Review: Ayreon – The Source – Mascot Label Group – Release: April 28th, 2017.
Arjen’s first Ayreon ‘The Final Experiment’ album felt into my liking and I eagerly awaited a follow-up! That second one ‘Actual Fantasy’ was a completely different effort and was mainly keyboard driven. But I lost my heart in the 80’s to the sound of the keys, so I have it a thumbs up as well. But when he released ‘The Electric Castle’ onto the world, my jaws just dropped. What a masterpiece! With the next two albums the Ayreon universe was made. With the release of the compilation album ‘Timeline’ it seemed that the story was complete. But great was my surprise when the tall blond Dutchman announced another sci-fi adventure that fits in that awesome universe. This time is was a prequel to the other albums.
James LaBrie as ‘The Historian’
Tommy Karevik as ‘The Opposition Leader’
Tommy Rogers as ‘The Chemist’
Simone Simons as ‘The Counselor’
Nils K Rue as ‘The Prophet’
Tobias Sammet as ‘The Captain’
Hansi Kürsch as ‘The Astronomer’
Michael Mills as ‘TH-1’
Russell Allen as ‘The President’
Michael Eriksen as ‘The Diplomat’
Floor Jansen as ‘The Biologist’
Zaher Zorgati as ‘The Preacher’
Ed Warby – drums
Ben Mathot – violin
Jeroen Goossens – wind instruments
Joost Van Den Broek – grand piano & electric piano
Paul Gilbert – lead guitar
Guthrie Govan – lead guitar
Marcel Coenen- lead guitar
Mark Kelly – synthesizer
Maaike Peterse – cello
Arjen Lucassen – electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, mandolin, synthesizers, Hammond, solina strings and all other instruments
The album is build up with four chronicles, where each part tells an important part of the story. I’m not gonna explain the story here, because that is something you have to do for yourself. By the way, it’s far more fun do discover that for yourself.
The time between the finished album and the date the album gets his release Arjen always gets overpowered with thoughts of failure and that the album won’t satisfy his fans. So, this time he was bold and put the long album opener in full on YouTube. To his surprise the comments were all possible and praised him into heaven (or the Ayreon equivalent: Liquid Eternity). ‘The Day That The World’ is a cracking opener where James LaBrie starts the story as The Historian. LaBrie mostly uses his softer, warm voice here and I just love the man sing that way! Mr. Lucassen has a gift of finding the right singer for the specific parts.
There are many familiar voices (Tommy Karevik, Hansi Kürsch, Simone Simons, Russell Allen and Floor Jansen), but he added a few surprises to the cast this time as well. Tommy Rogers from the heavy collective Between The Buried And Me does an excellent job with a rather smooth voice. Nils K Rue, Tobias Sammet, Michael Eriksen need no further introduction and have proved their skills on their own albums. But Michael Mills in once again the one that came up with the most acrobatic vocal tricks! Just listen how he sings the ‘zero-one’ sequence in this track. It blows my mind every time I listen to it. He is definitely a musical genius! This long epos immediately gets to you and you are eager to follow the story.
‘Sea Of Machines’ starts with a wonderful intro from the organic instruments. It builds up with calm verses and a more powerful chorus. Yes, this time there are many repetitions of the chorus and that gives this album a catchy character. It makes it easier to follow the story as well. A personal favorite of mine is the strange but addictive ‘Everybody Dies’. It has a dual contrast build in it. Cheerful keyboards against almost staccato hard edged riffs and super catchy smooth vocals against the message that everybody dies! ‘Star Of Sirrah’ kicks of the second chronicle with the soft, warm vocals from LaBrie, but transforms in a rather heavy piece of music. The long guitar solo gives me goosebumps here!
The almost folky ‘All That Was’ is a nice cool down moment on the album and lets the two nightingales Simone and Floor shines like the brightest star.
‘Run!Acocalypse!Run!’ is the heavy hitter on this album and has a faster pace, just like ‘Planet Y Is Alive’ has. I’m not gonna handle each song individual here but I will simply mention my personal highlights on the following tracks. Because you have to absorb this album in his entirely by yourself.
The cello intro from Maaike on ‘Condemned To Live’ let the shivers run down my spine. It’s amazing what music can do to the human body. ‘Aquatic Race’ has the strongest chorus of them all and ‘The Dream Dissolves’ lets us taste from the superb violin from Ben.
The musicianship on this album is simply out this world, but I must mention the exquisite work from drummer Ed Warby separately. ‘Deathcry of A Race’ is a fine cocktail of flute, acoustic guitar, opera style vocals, oriental sounds and chants. But Mr. L. glues this all together to construct an extraordinary musical journey. The Hammond organ rules big time on ‘Into The Ocean’ and the keys on the intro of ‘Bay Of Dreams’ remind me of the ‘Actual Fantasy’ album.
The sound on ‘The Source Will Flow’ is very smooth and makes you wanna dream away. ‘Journey To Forever’ has again that folky touch and has another great chorus. You can hear the dought shine through during ‘The Human Compulsion’ and the short, repetitive rather odd ending builds a nice bridge to the ‘01011001’ (or translated to ‘Y’) album.
My favorite Ayreon albums are ‘The Electric Castle’, ‘The Human Equation’ and ‘01011001’ but ‘The Source’ may even become my absolute favorite. It’s a more catchy album with many repetitions and an easier to follow story. You simply have to listen to this album with the lyrics in your hands, so you can follow who sings what and what goes on! This time around it was an instant like and I most have listened more than 20 times to it before writing this piece!
Now I already have received my pre-ordered Ayreon green double vinyl and the 2CD+ DVD version and it simply looks out of this world. The artwork is awesomen. There are even drawings of the Starblade, the ‘Frame and the dream sequencer in the booklet. Everyone who is intrigued by the Ayreon universe will love this. Should I still mention that the purchase of this album is mandatory! It didn’t gave it a full five out of five simply because ‘The Electric Castle’ was made before the digital era of making albums and deserves respect for the use of the analogue technique.
Score: 4,95 out of 5
1. The Day That The World Breaks Down
2. Sea Of Machines
3. Everybody Dies
4. Star Of Sirrah
5. All That Was
6. Run! Apocalypse! Run!
7. Condemned To Live
8. Aquatic Race
9. The Dream Dissolves
10. Deathcry Of A Cry
11. Into The Ocean
12. Bay Of Dreams
13. Planet Y Is Alive
14. The Source Will Flow
15. Journey To Forever
16. The Human Compulsion
17. March Of The Machines
Text by: Rik Bauters