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Just... mindblowing. - 90%

Insomnia_Inc, September 9th, 2004

Arjen Anthony Lucassen is the master of the concept album, a man seemingly incapable of creating anything mundane, and lord of the over-the-top music project. Over the years he’s given us such great albums as Into The Electric Castle, The 2 Universal Migrator albums, and of course his most recent masterpiece Star One. In the tradition of his previous works, and like he always does, Lucassen takes everything one step further, and with The Human Equation has released his most ambitious and daring indulgence to date.

Musically it’s your standard Ayreon fare, and when I say standard I am using the term quite loosely as there is nothing standard, or run of the mill about an album like this. Lucassen melds together elements of folk, psychedelia, neo-classical, classical, progressive and traditional metal… and a partridge in a pear tree? To create music that is first an experience in itself, and second one should know what to expect when popping in a new Ayreon record, and that is of course to expect the unexpected, to expect to be amazed, and quite possibly even confused, but in a good way.

Trust me that will make sense in a minute.

The real strength of the Equation is found within the 11 very distinctive vocalists that act as Lucassen’s accomplices in this endeavor, they range from Devin Townsen… you know what here let’s do it this way instead.

The Accomplices of Arjen Lucassen:

Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) as Fear
Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery) as Father
Marcela Bovio (Elfonia) as Wife
Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) as Reason
Magnus Ekwall (The Quill) as Pride
Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn) as Love
Devon Graves (Dead Soul Tribe, Aslan) as Agony
Irene Jansen (Karma) as Passion
James LaBrie (Dream Theater, Mullmuzzler) as Me
Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad, The Devin Townsend Band) as Rage
Arjen Lucassen (Duh...) as Best Friend

So there as you can see vocalists, featuring ranges quite literally all over the spectrum, from Townsend’s demonic screams to Clayton’s baritone bass heavy voice, to the angelic voice of Irene Jansen, it’s just all over the place.

One of the most common aspects of Lucassen’s works I find is his albums seem more like plays in the makeup, or the song structures resemble those of a musical than your standard metal album. In this album Luccassen took that idea to a whole new level in his attempt to explore and convey the human condition. Each song is a story, the view through the mind of a man in a coma, and of course a look inside Lucassen’s mind, which isn’t as scary as you’d think that trip would be.

If I had to make a complaint about the album it’s that at first listen it is a tremendous amount of things to take in, almost to the point where it overwhelms the listener, it’s one of those all encompassing albums that you demands you full attention, this isn’t a casual listen in any way shape or form. It’s another strength of the record that it has the ability to take and maintain your attention throughout the entire tale Lucassen. It’s just at over an hour and 42 minutes long, it’s not something you will comprehend the first time around, it’ll take a few listens to completely grasp just what the heck is going on here.

Luckily the album is good enough that you are going to want to listen to it as many times as it will take for you to fully “get” the album, I’ve gone through it at least 10 times and I am still discovering aspects I hadn’t previously noticed, although “Day 11: Love” was released as a single there are no singles to the album in the strictest sense of the word, there is no filler here, every single song on the album is crucial to the story that unfolds. Also though at the same time the song are good enough that if they had to they could stand on their own quite easily.

Alright I’ve babbled on long enough, in a nutshell it’s an incredibly strong record that tells a fascinating story. It stays true to the concept from beginning to end, which is what a concept album should do, it’s self indulgent to the point of insanity, but unlike some bands out there the self indulgence doesn’t turn into flat out mindless wankery. It’s another triumph for Ayreon, and in the end he gives a nod to his previous albums when the words dream sequencer are uttered, the perfect ending to a story, it makes me wonder what he’ll do to top this album.

Actually, wait that’s a scary thought.

(Originally composed by myself for Ubermetal.com)