|Review: Ayreon - The Human Equation|
|The Human Equation|
Label: Inside Out Music
Year released: 2004
Genre: Progressive Metal
Review online: April 22, 2008
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
for:The Human Equation
There are a lot of Progressive Metal bands floating around these days, ranging from cleaner, more straightforward Prog like Anubis Gate or Circus Maximus, to heavier, riff-oriented stuff like Communic and Scariot, more Power Metallish types such as Pagan's Mind and Dragonland and even a few odd extreme metal/prog combinations. It's all prog though, whichever side-dish you might happen to lean toward, and whatever your opinion on the genre as a whole, you've most likely heard of Ayreon, at least in passing. This is the main project of mastermind Arjen Lucassen, and if you dislike prog, you will fucking hate this stuff.
As expected, this is a concept album, and it's actually done extremely well - although the story is pretty much shoved down your throat. This is not like one of Kamelot's or Pagan's Mind's albums, where the story is only there if you want to get into it.
Also, let's just get it out on the table first: Ayreon is really prog. I don't mean they've progressed further in the genre than any other band, because they haven't. This is a pretty standard prog formula in the style of Pain of Salvation or maybe a lighter Dream Theater, done to ridiculous excess (over 100 minutes, on two discs, etc.), with ridiculous amounts of effort and passion put into it, and while I don't worship at the altar of this album as others do, even I can admit that it's pretty damned good. Ayreon make classy music, there is no other way to describe it, and unlike too many other bands, this sense of elevated, classy, stylish nuance actually raises it to greater heights, instead of just making it come off as pompous or wanky. This album is almost two hours long, yet it manages to keep my attention for longer than some bands with albums of half its length. Even then, though, it's not like I always have time for a 100+ minute album anyway. While the songwriting here is very good most of the time, it isn't perfect, and if this album were shorter, I'd probably add an extra half point on there. At least.
There are a whole bunch of vocalists here, with my favorite being Devin Townsend, and the music wanders its way through large, spacious catacombs of aural enlightenment, with a cornucopia of styles on display, from the heavy, grooving riffs of opener "Isolation" to light, fluffy Prog Rock on "Love," and soulful folk balladry on the fantastic "Signs." Other good songs include the propulsive, compelling "Voices," the fun romp "Loser" and especially the monstrous stomp of the 9 minute exercise in Prog mastery, "Trauma." Not every song here is good, but there are SO MANY SONGS that you barely even notice, anyway.
This is very, very ambitious music, and I can't recommend this album to anyone with a short attention span or an intolerance for Prog. The Human Equation is definitely not something for everyone, and it isn't the most "metal" album out there, but for the metalhead who doesn't mind a bit of a change and is looking for an interesting journey, look no further than Ayreon.
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