Forever we live a lie, forever slipping by and
Forever we flee, forever we will be
Forever is but a dream, forever is but a scream and
Forever we try, forever we die"
One Word Review: eXistential
An Ayreon album is per definition, an always exciting odyssey. Hailing from Holland, Anthony Arjen Lucassen, the Ayreon mastermind, is known for assembling an impressive assortment of singers and instrumentalists for each of his rock operas. His previous, The Human Equation, was a small masterpiece of progressive rock and metal fused together in an original, varied and moving package. As is usually the case with Ayreon albums, 01011001 is different in several ways. The most immediate difference lies in the music, which is a bit more laid back this time and uses more electronic effects to enhance the atmosphere. This suits the dark story very well, but also gives the album an impression of being tightly knit together and harder to get into.
01011001 is a return to a more sci-fi themed concept and deals with evolution in an interesting way. My first impression was one of slight confusion. The multitude of singers can be daunting at first, since it's not just one or two different singers for each song. The opening song has 8 different singers trading lines, and so it continues through the 102 minute long album.
This is a lot to take in at once and on the first listens only a couple of songs stood out. However this changed when I sat down and read through the booklet, where the lyrics show who sings what, and really focused on the music. Suddenly it became a fascinating journey and the songs started making sense. That you are willing to take time out and really concentrate on the music is quintessential in getting the most from the album. Time and patience is however rewarded generously, as the album unfolds. Not that this should be a surprise in itself, but in this day and age it is a pleasure to find an album that really challenges the listener and takes no easy routes. After this phase of getting to know the album it is possible to just sit back and enjoy it, discovering new layers with each listen. It is the phase of pure enjoyment and it goes on for years and so, the multitude of singers, and overall complexity, in each song turns out to be a major asset for the album.
Vocally things are very high class and every single vocalist is more than up for the job.
But one man manages to stand out in a high quality pack. That man is Jorn Lande. Whenever he opens his mouth on this album, the result is captivating, even breathtaking. His voice really shines here in a way that took me by surprise, and I am already a major fan of his. Right from the first song where he ad libs to Steve Lee and Daniel Gildenlöw's duet through to his and Steve Lee's final cry, Jorn Lande embellishes the album with vocal virtuosity.
Besides Jorn Lande every vocalist has his or her own standout moments on the album. Anneke has some beautiful moments in her duet with Jorn in the ambient Comatose and the way she enters the sound in Beneath the Waves is mesmerizing.
Jonas Renkse mostly brings a dreaming despair to his lines before surprising me quite a lot in the final song with a monstrous....... well, you will hear. Steve Lee (R.I.P.) brings in a varied and impressive performance as well. Even Arjen himself delivers a great performance on a couple of songs.
Magali Luyten gives Ride The Comet and Liquid Eternity a most welcome, powerful kick in their respective chorasses. Liquid Eternity is otherwise ruled by a strong atmosphere and a wonderfully melodic instrumental bridge section halfway through. Also Jorn Lande and Floor Jansen's short duet here is.... well put.
Simone Simons and Phideaux acoustic diversion Web of Lies is a sweet little ironic diversion, while Ty Tabor successfully gives his song a feeling of complacent indifference.
Daniel Gildenlöw is as always unique. Especially memorable is his opening moment of Beneath the waves, where he gives the song a special sense of longing and loss.
Other vocal highlights include the duets, where Floor Jansen participates. First with Hansi Kürsch in Age of Shadows, then with Jorn Lande in Beneath the Waves, where two vocal deities truly clash and finally in Ride The Comet with Tom Englund, Jonas Renkse, Bob Catley and Jorn Lande.
Marjan Welman and Wudstik appear towards the end of the album, where E=MC2 provides some headbanging goodness and leaves me with a surprisingly strong vision of Jean Michel Jarre.
The Sixth Extinction concludes this massive undertaking with a portent suffocating atmosphere.
The songs all have something special to offer, though some take longer than others to fully bloom. Newborn Race especially, is a fantastic song. Through six varied parts the song grows and diverts in several directions, building tension perfectly for the exciting Ride the Comet.
Michael Romeo and Lori Linstruth guest with one guitar solo each, while Joost van den Broek, Derek Sherinian and Thomas Bodin each guest with one synth solo. All do a splendid job, but I naturally would have liked to have heard more where that came from.
References to earlier Ayreon albums go all the way back to "The Final Experiment" and if you have them all you just might be able to connect the dots and uncover the grand design. Another great moment also urges you to check out the Queensrÿche back catalogue.
It should be noted that listening to the album through good headphones is highly recommended at least once, as the album takes on a new life in this environment.
One area where the album does not quite equal The Human Equation is the story, which I didn't find as absorbing. Also a few melody lines are not as original as usual, for example the main melody of River of time reminds strongly of Day Eleven: Love from the before mentioned album. But these are small issues in the overall view and ones that don't prevent the album from leaving a grand impression. I could go on and on and on about all the great little detail that makes the album such a delightful journey but I'd better leave the rest for your own discovery.
Seven years after its release, the album shows no sign of fatigue and remains a thoroughly enjoyable journey. In particular, the unforgettable atmosphere conjured in the opening minutes of Beneath The Waves has etched itself in my soul in a way that makes me realize, that here is a timeless piece of music, showing truthfully what music is capable of doing and completely explaining why I am so passionate about music in general, in just a few moments. The feelings I get, while listening to this passage are so deep, so true and so incredibly powerful yet inexplicably unexplainable, that they have to be felt to be understood and that, to me, is what music is all about, no matter the genre. I consider myself lucky to have a connection like this to a piece of music.
01011001 gets the RevelationZ stamp of outstanding quality, a big bold 01011010.
Written By Steen
Online: Thursday, January 15, 2015
Beneath the Waves
Thursday, January 22, 2015 - Tajs
One of Ayreon's best albums, I still listen to it regularly. And I 100% agree with you on Jorn Lande. That man is a vocal god and should be praised as one. Goosebumps guaranteed on the duet with Floor (who is his female opposite, another vocal goddess).
Saturday, January 24, 2015 - Steen
Yeah, completely agree on the Floor vocal godess thing. It will be interesting to see what she does with Nightwish.