Ayreon - The Theory of Everything

Ayreon The Theory of Everything cover
The Theory of Everything
InsideOut Music
Oh Boy. Arjen Lucasen, is a man, who apparently cannot rest and who while manages to keep a uniform style in his outings he doesn’t seem to repeat himself. After putting Ayreon on hold for a while, since he felt he wasn’t inspired enough to continue, he now returns with his eighth “opera” a rather eccentric and eclectic album comprising of “four long tracks divided into various segments”, with each track longer than 20 minutes for a total of almost one hour and a half of music. The complete number of segments is 42, which is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, recognized by Lucassen as a direct reference.
In the typical style of the project, the album features several guest singers to portray the characters across the album, including former King Crimson and current Asia member John Wetton, Marco Hietala of Nightwish and Tarot, Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil, Janne JB Christoffersson of Grand Magus and Tommy Karevik of Kamelot & Seventh Wonder. It also features various guest musicians such as keyboardists Rick Wakeman (ex-Yes), Keith Emerson (ex-Emerson, Lake & Palmer), and Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater, and guitarist Steve Hackett (ex-Genesis). It is Lucassen’s first collaboration with every singer on the album, with the exception of backing vocalist Wilmer Waarbroek, who already sung on his solo album “Lost in the New Real”.
Stylistically, we have a mash-up of a lot of different styles, but as the whole concept is now not “Sci-fi” as before, even if it, indulges in science related matters, it’s a lot more earthly, checking almost, every great 70s prog band and creating a great “unified” mega-prog sound, that however doesn’t sound dated at all. The mix of seasoned players with some newer ones and some cool yet earthly vocalists, creates a very alluring mix.
To be honest, I would hate to sit down and go through 42, sections/songs, just because, Arjen is a bit of a nerd, with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (haha) and further to that, this album, with its cinematic nature, is better experienced as a whole – as a sequence, from “Start to finish” in one sitting, for maximum effect. That is not to say that it doesn’t have its “highlights”. With some 8 singers on it, there’s a LOT going on. Christina Scabbia, who’s always got a nice voice “shines” on this one, putting down a very nice performance, as “The Mother”. There’s another lady, the relatively unknown Sara Squadrani from a band called The Ancient Bards. She’s really amazing on “Love and Envy” but can also be heard throughout the album on many occasions on the role of the “girl”. Oh the two duets pretty awesomely on “Mirror of Dreams” with some sweet harmonies right there. JB, is really authoritarian and deep, as “The Teacher” and well John Wetton (Asia, King Crimson etc.) as “The Psychiatrist” is his usual awesome – rich, resonant, beautiful. Kamelot’s/7W’s Tommy Karevik’s puts in a mighty impressive performance in “The Prodigy’s World” and well is the “Prodigy” – The protagonist more or less, if you want, so he is featured on a “few” more... hehe... but right there, the first time you hear him on the album, it’s one of the most memorable, moments on the entire “set”.
And it’s not the sole one. “Love and Envy” is a slower cooler number, there’s the slightly Celtic influenced “Progressive Waves”, that just goes crazy half way through, the three part, “T.O.E” spread through the “four” songs, the very dramatic if not a little cheesy “Diagnosis”, the erratic, nightmarish and slightly eastern flavored “Transformation”, the hard hitting “Collision” or the Theateresque (but in an inspired way “Frequency Modulation” – FM (as in FM-radio lol). “Magnetism” once again explores slight “celtic” moods, before “Fortune?” closes the “third section” in deep melancholy… the unification – which is the fourth “movement/section” is more or less the climax and here, pretty much the whole sequence is a constant highlight that constantly erupts, before a double reprisal that signifies the end...
In the limited edition, there’s also a DVD with interviews Q/A sessions and time lapses from the recordings, not bad, but nothing that you’d watch more than once probably.
Overall, Lucassen has another masterful piece of work produced and even-though it’s a “long” one, that might be a little difficult to take in one sitting, it’s well worth the time you might invest in doing so. Along with Thought Chamber’s “Psykerion” this is one of this year’s best prog album’s hands down!