Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

Into the Electric Castle – Ayreon [#638]

Ayreon_-_Electric_Castle album cover
Big-haired symphonic prog rocker Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s third concept album, with his collaboration project Ayreon, tells the tale of time-napped protagonists sent to find their way through some weird assault course like maze for some obscure reason that really doesn’t matter.

Marillion’s Fish, The Gatherings Anneke van Giersbergen and Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel all play characters warbling their way through various trials and tribulations much like they might in some Jeff Wayne tribute musical if it was done right. The dramatic passion within the music illustrates just how talented and creative Lucassen can be if left to his own devices.

Into the Electric Castle is possibly my most played Ayreon album if not for the fantastically big hair rock Rainbow Bridge which often results in in-car rock performances while en-route to distant places indeed, I have frequently threatened to subject passengers to the entire album it’s so good.

I think if I’d come across the music in 1998 when it was released, many of the late night conversations I used to have about music with my pals would have resulted in even longer talks into the night. Sadly I only became aware of Ayreon when I had moved away from my hometown of Liverpool, leaving the opportunities for late night debate ever diminishing into the realms of misspent youth and early adulthood.

 

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Into Temptation: The Best of Gothic Rock — Various Artists [#637]

intotemptationThere are as many compilations claiming to be the best of gothic rock entitled Into Temptation as there are compilations claiming to be the best of gothic rock. Confusing really as this isn’t really what I’d call Gothic Rock, it’s what I’d call Scandinavian symphonic rock fronted by tight-fitting low cleavaged black catsuit wearing busty sirens in a wind tunnel aimed at appealing to frustrated teenage males with big hair and middle-aged balding forty-somethings trying to recapture their lost youth.

When the much talked about Great Internet MP3 Download Free-for-All of the mid to late noughties hit, I was trying to develop my musical tastes in the dark elven forests of gothdom. As long-term readers may remember, one of the many tactics I use to discover music is to download compilations to figure out which bands I like the sound of.

One of the first compilations I downloaded was called Into Temptation. It had some really good songs on it from bands like Nightwish, Within Temptation and Ayreon. Sadly, I lost the first version due to file and disk corruption and, despite repeated attempts, was unable to locate the version I had. But with acts like Nightwish, Within Temptation, Ayreon, Sirenia, The Gathering, Lacuna Coil AND Tristania….it will do.

Complete tracklisting for this compilation:

1 –Within Temptation – Ice Queen
2 – After Forever – My Pledge Of Allegiance #1 (The Sealed Fate
3 –Nightwish – Ever Dream
4 – The Gathering – In Motion #1
5 – Tristania – Wormwood
6 – AyreonMy House On Mars
7 –Within Temptation – Our Farewell
8 – Ambeon – Cold Metal
9 –Lacuna Coil – Senzafine
10 –After Forever – Emphasis
11–Trail Of Tears – Driven Through The Ruins
12 – Sirenia – Meridian
13 – Beseech – Between The Lines
14 – Therion – O Fortuna

And if that list doesn’t get you running for the Kleenex you’re obviously listening to the wrong genre.

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Human Equation – Ayreon #597

Ayreon_-_Human_Equation

Human Equation by Ayreon

Human Equation is a double concept album from legendary Nineties/Noughties Dutch prog experiment Ayreon.

A man in a coma for twenty days struggles with inner demons and outside influences through internal song, each day being a track on the album. A supposed break from Ayreon’s  album spanning “Forever” story arch, although in the last track we do hear albeit briefly, from Forever of the Stars from the album Final Experiment and the Dream Sequencer from Universal Migrator which ties it all in nicely.

Human Equation is not my most favourite of Ayreon discoveries instead I’m all for the drama of Into the Electric Castle but as 01011001 hadn’t been released at the time I obtained my copy of Human Equation, it was a lid on the metaphorical pie of Ayreons work for me.

Like other Ayreon albums, guest singers each take a voice of a character within the overarching story with the likes of Dream Theatre’s James LaBrie and Soul Machine’s Eric Clayton joining the cast. Even prog keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman‘s son Oliver guests as synth player on track 7.  A feast of noughties prog.

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Final Experiment – Ayreon [#470]

440px-Ayreon_The_Final_Experiment Arjen Anthony Lucassen and his rag tag collection of musicians again this time with his first album under the collective name of Ayreon.

Final Experiment sets the ground work for Ayreon’s later works such as Universal Migrator and 01011001Far off in the future, the remnants of the human race project telepathic images to a minstrel living in the past with King Arthur and Merlin in an effort to prevent an almighty calamity.

This is it. This is the album that those who like story based concept albums such as War of the Worlds or Spartacus (both Triumvirat’s and Jeff Wayne’s versions) or later unrelated Ayreon works such as Actual Fantasy should like. Yes, you should  like it. I know I know, I take the piss out of endless lists of people who tell me I “should” like some music, but I mean it this time.

Ayreon’s mix of story telling and rock music improve with age and time and it should be remembered that this is the first Ayreon album so things aren’t quite honed to perfection but it is a strong foundation to grow the seedlings of fandom in.

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Fate of a Dreamer – Ambeon [#462]

220px-Ambeon_FOADWho is this Ambeon you talk of? Why does their music sound so hauntingly familiar?

Well, if you’ve been following the Music Project for sometime now, you might be familiar with Dutch metal head, Arjen Lucassen, aka Ayreon. He is the musical equivalent of a polymath in that he is accomplished in numerous instruments (like Mike Oldfield), genres and styles (mostly prog). Lucassen, as you might know, is involved in many musical collaborations and projects and Ambeon, is one such project.

Ambeon serves as a prototype of Stream of Passion, in that it was fronted by a female lead singer, (then 14 year old) Astrid van der Veen. Sadly this is the only album by the project, van der Veen citing musical, personal and other difficulties preventing her continued work with the project.

Fate of a Dreamer is an interesting album in that it features a great deal of reworked and evolving themes present in other Ayreon and Stream of Passion albums which any fan of Ayreon will definitely detect. My favourite track from the album is the song Cold Metal. A sorrowful tune about a girl lying on the railway tracks waiting to be run over by a train. Of course, I didn’t know this to begin with as my old music system wasn’t a great one which often made it difficult to hear what people were singing. I used to think she sang “Cold Cold Badgers”.

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Embrace the Storm – Stream of Passion [#426]

440px-Stream_of_Passion-Embrace_the_Storm-1Regular Music Project denizen, Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Ayreon), wanted to take his unique conceptualised music on tour. No mean feat when you regularly invite established musicians to join you in making records. So in order to ensure the sounds from his album were not too lost, Ayreon got together with a gang of session musicians and formed Stream of Passion.

Stream of Passion went on tour with Lucassen until he got bored and moved off to other things. However the behemoth he created continues on, storming Dutch and mainland European rock festivals with a mix of their own stuff and Ayreon covers.

Embrace the Storm is their first album, still with Lucassen and lead singer Marcela Bovio, as a result it sounds a lot like an Ayreon concept album, but it isn’t.

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Chronometree – Glass Hammer [#272]

440px-ChronometreeChronometree – Glass Hammer

Prog. More prog.

Some claim that punk killed prog with a nasty kick in the chuff back in the late 1970s. However it didn’t die, it crawled towards the back of people’s music collections and lay there. Regenerating. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ayreonauts Only – Ayreon [#113]

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 16.35.34Ayreonauts Only – Ayreon

We talked about Ayreon back at the start of this project. Ayreon is one of those European rock stars that wouldn’t be out of place in one of those Euro Rock bands of the late 1980’s like Poison or Europe.

Except he’s far too good for that.

This album acts as a kind of “I can do better than what I did before” Best of compilation album. A Betterer Of, for want of a better phrase.

If the chugga chugga guitar of Into the Black Hole doesn’t get you fired up, then perhaps Eyes of Time or  Cold Metal will.

I love this album. Again, I have no idea why he’s not as well known in the UK as he is in Europe.

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Actual Fantasy – Ayreon [#54]


Ayreon_-_Actual_Fantasy
Actual Fantasy – Ayreon (1996)

The second Ayreon album in this project.

This is a really good album. I really wish the UK made more out of our European cousins music. There are some really good bands over there and had I been aware of Ayreon in 1996, I would probably have bought this album then.

Think hair. Lots of hair. Think synth. Lots of synth. Think rock guitar. Lots of rock guitar. Add a sprinkling of Jeff Wayne and you have Ayreon.

The album is like a compendium of short stories with each song telling a tale about some weirdness involving time travellers, computer zombies or fantasy worlds where books can kill.  If you like Jeff Wayne, prog or your songs to tell stories, then this is one artist you cannot afford to ignore in your life. The best song, in my opinion, is Abbey of Synn which has a catchy tune and a chorus that will lay ear worm eggs in your mind.

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01011001–Ayreon [#22]

000-ayreon-01011001-(advance)-2cd-proof-2008

01011001 by Ayreon

I can’t remember how I first heard about Ayreon. It might be listening to a compilation or something but from the first song that I heard, I just knew that I would like his work.

So I managed to get his back catalogue with this fantastic double album being released at the moment that I began getting Ayreon’s work.

I think that Ayreon, or Arjen Anthony Lucassen, does a bloody good job of uniting various artists such as Floor Jansen, Anneke Van Giersbergen, Bruce Dickinson and Fish under a single project umbrella. Much in the same way as Ivo Russell-Watts did with 4AD and This Mortal Coil. The difference being that Lucassen creates a concept album as the central cusp of the union.

So let us see….changing artists – Check; Concept albums – Check; Bearded and hairy musicians – check; Rock music – Check….so does that make it prog? New prog? In my opinion, yes it does.

01011001 tells the tale of the descent of man into destruction despite alien entities, psychically beaming visions of our destruction into our little heads. It works. It tells a story. With music and catchy tunes.

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