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A Masterpiece - 100%

Waspman, August 30th, 2006

After a couple of strange (but no less great) efforts over the last few years with Ayreon’s 2-CD UNIVERSAL MIGRATOR and the Star One Project, Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen has returned with a powerful doozy of an album. Spanning two discs and featuring a bevy of vocal talents (including his own voice!), Lucassen’s newest Ayreon effort is a true tour-de-force for prog-metal fans worldwide.

The story of THE HUMAN EQUATION is the newest step for Ayreon, looking inward, rather than to the stars or some other fantasy realm. Without giving too much away, the narrative involves a man in a coma who is forced to come to grips with a variety of issues in his life (good and bad) in an attempt to wake up. It’s an extremely well done story that, well somewhat cliché at times, is both engaging and thought-provoking.

As for the music, without saying that it is typical Ayreon fare, it is typically great and matches the high standards that fans expect from Lucassen. Perhaps reaching back to the classic INSIDE THE ELECTRIC CASTLE for inspiration, the music covers a wide range of sounds, mostly melding everything into a distinctly 70’s prog-rock sound, what with the washes of acoustics, atmospherics, and Moog-ian keyboard sounds. Key cuts include the smooth rockin’ “Memories” and the following “Love” with all its manic sincerity. Disc 2 has a number of highlights, best of which are the smarmy vocals of Mike Baker (his only appearance) on the utterly vicious “Loser” (GREAT vocals by Devin Townsend on this one as well).

In all, this is a painstakingly constructed album by one of heavy metal’s best musical minds. The vocal contributions are equally well chosen and flawlessly executed, making THE HUMAN EQUATION a completely engrossing listen, and surely one of the top albums of 2004.

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