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An All-Star Cast Can’t Save This One - 55%

DawnoftheShred, September 9th, 2008

When Arjen Anthony Lucassen gets around to writing one of his epic sci-fi rock operas for his Ayreon project, he usually writes enough material for a double album. His Universal Migrator saga ended up being a bit different. Arjen released the two parts separately, perhaps to accentuate the opposing compositional focuses of each part: the first part featured music of a subtler, more atmospheric nature, while the second was designed to be heavier and more of a progressive metal album. With part one barely leaving a mark on his listeners, Arjen had to make part two, “Flight of the Migrator,” a world-class exercise in prog-metal dominance. Cranking up the distortion, assembling a better-known cast of characters, and writing lengthy pieces, he figured he couldn’t go wrong.

He did.

“The Universal Migrator Pt. 2: Flight of the Migrator,” which is the album’s full title, is astoundingly boring for an album engineered by Lucassen and featuring the plethora of talent that it does. Michael Romeo guest solos. Russell Allen is the primary singer on the album’s lead-off vocal track. There’s Timo Kotipelto, Fabio Lione, hell even Bruce fucking Dickinson sings on here (on the album’s epic “Into the Black Hole”) and it doesn’t make a difference. The beauty of past Ayreon releases was on the fusion of ambient music, progressive rock, folk, and metal. To split these elements up onto separate albums could only prove disastrous, and that’s precisely what happened. Yeah, there’s a few good riffs here and there, “Dawn of a Million Souls” is pretty catchy (the heavy organ sound is classic), and everybody involved delivers a convincing performance, but at the length these songs generally run, there’s just too much superfluity to keep the listener’s attention for long.

Attachment to this album is further hindered by the lyrical concept. Where “Into the Electric Castle” and “The Universal Migrator Pt. 1: The Dream Sequencer” were merely silly, this album comes across as almost purely clinical. In describing the Migrator’s cerebral journey through time and space (traversing quasars and black holes and the like), the lyrics read like a university textbook without pictures. “But Dawnoftheshred…..the music is the pictures. Just think about it, man.” Yeah, and the music is boring, remember? Hell, I’d have rather seen an IMAX film on the cosmos than have listened to this album.

With the exception of some cool tonal voicing during the song “Into the Quasar," there’s not a whole lot of new ground tread by Arjen and company. Ayreon die-hards will probably have a difficult time accepting that this album is sub-par and purchase it anyway, but I ensure everyone else that it lacks the staying power of his other releases. Purchase with care.