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As we all know, every group has humble and rough beginnings...it's not uncommon for even the most intuitively talented bands to get their bearings together a few albums into their career, and their first couple to be mere blueprints of what they hope to accomplish. That's the beauty of evolution, after all (fuck what the Creationists are preaching). Anyone from MEGADETH to CRADLE OF FILTH to MORBID ANGEL to OPETH, and hundreds above and beyond, started out with patchwork ideas that morphed into the quilts of musicality they now drape over prospective listeners two or three albums in. And AYREON is of the same ilk, in its own way.
This wasn't my first entry into the world of AYREON (that glory goes to the pitch-perfect "Into the Electric Castle"); actually, I got this album fourth in my collection, and, like other successive AYREON released, I was spellbound by the music therein...but also a little confused. All the AYREON releases are "adventures in music", but this would have to be the most adventurous, as well as the most cavalier and brazen. The melding of musical styles that is now the staple are presented here in a sort of hyper-active massacre not unlike a throng of kids at a birthday party. Yes, they mix, but each style has too much of its own identity to fit in cleanly, and each song is presented in almost a completely different genre (one song is electronic, one is folk, one is metal, one is symphonic, etc.) Needless to say, this is HIGHLY experimental.
But is it a bad album? No, not at all. If anything, this showcases some of Arjen Lucassen's more talented compositions, with plentiful tempo and time signature changes to dizzify an average listener. Take songs like "Eyes of Time", "Computer Reign (Game Over)", "Sail Away to Avalon", and "Merlin's Will" and you'll encounter the catchy, thought-provoking music you'll find on future recordings, albeit in a more infantile stage. Around this time, Arjen wasn't working with the A-List singers he'd employ later, but as it stands each singer has his or her own individual talent and style that shines quite well on each track.
So at the end of the day, AYREON's humble beginnings act on their own personality, like every other album, but still comes off as a well put-together, cohesive collection of musical genius. A very impressive debut.