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Ayreon - "01011001" (CD)

Ayreon - "01011001" CD cover image

"01011001" track listing:

Disc 1 - Y
1. Age of Shadows
incl. We Are Forever
2. Comatose
3. Liquid Eternity
4. Connect the Dots
5. Beneath the Waves
(a) Beneath the Waves
(b) Face the Facts
(c) But a Memory...
(d) World Without Walls
(e) Reality Bleeds
6. Newborn Race
(a) The Incentive
(b) The Vision
(c) The Procedure
(d) Another Life
(e) Newborn Race
(f) The Conclusion
7. Ride the Comet
8. Web of Lies

Disc 2 - EARTH
1. The Fifth Extinction
(a) Glimmer of Hope
(b) World of Tomorrow Dreams
(c) Collision Course
(d) From the Ashes
(e) Glimmer of Hope (reprise)
2. Waking Dreams
3. The Truth Is In Here
4. Unnatural Selection
5. River of Time
6. E=MC2
7. The Sixth Extinction
(a) Echoes on the Wind
(b) Radioactive Grave
(c) 2085
(d) To the Planet of Red
(e) Spirit on the Wind
(f) Complete the Circle

Reviewed by on March 24, 2009

"This is a rich sci-fi concept metal album with many faces and facets to it."

Ayreon's latest album is traditional prog metal blasted off into outer space, shaped by other worlds, and brought back to earth with shiny new things collected on the trip. A blend of traditional prog metal elements, many prog rock elements, folk elements, and the talents of a vast array of musicians make for one crazy progged-out journey. If you like your metal imbued with the great unknown of space and science fiction, "01011001" will play out for you like a good sci-fi novel.

Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen, having already put out other epic prog metal concept albums such as "The Universal Migrator" and "The Human Equation," decided to weave the previous ones into a cohesive whole on "01011001." As the album unfolds avid Ayreon fans will find references to all the prior albums in the storyline. This album is split between two worlds on two discs: "Y" and "Earth." For you digital nerds, 01011001 is the binary code for "Y."

At the onset, with "Age of Shadows," the listener is thrown into the action on Planet Y, a machine-controlled world of the Forever, an alien species. Drums, synth, guitar, violin, and the voices of Tom Englund (Evergrey), Steve Lee (Gotthard), Daniel Gildenlow (Pain of Salvation), and others introduce this cold and distant planet and its longing inhabitants. The vocal talent to be found throughout the album is showcased here with full force and, unlike many progressive metal albums, actually survives throughout the duration of the album.

On "Comatose" Jorn Lande (Avantasia, Masterplan) and Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering, Agua de Annique) sing a tragic duet. On "The Age of Shadows," "Liquid Eternity," and "Beneath The Waves," Jonas Renkse (Katatonia, Bloodbath), Magali Luyten (Virus IV), Daniel Gildenlow, Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian) and others share dramatic vocal dialogue about the future of the Forever. Other vocalists on the album are Simone Simons (Epica), Floor Jansen (After Forever), Bob Catley (Magnum), Ty Tabor (King’s X), Phideaux Xavier, Liselotte Hegt (Dial), Wudstik, and Marjan Welman (Elister). The vocal melodies are inspired, fitting with the storyline, and intense, although the storyline gets quite spacey.

Fans of traditional prog rejoice! The synth parts are many and they are phenomenally well produced without overpowering the vocals. Arjen, a fan of traditional Moog synthesizers and a guru of song construction, tastefully meshes warm synths with a cold metal rhythm section for much of the album. At parts the music recalls the acoustic-driven rock of Kansas. In other parts the music recalls Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. With this much variety it’s often hard for bands to maintain a cohesive sound. This is a rich sci-fi concept metal album with many faces and facets to it, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t pretty consistent.

Highs: The production is great, there’s an extensive cast of talented musicians, and a seamless integration of prog & folk elements in the music.

Lows: The storyline is deep and may be, for some metalheads, too spacey and inaccessible.

Bottom line: With many talented musicians from the collective metal sphere, plenty of traditional and modern progressive elements, and a literally out-of-this-world storyline, "01011001" is a trip worth taking for most any metalhead.

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)