If you like prog metal, and if you like sci-fi movies and TV, then this is another fantastic disc from Star One. Arjen Anthony Lucassen is once again in the captain’s chair, steering the starship for this new mission into the galaxy of sci-fi shows about time travel.
Each track assembles a mighty away team to explore the thematic terrain of sci-fi artworks both famous and obscure. The key personnel on the bridge are Arjen on guitar and bass and Ed Warby on drums, starring roles like those of our beloved Kick and Spock. Erik van Ittersum on Solina Strings and Joost van den Broek (of After Forever) on Hammond are akin to mission support from Bones and Scotty. Here’s the breakdown of the away teams track-by-track:
Track 01, “Fate of Man” (05:29), is inspired by The Terminator. The magnificent maiden Brittney Slayes (of Unleash the Archers) delivers a killer vocal performance. The peerless Michael Romeo (of Symphony X) adorns the track with a scintillating guitar solo. CD2 of the package includes the same tracks as CD1, but with different vocalists: for this track, that’s Marcela Bovio (of Elfonia, The Gentle Storm, Stream of Passion, and MaYaN). Slayes is a tough act to follow, but Bovio shows she’s as spectacular as a supernova on her turn.
Track 02, “28 Days (Till the End of Time)” (07:20), is inspired by Donnie Darko. Russell Allen (of Symphony X) sings lead and keeps the disc feeling like a Symphony X album. John Jaycee Cuijpers (of Praying Mantis) does vocals on CD2. Timo Somers (of Delain) steals the show with a sweet guitar solo.
Track 03, “Prescient” (06:34), is inspired by Primer. Ross Jennings (of Haken) supplies his truly unique vocals, along with Michael Mills (of Toehder), for a very satisfying combo. Will Shaw (of Heir Apparent) handles it on CD2. I watched Primer a long time ago and, unlike the familiar references on the first two tracks, I had to look it up to remind myself of the plot: “Friends and fledgling entrepreneurs invent a device in their garage which reduces the apparent mass of any object placed inside it, but they discover that it has some highly unexpected capabilities – ones that could enable them to do and to have seemingly anything they want. Taking advantage of this unique opportunity is the first challenge they face. Dealing with the consequences is the next.”
Track 04, “Back from the Past” (04:50), is inspired by Back to the Future, and it’s a real hoot. Jeff Scott Soto does the spirited vocals and Ron Bumblefoot Thal (of Sons of Apollo, Guns ’n’ Roses) the mind-bending guitar solo. John Jaycee Cuijpers (of Praying Mantis) does vocals on CD2.
Track 05, “Revel in Time” (04:37), is inspired by Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and is the most whimsical of all the tracks. Arjen is having lots of fun with this whole project, so it seems right to make this the title track. Also, the “revel” is a nice pun on “travel”, since “travel in time” is the unifying album theme. Brandon Yeagley (of Crobot) does vocals and Adrian Vandenberg (of Vandenberg, Whitesnake) the raucous guitar solos. John Jaycee Cuijpers (of Praying Mantis) does vocals on CD2.
Track 06, “The Year of ’41” (06:20), is inspired by the movie The Final Countdown. I guess this song is okay, and the movie has receded in my memory. Joe Lynn Turner (of Deep Purple, Rainbow) does vocals and the amazing guitarist Joel Hoekstra (of Whitesnake, Cher, TSO) does really fine work on the soloing. Jens Johansson (of Rainbow, Yngwie, Stratovarius) does the synthesizer solo, but on CD2 it’s Alessandro Del Vecchio on both vocals and the synthesizer solo. I had to recall the plot: “During routine manoeuvres near Hawaii in 1980, the aircraft-carrier USS Nimitz is caught in a strange vortex-like storm, throwing the ship back in time to 1941—mere hours before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.” Fine, that’s great, but I think I’d prefer to hear the song by Europe that has the same title.
Track 07, “Bridge of Life” (05:13), is inspired by the movie Frequency. The inimitable Damian Wilson (of Threshold, Headspace, Landmarq) contributes memorable vocals, and I feel sorry for Wilmer Waarbroek on CD2 who has to be compared to the great Damian. I had to remind myself of the plot here also: “When a rare phenomenon gives police officer John Sullivan the chance to speak to his father, 30 years in the past, he takes the opportunity to prevent his dad’s tragic death. After his actions inadvertently give rise to a series of brutal murders he and his father must find a way to fix the consequences of altering time.”
Track 08, “Today is Yesterday” (05:46), is inspired by the movie Groundhog Day. Dan Swanö (of Nightingale, Second Sky, Edge Of Sanity) hams it up on vocals. At first, I thought the vocal performance was as ridiculous as the umlaut on the last vowel of his name. But after more listens, I warmed up to it. The track has nice thoughts about the classic Bill Murray flick. Lisa Bella Donna contributes Moog synth, and Marcel Singor (of Kayak) the appropriately obnoxious guitar solo. Arjen Lucassen himself (of Ayreon, The Gentle Storm, Stream of Passion, Ambeon, Guilt Machine, in case you forgot) does all guitars, bass, keyboards, and even the vocals on CD2. You can listen to this track every February 2nd: “A narcissistic TV weatherman, along with his attractive-but-distant producer, and his mawkish cameraman, is sent to report on Groundhog Day in the small town of Punxsutawney, where he finds himself repeating the same day over and over.”
Track 09, “A Hand on the Clock” (05:51), is inspired by the movie Source Code. The brilliant Floor Jansen (of Nightwish, After Forever) is stellar on vocals here, and it’s hard to believe someone of her talent is buried on track nine. Then again, I can understand wanting to lead with Brittney’s star turn on track one, and the rationale here seems to be Arjen saving his favorites for last, placing Jansen in the antepenultimate position, so that the excitement and anticipation builds as we listen to the CD and eagerly await her turn. Joost does a Hammond solo to add extra zip. Floor’s sister Irene contributes backing vocals but also the vocals on CD2 together with Marcela Bovio. I’ve only watched this movie once, back when it was first out: “When decorated soldier Captain Colter Stevens wakes up in the body of an unknown man, he discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train.” Pretty decent, but it’s Floor’s singing that I would return to again and again.
Track 10, “Beyond the Edge of it All” (04:52), is inspired by the British sci-fi/horror TV series Sapphire and Steel, which I did not know about until listening to this CD. John Jaycee Cuijpers (of Praying Mantis) does good vocals, and I think Arjen does the guitar solo here as part of the “best for later” logic of the album tracking. He must be a big fan of the show, because after looking it up and watching it, now I am too. I can’t believe I had never seen it before, because it is absolutely classic, and I am grateful to Arjen for bringing it to my attention through this album. Mike Andersson (of Tungsten, Star One) does vocals on CD2. Perhaps listeners will want to have a two-week film festival of all the movies Arjen has made this album about. That’s a great idea, and I welcome you to it. My own festival ended up being a Sapphire and Steel marathon:
“Sapphire & Steel is a British television science-fiction fantasy series starring David McCallum as Steel and Joanna Lumley as Sapphire. Produced by ATV, it ran from 1979 to 1982 on the ITV network. The series was created by Peter J. Hammond who conceived the programme under the working title The Time Menders, after a stay in an allegedly haunted castle. Hammond also wrote all the stories except for the fifth, which was co-written by Don Houghton and Anthony Read. In 2004, Sapphire and Steel returned in a series of audio dramas starring David Warner and Susannah Harker.”
Track 11, “Lost Children of the Universe” (09:46), is inspired by the movie Interstellar. That movie is one of my top-ten favorites, so I approve of the “best for last” implication here. Roy Khan (of Kamelot) does vocals here, and the Hellscore Choir also shows up near the end for an unexpected twist. Steve Vai delivers an Academy Award-worthy guitar solo.
Surprisingly, Tony Martin (of Black Sabbath) is placed on CD2 instead, but I think Arjen faced an impossible choice here, because Khan’s dramatic delivery is just so darn good. I think Ray Gillen was a better singer for Sabbath than Tony Martin was, but alas Tony is better known.
Marcela and Irene contribute truly stellar interstellar backing vocals, as on so many other places on the album: they really deserve a lot of credit as the (perhaps unsung) background singing heroes that they are here on this disc.
Note: Arjen released this track as an advance single, with a mix of vocals from both Roy and Tony. So, if you are true fan and total collector like me, you will want all three versions of the song.
Thanks you Arjen and crew for another thrilling journey. I am grateful for hours and hours of so much enjoyment with this virtuous circle of sci-fi movies and songs. Rock on at warp speed!