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Journey to the dark side - 90%

kluseba, May 22nd, 2020
Written based on this version: 2000, CD, InsideOut Music America

Ayreon's The Universal Migrator Part II: Flight of the Migrator is quite different from its immediate predecessor The Universal Migrator Part I: The Dream Sequencer even though both records were released at the exact same time. This second part is much darker than the predecessor, the keyboards provide dystopian sounds, the guitar work is heavy, the rhythm section is both powerful and playful and the guest singers perform with much energy. While the predecessor qualified as progressive rock album rooted in the seventies' genre stylistics, this output here is a contemporary progressive metal output that pushes the boundaries as it can't be compared to anything released before.

Some people might argue that both records complement one another perfectly but the truth is that they represent two extremes and don't sound cohesive at all despite the lyrical concept that ties them. As a matter of fact, it's entirely possible that someone who loved the predecessor's airy, dreamy and smooth sound could despise this album's dramatic, oppressive and vivid tone or the other way around. In my case, I liked this second output right from the start while the first part needed some attention, patience and time to grow on me.

The album includes multiple highlights and my favourite song is ''Dawn of a Million Souls'' featuring Symphony X's Russell Allen. The song comes around with cinematic, dramatic and epic keyboard fanfares, sinister backing vocals, heavy riffs, pumping rhythm section and passionate vocals culminating in a memorable chorus you won't get out of your head. Russell Allen has participated in numerous projects and released many great records with his main band but as far as I'm concerned, this song is the best performance of his career as we speak.

The playful, meandering and creative ''Journey on the Waves of Time'' is perhaps the most progressive song on this release. The dynamic keyboard sounds stand out yet again and Ralf Scheepers delivers one of the most versatile performances of his career. He continues to be one of the most underrated metal singers who is given the chance to underline all his talent in this tune.

The heart piece of this album is the ten-minute epic ''Into the Black Hole'', sitting right in the middle of the album and being subdivided into three parts. It's a gloomy, haunting and mysterious tune with eerie sound effects and futuristic keyboard layers that give Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson the occasion to unfold his talent like few songs of his main band manage to do.

The remarkable thing about Ayreon's mastermind Arjen Anthony Lucassen is that he is able to craft songs that manage to fit his project yet sound perfectly tailored for the individual singers. This is something similar artists like Avantasia's Tobias Sammet aren't always able to achieve. You might find Ayreon's music too complex, intellectual and lengthy but nobody can deny the artist's dedication, precision and talent.

In the end, Ayreon's The Universal Migrator Part II: Flight of the Migrator is quite different from its predecessor. While still being progressive and conceptually related, this album is gloomy, heavy and vivid from start to finish. Not every song works perfectly but the album's highlights are unforgettable. Anyone who likes heavy and power metal singers, progressive music and dystopian science-fiction concepts should try out this ambitious album that has aged very well.