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A Truly Impressive Album - 100%

Dalkaen, February 16th, 2006

This double album is a heavy metal opera. And no, I'm not saying that in a form of exaggerated praise, I'm stating what it simply is. It has eleven vocalists, and all are simply superb. I've always been a fan of James LaBrie's singing, and his work is as good as it has ever been on this album. Mikael Ã…kerfeldt mainly showcases his proficiency for clean vocals as Fear, but they even let him throw in a few death growls, and these are some of the most intimidating I've heard from him.

Eric Clayton (Reason) is very appropriate for what Arjen Lucassen (the mastermind of the whole project) was shooting for. His voice is very operatic, and although some might find it an acquired taste, I find I quite like it, even if it's a little jarring to go from "normal" vocals to his. It's an extremely pleasant contrast, all in all. Heather Findlay and Irene Jansen, two of the three total female vocalists are both quite good, with the former playing Love and the latter Passion. Findlay sings very sweetly and melodically, while Jansen's vocals are filled with energy and theatrics.

Magnus Ekwall and Devon Graves (as Pride and Agony respectively) are both good as well, especially when Pride and Reason sing back and forth to each other. Marcela Bovio (who sings in another of Arjen Lucassen's projects, Stream of Passion) plays the main character's Wife, and her vocals quite appropriately mirror those of Love.

Even the organizer of the Ayreon project, Arjen Lucassen (Best Friend) has a singing part. He has a somewhat reedy timbre to his voice that I liked a lot after a bit of listening. Mike Baker has only one singing part on the album as Father. He sings a cocky diatribe to Me on track 16, "Day Sixteen: Loser," which closes with Devin Townsend's second and final singing part as Rage. This guy is pretty insane, with his furious shrieking vocals.

This album certainly isn't just about vocals, however. There's a stunning amount of instrumental variety to go along with the excellent cast of characters. Arjen Lucasson himself plays all electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitars, mandolin, lap steel guitar, keyboards, and synthesizers. Ed Warby (of Gorefest) plays some excellent drums, while Robert Baba contributes violins and Marieke van den Broek cellos. John McManus and Jeroen Goossens play a variety of woodwind instruments, and there's even a didgeridoo on "Day Sixteen: Loser."

The music is arranged excellently. Even at an hour and forty-two minutes, I never want to interrupt my listening.

The Human Equation tells the story of Me, a man who gets into a car accident and subsequently slips into a comataose state. Me recalls his life and battles his inner demons while lying in a hospital bed, recalling his days of school, his father's abuse, and attempts to overcome his pride and fear while learning that his best friend and wife have seemingly come together romantically, despite Me's state.

Every song on this album is great. I can't really find a single thing wrong with it on the whole, so that's why I'm giving it a perfect score. Buy this album.