Ayreon: The making of The Human Equation (2004)

Front cover

The Human Equation is the sixth album of progressive metal/rock opera project Ayreon by Dutch songwriter, producer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen, released on May 25, 2004 via InsideOut Music. As with other Ayreon albums, it features guest appearances from several musicians previously unrelated to the project, including James LaBrie of Dream Theater, Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth, Eric Clayton of Saviour Machine, and Devin Townsend, performing music arranged and written by Lucassen. As with every Ayreon album, it is a concept album with each character being portrayed by one singer. However unlike previous albums, The Human Equation is not a sci-fi story but take place almost entirely in the mind of a character called Me (played by LaBrie) who is in a coma, with each song consisting of one day spent in coma. While his Wife (Marcela Bovio) and Best Friend (Lucassen) are at his side in the real world, the main character, trapped in his own mind, encounters representations of his own feelings and recall his life from his childhood to his accident. The album was released in three different editions: a regular edition with two CDs, a Special Edition with two CDs and a DVD, and a Limited Deluxe Edition with two CDs, a DVD and a 36-page booklet. The album peaked at #7 at Dutch Albums Chart and at #50 at Germany Albums Top 50. The album was also released on vinyl on December 2012. The Human Equation is, together with Into the Electric Castle, the only Ayreon albums in which Lucassen did not write all the lyrics: Townsend wrote all the lyrics of his character Rage, while Heather Findlay of Mostly Autumn and Devon Graves of Deadsoul Tribe also wrote some of the lyrics of their characters, Love and Agony. The albums marks the first collaboration between Lucassen and Bovio, selected by Lucassen via an internet female singing contest to play the wife. The following year, Bovio and Lucassen created together the progressive/symphonic metal band Stream of Passion.

Day Eight: School

Day Nine: Playground

Concept and storyline

The album explores the idea of psychological rebirth, and follows the story of a man who, after falling into a coma following a car accident, is confronted with his past, his emotions, and his current situation as he lays trapped inside his own mind. The circumstances surrounding the accident are mysterious, as the man ("Me", portrayed by James LaBrie) ploughed into a tree on a deserted road in broad daylight. Following this, he slips into a twenty-day coma, with each day represented by a single song. Each song follows a slightly different format, though there are major common themes, such as the presence of the main character's manifest emotions in his dream world including Fear (Mikael Åkerfeldt), Reason (Eric Clayton), and Pride (Magnus Ekwall), the presence of his Wife (Marcela Bovio) and Best Friend (Arjen Anthony Lucassen) at his bedside and the past events that he is forced to reflect on. The plot builds from the character’s early broken state to his eventual rebirth as a new and better man. His own dark past, in which he suffered beneath an abusive Father (Mike Baker), has driven him to become merciless and eventually he betrayed his closest friend for his own benefit. His past is intertwined now with the plot surrounding his wife and best Friend, eventually revealing the cause of the accident: he had witnessed the two sharing an intimate moment, and had swerved his car into a tree in his despair. The three eventually come clean and forgive each other, leading him to conquer his negative emotions and escape his nightmarish prison. The story terminates with a sci-fi twist, in contrast to the psychodrama of the album, reminiscent of earlier Ayreon releases. The final song cuts suddenly to silence as it crescendoes to a climax, and a computerised voice announces the shut-down of the Dream Sequencer. The voice of Forever of the Stars (character of the album Into The Electric Castle) then speaks the final words of the album ("Emotions...I remember..."), tying its events into the overall Ayreon plot that began with The Final Experiment album (1995). In the following footage, Arjen Lucassen explains the  concept of the album.

The concept of The Human Equation

Day Eleven: Love

Track listing:

CD 1
1. Day One: Vigil (1:33)
2. Day Two: Isolation (8:42)
3. Day Three: Pain (4:58)
4. Day Four: Mystery (5:37)
5. Day Five: Voices (7:09)
6. Day Six: Childhood (5:05)
7. Day Seven: Hope (2:47)
8. Day Eight: School (4:22)
9. Day Nine: Playground (2:15)
10. Day Ten: Memories (3:57)
11. Day Eleven: Love (4:18) 

CD 2
12. Day Twelve: Trauma (8:59)
13. Day Thirteen: Sign (4:47)
14. Day Fourteen: Pride (4:42)
15. Day Fifteen: Betrayal (5:24)
16. Day Sixteen: Loser (4:46)
17. Day Seventeen: Accident? (5:42)
18. Day Eighteen: Realization (4:31)
19. Day Nineteen: Disclosure (4:42)
20. Day Twenty: Confrontation (7:03)

DVD (Special and Deluxe editions)
1. Inside (behind the scenes) (45:27)
2. Concept (the concept of The Human Equation) (3:05)
3. Drums (Ed Warby's drums) (3:32)
4. Video (videoclip of "Day Eleven: Love") (3:49)
5. Teaser (teaser trailer) (1:28)

This is the Inside The Human Equation behind the scenes film

Inside The Human Equation 


James LaBrie (Dream Theater) as Me
Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth, Bloodbath) as Fear
Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) as Reason
Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn) as Love
Irene Jansen as Passion
Magnus Ekwall (The Quill) as Pride
Devon Graves (Dead Soul Tribe, ex-Psychotic Waltz) as Agony
Marcela Bovio (Elfonía) as Wife
Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery) as Father
Arjen Lucassen as Best Friend
Devin Townsend as Rage
Peter Daltrey (Kaleidoscope / Fairfield Parlour) as Forever (uncredited cameo)

Arjen Lucassen-all electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitars, mandolin, lap steel guitar, keyboards, synthesizers, Hammond
Ed Warby (Gorefest, Hail Of Bullets)-all drums and percussion
Robert Baba-all violins
Marieke van den Broek-all cellos
John McManus (Celtus, Mama's Boys)-low flute on tracks 13, 16 and 18 and whistle on day 18
Jeroen Goossens-flute on tracks 3, 5, 9, 14 and 18, alto flute on track 2, bass flute on tracks 5 and 14, panpipes on track 6, descant and treble recorder on track 13, didgeridoo on track 16, bassoon on track 18
Joost van den Broek (After Forever)-synthesizer solo on track 2, spinet on track 13
Martin Orford (IQ, Jadis)-synthesizer solo on track 15
Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep)-Hammond solo on track 16
Oliver Wakeman-synthesizer solo on track 17

Day Sixteen: Loser

Day Eighteen: Realization

The Human Equation lyrics:

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Human_Equation

read more

Jethro Tull: Songs from the Wood (1977)

Songs from the Wood (1977) is the tenth studio album by Jethro Tull and is considered to be the first of a trio of folk rock albums (Songs from the Wood, Heavy Horses and Stormwatch) despite the fact that folk music elements are present in the work of Jethro Tull both before and after this trilogy. Songs from the Wood was the first Tull album to receive unambiguously positive reviews since the time of Thick as a Brick (1972). Filled with folk and fantasy imagery, and ornamental folk arrangement, the album is a departure from the hard rock of earlier Tull material, though it still retained some of the band's older sound. The album reached No.8 on the Billboard album chart, making it the last top ten album for the band to date. The song "The Whistler" was the only song to chart as a single in the United States, peaking at No.59 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1977. The album peaked at No.13 on the UK Albums Chart. This is the first Jethro Tull album to feature keyboardist David Palmer as an official band member. The song "Jack in the Green" features Ian Anderson on all the instruments. The 2003 remastered edition includes a pair of bonus tracks, featuring a live rendition of "Velvet Green".

Songs from the Wood

Track listing:
1. Songs from the Wood 4:52
2. Jack in the Green 2:27
3. Cup of Wonder 4:30
4. Hunting Girl 5:11
5. Ring Out, Solstice Bells 3:43
6. Velvet Green 6:03
7. The Whistler 3:30
8. Pibroch (Cap in Hand) 8:35
9. Fire at Midnight 2:26
Bonus tracks 2003 
10. Beltane 5:19
11. Velvet Green (live) 5:56

Jack in the Green

Hunting Girl


Ian Anderson–vocals, flute, acoustic guitar, mandolin, cymbals; all instruments on track 2
Martin Barre–electric guitar, lute
John Evan–piano, organ, synthesisers
John Glascock–bass guitar, vocals
David Palmer–portative pipe organ, synthesisers
Barriemore Barlow–drums, percussion

The Whistler

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Songs_from_the_Wood

read more

Ayreon: The making of Into The Electric Castle

Front cover

Into the Electric Castle is the third album of progressive metal/rock opera project Ayreon by Dutch songwriter, producer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen, released in 1998. Being a concept album, as every Ayreon album, it narrates a science fiction story with exaggerated, flamboyant characters influenced by B-grade science fiction movies. There are eight main characters (each one sung/played by a different vocalist, as is standard in every Ayreon album) from different times and locations. They find themselves in a strange place; guided by a mysterious voice which tells them that they must reach the Electric Castle if they want to survive. Into the Electric Castle is also the first collaboration between Lucassen and Ed Warby, who has since become Lucassen's most regular collaborator: he played drums on every following Ayreon album except Universal Migrator part 1: The Dream Sequencer, in the Star One project of Arjen and in his solo album Lost in the New Real. The album was a commercial success and received overwhelmingly positive reviews from music critics. Although Ayreon has never played live, five songs from Into the Electric Castle were included in Star One live album Live on Earth and two in Stream of Passion album Live in the Real World.

Welcome to the New Dimension


After the previous Ayreon album, Actual Fantasy, sold below expectations, Arjen sought to deliver a top-quality recording with Into the Electric Castle. If the album had not been a success, Lucassen said he would have no longer continued the Ayreon project. Into the Electric Castle received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics, who praised Lucassen's writing and composition abilities and the performances of the singers. Sputnikmusic reviewer stated "if you’re a fan of progressive metal, or even progressive music in general, your collection will not be complete without Into the Electric Castle". Metal Storm acclaimed the album, stating "with so many excellent vocalists, a great number of musical styles incorporated and a duration of over 100 minutes, the only thing greater than Arjen's ambitions, is the actual result: a true masterpiece of progressive rock music." Allmusic reviewer Robert Taylor praised the album, saying that "The massive coordination of such a large project is admirable, but to pull it off with such impressive results is stunning."

Tower of Hope


The story begins with a strange voice (Peter Daltrey) calling out to the eight characters that are taken from various planes of time. The mysterious voice tells them they are in a place of "no-time and no-space". Urging them to continue, the voice gives them a task: to reach The Electric Castle and find out what's inside. After various steps, they come to the Decision Tree where the voice tells them one of them must die. They must then go through the Tunnel of Light, but the Highlander (Fish) refuses to reach the light, stays behind, accepts his death slowly, and lays himself down to die while the others continue. Then in the Garden of Emotions, the Egyptian (Anneke van Giersbergen), overwhelmed by her emotions, becomes convinced that Amon-Ra is coming to seal her fate. She loses her will to continue and wanders alone until she lays herself down and dies as well. The surviving characters finally reach the Electric Castle, penetrating the Castle Hall. On the Tower of Hope a breeze draws the attention of the Indian (Sharon den Adel), luring her away towards the sun despite the warning of the Knight (Damian Wilson) and the Futureman (Edward Reekers). On the breeze, she encounters Death itself (George Oosthoek and Robert Westerholt) who take her while she screams. The characters then come to their final test: the voice said them that beyond them stands two gates, with one of them leading to oblivion and the second to the desired time of the heroes. One of the gates is old, deteriorated, and ugly, and the other made of gold and appears at first glance to be paradise. The Barbarian (Jay van Feggelen), in his arrogance and pride, walks through the golden gate regardless to his companion's choice, and fall into oblivion forever. Finally, the Knight, the Roman (Edwin Balogh), the Hippie (Arjen Anthony Lucassen) and the Futureman, who had chosen the right gate, discover the true nature of the voice: it is called "Forever of the Stars", and claims that its kind is an alien race who lost all emotions. It also claims its kind caused the emergence of humanity on Earth, and that the eight heroes was an experiment in understanding and/or rediscovering emotions. Feeling tired, the voice tells them to go on ahead and open the door, and that they won't remember what has happened. Back in their real time, the heroes all wonder what had happened, with the Futureman wondering if his memory has been erased, the Roman feeling stronger whatever really happened and the Knight thinking he found the Grail in a magic dream. The voice of the Forever of the Stars is then heard, asking them all to remember Forever.

Cosmic Fusion

Track listing:

CD 1
1. Welcome to the New Dimension (3:05) 
2. Isis and Osiris (11:11) 
a) Let the Journey Begin
b) The Hall of Isis and Osiris
c) Strange Constellations
d) Reprise 
3. Amazing Flight (10:15) 
a) Amazing Flight in Space
b) Stardance
c) Flying Colours 
4. Time Beyond Time (6:05) 
5. The Decision Tree (We're Alive) (6:24) 
6. Tunnel of Light (4:05) 
7. Across the Rainbow Bridge (6:20)

CD 2 
1. The Garden of Emotions (9:40) 
a) In the Garden of Emotions
b) Voices in the Sky
c) The Aggression Factor 
2. Valley of the Queens (2:25) 
3. The Castle Hall (5:49) 
4. Tower of Hope (4:54) 
5. Cosmic Fusion (7:27) 
a) I Soar on the Breeze
b) Death's Grunt
c) The Passing of an Eagle 
6. The Mirror Maze (6:34) 
a) Inside the Mirror Maze 
b) Through the Mirror 
7. Evil Devolution (6:31) 
8. The Two Gates (6:28) 
9. Forever of the Stars (2:02) 
10. Another Time, Another Space (5:20)

Evil Devolution

 Into The Electric Castle lyrics:


Edwin Balogh-Roman
Sharon den Adel-Indian
Jay van Feggelen–Barbarian
Anneke van Giersbergen–Egyptian
Arjen Anthony Lucassen–Hippie
Edward Reekers–Futureman
Damian Wilson–Knight
Robert Westerholt and George Oosthoek–Death
Peter Daltrey–the Voice

Arjen Anthony Lucassen–all electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, bass, minimoog, mellotron and keyboards
Ed Warby–drums
Roland Bakker–hammonds
Robby Valentine–all pianos, synth solos on "Isis and Osiris a) Let The Journey Begin", "Amazing Flight a) Amazing Flight in Space", and "Tower of Hope", Mellotron "The Mirror Maze a) Inside the Mirror Maze"
Ernő Oláh–violins
Taco Kooistra–cello
Jack Pisters–sitar
Rene Merkelbach–synth solos on "The Decision Tree (We're Alive)" and "Evil Devolution" and harpsichord on "Valley of the Queens"
Clive Nolan–synth solos on "Amazing Flight c) Flying Colours"
Ton Scherpenzeel–synth solos on "Cosmic Fusion c) The Passing of an Eagle"
Thijs van Leer–flute on "Amazing Flight c) Flying Colours", "Time Beyond Time", "Valley of the Queens", and "The Castle Hall"

Arjen Anthony Lucassen–producing, mixing
Oscar Holleman–mixing
John van den Oetelaar–layout and image handling
Thomas Ewerhard–additional layout for the special edition
Jef Bertels–cover art and all other paintings
Peter van 't Riet–mastering
John Verheijen–scanning

This is Arjen Lucassen's Inside The Electric Castle footage, about the guests and the making of the album.

read more

Gryphon: Red Queen to Gryphon Three (1974)

Front cover

Red Queen to Gryphon Three is the third studio album by the progressive folk band Gryphon, released in December 1974. The album was released on Transatlantic Records in the UK with a blue cover, while Bell Records released the album in Canada with the cover border in black. It's a concept album around the game of chess that is usually regarded as the band's magnum opus. The music, which frequently evokes a medieval mood, blends and alternates among baroque, renaissance, English folk and progressive rock music styles. Themes are presented, developed and recapitulated in the style of classical music.

Track listing:
1. Opening Move 9:42
2. Second Spasm 8:15
3. Lament 10:45
4. Checkmate 9:50

Opening Move


Graeme Taylor–guitars
Richard Harvey–keyboards, recorders, krumhorn
Philip Nestor–bass guitar
Brian Gulland–bassoon, krumhorns
Dave Oberlé–drums, percussion, tympani

Additional Personnel:
Ernest Hart: organ
Pete Redding: acoustic bass

Arranged by Gryphon
Produced by Gryphon & Dave Grinsted
Recorded & Mixed by Dave Grinsted at Chipping Norton Studios, August 1974
All songs published by Heathside Music

Second Spasm

read more