The Samurai Of Prog are definitely a modern ‘Progressive Rock Enigma’. There is a uncanny ability among its members to celebrate progressive rocks’ past while appealing to a modern more current audience with more contemporary elements that make for their unique sound. Last year in 2016 I was introduced to this Progressive Rock Enigma by Marty Dorfman at House Of Prog. It turned out to be one of the best introductions I have had with a pure progressive rock band in the past 20 years. What I heard defied some of my expectations as to what a progressive rock band could do.
When Steve Unruh sent me the promotion copy of Lost And Found I was floored by the physical presentation of the packaging. It was at that moment I noticed that this band was very different from where their contemporaries were and are. It may of been a CD , however it certainly opened in the way a gatefold would with a vinyl experience. The individual disc’s even had their very own sleeves within the fold out jacket as a whole. The very detail in their packaging and physical representation translated very well into the music itself. My review for The Samurai Of Prog Lost And Found can be found HERE
Where Lost And Found was older music dusted off the shelf and reworked, re-recorded and remastered, On We Sail is a album of all brand new material. On We Sail on the surface gives you the appearance that it might be a conceptual work, however the 9 songs on the album are more set to a common theme or thread throughout the album. Once again Marco Bernard, Steve Unruh and Kimmo Porsti have gathered together a all star cast ensemble of world class musicians as noted above in the ‘Guest Musician’s’ roster. On We Sail also sees the band bring both its progressive rock influences such as Jethro Tull ,Gentle Giant, Yes, Camel, Caravan, Renaissance on the early end. On the modern end there are influences from 1980’s Neo Progressive Rock with the likes of Marillion, IQ, Galahad, Pallas, Pendragon and Enchant.
The Samurai of Prog seem to know what they want in album art and never shy away from recruiting top artists in the progressive rock art genre. One name that has remained synonymous with The Samurai Of Prog has been Ed Unitsky. I remember when I reviewed Lost And Found last year how utterly accurate Ed Unitsky captured both the band’d personality and their personalities in relationship to the music on the double album. Ed Unitsky is easily in the same conversation with the likes of Roger Dean and Storm Thorgerson as one of the definitive progressive rock album artists of the past 50 years. Once again Ed Unitsky has captured the personality and mood of The Samurai Of Prog’s On We Sail perfectly like he always has. The packaging is almost too gorgeous to open.
When you open The Samurai Of Prog’s On We Sail it is a 6 panel digipak style with the exception that the plastic tray has been replaced with a very fine mini jacket sleeve much in the tradition of a vinyl album. When you remove the CD it even share the same spirit and tradition of a vinyl release in a otherwise digitally handicapped musical atmosphere. With the lyrical content on the album having a heavy nautical theme throughout it, Ed Unitsky has perfectly and tastefully captured that in a moment in time that will help preserve the albums integrity and eventual legacy.
The Common Nautical Thread
The listener does not have to look into it too much to realize that The Samurai Of Prog’s On We Sail has a common theme through it. This is a heavy nautical theme. Although there is not a main concept, each song is a representation of what the band want to convey to the listener. The listener also hears something new or something different with every listen due to the multiple instruments and melodic layers. Let us now journey into The Samurai Of Prog’s On We Sail with a track to track analysis.
On We Sail Music – Kerry Schaklett Lyrics & Vocal Melodies – Steve Unruh Marco Bernard – Rickenbacker Bass , Kimmo Porsti – Drums & Percussion , Steve Unruh – Vocals/Violin , Kerry Schacklett – Keyboards, Srdjan Brankovic – Electric Guitars
This one opens up with a beautifully done vintage style synth with modern neo progressive rock elements. Soon the deep rhythm section of bass and drums adds to the deepening layers the band utilizes through out the song and the album. Soon heavy melodies of violin come into the mix. The instrumental melodies really jump out with brief breaks to allow the composition to breathe. Soon a Gentle Giant style vocal comes in perfect harmony and melody with the instrumental backdrop. The violin enters in and soon provides even more layers to the song. The instrumental solo’s are very deeply rooted a more neo progressive mindset. The guitar solo’s really allow the track to gel with this heavily stringed section composition. Some of the guitar work reminds me a lot of Steve Howe meets Ronnie Stolt of the Flower Kings.
Elements Of Life
Music – Octavio Stampalia Lyrics – Steve Unruh Marco Bernard – Rickenbacker Bass , Kimmo Porsti – Drums & Percussion , Steve Unruh – Vocals/Violin/Flute , Octavio Stampalia – Keyboards , Ruben Alvarez – Electric & Acoustic Guitars
This one has a very unique isolated flute to open up the track. The isolated flute reminding me more of Camel with a little bit of Jethro Tull in it. The flute also adding a more classical music imprint. Soon the song takes a more lush orchestral direction before the deeper warmer bass comes in both as a melodic and rhythmic instrument. The track itself has a deep classical musical aesthetic throughout it. On the instrumental portion of this the band provides for a great soundtrack to the various weather elements of the human experience. This is perfectly matched in harmony with the lyrical content of the song. Like Fire, Wind, Water, Earth the band explores all these within the melody in relationship between the instrumental and lyrical content. Part of this reminds me of parts of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung. The deep Rickenbacker bass adds a deep Earth like tone to the rhythm section. The guitar solo’s do a great job in conveying the wind elements. The keyboards have a heavy Dixie Dreg’s style to them.
Music – Luca Scherani Lyrics – Pikko Salhi & Kev Moore Marco Bernard – Rickenbacker Bass, Kimmo Porsti – Drums/Percussion & Backing Vocals , Steve Unruh – Violin/Vocals/Flute , Luca Scherani – Keyboards , Ruben Alvarez – Electric Guitar , Michelle Young – Vocals
If you like Annie Halsam and Renaissance you will like this. Michelle Young stands out as a true treasure on vocals. She sings with a very sultry yet soulful voice. The opening of this track sets up much in the tradition of Renaissance’s Mother Russia. The guitars have a heavy Floydian influence about them. The opening top this is very stringed section driven with obvious emphasis on guitar’s , violins, and keyboards interchanging and weaving like a beautiful web. It is matched in melody and harmony with both rhythm sections and beautifully orchestrated feminine vocals. This is a track that also places a great emphasis on time signatures and chord progressions. There is also beautiful exchange of both male and female vocals. The backing vocals are very heavily symphonic in their nature. There are some nice breaks in between vocal lines allowing the track to breathe so the listener can take in its full intended purpose.
Music – David Meyers Marco Bernard – Rickenbacker Bass, Kimmo Porsti – Drums & Percussion , Steve Unruh – Violin/Flute , David Meyers – Keyboards , Jacques Friedmann – Electric Guitar
This open up with a very atmospheric keyboard orchestration that is soon picked up in melody with a subtle and brilliant bass line from Marco Bernard. It soon takes a more fusion funk chord progression with the gentle style of the flute accentuating the instrumental melody. The electric guitar opens this one up into a deeper layer of a atmospheric track. The way this was tracked you can tell they had some fun with this instrumental. It all comes together like they played it live as a unified band in the studio. This is one of those tracks that appears to have been minimal effort with the pay off of maximum distribution. The piano allows a classical element to be present in the song as well.
Music – Sean Timms Lyrics & Some Vocal Melodies – Steve Unruh Marco Bernard – Rickenbacker Bass , Kimmo Porsti – Drums & Percussion , Steve Unruh – Violin/Vocals/Flute , Sean Timms – Keyboards , Mark Trueack – Vocals , Jacob Holm Lupo – Electric Guitars , Ruben Alverez – Electric Guitar Solo
This opens with a beautifully guitar led passage that is enhanced with the subtle sound of the flute and immediate vocals. It is a perfect set up for a great story. There are great melodies and layers of violins and flutes along with the guitar and keyboard stringed sections. This has a very heavy Celtic/Folk atmosphere about it much like a element of World influences. The rhythm section really anchors this allowing every other instrument involved their ‘Day In The Sun’ if you will. I also feel at times elements of Camel and Caravan peaking through the melodic veil. Steve Unruh has such a highly distinctive flute that has become a major staple in the discography of The Samurai Of Prog. I like the way the track isolates the piano and vocals around the 5:30 mark. The vocals are very Southern Empire meets IQ. This is also a very uplifting song lyrically wise. The band also has a very astute ability to let every song breathe where all the instruments shine through and this song is a perfect example of it.
The Perfect Black (Instrumental)
Music – Oliverio Lacagnina
Marco Bernard – Rickenbacker Bass ,Kimmo Porsti – Drums & Percussion , Steve Unruh – Flute/Violin/AdditionalClassic Guitar , Oliverio Lacagnina – Keyboards , Flavio Cucchi – Classical Guitar
This is a little bit darker track. It begins with a deep rhythm section along with a open atmospheric style Hammond Organ. This is a heavily stringed section based track along with a heavy wind instrument track. Its nature carries a tone about it like the captain of a ship navigating through some rough waters. The Perfect Black is a excellent title due to the unpredictable chord progressions and time signatures. The very backbone to this track is heavily classical in nature. For those who score films this track gives the listener the appearance that a symphony orchestra is playing to a set of film clips. This track also allows the listener to breathing room to absorb the adventure as they see fit instead of forcing the motion picture on the screen of the theater of the mind. The piano reminds me more of Bach or Mozart playing progressive rock. The classical guitar’s also have a heavy Latin element about them.
Music & Lyrics – Kerry Schacklett Marco Bernard – Rickenbacker Bass , Kimmo Porsti – Drums & Percussion , Steve Unruh – Vocals/Volin/Flute , Kerry Schacklett – Acounstc & Electric Guitar/Keyboards/Vocals ,Brett Kull – Electric Guitar
This definitely has a very vintage Jethro Tull element about it. Much of the opening passage is in the tradition of Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick. The band does a great job in storytelling with the lyrical content. Even traditionally non progressive fans can relate to its content. The heavy Ian Anderson influenced flute of Steve Unruh is the unsung hero in this song. The drums of Kimm Porsti really allow the flute and stringed instruments the opportunity to engage the listener on many levels. This is another uplifting and positive song of childhood innocence. In general this is a very fun song that will resonate with many objective listeners.
Over Again (Instrumental)
Music – David Meyers David Meyers – Bosendorfer Grand Piano
This opens up with a baby grand piano passage about it. The piano really reminds me a lot of Beethoven meets Bach. This is a great transition instrumental that will work in live sets to give the other members of the band a brief rest period. This is also a very soothing track that allows the listener time to digest the album thus far. It also transition’s seamlessly into the final track on the album Tigers.
Music & Lyrics – Stefan Renstrom Marco Bernard – Rickenbacker Bass , Kimmo Porsti – Drums & Percussion , Steve Unruh – Vocals/Violin/Flute , Stefan Renstrom – Keyboards/Vocoder ,Daniel Faldt – Vocals , Roberto Vitelli – Moog Taurus Pedals
This comes right in smoothly and seamlessly off Over Again. The track opens up with most its instrumental in one melodic coco phonic harmony. The opening has some very heavy piano and violin elements. It drops and then the isolated piano in harmony with isolated vocals begin to tell the story intended by the band. This track is a very traditional progressive rock track. It is heavy on the keyboards, flute and violin to add greater depth and layers that are the signature of The Samurai Of Prog. The vocals are very soulful and executed with great conviction. The vocals not only serve as a harmonic story teller, they also hit every note perfectly as they go. The transitions within the vocals are spot on perfect. The open ended guitar solo’s add a depth of great emotion about them. The rhythm section also picks this up quite nice towards the 7:00 to 8:00 minute marks.
This final track gives the listener the appearance that they have taken the album to its final destination thus finishing the beautiful melodic journey that has been The Samurai Of Prog On We Sail.
Although this was not a deliberately planned out conceptual piece it certainly felt that way. I like how the band always leave breathing room for the listener to absorb and digest every album according to their individual personalities. The Samurai Of Prog also prove there is still a market for organic uncompressed traditional progressive rock. Nothing ever seems forced to appease a record label or the industry whatsoever. They also have a intelligent awareness to incorporate newer elements that may attract a newer listener base. I am giving The Samurai Of Prog’s On We Sail a 5/5.
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.
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