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Ayreon Everything

[29th October 2013]
[InsideOut Music]

01. Prologue: The Blackboard
02. The Theory of Everything part 1
03. Patterns
04. The Prodigy’s World
05. The Teacher’s Discovery
06. Love and Envy
07. Progressive Waves
08. The Gift
09. The Eleventh Dimension
10. Inertia
11. The Theory of Everything part 2
12. The Consultation
13. Diagnosis
14. The Argument 1
15. The Rival’s Dilemma
16. Surface Tension
17. A Reason To Live
18. Potential
19. Quantum Chaos
20. Dark Medicine
21. Alive!
22. The Prediction
01. Fluctuations
02. Transformation
03. Collision
04. Side Effects
05. Frequency Modulation
06. Magnetism
07. Quid Pro Quo
08. String Theory
09. Fortune?
10. Mirror Of Dreams
11. The Lighthouse
12. The Argument 2
13. The Parting
14. The Visitation
15. The Breakthrough
16. The Note
17. The Uncertainty Principle
18. Dark Energy
19. The Theory of Everything part 3
20. The Blackboard (reprise)

Ayreon is the brainchild of progressive rock/metal mastermind Arjen Lucassen. The project has seen the release of six albums and countless guest stars, all in the name of bringing excellent science fiction based prog rock operas to the world. With albums such as Into the Electric Castle and The Human Equation under his belt as well as other projects like Star One, Guilt Machine, and a solo project, Arjen is ready to tackle the biggest Ayreon concept yet, in the newest seventh full length album The Theory of Everything.

Right off the bat, this sounds like classic Arjen composition at its finest. The instrumentation is spacey and scientific, and the melodies flow like a river of time, twisting and turning, but always smooth and consistent. The album is made up of four 20+ minute epics, each divided into smaller tracks for a total of 42 in all. The music has elements of folk like can be found on The Human Equation, but keeps the grander Ayreon prog rock/metal sound that appears on 01011001 and The Universal Migrator albums. It is also worth noting that this album is more instrumental than past Ayreon releases.

The guest stars on this album are jaw-dropping. From Jordan Rudess and Keith Emerson to Steve Hackett and Troy Donockley to JB Christoffersson and Marco Hietala, the talent Arjen recruited for this record is impressive. Each brings their own distinct flavour to the music when their turn is up. Keith Emerson in particular is quite noticeable, and his solo in “Progressive Waves” is absolute magic and his solo is immediately followed by fireworks courtesy of Jordan Rudess. Ben Mathot is also prominent on the violin, especially in the absolutely awesome “The Theory of Everything pt 3”, the theme in which is one of the best instrumental sections ever committed to music.

The production on this album is wonderful, too. It sounds organic, rich, and spacey, helped along by the absolutely wondrous keyboards and orchestrations. The instruments are given a lot of breathing room, and the vocals are nicely mixed, separate from the music but not completely disconnected. Arjen has been really good at the production aspect, which is logical seeing as he does it all in his own home studio.

Because this is an Ayreon album, the concept needs to be mentioned. All previous Ayreon albums had concepts that took place in the same universe, whereas for this album, Arjen completely abandons that storyline for a completely new universe. It seems that has done good, because this album sounds completely fresh, while still retaining the hallmarks of Arjen’s particular style. The story really puts the ‘science’ in science fiction, revolving around a prodigy student searching for the theory of everything – and in possibly the sneakiest reference possible, an album about searching for the answer to life, the universe, and everything contains exactly 42 tracks. Arjen must be a The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy fan.

Ayeron have time and time again been the bearer of fantastic, sprawling sci-fi prog operas. Arjen has always been able to coax the very best from his guests, and is able to write fantastic music for them to follow. The Theory of Everything is no exception; the album is excellent. It carries an interesting story, wonderful musical arrangements, and excellent guest musicians that include not one, but four utter prog legends in Rudess, Emerson, Wakeman, and Hackett and a couple huge metal vocalists in Cristina Scabbia, Marco Heitala and JB Christoffersson. It flows like a river of time, and just sounds really nice. Arjen has delivered another progressive rock masterpiece, one of the best albums of the year, further cementing his status as a legend in the genre.

Best songs: There’s technically only four, so all of them.

Score: 01011100 (92%)

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