Release Date; Jan. 29th, 2008
Arjen Lucassen never ceases to amaze, and nothing changes with the latest Ayreon masterpiece. Ayreon – 01011001 (or Y) is split up into two parts – Planet Y and Earth. Lyrically, the album is a bit less straightforward than his previous work, The Human Equation. While it was pretty obvious what the story behind THE was, it may be a bit hard for the listener to break through the density of Y if enjoyment was found in THE’s lyrical style, although this method gives Arjen a chance to be a bit more playful and artistic with the way he uses words.
I have mixed feelings about the compositions on Planet Y. As an album, it’s a collection of very dark material, probably the darkest writing of Arjen’s career. It’s the first time I’ve heard a vocoder being used in his material, and where it’s used it fits very well. I’m not sure that many people will appreciate some of the more experimental moments on the album: the doom-pop feel of ‘Connect The Dots’, the cheesy pirate-dance theme in ‘The Truth Is In Here’ (although I think this is typical of Arjen), also some of the vocal moments on ‘E=MC2’ may be a bit too much for some listeners. At the same time, Arjen has written some of the best material of his career. ‘Beneath The Waves’ is simply stunning songwriting, ‘The Fifth’ and ‘Sixth Extinctions’ are both masterpieces in their own right, and ‘Walking Dreams’ is one of the most relaxed and cohesive pieces on the album.
Arjen always seems to get top-notch performances from his vocal guests. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Daniel Gildenlow perform the way he does on Y (compare this to James LaBrie’s performance on THE). It’s disappointing that Ty Tabor’s sole performance is on ‘Connect The Dots’, although I think his voice fits well for the moment. Tom Englund sounds fantastic and his voice fits well for the material, as do all of the guest singers. As always, Arjen’s guitar playing is both tasteful and technical. I was surprised when I saw Tomas Bodin’s name on the guest player list – his keyboard solo on ‘Waking Dreams’ was very appropriate for the music. The album sounds great, as all of Arjen’s albums do. He’s got a very unique and tasteful mixing style that fits very appropriately with the music.
- The acoustic interlude on ‘Age of Shadows’ (beautiful use of the vocoder)
- Guitar solo on ‘Beneath The Waves’
- ‘Web of Lies’ – beautiful acoustic guitar playing and writing
- 6:10 of ‘The Fifth Extinction’ and the subsequent string break at 7:50
- Keyboard solo on ‘Waking Dreams’
- Arjen’s vocal performance on ‘The Truth is In Here’
- Violin solo and flute solo on ‘River of Time’
- Michael Romeo’s guitar solo on ‘E=MC2’
- Part C of ‘The Sixth Extinction (2085)’ – 3:20
A must for any Ayreon fan, but ‘Connect The Dots’ takes a lot away from the dark, lyrically dense feel of the album. The lyric material is almost too dense at times, and probably too cheesy for most listeners, even of this particular style. That being said, fans of most of the guest singers’ bands (ie, Blind Guardian) are bound to fall in love with this album, and people who loved THE have got to pick this one up!