Ayreon - The Source - (9.5/10)
Published on August 27, 2017
Label:Music Theories Recordings
Playing Time:44:07 / 44:26
A new Ayreon album is like an event, with each announced guest singer or guest musician raising the anticipation and creating a buzz only few artists are able to without resorting to hyperbole, just based on names and little musical snippets and, of course, the musical merit of Mr. Lucassen’s past nine albums, which has established him as one of the prime composers of our time. The Source is the grand anniversary of 10th album and once more the sheer guest list is astounding, would be overwhelming for some, but knowing his skills as a grand composer, they are a big promise.
Usually name-dropping is a cheap way of trying to generate some sort of a buzz, but without any comments or rating, just a few of these names to get a taste of this: Paul Gilbert, James LaBrie, Tommy Karevik, Simone Simons, Nils K. Rue, Tobias Sammet, Hansi Kursch, Russell Allen, Floor Janssen… And with almost one and a half hours of music, Lucassen gives each of his guests ample space to let their talents show, which in turn makes reviewing a double album like this a pretty grand task just due to the quantity of songs contained.
So The Source is yet another grand concept of Arjen, once more set in space. “The story starts in the far distant past on a planet called Alpha in the Andromeda Galaxy, inhabited by our human ancestors. Computers have surpassed human intelligence and have shut down all support systems, which causes the planet to erupt in panic and chaos. The story unfolds as the Alphans struggle against technology run amok.”
And if one could pick just one song to sum up The Source, then without a doubt opener “The Day that the World Breaks Down” would the one. Not only does it feature the entire cast (with the exception of Zaher Zorgati), but it condenses pretty much everything that Ayreon stands for into one twelve and a half minute track and it is proof right from the get go that Lucassen’s announcement that the album would be more guitar-oriented is very true, with nice heaviness and guitar focus. The song cannot be described any better than as a true masterpiece, it has urgency, energy, power, expression, dynamics, plus eleven characters leaving their mark on the track, but everything with utterly amazing cohesion and flow. A song for the ages!
Throughout the album Lucassen creates this ebb and flow between songs, within songs, changing up the intensity, speed, atmosphere, instrumentation, like the playful melody and darker atmosphere of “Everybody Dies”, beautiful folky “All That Was” (overall the flute and violin feature surprisingly heavily throughout The Source) or straight and energetic “Run! Apocalypse! Run!” from the first CD, more than once evoking some images of Star One in the straighter, more power metal influenced sections. On the second disc standout tracks are oriental influenced “Deathcry of a Race”, straight “Into the Ocean”, uplifting, heavy and fast “Planet Y is Alive!” and uplifting, playful “Journey to Forever”, but in all honesty, throughout the whole album not a single track stands out in a negative way.
As in the past, one of Lucassen’s biggest strengths is to have each song, each interlude exactly have their place to make the grand whole the amazing construct it is. Also his talent to utilize the different singers and characters to the fullest extent and make a song such as above mentioned “The Day That the World Breaks Down” work and this flowing despite 11 different characters is legacy for the genius that Lucassen brings into play here. It is highly difficult to compare any of Ayreon’s albums, because they all stand on a very, very high level, but to put The Source up there with the best of them is not a long shot! A hot contender for album of the year!