Ayreon - The Human Equation
Musical mastermind and multi musician Arjen Lucassen (also Star One, Vengeance among other) has once again gathered a group of excellent musicians from all over the world, and the result is the 4th album from his metal opera project Ayreon. The 3 other releases came 1995, 1998 and 2000 and the 1st and 3rd of those are concept albums that tell a story just like this one, while the 2nd has no real continuous story. Appearing on this album are, among many others: Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth, Eric Clayton of Saviour Machine, James Labrie of Dream Theater, Dan Swanö, Devon Graves of Dead Soul Tribe, Devin Townsend, Ken Hensley, Marcella Bovio of Elfonia, Heather Findlay of Mostly Autumn, Magnus Ekwall of The Quill and of course Arjen Lucassen himself.
The story in short: A man has a car accident and ends up in hospital in a comatose state. The car accident was very bizarre: it was broad daylight and there was no other car in sight. His wife and his best friend are keeping a vigil at his bed, trying to understand what happened, hoping he will wake soon. Cut off from the outside world, the man finds himself trapped in a strange realm where his emotions - most of which hes ignored for a long time - have come to life to confront him with all the choices he has made in his life. As he is taken from one memory to the next, he slowly becomes aware of all the events leading up to his accident, and realizes that if he ever wants to wake up from his coma, he must find a way out of his prison The songs are all representing one day each in his journey through his mind and the struggle reaching back to normal life again.
The other albums have actually never crossed my path before, but since Ayreon previously have received sky high grades for the previus efforts in almost all camps of rockers, I felt that I would investigate what the new effort can serve a person that have the more heavy kind of metal as preferrable genre. I have to say: not much at all.
Calling this metal, first of all, is to clearly overexaggerate things. Most of the material is acoustic and/or below midtempo, and I would go as far as branding this as more pop/rock. Musically it of course in tight symbios with the lyrics, and that results in a dark, somber kind of atmosphere. A bit psychedelic here and there, with progressive elements combined with more normal, straight pop/rock as well as such different things as hammond organ flirting with the 70's and growling death metal vocals. Those are the few parts that stick out, and also the very last 1,5 minutes of the whole album, when we actually get to hear the tempo rise and the albums only double bass drums kick in. That sounds very good and is a fresh breeze, but by then I am since long gone asleep.
There are hardly any hard or heavy guitars on the album, just fragments here and there, and tempowise it stays pretty much in the same pace which makes this feel like it goes on, and on, and on, and on, without really getting anywhere. The impression I have got so far reading up on his previous efforts, is that this is the least heavy one, and I think that could be an accurate analysis. It can't really get more laidback than this without completely losing all connections to being some sort of rock.
It is very well crafted, no doubt about it, and I am the first one to admit that. But after 3 listening sessions there is still not one single part or moment of the album that feels the least interesting or has stuck in my head. And I see or feel no reason to play this one again.
If you are, like I was beforehand, curious whether this album is worthy a spot in your rack of metal albums, the short and distinct answer is: nope. If you are looking for a rock opera with more edge and "bite" to it - look in the direction of Aina, for example.
See also review of: 01011001