Ayreon: The Theory of Everything review

\"TheOn October 29th, Dutch metallers Ayreon, released their eighth studio opus under Inside Out Music, entitled The Theory Of Everything. Much like every release before it, The Theory Of Everything, is a concept album with a complex story line. It is a diverse and grandiose rock opera in the vein of Tommy, The Wall or Operation Mindcrime that is brimming with inescapable melodies, alluring hooks and thought provoking atmospheric passages. The project is lead by singer/songwriter, producer and multi-instumentalist, Arjen Anthony Lucassen, who is the creative mastermind and driving force behind the music. The album has four 20+ minute tracks broken down into smaller segments or, as they are referred to here, phases. There are 42 segments or phases in all, totaling a staggering hour and a half of musical bliss spread over two magnificent cds. One of the biggest and most noticable changes, is that where previous efforts circled around sci-fi themes and were the continuation of an ongoing story, The Theory Of Everything is an entirely new story line that is more down to earth and accessible and that should appeal to the common man; Lucassen drew inspiration for the lyrics from movies like “Rainman” and “A Beautiful Mind.” While The Theory Of Everything may not be as heavy and has more intricate instrumental parts than its predecessor, 0101101, it is an audacious and monumental achievement that takes you on one hell of a musical journey, running the gamut of just about every genre know to mankind. Lucassen handled the production, mixing, recording and mastering himself and like earlier endeavours, surrounded himself with a veritable who’s who list of impressive guest musicians. Including, Rick Wakmen (Yes), Keith Emmerson (E.L.P.), Steve Hackett (Genesis) and John Wetton (Asia). He also had an all star ensemble of powerhouse guest vocalists. Like Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) and Marco Hietala (Nightwish), with each vocalist playing a character in the story and each and every one, delivering a out of this world, knockout performance. There are smatterings of classic rock bands like Kansas, Styx and Pink Floyd throughout the entire album, mingling with Middle Eastern folk and renaissance music similar to Nightwish or Flogging Molly. They transition seemlessly between the electronica type stylings of Tangerine Dream to the epic, over the top soundscapes of bands like Trans Siberian Orchestra, Savatage or even Avantasia. There are also more muscular and heavier elements akin to Dream Theater, Devin Townsend and Iron Maiden alongside nods to Deep Purple, Golden Earing, Yes and Genesis. Here’s the bottom line- The album covers a lot of musical ground and is flawlessly executed with precision dexterity combined with dramatic and often soaring vocals. While you can hear the influence of all the bands mentioned, the end sound is unmistakably and unequivocally Ayreon. Bravissimo! Rating: 8.5 out of 10. -Eric Hunker