Into the Electric Castle became one of my absolute favorite albums to this date when it was released in 1998. Arjen Anthony Lucassen became synonymous with the term and genre Metal Opera. The albums that followed expended his universe, and it would be an understatement to say that he had a mayor importance for many other projects and bands that went down the road known as Metal Opera.
Over the years, he has involved many musicians and vocalists in his various projects. However, on this new album it’s mostly the usual suspects that return: James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Simone Simons (Epica), Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Tobias Sammet (Edguy, Avantasia), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot, Seventh Wonder), Mike Mills (Toehider), and Russell Allen (Symphony X). Newcomers Tommy Giles Rogers (Between the Buried and Me) and Michael Eriksen (Circus Maximus) are two of a total of twelve vocalists portraying the characters on The Source.
Arjen A. Lucassen is known to be a very shy and private person, who seldom performs live on stage. He prefers to pull the strings behind it all and create and conceive the music and stories. Many have over the years claimed that his albums are just more of the same, but with other musicians and vocalists. To a certain degree I agree with that statement. He has backed himself into a corner sound wise, even though he’s never at any point repeated himself. Sound wise he has stayed within his comfort zone.
I think this claim will be made once more with The Source, because this is clearly Ayreon in every respect of the word, and the vocalists for most parts are not new either. Just listen to the opening sequence; you immediately recognize his signature sound, and to open with James LaBrie is a clear indication of what’s to follow.
But then again, what else were we to expect? Isn’t this exactly what we’ve been waiting for since The Theory of Everything (2013)? It sure is, and to be perfectly honest, this album is actually better and stronger than the two Ayreon albums before. Perhaps it’s because the songs are more rock based and more straightforward, as they have a few ties with Star One and get to the point quickly.
But fear not, there is still plenty of room for musical grandeur, and the symphonic aficionados won’t be disappointed. Is it more of the same? To a degree yes, but on the other hand, this is done with so much style and conviction that it really doesn’t matter.
Lyrically we are back in the ‘Forever/Planet Y’ saga universe. The Story of The Source is set six billion years in the past relative to Earth. It begins on Planet Alpha, a world in the Andromeda system where computer intelligence has far surpassed that of humanity, also familiar territory.
The Source makes an old Ayreon fan like me happy again. It’s like welcoming back a long lost friend!
Chronicle 1: The 'Frame
1. The Day the World Breaks Down (12:32)
2. Sea of Machines (5:08)
3. Everybody Dies (4:42)
Chronicle 2: The Aligning of the Ten
4. Star of Sirrah (7:03)
5. All That Was (3:36)
6. Run! Apocalypse! Run! (4:52)
7. Condemned to Live (6:14)
Chronicle 3: The Transmigration
1. Aquatic Race (6:46)
2. The Dream Dissolves (6:11)
3. Deathcry of a Race (4:43)
4. Into the Ocean (4:53)
Chronicle 4: The Rebirth
5. Bay of Dreams (4:24)
6. Planet Y Is Alive! (6:02)
7. The Source Will Flow (4:13)
8. Journey to Forever (3:19)
9. The Human Compulsion (2:15)
10. March of the Machines (1:40)
Playing Time: 88:39
Way too many to mention.
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Source_(Ayreon_album)#Personnel - for info.