Album Review: Ayreon – 01011001

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There is no doubt that the Dutch are awesome.  They’ve given the United States some of the greatest exports ever:  The first American settlers on the Mayflower, film director Paul Verhoeven, the awesome 1991 film starring Ed O’Neill and Christopher McDonald and the title character of Arnold Schwartzenegger’s lead role in “Predator.”  Nonetheless, there is another Dutch export that has been consistently overlooked and only known in hardcore metal circles.  This would be the multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen.  For close to thirteen years now, he has performed under his stage name and pseudonym “Aryeon” and released twelve albums, including his newest epic 01011001.

The reason behind the numerical album title stems from the binary coding of the number 89, as well as the ASCII coding for the letter “Y.”  The album itself is split into two discs and the first half is simply labeled, “Y.” While the other half is called, “Earth.”  This is a concept album, without a doubt, and according to the liner notes of the album, the outline (while lengthy), is as follows…

“On Planet Y, the seafaring “Forever’” have long ago forgone their emotions as well as becoming dependent on machines, in order to become immortal. Longing to rediscover emotions, the Forever send their DNA to planet Earth using a comet as vessel. The vessel reaches Earth seeding humanity, and causes the extinction of the dinosaurs. Humans rise and through them, Forever are able to relive lost emotions. However, Forever’s continued meddling with humanity in order to make them evolve faster have disastrous consequence when their physical and mental evolution goes faster than their moral development; humanity starts becoming dependent on machines, they start slowly losing their emotions, and worst of all head toward the path to their own extinction. Forever must then orchestrate a way to help humanity save themselves, or should they even bother…is the experiment over?”

Concept aside, this is a pretty interesting metal album. On the first count, it begins with a ten and a half minute epic, “Age Of Shadows.”  As mentioned before, this track is a concept and it has enough sounds, textures and musical weavings to make any music theorist happy like a child in a 24-hour, all you can open n’ ride toy store.  The keyboards and guitars sound crisp and clean on here and what’s interesting to note is Lucassen’s choice of vocalists.  Many have contributed to the overall feeling of this album and on “Age Of Shadows,” the highlights of this epic is at 4:40 from which guitar arpeggios flutter like shards of burnt paper in the wind and at 6:16 where the female vocals recite the album’s title 01011001.  Numbers never sounded so good and so epic… seriously.

The production on 01011001 is top notch.  All the instruments are clearly heard and nothing is left behind.  There is a sense of opera throughout the entire album especially on the later portions of the disc, including “Comatose,” “Liquid Eternity” and “Beneath The Waves.”  After a while however, the album does become a bit too much to take in one sitting.  This is not a bad thing, but with the fifteen tracks presented here, the average song length is a little over seven minutes.  The album is epic, the guitars are crunchy, the leads are ear ripping and the keyboards and vocals are top notch, but the best way to listen to this album is in two sittings, one for each disc.  This seems to be the only flaw throughout the entire sitting.  Aside from that, Lucassen has done a great job interweaving melodies and classical themes throughout his visions and epic musical passages.  The only criticism here is that it stretches a bit too long for most of the part.

01011001 is definitely a good experiment in modern metal of epic proportions, but it is also definitely not for everyone. This also shows that in certain parts of the world, metal still is a way of life and that people eat this music up like ice cream on a hot summer day.  To paraphrase the mood on this album and it’s overall theme of experimental science gone wrong, here’s a quote from Arnold’s famous line in “Predator”: “Run! Go! Get to the chopper!”

[Order via Amazon]

Check out:

“Beneath the Waves”

“Web of Lies”

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