STAR ONE – Victims Of The Modern Age (2010)
This is the real one (retail), not the promo
Composer and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen has firmly established himself worldwide as driving force in progressive hard rock.
While best known for his rock opera project Ayreon, the multi-talented Dutchman also regularly embarks on musical side projects which explore different aspects of his musical personality.
As his previous project (Guilt Machine’s ‘On This Perfect Day’ 2009) was a relatively relaxed and subtle affair, Lucassen’s muses responded by urging him to record something loud, powerful and anything but subtle for this new release.
Thus it was a perfect opportunity to launch his musical spacecraft towards the galaxy of bombastic sci-fi rock by revisiting his STAR ONE project.
The result is the album “Victims Of The Modern Age”, the follow-up to the Star One debut album, ‘Space Metal (2002)’.
Compared to Space Metal, the overall sound of the new album is heavier, bombastic, more guitar-oriented, and slightly less “spacey”.
The guitars are thicker and solos abound, but Broek’s keyboard solos are equally abundant and engaging.
Arjen has also raised the bar significantly when it comes to the album’s sound:
“I think it’s my best sounding album to date; it’s a huge difference compared to the first Star One. For the guitars I spent weeks experimenting with different amps and settings in every combination imaginable — and it was worth it.
The drums sound fantastic, and the vocalists all outdid themselves, putting in even stronger performances than they did the first time around.”
Again, as with the previous work, “Victims Of The Modern Age” is a concept album. Yet, this one is set on earth rather than space.
The songs are based on dystopian and post-apocalyptic sci-fi movies. Typical of Lucassen, he wouldn’t divulge which films inspired, leaving it for our speculation.
The album starts off with a little instrumental leading into “Digital Rain”, a clear example of this album temper: the melody, the rhythm, everything just sort of falls into place creating a really good palette of sound. There is a guitar and keyboard face melting solo battle to die for. And the 4 vocal arrangement at the end is amazing.
“Earth That Was” starts brutally heavy. Again the guitars / keys rip through solos but this time leading into an almost somber moment before exploding into a massive epic ending. The keyboard work of Joost van der Broek is awesome.
“Human See, Human Do” boasts some brand new sounds like nothing Arjen has done to date, bluesy, with a groove that is both jolting and seemingly simple when (if you’re a musician who counts) you know it’s not. Right off the bat you can tell it’s going to be a fun song. You aren’t let down.
“24 Hours” is some sort of epic ballad, but not your typical cheesy one.
“Cassandra Complex” opens with some extraterrestial synths and then go into a cool riff and a very nice chorus, the most commercial song of the album.
“It’s Alive, She’s Alive, We’re Alive” features very good melodies and keyboard arrangements accompanying the vocals, it kind explains the whole story in a nutshell by recapping and if you’re an advocate of concept albums, you’ll find a lot of clarity here.
Finally, “It All Ends Here”, a 3 part song action packed and conclusive to the story at hand. Dark and complex composition.
Fundamentally, “Victims Of The Modern Age” is pure Arjen Lucassen, and one of his finest works to date.
And while Arjen stepped up to the plate and delivered some of the best keyboard and guitar parts of his career the all-star roster of vocalists lived up to their reputations and gave 110% to the album. Each singer has their own moments to shine, specially Russell Allen (what a year!).
In addition guitarist Gary Wehrkamp and keyboard wiz Joost van den Broek (terrific job) provided thrilling solos which are sprinkled throughout the album, and drummer Ed Warby opened up a new dimension in his playing to compliment the new musical ideas that were thrown into the mix.
“Victims Of The Modern Age” is a powerful recording in general but I would go as far as to say it is a staple in what modern progressive genre is becoming.
It’s also a good album for listeners who might not be all that into your typical prog music.
I was surprised how the album easily flows, and not being a big fan of this style, how much enjoyed it. Production quality is one of the best I’ve heard in the last 20 years.
This album delivers grand and bombastic melodic prog hard / metal that intrigues, overwhelms, but most importantly; entertains.
1 – Down The Rabbit Hole
2 – Digital Rain
3 – Earth That Was
4 – Victim Of The Modern Age
5 – Human See, Human Do
6 – 24 Hours
7 – Cassandra Complex
8 – It’s Alive, She’s Alive, We’re Alive
9 – It All Ends Here
—-a) I Think Therefore I Am
—-b) Four Years
—-c) It All Ends Here
Russell Allen (Symphony X, Allen – Lande)
Damian Wilson (Threshold, Headspace)
Floor Jansen (ReVamp, ex-After Forever)
Dan Swanö (Nightingale, Second Sky, ex-Edge Of Sanity)
Ed Warby (Lana Lane, Ayreon) : Drums
Peter Vink (Ayreon, Finch) : Bass
Joost van der Broek (After Forever) : Keyboards solos (2,3,5,8)
Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery) : Guitar Solos (2,3,5,7)
Arjen Anthony Lucassen : Guitars, Hammond, Mellotron, Analog Synths
IF YOU LIKE IT, BUY IT !