Ayreon. Mascot Label & Music Theories. 20 Jun 2017
Progressive music occupies a special place in the music world, often defying specific categorisation and way too far left field for the usual routes of access. It can often fall into the category of musician’s music, and as a drummer myself, I have a great appreciation for this aspect of progressive music, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Something I find quite interesting is the journey of discovery for progressive acts. For normal, more mainstream bands, discovering new sounds is usually straightforward: listening to radio, specific genre shows, internet searches, YouTube and Spotify play lists, bands’ influences, and the like. For progressive music though, despite being a big fan, I almost always come across things based on others’ recommendations, like it’s a special subset that can only be discovered by word-of-mouth. So here’s my bit of word-of-mouth to you about Dutch act Ayreon…
I’ve brushed with Ayreon in the past, due to founding and fundamental member Arjen Lucassen’s associations with Dream Theatre and Symphony X, but hadn’t really heard too much specifically. Enter The Source, the ninth album from Ayreon, and suddenly my world exploded!
Like much of progressive music, Ayreon hangs around the heavier end of the spectrum, but there’s certainly a lot more to this than mere heavy metal. To an extent, there’s more here than just ‘normal’ progressive too, as the two-disc album is a proper journey, with four distinct movements telling a story in a sci-fi fantasy world. If you’re also new to Ayreon, you’re greeted with some familiarity on The Source, with the first ‘chronicle’ of three tracks opening with the vocal acrobatics of Dream Theatre’s, James La Brie, and is shortly joined by the likes of Kamelot’s, Tommy Karevik and Symphony X’s, Russell Allen, as well as a host of other vocalists playing a variety of characters throughout. There are soaring guitars and keyboards, grinding riffs, and melodic metal interludes that harken to something whimsical, classical and even folkloric.
By the second chronicle, the mood completely changes into much more melodic, almost mediaeval folkloric sounds, pairing gentle organs and wild guitars. The scene fades to something straddling glam and metal for the third chronicle, which also features some interesting flute and operatic interludes, before reaching the final chronicle that quickly journeys everywhere we’ve already been, with bluesy metal, folksy melodies, glam rock chords and harmonies, and dark grooves.
Like most progressive albums, there’s a hell of a lot going on here, and it’s difficult to take it all in on a single listen, or in a single music review for that matter! This is something that reveals itself over many listens, and hearing it in different forms and locations. I started by driving with the album, then progressed to my main home stereo, and finished with headphones, each time getting a totally different experience. The mix of different vocalists adds a really interesting dimension to things, and there’s quite a few guest musicians on here too, including The Aristocrat’s brilliant axeman Guthrie Govan, with each guest artist lending a piece of themselves to the whole. This is definitely a work of art that will impress not only fans of progressive metal, but discerning fans of just about every other musical style too!
Ayreon is musician Arjen Anthony Lucassen.
The Source features several guest singers including James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Simone Simons (Epica), Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Tobias Sammet (Edguy, Avantasia), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot, Seventh Wonder), and Russell Allen (Symphony X), and Tommy Rogers (Between the Buried and Me).
Chronicle 1: The Frame
1. The Day That the World Breaks Down
2. Sea of Machines
3. Everybody Dies
Chronicle 2: The Aligning of the Ten
4. Star of Sirrah
5. All That Was
6. Run! Apocalypse! Run!
7. Condemned to Live
Chronicle 3: The Transmigration
1. Aquatic Race
2. The Dream Dissolves
3. Deathcry of a Race
4. Into the Ocean
Chronicle 4: The Rebirth
5. Bay of Dreams
6. Planet Y Is Alive!
7. The Source Will Flow
8. Journey to Forever
9. The Human Compulsion
10. March of the Machines