16. Ayreon – The Theory of Everything
Ayreon is the major musical project of Arjen Anthony Luccassen, a progressive rock and metal supergenius. All Ayreon albums work like this: they are rock operas. There are a bunch of guest vocalists who sing dialogue for characters. There are a bunch of guest musicians who lay down awesome instrumentals. Everything comes together to feel like a Broadway musical. The story for this album is about a savant whose father, a brilliant mathematician obsessed with figuring out the so-called Theory of Everything, gives him an experimental drug to help his autism or whatever. Unexpected things happen. The story is pure theatrical cheese, but I happen to dig that sort of thing, so whatever. Musically, this album Arjen at some of his very best: flutes and organs and harps and guitars. Heavy Kansas + Jethro Tull + Yes. The guest vocalists, headed up by Kamelot’s Tommy Kaervik, put in impressive, expressive work to sell the dialogue. The guest musicians? What a lineup! Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater, Steve Hackman of Genesis, Rick Wakeman of Yes, Keith Emerson of ELP, among others. All held together by one of my favorite dummers on the planet, Ed Warby. What keeps this album out of my top 10, honestly, is the way the tracks are broken up. Arjen has essentially recorded four different 20-minute long songs. But the album breaks them up into little segments for each movement of the story (so you can follow along in the lyrics book). What happens is that instead of building true momentum over the course of a 20 minute song, the track changes undercut that tension. Sometimes a track will change in the middle of a vocal climax. It’s an unqualified mistake, and one that keeps one of Arjen’s best albums from becoming one of my all-time favorites.
Originally Posted by Delano
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