Prog Opera: Ayreon’s THE THEATER EQUATION

Review of Ayreon, THE THEATER EQUATION (Insideout, 2016; 2CD/1DVD).

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Comparison: the voices on the studio album (left) and the live version (right).

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!

theater equation poster

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.

lego ayreon

Gentle Storm Cover Art

Everyone’s favorite Arjen has just released this on Facebook.  Looks gorgeous.

I’m very proud to present you the front cover of our upcoming The Gentle Storm album with Anneke van Giersbergen! The album title is “The Diary” and the image was made by the very talented Alexandra V Bach. More about the concept soon!–Arjen Lucassen, November 4, 2014

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New Arjen Lucassen Project: With Anneke van Giersbergen

Arjan Lucassen has just released the following on Facebook:

Time has come to finally disclose my new project… it will be a collaboration between my favorite female singer Anneke van Giersbergen and me! Expect an epic concept double album, a combination of ‘classical meets metal’ and ‘acoustic folk’. More details later!

arjen and anna

 

A progarchist take: God bless the Dutch.  Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Four Years Ago Today: Recollections

More reflections from the past.  This one from four years ago today, January 1, 2010.  Still lots of love for Steven Wilson.

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mobile_pic1A Steven Wilson solo albums can only come out every so often, sadly.  Technically, “Insurgentes” came out at the beginning of 2009.  But, for us Wilson nerds who follow his career way too closely, “Insurgentes” came out in 2008, even only in Wilson’s self-proclaimed hated MP3.  According to my iTunes stats, “Insurgentes” remains my most played cd of this past year.

It was closely followed, again according to my iTunes stats, by Guilt Machine, “On This Perfect Day,” Oceansize, “Frames,” and Riverside, “ADHD.”

Like the cat who adopted us in the summer of 2009 and with whom/which I fell in love, Guilt Machine has been a constant for me since its release in the summer.

There were however, two really, really disappointing CDs.  So disappointing in fact that I’m embarrassed I own them:

  • Dream Theater                      “Black Clouds and Silver Linings”
  • Pure Reason Revolution       “Love Conquers All”

Not sure what either group was thinking in the direction taken.

And, finally, a fun and novel album, but almost assuredly nothing that will stick with me for years to come:

  • Muse                           “The Resistance”

Lyrically, a great album, and moments of absolute musical genius can be found everywhere.  But, excess whimsy mars the album, and everytime I doubted how serious the musicians were about this, I doubted my interest in their project.

 

[Additional note found: “Thus far, 2009 has been bleak.  Dream Theater’s new album, “Black Clouds and Silver Linings,” serves as an incoherent exercise in notes chasing notes and embarrassingly written lyrics.  Pure Reason Revolution’s “Amor Vincit Omnia” offers nothing but miserable sexual decadence and ridiculous Euro dance-type music.  The title should’ve been Lust Conquers All, not Love Conquers All.  How this could be the same band that released the captivating “The Dark Third,” I have no idea.”]