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nothing left to say but to check the rating!! - 100%

krozza, October 6th, 2004

If there is an absolute certainty when speaking of Arjen Anthony Lucassen, it is that the man refuses do anything by half measures. AAL loves a challenge and making a regular ten track disc every 12-18 months is just too damn easy. Nope, AAL works in an entirely different headspace, conjuring up some of the most over the top, grandiose prog rock opera’s you’ll ever hear. If ‘Inside the Electric Castle’ impressed you or like me, you were left astounded by the ‘Star One - Space Metal/Live on Earth’ double he threw at us in 2003, then wait until you wrap your head around this 101-minute progressive rock extravaganza.

Quite simply, if you are a major fan of progressive rock/metal encompassing everything from Dream Theater to Rush, Opeth to Uriah Heep, Dead Soul Tribe to Jethro Tull then Ayreon’s ‘The Human Equation’ is essential listening. At 101 minutes, it is suffice to say that you’ll need to dedicate more than a few uninterrupted listening sessions to grasp the multitude of musical ideas going on here, let alone the lyrical concept. Everything that has been written, played, recorded and produced on this double disc affair is utterly mind-blowing. Describing it here will only touch the surface of the genius within this package. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, an album that must be listened to and absorbed over many, many sessions to understand it.

‘The Human Equation’ is somewhat of a departure for AAL in terms of its lyrical concept. Rather than dealing with a typical science fiction fantasy AAL has opted for an equally imaginative story revolving around a man that lies in coma due to a tragic car accident. The most ingenious aspect about this concept is how AAL has told the story not only via different characters (not a new thing for AAL, ‘Electric Castle’ did the same thing), but also by giving different human emotions a voice and using various vocalists to portray their parts. This fascinating story gets told in twenty days in which the man stays in coma divided over an equal amount of songs.

I’ll touch on the musical content a bit later, but upon listening to ‘THE’ one is automatically drawn to the plethora of vocalists that AAL has employed for this album.
As is his policy, there is no one on ‘THE’ that has appeared on an Ayeron album before (what a great way to keep his work interesting). AAL knows his shit folks and as good as his selections of James LaBrie (who play the central coma victim character -‘Me’) and Akerfeldt (the emotion of Fear) are it is the work of the slightly lesser known (but just as breathtaking) vocalists that make such an impact here. The male vocal parts of Magnus Ekwall (The Quill) – ‘Pride’, Devon Graves (Dead Soul Tribe) – ‘Agony’ and Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) – ‘Reason’ are major highlights of this album. No less important are the performance of Irene Jansen (‘Passion’) and the silky folk laden tones of Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn – ‘Love’) and Marcela Bovio – ‘Wife’. Each and every individual performance (including AAL’s own psychedelic 60’s vocal vibe) has be delivered with the utmost honesty, intensity and passion; the placement of each, simply perfect in my eyes. Furthermore, others like Devin Townsend (who is used sparingly as ‘Rage’) and Mike Barker (Shadow Gallery – ‘Father’) didn’t even record their parts in the presence of AAL. AAL even let Townsend come up with his own vision and melody of what was required of his part. What belief, what trust!!

Musically, I cannot see any reason why any self respecting prog rock fan would complain about ‘THE’. If you were first exposed to AAL via his ‘Star One - Space Metal’ disc, then you might find this a tad more daunting in terms of its complexity and musical variation. There is a lot of light and shade on this album. Heavy riff oriented parts are full and grand with soaring vocal parts, only to be followed by gentle folk like acoustics and fragile female vocalization. In between, you’ve got everything else from prog, symphonic metal, searing lead solos, space-like keyboard interludes, hammond organ, analogue synthesizers, cello, violin and Jethro Tull like flute segments. Hell, drummer extraordinaire Ed Warby even breaks into blast beat mode on the final track ‘Confrontation’.

‘The Human Equation’ is available in various forms. However, if you truly want to appreciate what has been laid down here, I suggest you try and find a copy of the Limited Edition 2 x CD 1x DVD booklet package (I have one of only fifteen that were imported into Australia). The DVD is the essential part of this – it includes a 45-minute ‘in the studio’ section featuring AAL talking about all of his vocal and musical players (all of which you get to see in action!). Furthermore, you get a run down of the lyrical concept from AAL, the video for ‘Love’ (with the brilliant Irene Jansen in major form) plus the recording of Ed Warby’s drum tracks (which unbelievably is the first thing AAL records for Ayeron albums). The packaging is simply incredible and looks more like a 100 page Hard cover novel than something holding three CDS. It has to go in my bookshelf rather than my CD racks.

There is nothing much in the prog rock world that is going to touch this one in 2004. The whole thing just reeks of grandeur and utter breathtaking professionalism. The vision is truly inspired and one that really sits unmatched at this stage. Prog Rock gems like this don’t come around very often. The only problem is, is how will AAL top it?