Self-deprecation is worth its weight in smoldering phoenix-ashes and baby unicorn tears.
Two great discs from Progressive Rock's leading talent
Published on May 7, 2006 By SanChonino In Entertainment

Today I've decided to review two albums by Arjen Anthony Lucassen. As some of you may know, he is the genious behind the “Ayreon” albums – some of the greatest concept albums in the history of recorded music. This guy could put Homer to shame, the way he can tell a story in song . . .

The second-to-last Ayreon project was a two CD set called “The Universal Migrator”. Lucassen used these two separate discs to explore the two different sides to his music – the first disc is atmospheric and ambient, while the second disc is good ol' hard metal.

But this exploration didn't seem to be enough for Lucassen, so between “Universal Migrator” and the last Ayreon project, “The Human Equation”, he explored these sides of his music again through two side projects – Ambeon and Star One.

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Fate of a Dreamer
By: Ambeon
Year: 2001

This disc came out five years ago, and didn't have a huge original prining, but I was lucky enough to find a small reprint by a brazilian record company on Ebay. This album features some of Lucassen's most laid-back, ambient tracks (thus the name – Ayreon and ambient put together) and features vocals by an amazingly talented young singer named Astrid Van der Veen. She was only fourteen years old when this album was put out, but she's got some serious chops.

As per usual, production quality is through the roof on this disc. Lucassen doesn't like to mess around, and he gets the job done well. The guitars are there, but not as omnipresent as in the Ayreon albums, with much more focus on keyboard work and rethinking of other musical ideas. Many of the tracks on this album began as softer, ambient versions of existing Ayreon tunes, and it's fun to try and discern the origins of these wonderful songs.

Tracks to catch: Estranged: A wonderfully creepy opener, just the right way to open up an ambient album. Ashes: The vocal track soars on this tune, and really pulls on heartstrings. Cold Metal: The single off the album, an amazing track with an awesome vocal about being trapped in your decisions – very poignant. Sweet Little Brother: The most disturbing track on the disc, it's creepy and weird, but a great listen.

Rating: 10/10
Maybe I'm being too generous here, but I find this album to be amazing. Simply stunning. It's eerie, moody, morose and chill. I wish this disc were available in better circulation, because anyone who enjoys either Ayreon or just ambient tunes (or really any gothic rock lovers) would really get into this album.

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Space Metal
By: Star One
Year: 2002

While Ambeon explored the softer parts of Lucassen's songwriting, Space Metal is just that – metal. And at times it blisters, and at times it soars.

This whole album is done by a combination of talented singers – four altogether, including the inimitable Sir Russell Allen – and is based on certain sci-fi movies or TV shows that Arjen is a fan of. It's a bit silly in spots, but it's also more fun than any one person should be allowed to have with their music. It's loud, it's bangy, it's great thrashing music – everything that Ambeon isn't, but certainly a great disc in its own right.

Too campy and silly to bear the weighty name Ayreon, this album still has a lot of hot licks. And the song lyrics are fun. Trying to figure out what's based on what is a lot of fun and enlightening concerning sci-fi that I've never heard of (thankfully, the website lists the inspiration for all the songs).

Tracks to catch: Set Your Controls: A fun opener, with rip-roaring vocals and super crunchy guitars. Master of Darkness: As a big Star Wars fan, I was destined to love this one – the dueling Luke and Vader vocals are great. Perfect Survivor: Who would've thought you could write a credible, cohesive metal song based on the movie Alien? He did a great job on this one. Intergalactive Laxative: Only on the bonus disc version, this hidden track is a great laugh.

Rating: 9.5/10
I can't score this album as high as Ambeon, because I think that it (at least lyrically) is a weaker disc, but it's still a lot of fun. Lucassen really is like the King Midas of music – any project he puts out is worth its weight in gold. And the packaging is really, really cool on this disc – that alone would get it a pretty good score, but the music is hot, too. Very worthwhile and deserving of a good listen.

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