• Ayreon is back in full strength - A review of Ayreon's "The Source"

    Ayreon - The Source (2017)

    Ayreon is back for good! After the rather underwhelming The Theory of Everything that featured forty-two underdeveloped tracks with a running time below ninety minutes as well as numerous rather pointless side projects, Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Dutch progressive metal project goes back to the style and story line of 01011001 more than nine years ago.

    This double-album delivers everything Ayreon fans had been hoping for. Classic progressive rock influences from the sixties and seventies in the key of Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, King Crimson ,Queen and Yes meet vivid heavy, power and progressive metal elements. The seventeen new songs are highly diversified, energizing and intellectual. The story is as entertaining and thought-provoking. 

    The list of guest singers is very impressive and features famous artists like Floor Jansen, Hansi Kürsch, James LaBrie, Tobias Sammet and Simone Simons but also less known talents such as Michael Eriksen, Michael Mills and Zaher Zorgati. The addition of three additional guitarists as well as musicians on cello, piano and violin must also be mentioned. Most of the musicians and singers have already collaborated with Lucassen in the past and this chemistry really pays off on this album. The songs never ever sound overloaded and each collaborator has the occasion to shine. Dream Theater have recently tried to write a space rock opera on their own and failed but their singer James LaBrie sounds perfectly integrated here and should take some notes for his band mates. It's the same for Floor Jansen who hasn't convinced me with Nightwish yet but who sounds superb on this album. Blind Guardian has been hit and miss in recent years but Hansi Kürsch unfolds his true potential on this release. It seems that Lucassen is not just an outstanding musician and clever song writer but also knows how to challenge his collaborators and get the best out of them. 

    If you like any of the artists and bands mentioned above, if you are new to the metal scene and need an introduction to the genre's greatest artists or if you are a metal fan who hasn't been in touch with the scene for a few years, you should definitely purchase this release.

    Even though all songs are great, the particularly strong opener ''The Day That the World Breaks Down'' must be pointed out as this record's highlight and maybe the best song in Ayreon's history. The track is more than twelve minutes long which is almost twice as long as the second longest song. Usually, it's almost suicidal to open a record with such an ambitious tune but in this case it definitely pays off. The song includes atmospheric sound samples that set the tone right from the start. Eleven of the twelve guest singers appear in the song and shine in their different parts. Especially James LaBrie's soothing vocals that open the album work very well. After a calmer overture, powerful riffs, upbeat drum passages and distinctive bass guitar lines kick the body of the song off. Keyboard melodies soon join and give the track an epic science-fiction atmosphere. Numerous short instrumental passages give the listener a welcome break from the vocals. The middle part includes some majestic choirs that recall Queen at its very best. The final passages of the record end in a powerful manner and yet manage to develop a great transition to the next song that is much calmer and focuses on inspirations from acoustic, classical and folk music.

    If you like the incredible opener, you are going to like the entire record. Ayreon's The Source is one of the best progressive metal records of this decade and already a more than serious candidate for the album of the year in my book. From the instrumental work and performances of the guest singers over the lyrics and story line to the production and design of cover artwork and booklet, this album is fully convincing. Stop reading my review, go to your closest record store and buy this album!

    Final rating: 97%

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