Sunday, October 01, 2006

Rock Opera Revival Pt 1: Arjen Anthony Lucassen

I can't quite remember anything about 1995. Sure, I was alive at the time, but I was young and events around me didn't seem very important. If only I knew! If only I could have guessed that the revival of that ancient form of musical expression, the rock opera, was about to be revived/reinvented/made more metal. At least, eventually.

Let's start things off with some knowledge. Arjen started his musical career in a small rock band called Bodine. They released 2 albums together, and Arjen grew as a musician and started to play bass at this time. In 1984, he joined a hard rock band called Vengeance. He was in vengeance for awhile, and then, in 1995, he released his first CD under the name of Ayreon: The Final Experiment.

The Final Experiment is a concept album about a blind minstrel named Ayreon that lived during the middle ages. Scientists from the year 2085 or 86 or something, have developed a new technology that allows them to send telepathic messages through time. Mankind has virtually destroyed themselves. They are attempting to send the messages back in time to change the FUTURE! However, Ayreon goes and sings about these terrible events of the future, and is banished by the wizard Merlin. So the final experiment fails, and mankind is doomed. How uplifting. There's more to the story/characters, but I don't want to spoil too much.

The sound of The Final Experiment can best be described as a hard-rock romp through a medieval fair. There are multiple singers, and Arjen basically plays every instrument on the album. Keyboards, guitars, bass, flute. There is also some electronica elements in it. It's a very unique approach to a fantasy rock opera with sci-fi elements.

Ayreon - Sail Away to Avalon
Ayreon - Computer Reign (Game Over)
Ayreon - Charm of the Seer

Just one year after The Final Experiment, Aryeon's second album, Actual Fantasy, was released. It was more a collection of short sci-fi/fantasy stories than a single story. It is the only Ayreon release that is like this. Some of the story themes expanded in later releases, like the song "computer eyes" is about a device called "The Dream Sequencer," which Ayreon's 4th release deals with exclusively. This release had a lot more electronica elements then the last release, and the keyboards play a more prominent role in many songs.

Ayreon - Actual Fantasy

Ayreon - Abbey of Sinn
Ayreon - Computer Eyes

Arjen, at this point, waited until 1998 to release his next rock opera. This one... was a SPACE OPERA. It involved time travel, aliens, and an experiment for a highly advanced race of beings to rediscover their emotions. By taking stereotypical characters as portrayed by old movies, Arjen created over-the-top silly characters. A barbarian, a futureman, a hippy, a highlander, a crusader, an egyptian, and an indian. And some other characters I probably forgot. Into the Electric Castle is an attempt to analyse emotions through ridiculous characters. Successful? Well, I'm not sure. It's a fan favourite. The sound for this album is a lot more of a "psychadellic rock" feel than the other ones. It's not quite as heavy as some of his other projects.

Ayreon - The Hall of Isis and Osiris
Ayreon - The Decision Tree (We're Alive)
Ayreon - The Castle Hall

Now, for the sake of making this a little more edible, I am going to divide it into chunks. Probably 2. This is chunk 1. Chunk 2 will probably be done by tomorrow. I plan to go from the 4th Ayreon release to Arjen's latest side project, Stream of Passion.

It should be fun!

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