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Several months ago I had been hearing a lot of good things about Ayreon's "The Human Equation" and picked it up. Although it took awhile to fully appreciate, it became in my eyes one of the best albums ever to be released. Project mastermind Arjen Lucassen doesn't just write music, his work transcends that and becomes more of an all-around experience. However, either The Human Equation was too good or I was just a fool, because I somehow neglected to get Ayreon's previous works afterwards! I've only now found out what I was missing out on.
"The Dream Sequencer" is Ayreon's fourth album and part one of Arjen Lucassen's "Universal Migrator" concept. Basically it deals with the last living human travelling back in time and seeing the first man on Earth. The music reflects this, as it starts out with a dreary post-apocalyptic atmosphere and gradually becomes warmer and more folk influenced. This seems like an odd progression but it works well enough. The songs all are linked (somewhat) by a very slow, atmospheric approach, some similar synth sounds and the occasional lyrics referring "back" to the future. There is not one metal song on here, rather the music seems mostly influenced by Pink Floyd and various other progressive rock bands. A couple songs remind me of The Guess Who or The Beatles as well, and although I'm not a big fan of classic rock it's all just so freaking GOOD here. I definitely consider myself a metal listener, and the album was even meant to be a "prog" album as opposed to the "metal" second part, but it has really grabbed me and I recommend you check it out--even if it doesn't sound appealing right now.
My House on Mars - I literally couldn't get myself to listen to the album at first because I kept playing this song for 3 days. It's melancholy, bleak, and perfectly conveys the main character's feelings of loneliness and resignation stranded on Mars. At the same time it's catchy and incredibly epic, thus somehow making a perfect opening song based around the end of the human race.
2084 - Goes back in time from the end of mankind in the previous track, to simply the end of Earth a few years before that. It's not perfect like My House, some of the vocal lines could've been written better in particular, but amazing nonetheless. A laid-back but at the same time very desperate song, with a chilling end.
Temple of the Cat - A light, strange and highly enjoyable track. As it's further down the tracklist than the last two I mentioned, it sounds like the complete opposite of those. One minor problem with the album is that these songs in the middle end up as "filler" concept wise, while the songs at the beginning and end tell all the story. Still, it's amazing music.
The First Man on Earth - Simply too beautiful for words. Our solitary colonist from Mars is seeing Earth as it was a million years ago, when things were still green and bright, and is amazed by it all. The music is peaceful with some absolutely great acoustic parts and vocals, but also epic and edgy at times. The song reaches a massive climax and the journey ends, leading back into The Dream Sequencer (Reprise) - a return to the theme from the album's intro. After everything the main character has experienced, he must go back and face reality. This final track is very solemn with a heartwrenching guitar solo, and brings the album to a fantastic close.
Final rating: 90/100