First off, I need to give you some context for this review. I have had a “hot and cold” relationship with Arjen Lucassen’s music. On the positive side, I love Guilt Machine and the last Star One album. I would even say that I “like” the Ayreon album “The Human Equation.” But many times, I really don’t like some of the albums. It all culminated with the last album “The Theory of Everything.”
I made reference to that album on this site when I was editorializing about concept albums. That album was an example for me of what I didn’t like about some albums. It felt to me like the concept forced the music. Arjen contacted me directly to explain how the album was actually written. While I think we had a great discussion, it didn’t change how I felt about that album. The concept was terrible and the overall album suffered because of it.
So when I was asked by the Mascot Label Group to review the new Ayreon album “The Source,” I was leery to say the very least. I am not a huge fan of multiple vocalists but that’s how Arjen works and I do understand why he does it. On the positive side for this album, I really like most of the vocalists he used.
I love James LaBrie, yes I am a Dream Theater fan. Plus Tommy Rogers of Between the Buried and Me is another favorite of mine. The full list of vocalists are: James LaBrie, Tommy Karevik, Tommy Rogers, Simone Simons, Nils K. Rue, Tobias Sammet, Hansi Kürsch, Mike Mills, Russell Allen, Michael Eriksen, Floor Jansen. And yes most of them are singers that I really enjoy. In addition, special contributions were offered by guitarists Paul Gilbert, Guthrie Govan, Marcel Coenen and keyboardist Mark Kelly.
So okay, I can take the vocalists for the most part but what about the music. Surprisingly, I love most of the music on this very long album. Well that’s something Arjen does, right? But from the opening epic “The Day That The World Breaks Down” it was clear to me that “The Source” was much more appealing to me than “The Theory of Everything.”
In fact, it’s easier for me to point out the moments that I don’t like because…there are so few of them! Weird right? One track that overall doesn’t work for me is “All That Was.” The celtic vibe is just not a style that I am into plus the vocals remind me of the Indigo Girls. Too sickly sweet on top of all that. The song does improve when it kicks in. The opening of “Aquatic Race” is another annoying moment. Super high pitched vocals that for some reason remind me of Bon Jovi on helium. Worse is that the song is better than the awful intro.
The brief closer “March of the Machines” ends the album rather unceremoniously. The album starts so much stronger. BUT I do understand the point of the song with relation to the overall concept. A concept that I am not going to give away other than it’s a prequel to “01011001.” So yes it’s sci-fi which Arjen is better at, in my opinion.
So you are thinking, does he like this album? Hell yes. Songs like “Everybody Dies,” “Star of Sirrah” (great vocal by LaBrie), and “Deathcry of a Race” along with the opening track are really GREAT songs. And THAT is the key! These are songs that can exist without the overall concept. For me that’s what makes a concept album a good one. Can the music exist apart from it? Indeed.
So the bottom line is, I am definitely impressed which given the background and context that I gave means that the rating is EARNED. Ayreon fans should rightly loses their shit over this album and those of us who are not always impressed should have something to really enjoy.
Chronicle 1: The ‘Frame
1. The Day That The World Breaks Down
2. Sea Of Machines
3. Everybody Dies
Chronicle 2: The Aligning Of The Ten
4. Star Of Sirrah
5. All That Was
6. Run! Apocalypse! Run!
7. Condemned To Live
Chronicle 3: The Transmigration
8. Aquatic Race
9. The Dream Dissolves
10. Deathcry Of A Race
11. Into The Ocean
Chronicle 4: The Rebirth
12. Bay Of Dreams
13. Planet Y Is Alive!
14. The Source Will Flow
15. Journey To Forever
16. The Human Compulsion
17. March Of The Machines
Release Date: April 28, 2017
Label: Mascot Label Group/Music Theories Recordings