Ayreon Reviews

Bookmarks: Universal Migrator ~ Live at Alfa Centauri

From: "E-Man" <>
After waiting a *long* time for my pre-ordered copy, due to surface-mail shipping from Europe, I finally received the concept album of the year: _Into the Electric Castle_, by Ayreon, the moniker assumed by Arjen Anthony Lucassen (a Dutchman, I believe) for his third release, on the heels of The Final Experiment & Actual Fantasy (both available from The Laser's Edge). I was wondering how A.A. Lucassen would top Actual Fantasy, so what he did with _Into the Electric Castle_ is up the ante on *everything*: more singers, more players, more influences, and more discs! This concept album is a double-disc set running over ninety minutes, total. The playing and singing is absolutely incredible; this is quite a work of art, down to the [stunning] painted covers. There's quite a story to this, which involves eight different characters (portrayed by the recruited vocalists) from different eras of time facing their destinies in an extra-temporalstructure called the Electric Castle. There are a total of 17 tracks, ranging in length from 2:02 from 11:11 (avg. 5-7min.). Now, get a load of the roster for "Into the Electric Castle": {Vocalists} Fish (Marillion, solo), Damian Wilson (ex-Landmarq, Threshold), Edward Reekers (Kayak), Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering), Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation), Edwin Balogh, Jay Van Feggelen, A.A. Lucassen; {Instrumentalists} A.A. Lucassen: all guitars, mandolin, bass, MiniMoog, Mellotron, keyboards, Robby Valentine: all pianos, synth solos (various tracks), Mellotron; Clive Nolan: synth solos (track 3, disc 1); Rene Merkelbach: synth solos (various tracks), harpsichord; Ton Scherpenzeel: synth solos (track 5, disc 2); Roland Bakker: all [Hammond] organs; Thijs van Leer: flute (various tracks); Erno Olah: violins; Taco Kooistra: cellos; Jack Pisters: sitar. In all, 17 people were brought together to construct _Into the Electric Castle_, and the result is one of the most pristine, diverse, and exotic art-prog albums ever conceived. I'd have to say the most prevalent instrumentation is derived from synths/keys and drums, followed by bluesy and metallish guitar, served up by Lucassen. The musicianship and production is astounding. Highly recommended!

From: "Jeff Marx" <>
.."A deafening thunderclap as time and space collide. Eight human souls, plucked from their eras of time, suddenly find themselves in a strange dimension...a mysterious voice directs them through a maze of trials, leading into the Electric Castle. Within the castle, built from their own dreams and fears, they must find the gate back to their own centuries. Will they survive?" Well...the above paragraph gives you the sense that this is a concept album; indeed it is a 'space opera' from multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen and 19 (!) guest-instrumentalists and vocalists. It is a monster 2-CD epic sci-fi/fantasy tale crafted by Lucassen who plays all electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, bass, minimoog, mellotron and other keyboards. The album features Lucassen(as the hippie)and seven other principal vocalists including Fish(the highlander), Damian Wilson(the knight), and Anneke Van Giersbergen(the egyptian), among others, who are all attemting to escape back to their own time and space. The vocalists interact with each other, several on each track, bringing a great deal of emotive and timbral variety to the music. Each character is fleshed out quite well, reinforcing the operatic aspects of the album. The story is advanced with dark narration by Peter Daltrey(any relation to Roger I wonder?). Speaking of the music,(and E-Man may disagree a little), what we have here is essentially prog/metal blended together with nice portions of space and keyboard-oriented prog. The overall sound runs the gamut from bombastic, ominous and majestic to quiet and brooding, with world-class integration of guitars(Lucassen), mass analog keyboards and hammond organ (from Lucassen and guests such as Clive Nolan, Ton Scherpenzeel, Robby Valentine, Rene Markelbach and Roland Bakker), flute(from Thijs Van Leer on four tracks), massive percussion, violin, sitar, and cello. Needless to say...pretty darn symphonic. The composition and performance is intricate and varied. Imagine guitar work that calls to mind Malmsteen(though not as frantic) and Gardner blended with David Gilmour and Alex Lifeson. Then sprinkle in some awesome Hawkwind and Tangerine Dream-like space synth effects, and top it off with Wakeman/Emerson/Dicola-esque lead minimoog and other analog soloing. The guitar/keyboard/flute soloing and interaction is top-drawer and propels the lyric-driven story along at a furious clip. I would have liked a bit more hammond organ and additional soloing by Thijs Van Leer, his flute-work is very soulful, but alas brief. The album is complex and well-executed, but will not appeal to all. One is constantly reminded that he or she is listening to a concept album with a prog/metal structure. But for the adventurous of spirit...man is this thing intense, with smokin' instrumentals all over the place. One minute you'll be listening to a quiet floydian guitar passage...the next you'll be launched into a dark, and searing guitar/keyboard fanfare. Sabbath-to-Wakeman-to Magellan type contrasts abound, totally outrageous stuff. I'm impressed, and think it a contender for 1998 prog album of the year.

From: Mark Fonda
Ayreon 'Into the Electric Castle' - another surprise for me.  I like it much better than 'The Final Experiment'... some excellent instrumentals despite the overly dramatic vocals and spoken words.

From: "Jeff Marx" <>
I'm happy to see Ayreon popping up quite a bit on many e-prog2ger's lists, and ItEC is incredible.  Have you listened to Ayreon's 1996 album "Actual Fantasy?"   It has a wonderful feel with large analog sweeps, many modulation changes, and arpeggiations to kill for from the keyboard players and some great e-guitar from A.A. Lucassen with tremendous vocals...I can't recommend it highly enough for those who'd like to listen to a 'heavier' Pink Floyd

From: "Jeff Marx" <>
Some good news for fans of Ayreon, The Rocket Scientists, and Glass Hammer.
Arjen (Ayreon) Lucassen is planning a very ambitious dual-release next year. One album on the mellower side featuring a keyboard-oriented approach, and a heavier, more bombastic release with balance between guitars, hammond, and synths. He has recruited lots of excellent talent (as he usually does) for both, including Clive Nolan and Erik Norlander on keyboards.  Arjen is trying to convince Keiko Kumagai (Ars Nova) to come on-board one or both of the projects, but that has yet to become a reality.  (Come on Keiko!!). Fans of The Rocket Scientists can expect some "Heavy" guitar playing from A.L. on the next RS album.  Additionally, he'll appear on Lana Lane's next album. Lucassen will also guest-star on Glass Hammer's next album, "Faith and Reason," as GH are big-time Ayreon fans! This is a busy guy!

From: Peter Abusamra <>
Ayreon - Into The Electric Castle (A Space Opera): I don't know where to start. Just incredible. Every song is either heavy musically or real catchy. Great playing by all-guitars as well as the keys. Vocals-truly beautiful; male and female both. There are many guest vocalists on this including Fish although in my 1 spin(2cds)I couldn't hear him singing, maybe he did some of the talking, but some really great harmonies throughout this epic. Musicians? Quite an array of them - Clive Nolan on synths, Thijs van Leer on flute. I don't even know who is in the regular band except that Arjen Lucassen wrote all the music and 90%of the words and plays guitars, mandolin, bass, keys, moog & mellotron. Sonics? They ran havoc with my 6x9's in the car. Some very deep low notes throughout. A definite keeper!

From: marc conraads <>
A great CD. It is a concept about an epic quest. Fish "plays" the "Highlander" and his singing is quite impressive! He has a few songs in which he sings the lead vox, e.g. the first vocal song on the first CD. Alas, he is the first to "die" during the quest. Other singers include the female vocalist of the Gathering, the vocalist of Omega and Damian Wilson. Check it out, progheads because this is a killer!

From: David Kuznick <>
Yes female vocals courtesy of Anneke van Giersbergen from The Gathering and Sharon den Adel from Withn Temptation two GREAT bands (WT uses death-metal vox mixed in with the female vocals but they're EXTREMEMLY well done and not all over the place).
> There are many guest vocalists on this including Fish although in my 1 spin(2cds)I couldn't hear him singing,
Really? I don't know how you could miss him! Such a distinctive voice. He's the "Highlander" and sings pretty early. Check the lyrics book.
> maybe he did some of the talking, but some really great harmonies throughout this epic.Musicians?Quite an array of them-Clive Nolan on synths, Thijs van Leer on flute. I don't even know who is in the regular band except that Arjen Lucassen
That's basically it. It's his baby. :)
> wrote all the music and 90%of the words and plays guitars, mandolin, bass, keys, moog & mellotron.Sonics?They ran havoc with my 6x9's in the car. Some very deep low notes throughout. A definite keeper!
Definitely try the other two, The Final Experiment and (especially!) Actual Fantasy which is my favorite of the three. One of the absolute BEST integration of guitar and keys I've heard. New album due out shortly...

From: Jeff Marx <>
Here's a crosspost from P&O regarding Arjen's new albums. Arjen has said to me to "expect the unexpected," whatever that means. I think he'll be pushing the envelope some more, and when Arjen pushes, great things seem to happen :) I think he's still expecting to add one more Hammond solo from Keiko Kumagai.
The 2 new albums of Ayreon (1 prog rock, the other prog metal) will be available end May/beginning June. Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) recorded his vocal contributions Sunday 20 Feb at the 'Electric Castle Studios'. Next week its the turn of Andi Deris (Helloweeen, ex-Pink Cream 69) in Hamburg. the album will be mixed in March by Oscar Holleman & Arjen Lucassen.
AYREON 4 - Universal Migrator part I: The Dream Sequencer
1] The Dream Sequencer; 2] My House on Mars; 3] 2084; 4] One Small Step; 5] The Shooting Company of Captain Frans B. Cocq 6] Dragon on the Sea; 7] Temple of the Cat; 8] Carried by the Wind; 9] And the Druids turn to Stone; 10] The First Man on Earth; 11] The Dream Sequencer Reprise. All songs written and composed by A.A.Lucassen except: My House on Mars: vocal melody by J. Edlund Dragon on the Sea: lyrics by E. Norlander The First Man on Earth: lyrics by N.Morse/E.Norlander/A.A.Lucassen Musicians : Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Vengeance, ex-Bodine) : electric and acoustic guitars, bassguitar, analog synthesisers and keyboards. Rob Snijders (Celestion Season) : drums Erik Norlander (Ritual Symphony, Rocket Scientist, Lana Lane) : analog synthesisers, keyboards, piano, vocoder voice and Hammond Arjen Lucassen : all guitar solos and synth melodies Synth solos : Erik Norlander on 1, 4, 6; Clive Nolan (Arena, Pendragon) on 3; Singers (in order of apearance); Johan Edlund (Tiamat) on 2; Floor Jansen (After Forever) on 2; Lana Lane (Lana Lane, Ritual Symphony) on 3, 6; Edward Reekers (Kayak, Ayreon) on 4; Mouse (Tuesday Child) on 5; Jacqueline (Krezip) on 7; Arjen Lucassen on 8; Damian Wilson (Landmarq, Threshold, Ayreon) on 9; Neal Morse (Spock's Beard) on 10. Backing vocals: Mark mcCrite (Rocket Scientists) on 10 Lana Lane on 4, 5.
AYREON 5 - Universal Migrator part II: Flight of the Migrator
The songs... 1] Chaos; 2] Dawn of a Million Souls; 3] Journey on the Waves of Time; 4] To the Quasar; a] The Taurus Pulsar; b] Quasar 3c273; 5] Into the Black Hole; a] The Eye of the Universe; b] Halo of Darkness; c] The Final Door; 6] Through the Wormhole; 7] Out of the White Hole; a] M31; b] Planet Y; c] The Search Continues; 8] To the Solar System; a] Planet of Blue; b] System Alert; 9] Sleeper Awake; a] The New Migrator; b] Sleeper Awake; All songs written and composed by A.A.Lucassen except: Sleeper Awake: lyrics by Ian Parry; To the Planet of Blue: vocal melody by R.Soeterboek/A.A.Lucassen. Musicians: Arjen Anthony Lucassen: electric and acoustic guitars, bassguitar, analog synthesisers and keyboards. Ed Warby (Gorefest, Ayreon, ex-Elegy): drums Erik Norlander: analog synthesisers, keyboards, vocoder voice and Hammond Guitar solos: Arjen Lucassen on 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9; Michael Romeo (Symphony X) on 2; Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery) on 6; Synth solos: Erik Norlander on 1, 3 (Hammondsolo), 4, 5, 7; Rene Merkelbach (Ayreon) last solo on 4; Clive Nolan on 2nd synth solo on 5; Gary Wehrkamp on 6; Keiko Kumagai (Ars Nova) on 9; Singers (in order of Appearance): Russel Allen (Symphony X) on 2; Ralf Scheepers (ex-Gamma Ray, Primal Fear) on 3; Andi Deris (Helloween) on 4; Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) on 5; Fabio Lione (Rhapsody) on 6; Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius) on 7; Robert Soeterboek (Ayreon) on 8; Ian Parry (Elegy, Vengeance) on 9. Backing vocals: Damian Wilson on 2; Lana Lane on 4, 5, 6, 9.

From: Andrew Rozsa <> Re: New AYREON  From my buddies at Groove (Netherlands) <>, online purveyors of class-act electronic music comes this bit of news of interest to e-prog2gers: Dutch top progressive rock act AYREON, the project by multi-instrumentalist ARJEN ANTHONY LUCASSEN, has released 2 CD's. The CD's are sold separately but form one concept, the science fiction-story "Universal Migrator". Both CD's have different styles. The first, "The Dream Sequencer", is a "song-orientated, melodic and atmospheric journey". This CD is rather laid-back and Pink Floyd-like. The second, "Flight Of The Migrator" is a "heavy progressive adventure through time and space". This CD is in a more hardrock-style. As on all his albums, Lucassen is surrounded by many great and well-known musicians. The most famous ones this time are Bruce Dickinson (the brilliant singer from Iron Maiden), Neal Morse (Spock's Beard), Clive Nolan (Arena/Pendragon), Lana Lane and Erik Norlander (Lana Lane/Rocket Scientists). Ayreon's last album, the double concept-CD "Into The Electric Castle", gained many euphoric reactions from around the world. Arjen is also not sitting still in other lines of work. He was namely permitted to do an interview with his hero, David Gilmour from Pink Floyd.

From: Jeff Marx <>  I thought I'd share some thoughts on the new Ayreon albums...... Well, the year 2000 is rolling right along, and here towards the end of May, Ayreon fever strikes the music world once again. For those of you who know Ayreon's music, this month is cause for great celebration. For those that have yet to hear the magic of Arjen A. Lucassen, I suggest you read on and get your credit cards ready. The Dutch master of epic progressive rock has just released his newest visionary works, 2 seperate albums which are known collectively as Universal Migrator Parts 1 and 2. Universal Migrator Part 1, "The Dream Sequencer," is a song-oriented melodic and atmospheric journey through time, propelling the listener back through the eons of life on Earth from the 22nd century clear back to 50,000 B.C., and back again! Universal Migrator Part 2, "The Flight of the Migrator," is a heavier progressive adventure through time and space, in which the listener takes part in the formation of the universe, and experiences many fantastical astronomical events. Black holes, quasars, and many other mysteries await the voyager. As you may have already guessed, both albums are strong sci-fi concepts. All of the Ayreon traits of past albums are here, the superb production values, the enormous wall of sound from the vintage keyboards and soaring guitars, and a list of guest stars a mile long. Arjen drafted such outstanding talents as Erik Norlander, Keiko Kumagai, Lana Lane, Clive Nolan, Neal Morse, Bruce Dickinson...the list goes on and on! "Flight of the Migrator" positively sizzles with energy, the instrumental work by Arjen, Erik, Keiko, and company meets all my high expectations. I would have liked to hear Kumagai and Nolan on another track or two, but since this project was put together across great geographical distances, that's surely a difficult proposition. Arjen really seems to have pushed himself both instrumentally and compositionally here, as the complexity and clarity of the playing is top-drawer. One of the best heavy prog albums I've heard in ages. "The Dream Sequencer" is quite chilling when you get into the lyrics, and the mood set by the music. I enjoyed the tie-in to his first album, "The Final Experiment," and it was great 'meeting' the character of Ayreon once more. The album has a wonderful tension, coupling a relaxed pace, with some dramatic lyrics and ominous musical passages. Arjen's ability to delve into the Pink Floyd sound of the late 70's, and completely take it to a whole new level is exciting, since there are so few who dare to try and challenge that trademark Floydian sound. Both albums feature great booklets, which cover every aspect of the recordings, and are chock full of excellent artwork, completing the whole package. Both also feature Erik Norlander contributing in a big way, his keyboard work is quite extraordinary, as are the many special effects-laden keyboard passages that abound. If there is one area that I think Arjen needs to address, it is in the nature of presenting the concepts themselves. FotM especially, becomes a little predictable after a while, journeying from one cosmic event to another...with the vocalists presenting each one like a travelogue. Perhaps a few more all-instrumental tracks, could have broken up this pattern. But I'm nit-picking a bit, as I can find little to criticize here. I've listened to both albums about half-a-dozen times now, and still haven't begun to fully digest all the diversity and wonders that both have to offer. But that is one of the great things about Ayreon, the complexity of the music succeeds on so many levels, that fully understanding and appreciating it all can take many months!

From: "Carlos Lima" <>  I think that "Into the Electric Castle" is the best album to start with Ayreon. Why? Because you'll get a great double-album almost for the price of a single one (in Europe it is) and spanning from the most symphonic to the most harder facets of A.A.Lucassen music(the Ayreon himself). Then you could (and must) jump to the new ones. Choose "The Dream Sequencer", if you've liked his symphonic facet, or "Flight of the Migrator", if you've liked the harder side of this great musician and composer. I, personally, recommend both of them, and I am much more a "symphonic" fan, but I still don't know which one of the new albums I prefer :-) You should schedule the first two albums for later; after you've becomed a fan of Ayreon and want to buy everything from him :-)

From: "Stephen Ellis" <> Subject: More Road Music
...Next up was Ayreon "Flight of the Migrator". Well, I had actually thought I had grabbed "Dream Sequencer" and now I know why? This one is just too much. I love metal/prog/metal, I love cheesy lyrics and I love screaming guitars but this CD is just too canned. I mean, okay I like it and there are parts that are actually wonderful. Then there are parts when is all seems so canned and programmed. Anyway, compared to Mystic Force, This Ayreon is not good metal or prog. Into the Electric Castle was far superior in everyway. And Dream Sequencer has Neal Morse singer "First Man In The World"... I suggest listening b/4 buying.

From: "Carlos Lima" <>
> NP: Ayreon, 'Ayreonauts only'
And I ask: And what do you think about Astrid v/d Veen's voice? Will she be a success, or not?

From: Mariano Bugar? <>
> And what do you think about Astrid v/d Veen's voice? Will she be a success, > or not?
That's really hard to tell. I've only listenened to 'Cold Metal' and the alternate version of 'Temple of the Cat'. Her singing somehow reminds me of Alanis Morissette, which IMO is a good thing, and she's very expressive. All I can tell you is that I'm waiting for the Ambeon album and then we'll see. Anyway, she's only 14 and she's already singing with Arjen, so that's quite a start, don't you think?

From: Jeff Marx <> Subject: [Fwd: [ayreon] Ayreon live at Alfa Centauri]
I thought this might be of interest to some of you.
Hi all, To let you know how it was. The Alfa Centauri is a music festival for Elektronic music held every year here in the Netherlands. performances this year were from Erik Norlander with his special guests ;-) and Rick Wakeman and some other. (www.alfacentauri.nl). the only performance that I was really interested in was Erik's gig and of course the special guests Lana Lane and Arjen!
Erik started off with a few solo songs and a song of the Rocket Scientists, called Dark water. It was really impressive to see and hear him play the Moog and all the other machines that were there that I don't know. After a song of three Erik introduced Lana and together they played a song of the ballad collection, which really impressed me as well. Lana is an excellent singer and what she is doing on the CD she can do live as well.
After that Arjen joined on his acoustic guitar and they played a song that I don't know from an earlier Rocket Scientists album. It was good but just an introduction for the next song which was the Dream Sequencer. Arjen played that on his Strat together with Erik and it was a 10 minute cold shiver experience. They started just like the album version but started to improvise after a few minutes so that the song almost became like a blues song, and both varying and improvising on the theme. Pure excitement and the audience really appreciated it. After this excitement Arjen and Erik decided to end the set with a little bit of rock n rol, and therefore they played Space 1999 or so. An really really cool concert. Thanx guys!
I was also very happy to meet Lana, Erik and Arjen after the show. We talked a bit about Ayreon, future projects and did a lot of gossip about you on the list! I really had a great time and looking forward to your next appearance Arjen!