me has turned from a 'take a chance' purchase, having not heard any Ayreon before, to one of my all-time favourites.
Go on, dip into your pocket and get yourself a classic.
Apart from his Star One project "Space Metal", I am not familiar with Arjen Lucassen's work as Ayreon. With Star One he fashioned a huge symphonic progressive metal space opera based around classic sci-fi movies. I believe his other projects under the Ayreon moniker are also based on sci-fi based themes. But for his current album, "The Human Equation" he has decided to tackle more down to earth issues, namely basic human emotions. It's clear that Arjen is a master at producing progressive rock opera based concept albums which have become popular over the last few years. Take last years excellent "Music Machine" by Erik Norlander as a case in point.
Arjen has surrounded himself as he did on "Space Metal" with a cast of thousands. He has used vocalists from various bands and backgrounds to help realise his dream. Notable are the contributions of James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn) and Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth) which indicates the diversity of talent on show. Arjen himself deftly plays guitar and keyboards throughout, ably assisted by a host of talented supporting musicians. He himself has an excellent heavy rock guitar sound, which really gives the album a huge dynamic epic feel and his use of bubbling analogue synths is a joy to hear.
Arjen has created a masterpiece, simple as that. The music is bold and full sounding, using a multitude of styles, from prog rock, metal, celtic folk and classical all melded together gracefully to produce a huge work over it's 2 CD's. The story of a comatose car crash victim struggling in his dream state with various emotional and personal issues is simply, but deftly told. But there is an ingenious twist in the tail which links the album to past projects. Though this is a concept album, there is nothing here that is over done or pompous. There is great attention to detail with subtle shades of acoustic instrumentation deftly integrated with the more bombastic rock workouts.
The album is beautifully packaged as one would expect from the excellent InsideOut label. The 2 CD set is good, but even better is the limited edition version which comes in a hardback book format housing both CD's with an extended booklet. Plus there is an extra disc, a DVD which includes behind the scenes stuff, videoclips and trailers. Well worth getting.
This ambitious work will surely be rated as one the best progressive rock releases of the year and should be heard by anyone liking epic sounding concept based rock.
on 9 March 2005
My first intro to Ayreon was Space Metal stumbling on his name via Dream Theater. That album was spot the sci fi film reference, this is spot the musical influence , nothing wrong in that but maybe just too many.This more "operatic" than Space Metal or Migrator and the overall sound and production are superb.The usual quality guest vocalists and musicians are present with Labrie as the person in a coma and the whole album takes you through his emotions and those of his friend and wife.
There are Floydian guitar and synth solos (reference to 'on the run'from Dark Side Of The Moon, Jethro Tull's choppy flute style
and i'm sure a little Camel and Wishbone Ash dual guitar.
Ayreon's playing is even better and is a master at atmospherics.
My only complaint with him is that he doesn't seem to recognise the piano as a part of prog rock .Too much Hammond and synth for my liking but that is personal.'Loser' one the last tracks is musically confusing with didgeridoos starting off and going into Irish folk rock ,At first I thought it was Gary moore's Over the Hills And Far Away but it wasn't.This is an album for listening to and not background music.The bonus(?) track is a Led Zep cover they must have had some spare studio time left but could have come up with something better.
This album will not be to everyone's taste as it is a little over blown at times although not so much as Spock's 'Snow'
and without the reprise(track one repeat).
An impressive album but not quite 5 stars
on 19 December 2006
I have only `discovered' Ayreon comparatively recently, but find the music and style of Arjen Lucassen both intriguing and enjoyable. This double album is no exception. The variety of musical styles and talents involved is so refreshing. He's a busy chap, isn't he?
In common with much of Lucassen's work, the album tells a story. Apparently abandoning his earlier themes of space, quests beyond time and space, and the end of mankind, in this album we find Lucassen exploring the convoluted relationships of relatively down-to-earth human beings. The twist is that one of them is in a coma!
In some ways the album is similar to his earlier `Into the Electric Castle': he has brought together several talented singing and/or instrumental talents, each of whom plays a different character; the musical style never stands still, with an impressive array of instruments being featured; and a journey of self-discovery takes place amid struggles and obstacles along the way.
Yes, indeed, similar but not the same. The cast of guest artists is different, the basic theme is very different and, arguably, the music more complex. This is possibly where, to some extent, the album falls short of its target. At least one reviewer mentions that there are only three tracks that stand out as being memorable. I agree with this. Having listened to the album a few times, I don't really find myself humming the themes or wake with them running through my head as I often do with other works (including those of Lucassen)...except, perhaps, the rather peculiar `Loser' - idiosyncratic but very catchy. There is something of the rock opera to this album; it even puts me in mind of...dare I say...'Jesus Christ Superstar'!
However, the whole concept is to be enjoyed. At least on this album you don't lose talent along the way as characters die! The performances are strong, the production is of high quality, and the story moves along nicely, driven by the struggles and emotions given life by Lucassen's collaborators. The music is rich in themes and essential power, although possibly given to over-complication and, I admit, Lucassen's own, often highly melodramatic, trademark sounds that are variations on previous works - he is not alone in being guilty of this, so let's not condemn him unduly.
I believe that the album will be enjoyable to most of those who enjoy Ayreon or similar. If, like one overly scathing reviewer of the +DVD special set, you come from a Dream Theater fan base due to the presence of James LeBrie, maybe you should give it a listen before buying because it may not be to your taste - although it certainly isn't `drivel'. Read the previous five reviews of this product and you will get a pretty accurate picture (in my view) of the album. Personally, I happen to admire Mr. LeBrie for his willingness to embrace other forms of the Rock genre.
on 13 August 2011
There's so much material, so many ideas in every song that your average Simon C. would make an album of each one. Simon, that's not a compliment...
Mr Lucassen can blend and bend the musical styles at will without forcing one upon another... and upon the listner. The final product is as smooth and as challenging as it can be to take in, it's one piece alloy rather than a compound.
Lyrics wise, it's a mixed cup, but it has to be since you've got so many characters and moods and circumstances. And they're mixed very well. Day Three: Pain lyrics are breathtaking.
"We lead, we hide as the pain leaves the rage inside
(Motion personified alpha)
Being here, welcomed by...a sane mind
A travelled lie..."
But you really need to here it to appreciate it: Rage is rage, but when you hear it sung in death metal grunt... it takes you away.
Do I need to say more?
OK, I will. Instrumentation is excellent, production world-class... It beggars belief it's work of ONE man who works in his home studio. Take that, Simon... we know you can't.
on 13 August 2004
Wow. This album has totally knocked me for six. The musicianship that takes place on these two albums, combined with the great guest vocalists and even featuring keyboard solo's from Ken Hensley and Oliver Wakeman no less!! these things aside, the theme is very clever , using the different vocalists to show various emotions (Devin Townsend as RAGE!!!!, James LaBrie of Dream Theater as the hero of the story) , he tells an interesting tale backed up by some of the most interesting music you'll ever hear.
What really got me going though are the jaw-droppingly beautiful keyboard passages , that had me reaching for my imaginary keyboard and going for it ( i dont know what the keyboard equivalent of widdling is), leaping about the room like a man possessed.
If you thought the days of prog were over , well here's a reminder that there is still more in store for the minimoog.
on 11 June 2004
The title of my review says it all: this is an absolute masterwork! Stylistically, it could be termed progressive heavy metal, but that would be too restrictive. You should really listen to it to grasp the full stylistic variety and richness. I particularly like the folk ingredients, sometimes combined with really heavy elements. Instrumentally and production wise, it's top of the bill, and there are also some very good singers involved.
This is a double album I've been listening to again and again these last few days, and it keeps growing on me. not a weak moment, only good and better ones. Recommended!
on 15 March 2006
After i originally listened to "Day 14: Pride" off of a sample CD i couldn't help but find out more about the music. I found out about how Arjen Lucassen creates the music and uses many different talents to play each role in his stories and I was seriously interested.
This album is seriously awesome. The story, unlike his usual mystical sci-fi based insanity, is seriously good. Using the different voices to play each different "emotion" within one man (James LaBrie) in a comma. The music varies so much and is hard to define to a particular style but definately doesn't dissapoint. Superb use of a large range of instruments truly makes the story worth following from start to finish. Some awesome synth solo's and impressive drumming give you something to look forward to in each song aswell.
DVD is pretty interesting and takes you into Arjen's crazy world and how he creates his "Rock Operas". A definate good listen and i would recommend it to anyone.
on 6 August 2004
This is my first Ayreon album and what way to start! This special edition is really worth every penny - not only do you get a fantastic double cd but you also get an interesting DVD.
The "Behind the scenes" featurette on the DVD was particularly good and the main man Arjen Lucassen turns out to be this funny guy who has a lot of talent and who gets people like James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) and Devin Townsend to appear on his album.
Progressive and innovative music - an album that I've been playing a lot and I continue to play for a long time.
on 30 September 2014
If ever there was an album that rewarded repeat playings, The Human Equation is it. I came to it as an existing fan of Ayreon, via Into The Electric Castle and the Universal Migrator albums, all of which I loved. But I have to admit, at first this one bewildered me a bit. It didn’t seem to have as many immediate melodies, it felt darker and doom-laden, and for most of the time I just wondered what the hell was going on.
Then I understood: that was exactly the point.
The Human Equation is the story of a man in a coma, following a car crash that may or may not have been an accident. As listener, you’re thrown into his shoes: completely lost in a dark and bewildering world, where the real people are just disembodied voices, and abstract emotions have turned into real – often frightening - people. At first, it’s hard to cope all these voices coming at you; it’s almost like a taste of schizophrenia, perhaps – but as you gradually work out who is who, and the story begins to emerge and come clear, you realise that you are immersed in a work of sheer genius.
It’s pointless to talk about the music as distinct from the story, because they are inseparable: ‘I am you and you are all of us.’ As a piece of musical psychodrama this is easily on a par with The Wall, and is far more uplifting – for while ‘The Wall’ is about the progressive isolation of a soul, ‘The Human Equation’ starts with the lost soul and leads to his gradual redemption and rebirth. The climactic track is simply awe-inspiring – or at least it becomes so, when you know the album well enough. When in the midst of half a dozen battling voices you can know without thinking ‘That’s Love… That’s Fear… That’s Pride… That’s Reason’ etc, then something almost magical happens in your brain, and you experience the music on a whole new level.
And it has some mashing riffs too.