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Ayreon — Into the Electric Castle: A Space Opera
(Inside Out Music IOMACD 4006, 1998, 2CD)

by Dane Carlson, Published 1999-11-01

Into the Electric Castle: A Space Opera Cover art

It seems that a simple album doesn’t satisfy Arjen Anthony Lucassen. This, his second foray into “Ayreon,” is even grander than the first. As you might surmise, this is a concept album. Eight people are plucked from their own time periods and awake at the door of a great castle. The castle is built from their own dreams and fears, and only by facing their fears will they be able to return to their own time and place. Pretentious? Overblown? You bet! I like the fact that Arjen does what he will; after all, the whole idea of prog is based on not worrying about what people will think and on taking a chance. Into the Electric Castle is a two-CD set with great artwork (alas, this suffers from the small format) and an odd assortment of guest musicians. First are the “Singers of Time,” the voices that portray the people in the story. Fish sings the role of the Highlander, an amazing stretch, and his vocal contributions are excellent. Damian Wilson portrays the Knight. The star of the show is The Gathering’s Anneke Van Giersbergen as the Egyptian. “Valley of the Queens” on the second disc is a great song, and if you haven’t heard Anneke, you're missing out. The surprise here is the voice of Edward Reekers as the Futureman and Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation) as the Indian. Arjen himself portrays the Hippie. Arjen is a multi-instrumentalist who seems to favor the guitar (as he is the only one on this project) but also plays mandolin, bass, and keyboards. The excellent piano work is handled exclusively by Robby Valentine. Contributing on the musician side are Clive Nolan (some blazing mini-moog on one track), Ton Scherpenzeel (some blazing synth on one track), and Thijs Van Leer, among others. After you dissect the line-up it seems like Arjen doesn’t play keyboards very much as there are five other keyboardists listed. For me the tracks with Fish and Anneke were among best. At first I didn’t care for most of the other vocalists. Damian Wilson, Edwin Balogh (Omega), Jay Van Feggelen (Bodine), and others represented the metal side; there’s even some “death metal” vocals here. (Most of the guests are Transmission Records labelmates.) But after repeated listens I began to enjoy most of the vocals. There’s a lot of good music on these two discs, especially in the synth solo department. Into the Electric Castle is a prog-metal album that sways from prog to metal — maybe a bit too much metal for some — but the more you listen and accept the wide range of music the album offers, the more it becomes an enjoyable flight.

Filed under: New releases, Issue 18, 1998 releases

Related artist(s): Fish (Derek William Dick), Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Ayreon), Clive Nolan, Thijs van Leer, Peter Daltrey

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