Album Review: Ayreon – “The Theory Of Everything”
An Ayreon album is never going to be an easy listen, and as a band famed for its rock operas you really have to listen to their records in one sitting. Of course it wasn’t helpful when I loaded it on to the old mp3 player and it decided it was going to put it in the wrong order leading to a very disjointed first listen. Once that was sorted out however things ran much more smoothly.
Ayreon is a prog rock project from the mind of Arjen Anthony Lucassen, the dutch musician/producer extraordinaire. On this record he’s pulled in a whole host of prog royalty in the form of Rick Wakeman (Yes), Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake and Palmer), Steve Hackett (Genesis) and Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater). And that’s just the musicians – Christina Scabbia from Lacuna Coil is prominent throughout the album as the Mother as well as John Wetton (Asia, King Crimson). The guest list doesn’t stop there but I will, for fear of writing a review that consists mainly of a personnel list.
Divided into four ‘phases’ and forty two ‘segments’ (or tracks to you and me) ‘The Theory Of Everything’ demands a close listen and a patient ear as each track segues into the next and each is as important as the last. This is probably not an album you want to dip in and out of if you don’t want your brain scrambled.
The story is complicated but in the words of Lucassen himself “it takes a look at the fine line between genius and madness, focusing on the conflicting desires of the characters and the consequences of following their passions.”
Musically the album runs the complete gamut of styles from the extremely heavy to folky interludes with the expected classical overtones throughout. It’s almost impossible to pick highlights from the album because, as I said, the album needs to be heard as a whole to appreciate it, but I think I can safely say that fans of the crazier side of prog will not be disappointed.
Never boring, at times a little absurd, but always engaging, the album is further evidence why Lucassen has risen to the top of the prog pile and also why many consider him to be somewhat of a genius in his genre. ‘The Theory Of Everything’ is not for everyone but if you like your music grandiose and challenging this is an album that should be in your collection.