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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Emerger – Carptree [#635]

Emerger by Carptree
Apple Music was one of the causes of the last hiatus. Having taken advantage of the super 3 months free offer and slightly better than usual broadband at my rural home, I was given access to loads of new music. Moreover, I was thrilled to discover the “Suggested for you” feature of the For You tab and how it “Suggests” music you might like based on your listening. Then, one-day last year, Apple Music suggested I’d like Emerger by Carptree and that was it, I was sucked in like a leaf in a water pump reservoir.

Carptree do everything right that a progressive rock band formed of two Swedish blokes with a fondness for fishing and a theremin would do. Bog standard low budget music videos, lyrics about nature, crazy waxed moustaches, lots of keyboard twiddly and a vocalist that sounds like Peter Gabriel before he went all Brian Pern.

Emerger is new prog done well. Like someone has been handed the progressive rock recipe book and followed it to the letter. The whole album has a semi-concept feel (is it about fishing? Or is it about life on a river bed? I’m not entirely convinced) and the production values show how easy it is for middle-aged mates to be creative together in a “We’re getting old now but haven’t made it yet because of the day job” way with an Apple Mac and a bloke from work who plays the drums.

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In Abstentia – Porcupine Tree [#621]

As a mature media student at Huddersfield Uni, it was fun, and refreshing, to discuss similar musical tastes with my lecturers during tutorials.

During one long discussion about the joys of Prog when we should have been discussing Media Theory, my lecturer asked me if I knew about Porcupine Tree. I said I didn’t. Reaching over to the bookshelf above his desk, he picked out a copy of In Absentia and told me that my homework was to listen to the album.

I was late handing in the assignment. Probably now nearly ten years late. To be fair, I’ve listened to some of the tracks admittedly not all but what I’ve heard I have enjoyed. Indeed, Blackest Eyes has featured in a number of my in-car playlists over the past few years. It is the band’s seventh album coming between Lightbulb Sun and Deadwing and features several songs seemingly about serial killing. As you do…

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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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How to Measure a Planet? – The Gathering #595

 

The_Gathering_-_How_To_Measure_a_Planet

How to Measure a Planet? – The Gathering

Back in the mid-noughties I was directed towards The Gathering’s Mandylion album and swiftly became enamoured with the Dutch Prog-metal band. Yet, while Mandylion and Home scratched an itch, How to Measure a Planet? made sure that further irritants were applied to the metaphoric discomfort.

At the time I was a mature student studying Media at Huddersfield University which often required late nights of reading European Media Directives,  Media Theory and writing essays on audience paradigms. Sometimes, to get me into the study zone, I would listen to albums while wearing my headphones, often on repeat. How to Measure a Planet became one of those albums. Constantly on loop,  songs from the album such as Liberty Bell and Probably Built in the Fifties would often blur into each other in some sort of semi-hypnotic chant. Moreover, I would sometimes fall asleep, book flopping to my side, waking sporadically through the night hours to what seemed like an extended mix of the song I’d already woken and fallen asleep to. As a result, this album has a kind of important place in my life soundtrack.

How to Measure a Planet is the band’s fifth studio album.

 

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