Review of Ayreon, THE THEATER EQUATION (Insideout, 2016; 2CD/1DVD).
Well, I should just come straight out and state it—there are few things (or perhaps no things) that I don’t love about Arjen A. Lucassen. Is there anything the man can’t do? Whether its composing, performing, recording, designing, or interacting with his legions of fans, Lucassen is the essence of idealized humanity, prog’s Philosopher King. Whether it’s Star One, solo, Guilt Machine, Ambeon, Gentle Storm, Stream of Passion, or Ayreon, I embrace everything he creates. My oldest son, Nathaniel, feels the same. And, now about a decade of students—whether at Hillsdale College, the University of Louisville, or CU-Boulder—have been introduced to Lucassen as well. I always bring in this music and proudly show the Ayreon timeline when I’m lecturing on science fiction, fantasy, and dystopian literature.
Which leads me to admit something else. Well, two somethings. When I first heard that Lucassen would be performing all of THE HUMAN EQUATION as a visual opera, I was thrilled. When I first saw the stills from the show, however, I was downright embarrassed. I thought it looked terribly cheesy. Smoke, a few vague figures, a hospital bed, and a crashed car. As soon as it came out, I purchased it, of course, but I only listened to the CDs. Astounding sound production, by the way. Indeed, my son and I have listened to the album now (both CDs) repeatedly for about 2 months. I refrained from watching the show, however, fearing that I would be sorely disappointed.
Then, for whatever reason, I finally popped the DVD in. Holy schnikees, I am SO sorry that I waited this long to watch it. Not only is the sound even better than on the CDs, but the show is absolutely riveting. Almost too many folks to count come and go on the set, and the singers do an incredible job not only in hitting their marks, but also of actually acting!
This is true opera.
I had assumed the production would be expensive and difficult, but I had no idea just how extensive, expensive, and difficult it must have been until watching this show.
So, I offer two thoughts.
First, Arjen, I’m terribly sorry I doubted you. How utterly stupid of me. You’ve never done anything without perfect excellence, so why I thought this would be different, I have no idea.
Second, for you the progarchy reader, do not fail to enjoy this prog opera as it is meant to be: watched. Get the DVD and immerse yourself. Believe me, there’s nothing better on your screen.
Thank you, Mr. Lucassen. Once again, you prove your absolute genius.