AYREON – The Theory Of Everything [Limited Edition] (2013)
Mastermind Arjen Anthony Lucassen is back with his grandest of all projects; the celebrated AYREON and “The Theory Of Everything”, a new terrific progressive masterpiece.
As on all Ayreon albums, this is a conceptual double-CD, but unlike the previous sci-fi storylines it’s set in a more grounded, realistic world, yet fascinating as as usual.
First of all, don’t be afraid by the extensive tracklist; many of these are really short interludes, intros, etc.
“The Theory Of Everything” consists of four ‘Phases’; “Singularity”, “Symmetry”, “Entanglement” and “Unification”, that are further divided into segments. The complete number of segments is 42, which equals to the ‘Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything’ in ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.
The story is really intriguing, but to put it in short, let me quote the words of Lucassen himself; ‘it takes a look at the fine line between the genius and madness, focusing on the conflicting desires of the characters and the consequences of following their passions’ That’s just enough to know before listening to the album and do not spoil the enjoyment of discovering the storyline yourself.
Fans of Ayreon should know what to expect here. “The Theory Of Everything” features seven guest singers and each plays a part in the story. They are JB (Grand Magus) as the Teacher, Christina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) as the Mother, Michael Mills (Toehider) as the Father, Tommy Karevik (Kamelot) as the Prodigy, Marco Hietala (Nightwish) as the Rival, John Wetton (Asia/ex-King Crimson) as the Psychiatrist, and Sara Squadrani (Ancient Bards) as the Girl.
Of these singers, the most impressive is the relatively unknown Sara Squadrani. She performs on a large portion of the story and shines every time, especially on “Love and Envy”. I was also surprised to be so enamored with the performance of Christina Scabbia. She’s always had a wonderful voice, but her performance in this record might be her finest. Her harmonies with Squadrani stand out particularly on “Mirror of Dreams”.
This isn’t to say only the performances by the female singers are worth mentioning. Tommy Karevik’s introduction in “The Prodigy’s World” is one of the strongest moments on the album.
Musically, “The Theory Of Everything” should be the most diverse offering Lucassen’s had a hand in, perhaps with the exception of his solo record. This isn’t as heavy as previous Ayreon titles, but it has its driving moments like “Collision” and the Dream Theather-esque “Frequency Modulation”.
The aforementioned “Love and Envy” is a slower introspective song, while “Diagnosis” is massive and a pompy, quite awesome indeed. “Transformation” has a Middle Eastern feel to it, and “The Eleventh Dimension” sounds like intergalactic renaissance faire music full of synths and effects.
There’s an amazing instrumentals as well, like “Progressive Waves”, with an featuring incredible keyboard solo by legend Keith Emerson and fantastic drum fills by Ed Warby. All over the album we hear as well great collaborations by Rick Wakeman (YES), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Steve Hackett (Genesis) and more.
“The Theory Of Everything” is another grandiose, almost perfect piece of work from the brilliant brains of Arjen Anthony Lucassen.
It’s a record that does require a time commitment. I’d say listeners should treat it as a proper musical or film in a theater, so try to experience it all in one sitting for the full effect. It’s absolutely worth it.
Often times there are jumps in mood, genre, etc, in the middle of a song. This is fairly typical for an Ayreon release, and grand part of its unique magic.
Phase I: Singularity
01. Prologue: The Blackboard
02. The Theory Of Everything Part 1
04. The Prodigy’s World
05. The Teacher’s Discovery
06. Love And Envy
07. Progressive Waves
08. The Gift
09. The Eleventh Dimension
11. The Theory Of Everything Part 2
Phase II: Symmetry
12. The Consultation
14. The Argument 1
15. The Rival’s Dilemma
16. Surface Tension
17. A Reason To Live
19. Quantum Chaos
20. Dark Medicine
22. The Prediction
Phase III: Entanglement
04. Side Effects
05. Frequency Modulation
07. Quid Pro Quo
08. String Theory
Phase IV: Unification
10. Mirror Of Dreams
11. The Lighthouse
12. The Argument 2
13. The Parting
14. The Visitation
15. The Breakthrough
16. The Note
17. The Uncertainty Principle
18. Dark Energy
19. The Theory Of Everything Part 3
20. The Blackboard (Reprise)
Vocalists (in order of appearance):
Janne “JB” Christoffersson (GRAND MAGUS) as The Teacher
Sara Squadrani (ANCIENT BARDS) as The Girl
Michael Mills (TOEHIDER) as The Father
Cristina Scabbia (LACUNA COIL) as The Mother
Tommy Karevik (KAMELOT, SEVENTH WONDER) as The Prodigy
Marko Hietala (NIGHTWISH) as The Rival
John Wetton (ASIA, KING CRIMSON) as The Psychiatrist
Ed Warby – drums
Rick Wakeman (YES) – keyboards
Keith Emerson (EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER) – keyboards
Jordan Rudess (DREAM THEATER) – keyboards
Steve Hackett (GENESIS) – lead guitar
Troy Donockley (BAD SHEPHERDS, NIGHTWISH) – Uilleann pipes, flute
Arjen Anthony Lucassen – electric and acoustic guitars, bass, mandolin and keyboards.
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