Ayreon
The Universal Migrator Part II: Flight of the Migrator

Judging by the names of the musicians on the back of this CD case, someone would have to try really hard to make this a bad album. I mean, how could you go wrong with Russell Allen (Symphony X), Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear), Ian Parry (Elegy), and (my god!) Bruce Dickinson (like you don’t know what band he’s from’) all on the same record! Throw in musical performances by the likes of Michael Romeo (guitar, Symphony X), Ed Warby (drums, Elegy, Gorefest), Gary Wehrkamp (keyboards, Shadow Gallery), and Erik Norlander (keyboards, Lana Lane) and the hair on the back of your neck should stand on end.

Ayreon is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen, former guitarist of Dutch hard rockers Vengeance. What he has done here is assemble some of the top names in the fields of power and progressive metal to help him perform a sort of ‘metal opera,’ following a science fiction, time travel storyline. The music, all written by Lucassen, is majestic, symphonic, progressive power metal at it’s absolute finest! Lead off track ‘Chaos’ is an adrenaline-charged instrumental fireball! The guitars, drums and keys all come together in a swirling maelstrom of sound, setting the tone for the rest of the album.

To go into every track individually would result in a four and a half page review, so I’ll just touch on the hot spots. ‘Dawn of a Million Souls’ begins the story in impeccable fashion. Russell Allen is in fine form vocally, giving a gutsy, soulful performance reminiscent of Headless Cross-era Tony Martin. The song itself is a powerful, majestic epic. Norlander’s Hammond organ gives it bottomless depth, while guest guitarist Michael Romeo shines almost blindingly on the solo. Its anthem-like chorus should stir the blood of power metal fans everywhere. Bruce Dickinson’s voice is in superb form on ‘Into the Black Hole.’ The song finds him singing in a soft, almost ballad-like voice over the atmospheric keyboards and liquidy guitar tone of the verses, then shifting into full ‘air raid siren’ mode on the chorus. He once again proves why he is a legend in the metal universe. ‘The New Migrator’ showcases the vocal talents of Elegy’s Ian Parry, as well as his penchant for well-written lyrics on part b) ‘Sleeper Awake’. The searing voice of Lana Lane permeates almost every song’s backing and harmony vocals. Most notably her chorus parts on ‘To The Quasar,’ where she shares the mic with Helloween’s Andi Deris, are almost guaranteed to get your fists in the air! ‘Into the Wormhole,’ featuring Rhapsody wailer Fabio Lione, is a Deep Purple-ish, upbeat groove rocker on the verses, with a rousing chorus. Ralf Scheepers’ trademark voice is a fine as I’ve ever heard it. It’s interesting to hear him singing over keyboard parts instead of Primal Fear’s massive guitars. Ed Warby, the lone drummer here, keeps all four limbs very busy throughout the duration of the disc. He proves his worth with great double kicks, tasteful fills, and impressive cymbal work. Lucassen’s production is, basically, flawless. The guitars are heavy and present, the keys are lush, the drums are tight and punchy, and the vocals are crystal-clear. It was co-mixed by Lucassen and Oscar Holleman, which I can’t fault Lucassen for seeing as how the mix is great.

There is so much music here, that it will take a few spins to soak it all in, but it’s well worth the time! To sum it all up, for a fan of prog power metal this record is a must have!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Shawn Pelata
July 9th, 2001

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