Ayreon | The Source | Album Review & Featured Album Of Week For April 23-30
Label: Mascot Label Group Release Year : 2017 Country: The Netherlands/International Genre: Progressive Metal/Rock Opera/Genre Transcending
Band Members/Original Cast
Arjen Anthony Lucassen – Electric and Acoustic Guitars/Bass Guitar/Mandolin/Synthesizers, Hammond/Solina Strings/All Other Instruments
Ed Wabry – Drums
Original Cast Members/Vocalists
Editorial Note – The People of Forever are Alphans Alpha until they get to Planet Y where they get the title ‘Forever’ !
James Labrie – Dream Theater- As ‘The Historian’ Tommy Giles Rogers – Between The Buried And Me – As ‘The Chemist’ Simone Simons – Epica -As ‘The Counselor’ Mike Mills – Toehider – As ‘T-H1’ Floor Jansen – Nightwish – As ‘The Biologist’ Hansi Kursch – Blind Guardian – As ‘The Astronomer’ Tobis Sammet – Avantasia/Edguy – As ‘The Captain’ Michael Eriksen – Circus Maximus – As ‘The Diplomat’ Nils K Rue – Pagans Mind – As ‘The Prophet’ Zaher Zorgati – Myrath – As ‘The Preacher’ Tommy Karevik – Kamelot – As ‘The Opposition Leader’ Russel Allen – SymphonyX – As ‘The President’ Will Shaw – Heir Apparent’ Wilmer Waarbroek, Jan Willem Ketelaars, and Lisette van den Berg – Scarlet Stories as ‘The Ship’s Crew’ You … Insert Name Here … as ‘The Audience’
Joost van den Broek – ex-After Forever/ex Sun Caged – Grand Piano and Electric Piano Mark Kelly – Marillion – Synthesizer Solo Maaike Peterse – Kingfisher Sky – Cello Paul Gilbert – RacerX/Mr. Big – Guitar Solo Guthrie Govan – The Aristocrats/ex-Asia – Guitar Solo Marcel Coenen – Sun Caged – Guitar Solo Ed Warby – Ayreon/Gorefest/Star One- Drums Ben Mathot – Violin Jeroen Goossens – ex-Pater Moeskroen – Flute/Wind instruments
Lori Linstruth – Photo Stills/Ajren Lucassen & Ayreon Cast
Wayne Joyner – Lyric Videos for Everybody Dies and Star Of Sirrah
Track listing/ Album Anatomy CD 1
Chronicle 1: The ‘Frame’ – 22:22 1. ‘The Day That the World Breaks Down” James LaBrie, Tommy Karevik, Tommy Rogers, Simone Simons, Nils K. Rue, Tobias Sammet, Hansi Kürsch, Mike Mills, 2. “Sea of Machines” Rogers, Eriksen, Rue, Simons, Sammet, Allen 3.”Everybody Dies” Mills, Karevik, Rogers, Allen, Kürsch, Eriksen, Sammet, Jansen
Chronicle 2: The Aligning of the Ten – 21:45 4.”Star of Sirrah” LaBrie, Allen, Kürsch, Sammet, Rue, Rogers, Eriksen, Jansen 5.”All That Was” Simons, Jansen, LaBrie, Eriksen 6.”Run! Apocalypse! Run!” Karevik, Kürsch, Mills, Allen, Jansen, Sammet, Rue, LaBrie 7. “Condemned to Live” LaBrie, Rogers, Eriksen, Simons, Karevik, Jansen CD 2 Chronicle 3: The Transmigration -22:33 1.”Aquatic Race” LaBrie, Sammet, Karevik, Eriksen, Allen, Simons, Rogers, 2.”The Dream Dissolves” Simons, Jansen, Eriksen, Rue 3.”Deathcry of a Race” Allen, Sammet, Jansen, Karevik, Zaher Zorgati, Simons 4.”Into the Ocean” Allen, Mills, Eriksen, Kürsch, Sammet, Karevik, Rue
Chronicle 4: The Rebirth – 21:53 5.”Bay of Dreams” LaBrie, Rogers, Mills, Eriksen, Rue 6.”Planet Y is Alive!” Karevik, Allen, Kürsch, Mills, Sammet, Jansen 7. “The Source Will Flow” Rogers, LaBrie, Simons 8. “Journey to Forever” Sammet, Eriksen, Kürsch 9. “The Human Compulsion” Simons, LaBrie, Rogers, Eriksen, Allen, Rue, Sammet, Kürsch, Karevik, Jansen 10. “March of the Machines” Mills
When I was making ‘Star Wars,’ I wasn’t restrained by any kind of science. I simply said, ‘I’m going to create a world that’s fun and interesting, makes sense, and seems to have a reality to it.’
A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.
Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.
My Introduction To The Genius Arjen A Lucassen & Ayreon.
I can remember back in the 2000 shortly after the turn of the new century I strolled into Diamond Head Records with some serious spending money. I was primarily focused on buying music by bands or artists I had never heard of before. I remember picking up Zero Hour’s self titled debut, Explorers Club Age Of Impact,Pain Of Salvation’s One Hour By Concrete Lake, Perfect Element Part 1, Entropia. I was really after Arena’s The Visitor and Pride albums.
As I was flipping the CD’s in the bin for Arena I came across two CD’s from Ayreon. They were both in The Universal Migrator series, Part 1 The Dream Sequencer and Part 2 Flight Of The Migrator. I noticed the utter mass of talent that was on both parts to the Universal Migrator. My curiosity nailed me and I had to go find out what this was. I went home listened to them both in one sitting inside a headset. It not only blew the hell out of my mind, it also converted me into a fan of Arjen Lucassen’s work as a collective. From there I returned back to the record store 2 days later and bought The Final Experiment, Actual Fantasy and Into The Electric Castle.I went down the Yellow Brick Road, Across The Rainbow Bridge, Through The Wormhole and have never returned since.
2017 The Present
Now it is 2017 and Arjen Lucassen has no signs of slowing down as he has returned for his 8th installment with another epic Progressive Rock & Metal Opera, Ayreon The Source. I am continually amazed and impressed of the rosters of talent that Ajren Lucassen is able to recruit for the Ayreon albums. Once again he has managed to recruit the who is who within the progressive rock, progressive metal and even symphonic and power metal communities. With Arjen on this run as far as vocalists are James LaBrie – Dream Theater as ‘The Historian‘, Tommy Karevik – Kamelot/Seventh Wonder as ‘The Opposition Leader’, Tommy Rogers – Between the Buried and Me as ‘The Chemist’ Simone Simons – Epica as ‘The Counselor’, Nils K. Rue – Pagan’s Mind as ‘The Prophet’ ,Tobias Sammet – Edguy/Avantasia as ‘The Captain’ , Hansi Kürsch – Blind Guardian as ‘The Astronomer’ ,Mike Mills – Toehider as ‘TH-1’ Russell Allen – Symphony X as ‘The President’ , Michael Eriksen – Circus Maximus as ‘The Diplomat’ Floor Jansen – Nightwish/ex-After Forever/ex-ReVamp as ‘The Biologist’ Will Shaw – Heir Apparent’ Wilmer Waarbroek, Jan Willem Ketelaars, and Lisette van den Berg – Scarlet Stories as ‘The Ship’s Crew’ , Zaher Zorgati – Myrath as ‘The Preacher’.
To really understand Ayreon’s The Source one should listen to The Final Experiment 1994, Into The Electric Castle 1998 , The Universal Migrator Parts 1&2 and 01011001 2008, as the story line arcs across all those past Ayreon albums. The main emphasis mainly being on 01011001 in 2008. Much like in the Star Wars Series where Episodes 4 A NEW HOPE, 5 THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK & 6 RETURN OF THE JEDI , were all released before their respective prequels EPISODE I THE PHANTOM MENACE, STAR WARS: EPISODE II ATTACK OF THE CLONES and STAR WARS: EPISODE III REVENGE OF THE SITHso were Ayreon’s The Final Experiment 1994, Into The Electric Castle 1998 , The Universal Migrator Parts 1&2 and 01011001 2008 were all released before Ayreon’s The Source as it is a prequel of the story of the people of ‘Forever’ Planet Yand how the story was before the events of 01011001 took place.
The story Through technological advancement, ‘Forever’, a race of aquatic beings living on Planet Y, has found the secret of longevity. They have advanced to the point that they have become completely dependent on machines and are losing their emotions. A passing comet on a collision course with Planet Earth provides the opportunity to revitalize their race; ‘Forever’ harness the comet to carry their DNA to a new home on Earth. When the comet and Earth collide, the cataclysmic impact exterminates the dinosaurs (the Fifth Extinction), but from the ashes of destruction, humans arise. At first, the experiment with seeded DNA seems successful: through the humans ‘Forever’ vicariously relive the emotions they experienced before the age of machines. In order to help mankind overcome their physical ailments and mental limitations, ‘Forever’ speeds up human evolution. But the result is tragic: people develop a similar technological dependency with their emotions waning just like ‘Forever’ and moral development not keeping pace with their capacity to invent. ‘Forever’ must find a way to save mankind from its imminent self-destruction… or should they?
With Ayreon’s The Source you find some familiar faces that have already participated on previous Ayreon albums such as Ed Warby – Drums, who is basically another band member as much as its creator Arjen Lucassen himself. You also have some Ayreon Alumnireturning James LaBrie – Dream Theater as ‘The Historian’, Tommy Karevik – Kamelot/Seventh Wonder as ‘The Opposition Leader, Hansi Kürsch – Blind Guardian – As ‘The Astronomer’ ,Mike Mills – Toehider as ‘TH-1‘ Russell Allen – Symphony X as ‘The President’, Floor Jansen – Nightwish/ex-After Forever/ex-ReVamp as ‘The Biologist’, Simone Simons – Epica as ‘The Counselor’, and Wilmer Waarbroek – Guide Vocalist for Ayreon’s The Theory Of Everything 2013 and part of ‘Ships Crew’ on The Source.
The new talent added to the ever growing Ayreon franchise roster are Tommy Rogers – Between the Buried and Me as ‘The Chemist’ , Nils K. Rue – Pagan’s Mind as ‘The Prophet’ ,Tobias Sammet – Edguy/Avantasia as ‘The Captain’, Michael Eriksen – Circus Maximus as ‘The Diplomat’, Will Shaw – Heir Apparent’, Jan Willem Ketelaars, and Lisette van den Berg – Scarlet Stories as ‘The Ship’s Crew’ , Zaher Zorgati – Myrath as ‘The Preacher’. Some of the newer instrumentalists Arjen Lucassen recruit for The Source are as follows, Paul Gilbert – RacerX/Mr. Big – Guitars, Mark Kelly -Marillion – Synthesizer Solo, Maaike Peterse – Kingfisher Sky – Cello, and Guthrie Govan – The Aristocrats/ ex-Asia – Guitar Solo.
Arjen Lucassen really has a very esteemed business model and a reputation of such prominence where he can invite people back to Ayreon while bringing newer talent aboard with every Ayreon album. This is a true testament of the extraordinary character and distinguished personal and professional reputation Arjen Lucassen has built for himself over 30 years in the business. With all the talent Arjen Lucassen is able to recruit the economy of such a business model is uncanny. Arjen Lucassen practically and unintentionally has been able to introduce the world to bands they may or may not of heard of due to some talent that appears on a Ayreon project. I am one of them people that was introduced to bands or newer bands through my purchase of a Ayreon album alone.
With Ayreon The Source the listener not only gets a true prequel to prior Ayreon story lines you also have a story that even those new to the Progressive Rock/Metal concept album and Progressive Rock/Metal Opera can easily follow with the booklet provided. Like his last Ayreon album The Theory Of Everything where there were four parts broken up into 20+ minute segments, The Source is broke up in very similar fashion. This time he has broken the album into Four Chronicles, Chronicle 1: The ‘Frame’, Chronicle 2: The Aligning of the Ten, Chronicle 3: The Transmigration and Chronicle 4: The Rebirth. This really sets up a very fluid and easy to comprehend and envision the story like a motion picture movie on the screen in the theater of the mind of the listener. Ayreon’s The Source clocks in at almost 90 minutes. It will require a small bit of time to really enjoy it. If possible I totally suggest using the lyrics within the booklet provided on all its release formats, versions or options whatever you buy. Now a little track by track analysis of Ayreon’s The Source.
Track listing/ Album Anatomy
Chronicle 1: The ‘Frame’ – 22:22
1. ‘The Day That the World Breaks Down”
James LaBrie, Tommy Karevik, Tommy Rogers, Simone Simons, Nils K. Rue, Tobias Sammet, Hansi Kürsch, Mike Mills,
In his signature sound Arjen Lucassen quickly creates that distinctive and unique sound that separates him from others who do rock/metal opera concept albums. Within that filter he creates a very sense of urgency with the atmosphere he is creating for the listener and his characters within the production. It appears darkness has enveloped the population of the ‘Forever’people. In a very warmth voice James Labrie – Dream Theater- As ‘The Historian’ in a very quiet yet polite way sets up a heavy layered dark atmosphere. Soon after the track takes a very heavy guitar driven up tempo chord progression and Tommy Karevik – Kamelot – As ‘The Opposition Leader’ comes in with what appears as a scathing and scolding indictment towards his fellow people of ‘Forever’.
Arjen then changes the chord progressions and time signatures instrumentally to where they will be in perfect harmony with the concern and worry of Tommy Giles Rogers – Between The Buried And Me – As ‘The Chemist’ and Simone Simons – Epica -As ‘The Counselor‘ as they start to reconcile with their plight and current circumstances. Now the people of ‘Forever’ must prepare for a new home planet where they can preserve their way of life civilly,economically religiously and human life itself. Nils K. Rue – Pagan’s Mind as ‘The Prophet’ ,Tobias Sammet – Edguy/Avantasia as ‘The Captain’, each provide confirmation as well as insight. The music is in perfect harmony with the emotions of every character involved. Tobias Sammet – Edguy/Avantasia as ‘The Captain’ , Hansi Kürsch – Blind Guardian as ‘The Astronomer’ ,Mike Mills – Toehider as ‘TH-1’ all begin work on the how to solve the impending apocalypse to come. As the science community of ‘The Captain’, ‘The Chemist’ , ‘The Astronomer’,and Floor Jansen – Nightwish/ex-After Forever/ex-ReVamp as ‘The Biologist’ start work on the exit strategy to leave their current world before disaster strikes, Russell Allen – Symphony X as ‘The President’ and Michael Eriksen – Circus Maximus as ‘The Diplomat’ have a talk. ‘The President’now consumed in guilt over the impending crisis begins to real beat himself up. ‘The Diplomat’ steps in to try to both calm ‘The President’down from his guilt and appeal to his humanity. Instrumentally during this time Arjen has almost a bluesy, psychedelic atmosphere he has planted in the background of the dialogue between ‘The President’and ‘The Diplomat’. This bluesy psychedelic atmosphere is very much like Amazing Flight from Into The Electric Castle in 1998.
This opens up in a heavily folk laden intro. Soon it takes a very folk ethereal turn where ‘The Chemist’enters in and in the traditional Ayreon mold gets the double vocal harmony treatment. This makes the opening passage fuller and warmer. ‘The Diplomat’ – Eriksenstarts to experience many issues around him. His vocal is very warm and extremely articulate in harmony with the instrumental portion which has heavy elements of the flute. ‘The Prophet’ – Ruekeeps having visions and with a very gentle yet high range continues to forewarn the people of what he is seeing. These visions are very similar to those that Ayreon, the blind minstrel, was finally able to see back in the 6th century on Ayreon’s The Final Experiment back in 1995, that was also broken into 4 Act’s as well.
Act I The receiver of the telepathic messages is Ayreon, a blind minstrel living in 6th century Britain. He’s lived his life in darkness from the day he was born, but one fateful day everything changes — Ayreon can see images. The minstrel believes these visions are sent to him by the Lords of Time. Unaware of how much time there is left before earth is destroyed Ayreon sets out to tell the tale of earth’s demise singing songs of wars, natural disaster, and computer technology. The terrifying tales frighten the villagers who run him out of town.
Much of this track has elements of Ayreon’s The Human Equation/The Theory Of Everything and 01011001 meaning their are some slower melodic mellow areas that build towards heavier more powerful melodic harmonies. Arjen is really good at dropping the tone instrumentally and allowing his guest vocalists breathe and give their own life and character to the very character they are portraying on every track. This track is both a perfect example of that and perfect example of allowing the vocalist to breathe and relationship building with his guest vocalists and musicians. There are many more examples of this to come on the album.
This track concludes Chronicle 1 ‘The Frame’. This part of the story takes on a more power progressive metal sound with the faster up tempo of power blended with the progressive intricate chord progression and time changes. ‘TH 1’ the computer mainframe or artificial intelligence begins to really accurately analyze and convey just how horrible the situation really is for the people of ‘Forever’. Soon the people of ‘Forever’ come to terms and begin to accept the situation and working towards the solution of survival , yet some start to cynically express their utter doubt such as ‘The Opposition Leader’and ‘The Chemist’. ‘The President’even becomes cynical. In this track you can really notice that Arjen Lucassen had Tommy Rogers – Bewtween The Buried And Me as ‘The Chemist’ in mind. Arjen wrote that character to express rage and utter anger and Tommy Rogers supplied the guttural growls to provide for that anger and emotion in ‘The Chemist’. However through all the cynical anger, rage, and fear ‘The Diplomat’ still attempt to try and reason with the people. There is a bit more keyboard passages on a otherwise very heavy and guitar driven Ayreon album. A heavy album that still stays on point with clean and melodic harmonies.
Now for those who are lifetime Ayreon fans and followers you are probably asking yourself where is the typical unknown talent that Arjen recruits? The talent that never gets a chance. Some of you expected a vocalist or perhaps a musician. I believe Arjen went a entirely different route. He gave a video making the honour and privilege to create and edit a lyric video for Star of Sirrah here. Wayne Joyner of Atlanta, Georgia USA created a fantastic video for this track. He in fact is Art Director for Prog/Power USA. Therefore for this reason I have decided to withhold my typical commentary on the track and allow this ‘Unknown Talent’to shine through the video he made for this Ayreon song.
Starts out as a very psychedelic folk track. It is also a symphonic metal dream come true with Simone Simons and Floor Jansen in perfect harmony for the first time on Ayreon. This track picks up some heaviness towards the 2:00 mark. It then drops and another beautiful duet between Simons and Jansen appears again. The various progressive changes in the guitar solos allow the listener to stay on point with the concept.
This particular track really starts off with a blistering opening passage inside the instrumental portion. The instrumental is written and done in such away that it thoroughly give the song a serious sense of urgency. The people of ‘Forever;’ are in a panic at this point. The sense of urgency created in the instrumental is certainly magnified 8 fold with the 8 vocalists on this particular track. Panic, sense of urgency, state of emergency are all eloquently articulated in every vocalist and character they are portraying. This is definitely one of the quicker tracks on The Source. There are a few breaks were it drops but those are not long at all. The fast pace of this track can be equated to The Universal Migrator – Part 2 Flight Of The Migrator where it was the heavier half and Part 1 The Dream Sequencer was the more experimental folky and atmospheric half.
7. “Condemned to Live”
LaBrie, Rogers, Eriksen, Simons, Karevik, Jansen
Slowly starts out with a deep well executed rhythm section that keeps building layers upon layers with various keyboards, deep rhythm section of a semi acoustic guitar will a electric guitar in time and on point in harmony. The vocals are full of warmth that convey fear, disbelief and guilt. The track builds and builds where it eventually has heavy explosions of guitar stringed sections meshed in harmony with rhythm section. The vocals are more ethereal at this point and Arjen Lucassen remains on point with his unique Ayreon cinematic signature sound. This is the last track on CD 1/Side B if you buy the vinyl ,that appropriately closes out the first half of the journey through The Source.
Starts off as a isolated vocal harmony almost A Capella. Soon a deep rhythm section takes the track in a very groove laden direction. There is a dynamic exchange between both ‘The Historian’ and ‘The Captain’will the underlying rhythm section. Then ‘The Opposition Leader’ begins his rhetoric over again with a very drum laden background beat. This is also at the point both instrumentally and lyrically were the people of ‘Forever’begin their epic odyssey to their new home planet. It is at this time lyrically that the people of ‘Forever’ begin to reconcile they will need a change of habits.This narrative continues with a harmonic dialogue between ‘The Biologist’and ‘The Astronomer’. The instrumental portion of this track hold the lyric narrative very accountable emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This is also the first time we hear ‘The Ships Crew’ mini choir of Will Shaw – Heir Apparent’ Wilmer Waarbroek, Jan Willem Ketelaars, and Lisette van den Berg – Scarlet Stories.
2.”The Dream Dissolves”
Simons, Jansen, Eriksen, Rue
Starts out with a synth sound effect created by Arjen himself. He like playing with various synth effects on all his work. Soon the violin comes in with the synth sound effects and the drums. It all creates a really psychedelic atmosphere. There is something of real depth and beauty about the feminine emotion Simone Simons – ‘The Counselor and Floor Jansen – ‘The Biologist’ that really speaks to the soul and heart and the story really takes a very emotional turn here. The track gets heavier with a thick rhythm section before going back to the smooth atmospheric keyboard passage. The track picks up and displays very deep rhythm tones. Mike Eriksen – ‘The Diplomat’ and Nils K Rue – ‘The Prophet’ bring a masculine emotion to balance the track. The guitar solo here is insanely atmospheric in nature.
This explodes out of the gate with a powerful and heavy flute that is soon joined with a powerful bass/drum/rhythm guitar rhythmic section. All these melodic forces at once are a immediate wall of sound of sheer heaviness. Soon the track drops to a acoustic chord progression where ‘The President’ address the people of ‘Forever’.Russell Allen has always been a great vocalist of character and emotion throughout his times of participation on Ayreon and this is another confirmation of that. Soon the people of ‘Forever’ begin to enter the vicinity of their new planetary home. The instrumental portions take on a very cosmic space metal element familiar with the Ayreon franchise. The dialogue takes on a cooperative narrative. This is also the first appearance of Zaher Zorgati – Myrath – As ‘The Preacher’. I really liked the way Arjen allowed Zaher Zorgati to sing in his native Arabic, it added another layer of depth and brought something new to the Ayreon franchise. Both Simone Simons and Floor Jansen execute their respective soprano qualities on here as well.
4.”Into the Ocean”
Allen, Mills, Eriksen, Kürsch, Sammet, Karevik, Rue
This comes in very smoothly from Deathcry of a Race with a heavy metal bluesy style much like a Deep Purple Mark 2 sound especially Space Truckin’. The Hammond style keyboard and deep rhythm section are a match made perfectly for all the vocalists involved. For vocalists such as Russell Allen and Mike Mills. The very instrumental sound also allows the listener to see Mike Eriksen, Hansi Kursch, Tobias Sammet, Tommy Karevik and Nils K Rue on a another melodic dimension that they would not otherwise hear in their respective bands Circus Maximus, Blind Guardian, Avantasia/Edguy, Kamelot or Pagan’s Mind. Arjen Lucassen seriously channels Ritchie Blackmore on many levels here. The Hammond Organ in the spirit of the late great Jon Lord, is the unsung hero on a instrumental level.
Chronicle 4: The Rebirth – 21:53
5.”Bay of Dreams”
LaBrie, Rogers, Mills, Eriksen, Rue
Starts out with a very electronica element much like Arjen Lucassen executed on Ayreon’s Actual Fantasy album in 1996. They keyboard atmospheres blend gracefully with the warm vocals of James Labrie and Tommy Roger’sdouble tracked vocals. The people of ‘Forever’ make their final descent to their new Liquid Home. The track soon picks up on the heaviness and we hear Mike Mills, Mike Eriksen and Nils K Rue all in their respective vocal elements.
6.”Planet Y is Alive!”
Karevik, Allen, Kürsch, Mills, Sammet, Jansen
This starts out with a very heavy lush Hammond atmospheric synth with a perfectly complimentary rhythm section to match it. This is very heavy on the drums and this is where the utter depth of Ed Wabry comes into play. The People of ‘Forever’ begin to really take inventory of their new home on Planet Y. They begin to explore what they can use or can not use to sustain life on their new home. Hansi Kursch’s emotional proclamations really shine on this track. The isolated guitar solo is a thing of beauty and really adds another atmospheric payer to the song and album in general. The calm and additionally heavy atmosphere’s both respectfully allow ‘The Capatain’ – Tobias Sammet and ‘The Biologist’ – Floor Jansen to breathe and articulate to the listener their view of the new world.
7. “The Source Will Flow”
Rogers, LaBrie, Simons
Starts off with a very oceanic liquid effect along with graceful keyboards passage. Tommy Roger’s – ‘The Chemist’ has some really warm clean vocals that set up ‘The Historian’ – James Labrie with grace. The beautiful vocals of ‘The Counselor’ – Simone Simons really are spot on with the main narrative.
8. “Journey to Forever”
Sammet, Eriksen, Kürsch
In the very elegant A Capella style ‘The Ships Crew’Will Shaw – Heir Apparent’ Wilmer Waarbroek, Jan Willem Ketelaars, and Lisette van den Berg – Scarlet Stories really set the table for the melodic and harmonious feast to follow. ‘The Ships Crew’ also show a beautiful sign of optimism towards their new home Planet Y. Soon a lush acoustic guitar comes in and the cooperative dialogue between the ‘The Captain’ and ‘The Diplomat’ really display for the first time in a while a spirit of union, a spirit of community and affirmation.
The second to the last track has a very profound signature present on all Ayreon albums. This signature being a multi vocalist epilogue or finish. It is a way to both display all the vocalists again and like a Rock Opera on a stage serves as the ‘Curtain Call’ and ‘Final Bow’ to ‘The Audience’ You .
10. “March of the Machines”
Much in the tradition of The Final Experiment, Actual Fanatasy, Into The Electric Castle, The Universal Migrator, The Human Equation and 0101101,Arjen Lucassen utilizes ‘TH 1’– Mike Mills to a very futuristic finish to the journey that is Ayreon’s The Source.
There is no doubt whatsoever that for the last 25 years Arjen Lucassen has been the ‘Undisputed King’ of the Rock/Metal Opera.Arjen Lucassen is the modern day George Lucas/Isaac Asimov/Carl Sagan/Stanley Kubrick/ meets Bach/Beethoven/Pete Townsend and Ritchie Blackmore set to music, melody, vision and imagination. Ayreon’s The Source is also one of the most tangible conceptual rock/metal albums in the last 25 years. Whether you are a lifetime fan of Ayreon or a newer fan of Ayreon, The Source is a excellent introduction to the newer listener and a solid validation to the lifetime fan. I give this a 6/5 stars and it is easily the front-runner/contender for my Album of The Year 2017 list.
Band Members Hans Jorg Schmitz – Creator/Percussion/Keyboards/Guitars/Bass Dago Wilms – Guitar/Bass Gary Farmer – Rickenbacker Bass Steve Unruh – Flute/Violin Pantelis Petrakakis – Bass Andrew Marshall – Spanish Guitar Phillip Schmitz – Keyboards/Piano/Voice Peter Simon – Woodwinds Erik Vaxjo – Mellotron Chip Gremillion – Keyboard Scott Taylor – Ulliann Pipe Kathrin Daniel – Voice Viktoria Papen – Voice
King Of Agogik Morning Star is inspired by the poetry of Christian Morgenstern.
Tracklisting Veils Open… ..To The Place Of Origin Mother Of Depth The Art Of Make~Up Suprema Lex Ignes Fatui A Visit To The Mouse Barber The End Of Dithyramb Curtain Call
Definition of concept something conceived in the mind : thought, notion an abstract or generic idea generalized from particular instances the basic concepts of psychology the concept of gravity
Throughout its 45+ years, it seems that progressive rock and metal have given birth to some of if not the absolute best concept albums or conceptual albums. The part of the world you live in bring both of those titles to a ever growing and never-ending sub genre within our class of music. Some believe you have to have a concept album loaded up with all lyrical content as to follow the main story or objective of a concept album. I said this before here at Power of Prog and will say it again. Although I still have a love for concept albums loaded up with lyrical content I also love conceptual albums where the majority of the content is instrumental.
Now in April 2017 I have the honour to review King Of Agogik’s Morning Star by German drum virtuoso Hans Jorg Schmitz. King Of Agogik was a special experimental project that Hans Jorg Schmitz set out to create and develop in 2006. Morning Star is the sixth album in this melodic franchise. Morning Star is inspired by the poetry of Christian Morgenstern. Who is Christian Morgenstern you ask?
Christian Otto Josef Wolfgang Morgenstern (6 May 1871 – 31 March 1914) was a German author and poet from Munich. Morgenstern married Margareta Gosebruch von Liechtenstern on 7 March 1910. He worked for a while as a journalist in Berlin, but spent much of his life traveling through Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, primarily in a vain attempt to recover his health. His travels, though they failed to restore him to health, allowed him to meet many of the foremost literary and philosophical figures of his time in central Europe. Morgenstern’s poetry, much of which was inspired by English literary nonsense, is immensely popular, even though he enjoyed very little success during his lifetime. He made fun of scholasticism, e.g. literary criticism in “Drei Hasen”, grammar in “Der Werwolf”, narrow-mindedness in “Der Gaul”, and symbolism in “Der Wasseresel”. In “Scholastikerprobleme” he discussed how many angels could sit on a needle. Still many Germans know some of his poems and quotations by heart, e.g. the following line from “The Impossible Fact” (“Die unmögliche Tatsache”, 1910)
This may have been created by a drummer but make no mistake this is a very profound melodic artistic expression. The album ranges from classic neo progressive elements, heavily melodic chants, heavy melodic instrumental metal and thought provoking spoken word portions with some social commentary. Therefore there is a wide spectrum of elements within the progressive rock and metal standards. This is also one of those albums that will require both a open mind and a few spins to pick up on the main objective to the concept. I would like to explore and point out some highlights from King Of Agogik’s Morning Star on a track by track analysis.
Peter Simon – Oboe , Phillip Schmitz – Piano/Keyboards , Hans Jorg Schmitz – Drums/Keyboards/Guitar
This opens up with a very heavy keyboard progression that sets up the first of many atmospheric elements on the album.From there a sound effect of a phone rings and you hear a dialogue between two men. Soon after that the drums come in and make a abstract construct through what sounds like a regressive filter with a spoken word element blended right into it. The track bleeds seamlessly into the next song The Unavoidable Wayfare …
The Unavoidable Wayfare …
Hans Jorg Schmitz – Drums/Keyboards/Guitar’s , Dago Wilms – Ryhthm & Solo Guitar , Gary Farmer – Rickenbacker , Steve Unruh – Flute & Violin , Peter Simon – Woodwinds , Phillip Schmitz – Piano , Erik Vaxjo -Melltron , Viktoria Papen – Voice, Chip Gremillion – Keyboard
This transitions seamlessly off Veils Open. It opens up with a beautiful atmospheric effect done on keyboards and quickly goes into a beautifully unorthodox Arabic Scale done with well disciplined woodwind instrument that soon explodes into a Neo Progressive harmony between the drums, keyboards and a neo progressive guitar. The heavy new progressive instrumental harmony has a slight progressive metal element to it. The track soon drops where the Arabic Scale starts taking the track in and out of odd time signatures and chord progressive passages. The drums are more in time with the Arabic Scale that seems to be the dominating factor throught the track. It also takes on a heavily Mellotron induced melody that allows the track to maintain its unique quality. Each and every turn and layer upon layer chord progression and time signature is building towards what I believe to be the second part of a multi tracked 24:34 minute track followed by the following track , …To The Place Of Origin. Parts of the next half of this track remind me a lot of 1980’s Neo Progressive elements of a Jan Hammer meets Shamallwith a lot of intricate keyboard progressions in harmony with the insane clinic Hans Jorg Schmitz seems to be putting on. The helicopter effects are something very unorthodox where they fit nicely into a surround sound system. This ends with some insane intricate changes between the drums and keyboards.
…….To The Place Of Origin
Hans Jorg Schmitz – Drums/Keyboards/Guitar’s , Dago Wilms – Ryhthm & Solo Guitar , Gary Farmer – Rickenbacker , Steve Unruh – Flute & Violin , Peter Simon – Woodwinds , Phillip Schmitz – Piano , Erik Vaxjo -Melltron , Viktoria Papen – Voice
Again in appropriate concept fashion this track bleeds seamlessly off of the previous track The Unavoidable Wayfare …… It transitions so smoothly that it gives the listener the true audio illusion that it is the second part of a multi tracked 20+ minute epic. It begins with a beautifully orchestrated acoustic guitar in harmony with the flute and violin. This sets up for a more folk style atmosphere in the vein of more of Jethro Tull meets Camel meets Big Big Train. The violin eloquently done reminds me a lot of Robby Steinhardt of Kansas, especially dust in the wind. The guitar builds layers upon layers to meet in harmony with the rhythm section. The neo progressive folk progression allows the listener time to breathe and begin to absorb the album more on a soulful level. It is one of the more symphonic and orchestral laden tracks on the album providing depths of even classical music. The middle section is is a real roller coaster of emotion with the various time changes and those Arabic Scale instrumental reprisals to remind you you of the conceptual spine of the album. The drum and rhythm section continues its beautifully intricate exchanges of various chord progressions and time signatures and synth atmospheres. This track finishes with a elegant female spoken word telling a story over the drum beats in harmonic balance.
Mother Of Depth
Phillip Schmitz – Fender Rhodes, Hans Jorg Schmitz – Keyboards and Carillion
This begins with a gracefully done harmony of various keyboard and Carillon harmonies forming a deep toned atmosphere. The atmosphere created is quite dark in nature however serves as a bridge track Navde.
Kathrin Daniel – Voice , Hans Jorg Schmitz – All Instruments
This track keeps on point with the more darker and deeper atmospheres on the album. There is a very articulate spoken word section in both German of a poetic nature. The instrumental atmosphere is quite psychedelic in nature.
The Art Of Make~Up
Hans Jorg Schmitz – Drums
This is a perfect storm of epic drum proportions. The symphony of hi hats blending with snares and eloquently in harmony with cymbals is a dream for listeners who really love drums and tight rhythm sections. Playing sometimes in odd time signatures there is a little blend for the most objective mind and progressive purist at once.
Hans Jorg Schmitz – Drums, Dago Whilms – Guitar & Bass , Peter Simon – Oboe
This begins with various effects as if the listener has been transported to a war zone. This is a all out audio assault on the senses. With deep rhythm sections and dark and heavy handed neo progressive metal elements with police sirens effects, this is certainly a track that will get the attention of the listener for sure. It includes parts of Winston Churchill’s infamous speech following the all out assault of Nazi Germany during the start of World War 2. From there it runs a series of spoken word segments over some good solid progressive hard rock. Fragments of spoken word nature of President John F Kennedy and various other world leaders throughout history are very upfront and present with a vast amount of social commentary. The instrumental atmosphere remains very very aggressive towards the finish line of the track.
Dago Whilms – Guitars , Scott Taylor – Keyboards/Bass/Guitar
Begins as a very folk driven acoustic ballad. One that may come out of the regions of say Scotland or Ireland as it steadily takes on heavy layers of Celtic elements. The guitar and Celtic elements remind me very heavily of Dave Bainbridge and IONA or even Mostly Autumn.
A Visit To The Mouse Barber
Pantelis Petrakakis – Bass , Hans Jorg Schmitz – Drums
Opens up with a heavily funk driven bass chord progression in harmony with various percussive cymbals giving the track very unorthodox and fresh sounds. The drums and bass take on a far more melodic narrative here. Even more so than a percussive narrative. This is another track that is a rhythm section lovers dream come true.
The End Of Dithyramb
Gary Farmer – Bass , Dago Whilms – Guitars, Peter Simon – Woodwinds, Steve Ubruh – Fute & Violin, Andrew Marshall – Spanish Guitar, Hans Jorg Schmitz – Drums/Keyboards/Guitars
This begins with a healthy rich Spanish/Latin chord progression along with various percussive elements to present this 20+ minuteepic. Once again Hans Jorg Schmitz has a very intricate understanding of layering various time signatures and effects on a composition. Soon the violin takes it into more of a traditional classical atmosphere. The violin even at times allows some Far East Orient elements loose. Soon the piano, drums, bass, and guitars take the listener on a unorthodox and unpredictable journey of sonic excellence. It is as if Santana and Yes got together to develop a Latin Progressive Rock composition with a slight flavour of Jethro Tull with the presence of the flute. This track is like a perfect balance and blend of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung meets Yes Tales Of Topographic Oceans meets Santana – I, II, & III.
This track is also like Bach or Beethoven on drums writing one of their classic symphony scores. This takes on qualities of traditional progressive rock with some heavy Celtic and World influence to even some cosmic elements from a RUSH 2112 meets Tangerine Dream’s – Zeit 1972. All the instruments are very clearly heard both on their own accord and in the collective harmony of things. Hans Jorg Schmitz has written this very complementary so his guest musicians can really be heard. That is a tougher task than many think it is. It also takes a humble and gracious soul to do that for guest musicians. The breathing space each of his guest has on this track is just a remarkable feat.
The last five minutes of the track is much like a straight away, 1970’s era classic rock acoustic track in the vein of Blind Faith’s Can’t Find My Way Home, however in a instrumental fashion. Soon the sweet rhythm sections and atmospheres that have been the standard for Morning Star start to really bring it home for the listener. The elements in their collective really come together to perfectly compliment the last and final track Curtain Call.
Dago Whilms – Guitar, Phillip Scmitz – Piano/Keyboards, Hans Jorg Schmitz -Drums/Keyboards/Guitar
Is very appropriately named for the last and final track on Morning Star. The journey is about over however not until it is ended properly. It is a full reprisal track that ends much like it began back in the first track Veils Open. The same narrative is pumped through a more abstract filter with a much more melodic atmosphere serving as the backbone. It ends in a very ‘Pink Floydian’matter with the guitars. You can hear many of the elements in this short track that you heard through the entire journey of the album.
King Of Agogik is some of the very best instrumental work that I have heard since great instrumental albums as Ayreon’s Actual Fantasy, Liquid Tension Experiment 1 & 2, Gordion Knot 1 &2 and even the two from Melodic Revolution Records I featured last year, Leon Alvarado The Future Left Behind and Darrel Treece Birch No More Time . King Of Agogik is very groundbreaking with every release. It is a perfect album for those interested in a quality instrumental progressive rock album and it will also suffice the progressive purist at the same time. This is on my list already as a contender for Instrumental Album of 2017 at least. I do hope to see some more social media presence on this franchise. It is worth the time to invest social media presence such as Facebook or Twitter. Credit goes to Chip Gremillion who shared a few copies with me making this review possible. I am giving this a strong 5/5.
Throughout the history of most human existence we have striven for a peaceful world a utopia, a paradise. To achieve this goal some have turned to organised religion, others have turned to education and higher learning while others just have no belief at all and turn to vice’s or various other activities. Let’s say for a moment that the human experience believes it has already reached its maximum Utopian society where you did not have to worry about offending other people, there were no wars, plagues, famines, etc . What if we were not even allowed to feel emotion, love, anger, forgiveness, rage under this utopia. One would assume all world issues were solved.
Now what would happen if one day a young man suddenly had a raging headache or felt something snap inside his body that would begin a downward spiral? The Utopian filter he used to see a paradise is now collapsing into a nightmare Dystonia society. Buildings decay, economies fall all around the world, lust enters the heart and suffocates and confuses true love. This entire downward spiral all began when a implanted micro chip malfunctioned within this young man. This is the world that Irish guitar genius Graham Keane has created with his monumental debut The Vicious Head Society Abject Tomorrow.
After a personal struggle and turmoil in his own life Graham Keane began to question everything much like the character in the story after the implant failed. It also served as a motivator to start work on Abject Tomorrow. Graham was not by himself and enlisted some of the very best musicians in the world to meet his goal with the album. Musicians enlisted are Derek Sherinian – Alice Cooper/Yngwie Malmsteen/Dream Theater, Kevin Talley – Dying Fetus/ Misery Index/Chimaira/Six Feet Under, Wilmer Waarbroek – Ayreon and Pat Byrne – Hedfuzy. With all that talent and Graham Keane’s vision The Vicious Head Society’s Abject Tomorrow has a lot of depth and substance that most debut concept albums lack. There is a little bit of everything on Abject Tomorrow from traditional high range progressive metal, to the more modern elements with the use of death growls and djent elements. I will point that out along the way with some highlights from every track with a track by track analysis.
The Sycophants begins with a very beautiful Hammond organ style synth passage that serves both as a melodic and percussive instrument. This creates for a haunting eerie atmosphere before the guitars come in with intricate chord progressions and various time signatures. This works very well as part of the overall introduction of the album. The vocals and rhythm sections come in and really anchor the listener into the composition and album rather quickly. There is a lot going on in the first 2:50 minutes to apprehend the listener’s attention. The instrumental portion compliments the emotion of the lyrical content and story quite well. About the 4:50 mark the bass takes a wicked percussive chord progression that is magnified by the keyboard atmospheres and time signature changes that are much like Haken and Dream Theater. The rest of the track is a roller coaster in and out with time signature changes.
Abject Tomorrow transitions with ease off the previous track The Sycophants. This track opens up with a very blistering, yet thunderous display of profound rhythm sections both in the areas of the bass and drum and even the guitar. The opening is straight up textbook progressive metal at its finest. The keyboard provides a very eerie atmosphere in the back by which the thunderous rhythmic time signatures and interchanges. The vocals come in very dark brooding matter. The vocals are partially a very wicked spoken word section that is soon met with a cleaner high end vocal to match match the instrumental narrative before the track gets out right brutal.
The track takes a very tuned down instrumental approach with a tuned down guitar and the bass working both as a melodic and instrumental tool. This bleak heaviness is met much like earlier Opeth and Katatonia with the death growls at the 3:00 mark. The heavier more progressive death metal element within the song really conveys anger and rage both on a lyrical and instrument front. The death growl’s help to convey the fear and anger the character is now waking up to. It is much like a scathing indictment on the Dystopian society with the death growls carrying some of the lyrical narrative. The rest of the track takes a very heavy melodic directive. The death growls even become more of a instrument towards the close of this track.
Downfall (Voice In The Sky) opens up with lush ethereal keyboard layers that continue to build along with the electric guitar solo at the onset. Soon the rhythm section of drums and bass come in to help anchor the track and eventually set the song and story narrative up. The heavy rhythm sections really work well in harmony with the stringed and keyboard progressions before the track drops and all we here is a bass and isolated vocal take the story into another passage. The track takes on a very unusual dynamic with a more neo progressive keyboard synth with some very brutal death metal vocals. It makes this portion of the track a more progressive melodic death metal passage for the time of the verse. The double tracked vocals add a very odd time signature and depth to this track as well. The song takes a break and the beautiful harmony of piano, bass and guitar and violin coming together helps bring the entire track to its climatic conclusion.
Agenda (I) Cryptograms (II) A Digital Self opens up with certain sound effects that transport the listener to a proverbial wasteland in the theater of the mind. Soon the track takes off with some serious deep tuned down rhythm chord progressions to give the track a level of brutality. The guitar is way tuned down. It is a six string guitar tuned down to sound like a seven string. The 5 string bass really gives the instrumental portion a really brutal depth that works in perfect harmony with the death metal growls. Then the track takes on a very odd yet appropriate unusual power metal melody. The melodic death metal elements run along in the vein of a Amon Amarth or even later Carcass. This track is a monstrous roller coaster of emotion between the cleaner more melodic parts in balanced harmony with the deep tuned down melodic death metal portions. The spoken word section continues to elaborate deeper into the conceptual plot of the story on this one. The guitar wide open guitar solo really allows the listener of track and the album to begin to absorb the album.
The 11th Hour starts out with a open keyboard chord progression along with a dark and bleak spoken word section. Then the track takes on a ultra melodic approach with high ranged harmonies. This is briefly interrupted in spots by further melodic death growls and dark spoken word elements. All of those elements allow for the illusion of multiple characters or perhaps personalities within the mind of the main character. It is as if the music is reflecting these multiple emotions within the character , characters or personalities.
Psychedelic Torture Trip is a very intelligent instrumental track. It allows for the listener who is really following the concept to absorb the story even further. It also allows for the listener that just likes innovative musical time signatures and chord progressions to devour the album from a melodic perspective. The keyboards are obviously the signature of the one and only Derek Sherinian with his fusion style blended in harmony with Graham Keanes guitar passages.
God’s Of The New Age opens up with a wall of fury between the thunderous drum and bass rhythm section. The rhythm guitar also comes into play to add a very deep tuned down rhythm chord progression. This also allows for the cleaner vocals to pop and really stand out on the track to carry all sums of the parts in perfect harmony. Soon the melodic death metal growls come in. The death metal portions are very easily understood for those with a objective mind and ear. The chord progressions off the guitar are really modern progressive metal much like a Haken meets Leprous meets Zero Hour.
Analogue Spectre: (I) Reflection (II) Thought Data Stream (III) The Passing (IV) Amaranthine (V) Ghost in the Machine (VI)is the 18+ minute epic and final track to close out this epic conceptual story. It begins with some heavy keyboard effects with a spoken word section that seems like artificial intelligence speaking to the listener. The keyboards are a more vintage 1970’s keyboards that are more Pink Floyd. The drums slowly come in and soon the guitar and the grand introduction begins. Yes this track is for those listeners with longer attention spans. The track soon drops into a smooth guitar and bass rhythm section with the vocal briefly isolated before the track really picks up and we hear multiple vocals all in harmony with the stringed passages.
There are multiple parts to this epic that all begin to tie both the track and the entire album together. To those that listen for the story and music you will be able to understand this more and more with every listen. Throughout the epic the time signatures and chord progressions go from traditional progressive metal to modern more recent djent style chord progressions. This is truly a very guitar driven track due to the length of the composition. About half way through there is a break where there are some beautiful keyboard passages in harmony with percussion cymbals. The guitar once again takes the track to another depth and dimension.
In music or any form of artistic expression we are only limited by our imagination. The human imagination can be used to transport others imaginations to areas unknown if we allow it. The Vicious Head Society’s Abject Tomorrow is a dynamic example of the true power the human imagination really has. The Vicious Head Society’s Abject Tomorrow is a science fiction show set to music. The Vicious Head Society’s Abject Tomorrow is also the best independent/unsigned progressive metal concept album and artistic expression I have heard in the last 10 years. If this is the debut I will enjoy the journey to follow this new franchise. I am giving The Vicious Head Society’s Abject Tomorrow a very strong 5/5.
Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible.
I think that prog rock is the science fiction of music. Science fiction speculates on what the future might be and look like and how we’ll get there, and yet there’s always a central theme of humanity, or there should be. Progressive rock has the same concept of exploration into the parts of the music world that hasn’t been explored.
Progressive rock and progressive metal have always provided the perfect tapestry for anyone ambitious band or artist to explore the subject of science fiction. The fact that there are very little boundaries or the typical mainstream musical parameters have allowed for a perfect union between progressive rock/metal and science fiction to create some of the most thought provoking stories ever written. Sometimes progressive rock/metal science fiction albums are actually written so well they have a uncanny ability to paint a full motion picture film on the screen inside the theater of the mind who listens to them. Aeolias The Architect does just that, explores the boundaries of science fiction through the further exploration of the art of progressive rock and metal. Aeolias are a independent unsigned new progressive metal/rock band out of Ireland. Here is a brief biography of the band to introduce them below:
AEOLIAS was born in the summer of 2012, originally under the name AEOLIAN, by guitarist Graham Doyle and bassist Emmet Standish after the disbanding of of their previous band THE MIGHTY OVERDRIVE. Deciding not to let this setback destroy what had been built, they decided to continue on and recruit new members. Since a lot of the music was their creation, they felt they were entitled to use it in this new incarnation of the band. However, they also felt that since half the members had left and the band was essentially broken and so AEOLIAN was born. Now with a band that could develop as a tight unit AEOLIAN was complete. A new musical direction with old songs rearranged, new songs realised and longer compositions written the future is now developing. The first new member to join the band was vocalist Siobhan. After hearing a demo recording of her singing, and being completely blown away by her vocal talents it was obvious that she was the right person for the job. With a strong vocal technique, keen sense of melody and with an ability to sing in a low register she could put a lot of male singers to shame. The next member to join the band was drummer Trey. A immense powerhouse, a drummer who sits right in the pocket, John Bonhams pocket. A drummer who has fused his two favourite drummers John Bonham and Nico McBrain into his own unique style. A drummer with a wealth of experience in other bands, including a stint with a Tool tribute band. Upon the first jam with Trey, it was evident that this was the guy who would complete the lineup. Now with a band that could develop as a tight unit AEOLIAN was complete. A new musical direction, old songs rearranged, new songs realised. Longer compositions written, the future is now developing. 2016 sees the band reduced to the trio of Siobhan, Graham and Emmet and finally releasing new material and also renaming (slightly) the band to AEOLIAS. ‘Providence’ was released online during the Summer of 2016. A pre-curser to the bands debut album “The Architect” which is now released as of the beginning of April 2017.
Aeolias’ The Architect proves once again just how intelligent progressive rock/metal is and can be . The title The Architectis very fitting for a young independent/unsigned band in the embryonic stages of building a career in this industry. The very fact that Aeolias are a independent/unsigned band allows for more breathing room to explore certain science fiction subjects along with various musical time signatures and chord progressions that may otherwise not see the light of day if the band were under label scrutiny. In my experience bands and artists do a majority of their best and most creative work when they are on that independent/unsigned plain. Now a few highlights and a break down track analysis on Aeolias’ The Architect.
Odysseus is a very appropriately named title for the first track. The lyrical subject matter follows very much after Homer’s The Odyssey. This is the start of a intergalactic space exploration on the lyrical side. On a instrumental side the track opens up much like a movie film score with a deep orchestrated keyboard synth in harmony with what appears to be a old world Gaelic style chant. The drums soon come in in harmony with the orchestration. Then the track takes on a more traditional progressive metal approach. With deep rhythmic atmospheres and a lower tenor on the vocals this gives the track the audio illusion that one is about to take a journey through space and time. Siobhan Filbey – Vocals has a very keen sense of utilizing her mezzo – soprano tenor quite well in harmony with the deep rhythm and stringed chord progressive atmospheres. It gives the listener the illusion that there are more than one vocalist on the album. The band also effectively and seamlessly bleeds Odysseus into the next track Redefining The Theory.
Redefining The Theory continues with spot on and seamless transitions. This transitions into a more ambient atmospheric track. The bass guitar really serves as the anchor both in melodic and percussive terms. The guitar stringed section soon comes in with the beautiful mezzo soprano vocals. This all combines with a uniquely and distinctive sound that is very different than what is in the progressive rock and metal communities today. The vocals play in perfect harmony with both the stringed and rhythm sections. Lyrically this track deals with very personal and internal issues that see the main character starting to look at his understanding of life differently than he once knew it. He therefore comes to a reasoning of his new understanding. The rest of this track melodically allows for the lyrical content to work like a metamorphosis. Much of the last half of this track takes on a soundtrack vibe about it. Plus the spoken word portions add depth to the track. Also in concept like fashion transitions seamlessly into the next part of the journey and track Ergosphere.
Ergosphere may in fact be the shortest track on the album at only 7:48 however there is still a lot going on here. It starts with a deep emotion both instrumentally and lyrically. In astrophysics a Ergosphere is the edge or point of no return up against a black hole. The band does a beautiful job rhythmically depicting the emotion one may feel as a human knowing they are headed into the said point of no return. There are a lot of rhythmic layers upon layers built on the backbone of bass and drums. The vocals stay on point and register with the instrumental portions. This track gets progressively and aggressively heavier the further into it the listener gets. It also is arranged perfectly to set up the last half of the album. Once again the band remains on conceptual point and seamlessly transitions this track to the following track Providence.
Providence transitions beautifully from where Ergosphere ended. It begins with a subtle yet atmospheric keyboard along with a very unique reggae like percussion passage executed perfectly by Emmet Standish , who basically a one man percussion machine . It is soon met with beautiful vocal chants done by Siobhan Filbey . The atmosphere the band creates at the start of this gives the listener a sense, a audio illusion of interstellar deep space travel on a instrumental level. The track gets increasingly heavier and more progressive the further into the track. The entire aesthetic is heavy throughout this. The vocals take various dimensions of beauty. The band certainly has a beautiful unique vocal signature unto themselves that separates them from other progressive bands of this era. Lyrically Providence does deal with some controversial subject as it relates to organised religion. The main character in the story starts to question the hypocrisy into organised religion and its direct or indirect results of those who follow it. The band has a uncanny ability to convey this heavy and brooding emotion of the character in harmony of both the lyrical and instrumental content within the track. The vocals take on a beautiful ambient quality again here.
Theorem once again easily transitions where Providence left off. Theorem is also the final track on the album that serves like a melodic summary of the album in its entirety. This one works over four parts to bring the entire experience of the album together. Those parts are The Architect, The Anarchist, The Analyst, and Aeviternity. The character fully has another understanding of life, a epiphany, something that has changed everything in his psyche. The band uses its full melodic talent to convey this understanding. The band with its rich ambient approach also maintains various chord progressions and time signatures allowing for the progressive rock and metal elements to speak for themselves. Theorem is a 26:47 epic as well. With much invested listening time and attention to detail the listener can even detect a few Easter Eggs or hidden gems within both the lyrical and instrumental portions that also really help tie the entire concept together as a collective.
Aeolias The Architect is a album that has surprised me already in a year that will see many concept albums. This is a very ambitious and lofty statement for a new independent/unsigned band to put together as a debut album. Aeolias continue the rich tradition and evolution into progressive rock/metal conceptual albums. This album is certainly the perfect album for those who love and live for progressive rock and metal concept albums. This album also joins classic progressive rock/metal albums with science fiction concepts or themes. Albums like Pink Floyd – The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn – 1972 ,Tangerine Dream – Zeit – 1972, Nektar – Journey To The Centre Of The Eye – 1971 ,Yes – Tales From Topographic Oceans – 1973 , RUSH – 2112 – 1976, Klaatu – 3:47 EST – 1976 , Ayreon – The Final Experiment 1994, Into The Electric Castle – 1998, The Universal Migrator 1&2 – 2000, 01011001 – 2008 and the upcoming The Source – 2017 , Star One – Space Metal – 2002 , Forgotten Suns – Innergy – 2009to name a few. Aeolias The Architect will one day be in the same conversation as those albums I just mentioned. For a independent/unsigned band that created a very intelligent thought provoking album on both instrumental and lyrical sides, I give Aeolias The Architect a 5/5.
Pennsylvania has been rich in history with strong working class values and ethics. It was certainly the birthplace of the first Continental Congress that declared America’s Independence from Britian, American Industrial Revolution, the Battle Of Gettysburg, and even football’s first real dynasty with the Pittsburgh Steelers. There has always seemed that there is a very relentless hard working independent spirit about that area in America. This has even trickled down to American Heavy Metal/Hard Rock. It certainly trickled down to the sister and brother duo and founders of MindMaze Sarah Teets and Jeff Teets.
In a time when female-fronted metal is at an all-time high in popularity but also at an all-time high for copycats and imitators, MindMaze has striven hard to forge their own sound and identity. Hailing from Allentown, Pennsylvania (United States) the band are young but have already released two successful full-length albums since formation at the beginning of 2012. In September 2015 the band was selected to go on tour as a direct support band for metal legends Saxon and Armored Saint on the heels of an independently booked and promoted tour with the Virginia-based progressive metal band Iris Divine. The band has traveled thousands of miles and performed all over the United States over the course of the past several years.
The band’s debut album Mask of Lies has been hailed by fans and critics all over the world as an outstanding piece of independent metal that is refreshing while being firmly rooted in many classic metal mainstays. With no label support, management, or outside hired promotion, the band managed to sell copies of Mask of Lies to fans in 34 of 50 United States and a total of 17 countries worldwide, selling 100% of the album’s first pressing in the first 12 months of its release.
On the heels of Mask of Lies’ success, the band released their sophomore effort Back from the Edge (2014), on October 24th, 2014 in Europe and October 28th, 2014 in USA/Canada via Inner Wound Recordings, featuring artwork by MONOWASP (Seventh Wonder, Harem Scarem, Brazen Abbot, Crash Diet, many more), Symphony X bassist Mike LePond on all tracks, and guest appearances by members of Stratovarius, Pharaoh, LORD, and Draekon. 2015 saw the band release a fan-funded EP in support of their single “Dreamwalker” which featured a selection of cover songs, acoustic versions, alternate versions, and a new original track entitled “Slave to the Cycle”. The EP is on the verge of going out of print after only 6 months on the market.
I first discovered this prog/powerhouse back in 2013 around the time their debut Mask Of Lies was to be released. I wrote a review for it during my brief tenure over at Lady Obscure Magazine. Due to respect and good faith I have never reissued that review anywhere else. However you are free to read that review by clicking insert link >> Mask Of Lies Review at Lady Obscure Magazine. I was totally floored to hear a female fronted band come more in the vein of a Savatage meets Dream Theater meets Crimson Glory and Iron Maiden. The last review I wrote for MindMaze seen the band wearing their influences on their sleeves. In 2017 with their third album Resolve I have seen a band mature into one of the most under rated powerhouse’s in the progressive and power metal communities.
With Resolve MindMaze have taken all their influences placed them into a melodic furnace and now have forged their own mature sound. With ResolveSarah Teets has really come into her own and established her a vocal force to be reckoned with. With Resolve being just their third album the band has really come together like a bad that has been in the industry for 15 to 20 years and have a further developed sense of confidence on this.
The fact that such a powerful album like Resolveis a third album is not a band thing whatsoever. Many many bands have set the table and strides for a long lasting career off the third album. I call it ‘The Third Album Stride’. I will elaborate on that later in this review. Now I would like to point a out a few highlights from every track on MindMaze’s Resolve.
Reverie opens up the album with a very melodic acoustic guitar section. Soon the track explodes and the band delivers a powerful wall of sound. The rhythm section with the piano and lead guitar take the listener on a ride and immediately hook their interest. The time signatures are very intricate and mature.This track is written and arranged quite well and also bleeds seamlessly into the following track Fight The Future. This is the first of three instrumentals on Resolve.
Fight the Future begins seamlessly off Reverie. It makes Reverie appear to be the opening credits to a film story or short film before any vocal dialogue is handled by Sarah Teets – Vocals. The opening instrumental section takes on many twists and turns in and out of various chord progressions and time signatures and thunderous rhythmic sections. This contains both power metal and progressive metal elements. The vocals come in very clear, aggressive and with some serious conviction behind them. Sarah has really established herself as one of the more unique and distinctive voices in the progressive/power metal community. The solo’s have a very Iron Maiden vibe about them meaning heavy galloping guitars with highly distinctive bass work that is evident.
In This Void is the second of three instrumentals on the album. Once again the band very eloquently and seamlessly enters into this very effectively off Fight the Future. Although it is only 1:12 do not mistake this for just a filler on the album. There is a purpose served with it. This track moves beautifully with ease into the following track Drown Me.
Drown Me starts off with some really heavy neo progressive elements on the keyboards. The guitar is even tuned to match the neo progressive element. Soon after the band take the more conventional pure progressive/power metal chord progressions. This is a very very guitar oriented track. While taking a European flavor with the power metal half of the track the progressive metal element is much more American. The band have managed to bring both styles in a well balanced harmony along with the wicked time signatures of the rhythm section. This is a track that will appeal to both a North American and European audience thus opening more opportunities for the band on live bills. The track takes a bit of a break for a more ethereal element around the 5:30 mark. The guitar solos seem to be getting stronger and more complex the further into the album the listener gets. This track has a thunderous outro to finish it where it bleeds seamlessly into the next track Sign of Life.
Sign of Life is the first single off the album. It begins as a very traditional melodic progressive metal track much in the vein of Crimson Glory’s Lonley,Queensryche’s Eyes Of A Stranger or even Dream Theater’s Another Day. This opens up with a harmony of a well executed guitar solo in harmony with the rhythm section. The track drops and takes a break where some acoustic guitar is present along with a beautiful vocal harmony. This track is one of the heavier tuned down tracks on the album. The use of a double vocal with back vocals adds a depth not heard on previous albums. There is not only a conceptual theme developing here but a very vocally oriented and mature album. The guitar solo’s are very insane but remain on point with the main objective of both song and album.
Abandon opens up and continues the guitar oriented assault. The drums are more present in the scheme of things with the rhythm sections. This track is where the band starts to display that European flavor of power metal with more up tempo guitar riffs and aggressive vocals. The vocals are a bit more aggressive on this one and rightfully so. This is a total rhythm and vocal assault from opening to close with more aggressive guitar solo’s as well. There is a very Iron Maiden influence presence on the portions of the guitar solo’s.
Sanity’s Collapse is the third and final instrumental on Resolve. It seamlessly picks up where Abandon left with a slower more rhythmic chord progression throughout the track. The tuned down atmosphere allows for the band to set up the last half of the album and the listener to digest the listening experience.
One More Moment opens up with a ballad like piano passage in harmony with a deep bass tone for depth that adds to the vocal harmony quite well. The band have slowed this one down much more than some of the other tracks on the album. If there is a power ballad on the album this track is it. This is album also takes a very appropriate conceptual element making references of previous song titles like Fight the Future. This is also a very introspective track and it certainly stands out that way.
Twisted Dream has this wicked fade in in the introduction that is absolutely a brutal assault with both the guitar stringed section and the beast of a rhythm section. The band has certainly added a level of heaviness and layered it upon a melodic chord progression. The vocals once again are high priority and upfront. There is some nice vocal effects layered over some spoken word portions serving as a backing vocal. There is some serious depth with a seven string guitar present on the track that is becoming more and more common in progressive and power metal circles. This track just builds layers upon layers of heaviness and depth. Lyrically there is some serious internal issues at work here.
True Reflection opens up much in the vein of a Awaken The Guardian era Fates Warning track. There is some serious guitar work both on the electric heavy and the acoustic atmospheric sides. The rhythm section allows the string section to really stand out without being lost itself. The vocals are some of the most appropriately emotional vocals perfectly complimenting the intricate lyrical issues going on here. The guys perfectly compliment the lead vocal with the back harmonies. This is another track where the band utilizes building layers upon layers with great execution.
Shattered Self opens up with a thrash metal style power metal element. A style more heard on a Iced Earth style power metal. The rhythm section and rhythm guitar are relentless. The vocals are very melodic and ethereal over the instrumental portion. That is something very rarely heard in a thrash power metal atmosphere as this song is. There is even the use of a small choir in the backing vocal.
Release begins with a almost classical chamber music style piano passage before the acoustic guitar and vocals come into play here. On the surface Release appears as a ballad. I kind of see this as more of a slower paced song to allow the listener to digest the album thus far and for the band to set the tone to close the concept out on the final track The Path to Perseverance. The guitar solo is very atmospheric in nature.
The Path to Perseverance once again with ease and simplicity seamlessly comes over from the previous track Release. These seamless transitions make the album stand out as the concept album it is allowing the listener to remain immersed in the album and story. The Path to Perseverance is the epic on the album. It has a powerful atmospheric opening set of intricate chord progressions adding both electric guitar and acoustic guitar passages. The lyrical content really is a melodic summary of the overall totality of the conceptual element of the album. With this being well over 11:00 minutes expect longer instrumentals. The ethereal vocal effects add yet another layer upon which this album has been known for throughout. This is also a great closing track in the arrangement if the band ever decides to or has opportunity to play this concept in its entirety live.
Bands whose careers have exploded off the third album are as follows, Dream Theater – Awake 1994 ,Iron Maiden – The Number Of The Beast 1982, RUSH – 2112 – 1976, Fates Warning – Awaken The Guardian – 1986, Savatage – Hall Of The Mountain King – 1987, Nightwish – Wishmaster – 2000 , Blind Guardian – Tales From The Twilight World – 1990 , Ayreon’s – Into The Electric Castle – 1998 , Shadowside – Inner Monster Out – 2011, Evergrey’s – In Search of Truth – 2001 ,Pain Of Salvation’s – Perfect Element Part 1 -2000. I see MindMaze’s Resolve in 2017 being in the conversation 10 to 15 years from now. Resolve is also a perfect title for this album as well. It shows the bands grit and determination that they are going nowhere anytime soon. I give MindMaze’s Resolve a strong 5/5for maturity and growth.
If you are a metal fan whether it be power metal, progressive, melodic metal, etc .. it is no secret that Brazil has been setting herself up to be a major stronghold for metal for the last 30 years. Starting out with pioneers like Oficina G3 in 1987 to bands like Angra, Dr. Sin, Viper in 1991, Brazil has been a true under rated force within the Melodic/Progressive/Power Metal communities. Recently in the 2000’s bands like Mindflow, Shadowside, Alma Souspell and Vandroya have taken the Brazilian progressive/power metal sound to the global community. Brazilian power progressive metal is a bit heavier with a more attitude much like American power progressive metal much like Virgin Steel, Fates Warning and Crimson Glory. Vandroya embody all the above mentioned bands.
Formed in 2001, Vandroya started as a band of young musicians that were all very passionate about heavy metal. Initially focused on playing cover versions of the bands that inspired them, the increasing involvement with the metal scene in Brazil led them to record their first demo. The “Within Shadows” EP was released in 2005 and helped the word of Vandroya to be spread and to get shows around Brazil.
A deal was inked with the Swedish label Inner Wound Recordings for Europe and North America and with Spiritual Beast for the Japanese market, and the debut album “One” was finally released early 2013. The album received excellent feedback in Brazil and around the world and is often described as a perfect mix between bands like Angra, Kamelot and Symphony X. Vandroya played many shows around Brazil and name of the band continued to spread around the world because of the good feedback for “One” and for the bands first music video “Why Should We Say Goodbye”.
In 2015 the band contributed to the Brazilian Helloween tribute album “30 Years of Happiness” with the song “March of Time”. Members of Vandroya also contributed to other projects like Soulspell Metal Opera [feat. Tim “Ripper” Owens, Blaze Bailey, Arjen Lucassen and others] and Project Aegis [feat. Rob Rock, Matt Smith and others].
Early 2016 Vandroya released a digital EP containing the Bryan Adams cover “Heaven” and an acoustic version of the song “No Oblivion For Eternity” from the debut album.
The long-awaited new album “Beyond The Human Mind” is set to be released on April 28th. With a more evident progressive influence but without giving up the weight and virtuosity of power metal, the new album brings a more mature band, a more balanced sound and reflects the musician’s technical and artistic evolution since “One”.
Vandroya have sure matured greatly on their current album Beyond The Human Mind. They have certainly not compromised their power metal integrity by adding more progressive elements to this new album Beyond The Human Mind. If anything they have enhanced their power metal roots including the more progressive elements. The band have even added a few more symphonic elements to this new album. The many of the progressive elements run more towards the Pagan’s Mind, Circus Maximus, Vanden Plas area as far as chord progressions and time signatures. Daísa Munhoz – Vocals has established herself as a powerhouse vocalist with Beyond The Human Mind, even more so than on Vandroya’sOne debut in 2013. This is probably why her vocal presence has shown up on Metal Opera’s like Soulspell and Theocracy’s Matt Smith’s charity track Project Aegis Now I would like to take some highlights from every track on Vandroya’s Beyond The Human Mind.
Columns Of Illusion opens up with a heavily rich symphonic element. It is much more symphonic than any previous work Vandroya have done to date. It also contains some heavy percussion portions. This instrumental sets the album like a film score opening sequence of a movie. It is top heavy with drum rhythms and guitar solo’s with lush keyboards serving as a orchestral instrument making it sound like a symphonic atmosphere. Instrumentally this seamlessly bleeds into the next song on the album The Path To The Endless Fall.
The Path To The Endless Fall opens up with a classic power metal signature. It opens up with straight away shredding guitars that are almost iron Maiden like galloping guitar up tempo speed riffs. There is a very tight exchange between rhythm guitar and lead guitar that Marco Lambert – Guitar Rodolfo Pagotto – Guitar both really tied together in harmony with the bass/drum rhythmic section. Daísa Munhoz – Vocals really attacks the lyrical lines with great passion and conviction on this one as well. Her vocal prowess just powerful setting the mood for the rest of the album ahead. There is a killer drum line atmospheric progression with a beautiful spoken word element over it. The guitar solo’s continue to add depth to the song building further anticipation for the remainder of the album ahead.
Maya opens up with another blistering guitar chord progressive passage with power metal elements accented over it. The blistering progression takes a break and allows for the vocals to come in and breathe where the listener can absorb it. There is a passage where there is a piano atmospheric passage and the vocals are laid over it sweetly. This is just a solid and modern power/progressive metal song with intricate guitar parts over virtuosity. There is a section where the drums and the bass do a rhythmic dance around one another lending further creativity and depth to the song. The vocals have a warmth element through this one.
Time After Time opens up with a blistering dark yet brutal drum/bass rhythm section along with a Hammond Organ style keyboard in perfect harmony with that dark progression. The track is like this throughout the composition. The vocals take on a beautiful; depth of warmth allowing the song to both breath and satisfy the audio pallet. The lyrical content deals with very personal life matters. This is one of the faster up tempo tracks on the album.
Last Breath opens up with a beautiful acoustic guitar passage adding a very warmhearted atmosphere. The vocals come in with the same warmth and depth. This track takes on some very classic AOR Hard Rock elements. Last Breath is certainly a very radio and video friendly song. This has some very heavy elements of a ballad within it and that is not a bad thing at all considering the overall arrangement of the album. Lyrically we can all find ourselves in this situation.
I’m Alive opens up with a very old school blistering twin guitar attack. The bass/drum rhythm section is also just as blistering as the guitar making for a beautiful blistering power speed metal harmony. The vocals really take on a depth of conviction I have not heard in a while. In all it intensity I’m Alive still allows the listener in and become absorbed with both lyrical and instrumental narrative’s. The guitar solo’s remain relentless as well on this track.
You’ll Know My Name opens up almost like a power metal anthem that you may experience at a European summer metal festival. The twin guitars and rhythm section take on heavy European flavour. The double blast beats on this one almost give this a thrash metal element at times. This is a perfect track for a Prog/Power USA or Europe festival or even for Keep It True European Festival’s. This truly has a very broad Brazilian, European, and American power metal vibe through it. The intricate progressive elements will open them up to even a broader audience.
If I Forgive Myself is another track the really has a ballad flavour about. It contains a heavy piano atmosphere with the vocals in isolated harmony with that part of the stringed section. The vocals are very soulful and executed with such perfection. This also has a very AOR vibe about it. The song is a very introspective track and I can vision the listener relating to or taking something away from this song. The guitars are very atmospheric both on the lead and rhythm sections. The song really plays in harmony with the drums that serve as the primary backbone on the track. This is another very mature track both lyrically and instrumentally.
Beyond The Human Mind the title track and namesake track on the album open up with various effects done by the drums and bass. This track takes on a very heavy progressive element building layer upon layers with intricate chord progressions and time signatures. The intro seduces the listener before the warm beautiful vocals come in to really take the listeners heart away. This is the true epic of the album. Lyrically it is very thought provoking. Progressively the track really takes on a more Dream Theater or Kamelot style. About the 6:20 mark the band really channel a inner Dream Theater or Shadow Gallery guitar/keyboard style. This track allows the full maturity from the entire album to come together and be displayed. It will open more doors into the progressive metal world I am sure.
Vandroya’s Beyond The Human Mind is sure to open more doors and platforms for the band as far as festivals and live billing’s are concerned. The band have taken a big step towards becoming a more international act with Beyond The Human Mind. The focus and objective to blend both power metal and a more progressive metal approach was done with perfection. For this being only the second album for the band they wrote it and recorded it like the true 16 year veterans they are. I am giving Vandroya’s Beyond The Human Mind a 5/5 .