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Ayreon - "Timeline" (Boxed Set)

Ayreon - "Timeline" Boxed Set cover image

"Timeline" track listing:

CD 1

01. Prologue - 3:17
02. The Awareness - 6:36
03. Eyes of Time - 5:05
04. The Accusation (acoustic version) - 3:43
05. Sail Away to Avalon (single version) - 3:40
06. Listen to the Waves - 4:40
07. Actual Fantasy - 1:31
08. Abbey of Synn - 9:25
09. Computer Eyes - 7:17
10. Back on Planet Earth - 7:04
11. Isis and Osiris - 11:09
12. Amazing Flight - 10:21

CD 2

01. The Garden of Emotions - 9:40
02. The Castle Hall - 5:48
03. The Mirror Maze - 6:23
04. The Two Gates - 6:23
05. The Shooting Company of Captain Frans B Cocq - 7:42
06. Dawn of a Million Souls - 7:44
07. And the Druids Turned to Stone - 6:32
08. Into the Black Hole - 10:17
09. The First Man on Earth - 6:54
10. Day Two: Isolation 8:46

CD 3

01. Day Three: Pain 4:53
02. Day Six: Childhood 5:04
03. Day Twelve: Trauma 9:23
04. Day Sixteen: Loser 4:47
05. Day Seventeen: Accident? 5:41
06. Age of Shadows (edit) - 5:39
07. Ride the Comet - 3:39
08. The Fifth Extinction - 10:27
09. Waking Dreams - 6:23
10. The Sixth Extinction - 12:16
11. Epilogue: The Memory Remains - 9:16

Reviewed by on August 13, 2009

"A massive retrospective album tying together eight quality concept albums and storylines, with an absurd amount of great bonus material."

Ayreon’s “Timeline” ties together the stories developed over eight thorough albums by progressive rock and metal mastermind Arjen Lucassen in a retrospective that totals nearly four hours of music. The scope is huge – 32 tracks of previously released Ayreon albums from 1995’s “The Final Experiment” up to the latest 2008 release, “01011001”, plus a new 9-minute song, “The Memory Remains.” The additional bonus features are also extremely noteworthy, as they total about two hours as well.

In this three-disc retrospective, tracks chosen by Arjen have been rearranged to fit in an essential order to clearly explain the gigantic storyline, rather than simply put in the same order the albums came in. This makes the storyline a bit easier to follow, though it would still be daunting to newcomers. The tracks have all been re-mastered for this release and sound livelier than ever, with production values exceeding those of much of the genre. The final track on the third disc “The Memory Remains” is a new release in the style of previous Ayreon material explaining and continuing the storyline a bit through new Ayreon vocalist Jasper Staverlinck (of Arid). Staverlinck’s voice handles the Ayreon material beautifully, coloring it with his own brand of melodic singing. Vocal talents on the other songs of the album include the following: Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden), James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth), Floor Jansen (After Forever), Sir Russell Allen (Symphony X), Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad), Daniel Gildenlow (Pain of Salvation), Tom Englund (Evergrey), and many more.

The bonuses of this retrospective set include a DVD with certain tracks mixed in 5.1 and a vast videography including live footage (both previously released and unreleased), music videos, and documentary footage. A fifty-six-page booklet commemorating Arjen’s career, showing off previously released and unreleased photos, as well as a fold-out poster of the “Timeline” artwork are also included in the package. The backside of the poster visually details the outline of the story.

Avid Ayreon fans should have a fair amount to appreciate with the re-masterings and bonus features, and new Ayreon fans will find this to be a good sampler of the storyline and an introduction to the Ayreon universe. This is a massive retrospective album tying together eight quality concept albums and storylines, with an absurd amount of great bonus material, which is worth a grab.

Highs: Incredible thirteen-year overview of songs, quality video documentary, live footage, and bonus material mixed in 5.1.

Lows: Though tied together in this set, the storyline of several albums’ worth of material may still be too daunting for casual listeners to get into.

Bottom line: Worth picking up whether or not you’re an avid Ayreon fan.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)