AYREON — The Final Experiment

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AYREON - The Final Experiment cover
3.76 | 43 ratings | 7 reviews
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Album · 1995

Filed under Progressive Metal


1. Prologue (3:16)
a) The Time Telepathy Experiment
b) Overture
c) Ayreon's Quest

Act I: "The Dawning"

2. The Awareness (6:36)
a) Premonition
b) Dreamtime (Words Become a Song)
c) The Awakening
3. Eyes of Time (5:05)
a) Eyes of Time
b) Brainwaves
4. The Banishment (11:08)
a) A New Dawn
b) The Gathering
c) The Accusation
d) The Banishment
e) Oblivion

Act II: "King Arthur's Court"

5. Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy (2:45)
6. Sail Away to Avalon (4:02)
7. Nature's Dance (2:27)

Act III: "Visual Echoes"

8. Computer-Reign (Game Over) (3:24)
9. Waracle (6:44)
10. Listen to the Waves (4:58)
11. Magic Ride (3:35)

Act IV: "Merlin's Will and Ayreons Fate"

12. Merlin's Will (3:20)
13. The Charm of the Seer (4:11)
14. Swan Song (2:44)
15. Ayreon's Fate (6:55)
a) Ayreon's Fate
b) Merlin's Prophecy
c) Epilogue

Total Time: 71:17


- Arjen Anthony Lucassen / Vocals, Guitars, Bass Guitar, Keyboards, Backing Vocals

Guest musicians:

- Edward Reekers / Vocals
- Lenny Wolf / Vocals
- Robert Soeterboek / Vocals
- Jan-Chris de Koeijer / Vocals
- Ian Parry / Vocals
- Barry Hay / Vocals, Alto Flute
- Jay van Feggelen / Vocals
- Leon Goewie / Vocals
- Ruud Houweling / Vocals, Backing Vocals
- Lucie Hillen / Vocals, Backing Vocals
- Mirjam van Doorn / Vocals, Backing Vocals
- Debby Schreuder / Vocals, Backing Vocals
- Cleem Determeijer / Hammond, Minimoog, Mellotron, Vocoder, Oberheim, Juno, Harpsichord, Piano, Keyboards
- Ernst Van EE / Drums
- Jolanda Verduijn / Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
- Peter Vink / Bass Guitar
- Jan Bijlsma / Bass Guitar
- René Merkelbach / Backing Vocals

Bonus disc only:

- Astrid van der Veen / Vocals
- Rodney Blaze / Vocals
- Esther Ladiges / Vocals
- John JayCee Cuijpers / Vocals
- Peter Daltrey / Vocals
- Marcela Bovio / Vocals
- Irene Jansen / Vocals
- Valentine / Vocals, Piano
- Jeroen Goossens / Wind Instruments
- Lori Linstruth / Electric Guitar Solos
- Davy Mickers / Drums
- Marieke van der Heyden / Cello
- Ewa Albering / Flute
- Dewi Kerstens / Cello

About this release

Release date: October 27, 1995
Label: Transmission Records

Reissued by InsideOut in 2005 with a semi-acoustic bonus disc:

1. Dreamtime (4:19)
2. Eyes of Time (3:25)
3. The Accusation (3:49)
4. Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy (2:50)
5. Sail Away to Avalon (3:26)
6. Nature's Dance (2:03)
7. Waracle (5:16)
8. Merlin's Will (3:29)
9. The Charm of the Seer / [untitled] (9:01)

Total Time: 37:41

Thanks to m@x, adg211288, diamondblack for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Ayreon's debut album is a decent blueprint for the sort of "turned up to 11" rock opera that the project would churn out over the coming years. Whilst I have to give Arjen Lucassen credit for taking such a cheesy concept and amping up the cheese for all its worth (there's a track called Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy, for crying out loud), the actual execution took a while for me to warm to. Despite the Ayreon project eventually becoming something of a progressive metal powerhouse, don't expect technical intricacy of a Dream Theater-and-beyond level here - we're more in the world of bombastic rock opera than prog-oriented complexity here. Still, if you can appreciate it on that level - like Savatage and Planet P Project getting together and jamming - it's very fun.
3 reasons to give this 3 stars - 1. The concept, overblown of course, but this was the beginning of the great Ayreon projects to come. 2. The music - wonderful guitar solos and keyboard ambience throughout are a sheer delight. 3. the vocalists - We have some of the best in the business woith the likes of Edward Reekers (Kayak), Lenny Wolf (Kingdom Come), Robert Soeterbroek, Jan-Chris De Koeijer, Ian Parry (Vengeance), Barry Hay (Golden Earring), Arjen Lucassen (Vengeance), Jan van Feggelen, Leon Goewie, Ruud Houweling, Lucie Hillen, Mirjam van Doorn and Debby Schreuder.

In conclusion, this is a strong debut showing the promise of things to come. It is not a great starting point, turn to the last three albums for that, but Arjen is an accomplished musician with a strong flair for the theatrical, and it is always great to hear those vocalists in full flight.

Stylistically progressive metal, but often branded as a metal opera, Ayreon’s first album is still one of Arjen Lucassen’s best in my opinion. It is also what I consider to be the most unique Ayreon release. Although it has many singers like later albums like Into the Electric Castle, The Human Equation and 01011001 in those albums each singer had a specific part to sing. Here the many singers still portray characters but many of them for one character in the story, The Final Experiment being a concept album. It’s a method that Lucassen hasn’t ever repeated (at least not yet) on Ayreon and it makes the album all that more special.

The music here varies from the heavy progressive metal sounds (for example Eyes of Time, Sail Away to Avalon, Merlin’s Will) to lighter folksy sounds (Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy, Magic Ride, Nature‘s Dance). There is a medieval feel to much of the music (Prologue, Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy, Sail Away to Avalon for example) but progressive is the true theme that runs through The Final Experiment, with many songs that have their separate sub-sections (Prologue, The Awareness, The Banishment for example).

The Banishment is easily the most epic track on this album, not because it is the longest at over eleven minutes. It first has a classical sounding section, then some fanfare that leads into more instrumental music, which builds up into the first vocal section which is led by Robert Soeterboek with a host of backing singers. Ironically it’s the backing that handles the role of the character Ayreon. The story tells that Ayreon is on a sort of trial in his village and the music does of good job of making it seem like it is really happening. The build up to the vocal section and Robert’s vocals really fit the mood. Lucassen has a talent for doing such with his music. It’s the reason that he truly does deserve all the respect he gets. But this is not the end of the song, it leads now into another instrumental section where we get an amazing bass guitar solo from guest musician Peter Vink as well as great guitar riffs from Lucassen himself. To end we get another vocal section which sees a shift into a more (and rare for Ayreon) death metal territory. Vocals are now handled by Gorefest’s Jan-Chris de Koeijer and the story is supposed to tell how Ayreon has been banished from his village and how he feels despair, hurt and anger. The death metal vocals certainly do this as well if not better than Robert’s earlier vocals. In short it has everything that a progressive metal song should have; great technical playing, variation and amazing vocals. Top notch stuff.

Other great highlights of this great album are Prologue and The Awareness. Essentially one song although split into two they feature more great progressive elements and a strong vocal from Edward Reekers. Eyes of Time sounds like a heavier version of Led Zeppelin. Singer Lenny Wolf even sounds like Robert Plant to a degree. It’s really rocking and great for head banging. Sail Away to Avalon is sung by Barry Hay of Golden Earring and it’s heavy, folksy, and medieval sounding. It’s one of those songs that could easily get stuck in your head for hours. Merlin’s will is another heavy song with another great vocal, this time from Leon Goewie (singer of Lucassen’s old band Vengeance). The best of the light songs is Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy. It’s short and folksy and a beautiful song.

The best singers on this album are as follows.

Edward Reekers - has a soft and gentle voice but is filled with power. Lenny Wolf - has a great classic rock/heavy metal voice and lifts his song to great heights Robert Soeterboek - has a powerful voice that he can use in many different styles

Overall what we have here is not just the beginning of the Ayreon saga but also one of its best albums. There is only one album by the project that can better it; Into the Electric Castle.

Special note on the re-release special edition which contains some songs from the original album re-recorded in semi-acoustic form. Some are not as great but some are actually better in my opinion. Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy and Merlin’s Will now have female vocals and they make for a refreshing change from the versions on the main album. They’re well worth having.

(Review originally written for Heavy Metal Haven)
Conor Fynes
'The Final Experiment' - Ayreon (6/10)

All journies begin with a single step...And in the case of Ayreon's 'The Final Experiment,' it was a step that shook the progressive world. Until then, the concept of a 'rock opera' had been left dormant since the early 80s, for the most part. And then out of the Netherlands comes a modest man with a great musical vision to change things, and contribute something great to the world. 'The Final Experiment,' while not quite a masterpiece, it is a milestone in modern Prog.

The concept, while a bit corny, is well thought out, and the story sets the stage for future Ayreon tales to be told. In summary, a young medieval Ministrel (named Ayreon) is contacted by humans from the far future to warn the world of it's own downfall. However, things don't go to plan, and a series of misfortunes ensue. The lyrics are fairly decent, but nothing mind blowing. However, they do manage to tell the story quite well.

Musically, the album is very well done. Good songwriting, and amazing song recording (considering it's a debut record.) Songs like 'Eyes Of Time,' 'The Banishment,' 'Merlin's Will' and 'Ayreon's Fate' stood out to me as being great prog-rock tunes. Theres also quieter songs like the beautifully composed 'Swan Song' that bring out the more thoughtful side of Arjen Luccasen's musical ability.

The one thing that could have been changed and improved was if each character in the story only had one corresponding vocalist, instead of a big melange of it all. It made the story I bit needlessly hard to follow, despite the relatively accessible lyrics. Besides that, it was great. Highly recommended for fans of good Prog-Rock, and although this isn't 'hardcore metal' by any standards, fans of Metal should be able to appreciate the quality of this record.

Arjen Lucassen is quite a phenomenon in recent prog-metal history. His unique blend of musical-fantasy-rock-opera-all-stars-cast-Celtic-folk-pomposity isn't everybody's preferred type of rock, but he's a great composer and arranger and I've find myself enjoying his works quite a lot. He often cites influences from classic prog rock artists. Marillion, Rush, Pink Floyd, Yes, Tangerine Dream and ELP being the most prominent ones. Or did I just list all classic bands?

There's very little metal on this debut, symphonic neo-prog would be a more fitting tag then progressive metal. It isn't very consistent and has too much sticky AOR tendencies. But there is plenty to relish as well. The Awareness is a bombastic blues with a soulful male lead and operatic female vocals. Also Eyes of Time is enjoyable. Yes I confess I like the lead singer Lenny Wolf from Zeppelin-clone band Kingdom Come. It's one of my indulgences really.

Ye Courtyard Minstrel Boy has a charming Celtic main theme but the vocals are quite grating, especially if you know the version that Arjen later recorded for his Ambeon project. Computer Reign and Waracle are the most powerful songs on the album. The Charm of The Seer is a folksy tune that also would get a makeover on the Ambeon album.

Other songs like The Banishment and Sail Away are hurtful for my ears. Professional but empty and pompous. Lots of Yes and ELP influences here.

Except for the following album, Ayreon wouldn't change his formula very much. Only the execution got a lot better over time. With only 25 quality minutes, 2.5 stars will have to do.

Members reviews

Ayreon is a very unique and unusual band in the metal universe that seems sometimes too abstract to be easy to digest or to approach. It took some time and patience to get deeper into this project that takes its main influences from the progressive music of the seventies that can include electronic and folk sounds rather than heavy metal touches. This first album already establishes a sound that is proper and unique to the band even though there are so many guest musicians working on the project. The way the mastermind Arjen Lucassen writes, composes and structures its music is one of a kind. The project has the same concept as "Avantasia" but focuses on science-fiction topics and sounds. The members of the project are well chosen and have technical skills comparable to progressive acts such as "Dream Theater". The sound of this first album of the project has the epic structures and majesty of a mixture of "Falkenbach" and "King Crimson" and the sound and atmosphere of a mixture of "Rush" and "Tangerine Dream".

The whole first album is full of diversity and well arranged details. The record covers a big spectre from acoustic guitars to flutes and from epic female choirs to heavier growls. The enjoyable fact is that Ayreon takes the time to establish an intriguing atmosphere that fits with the story line instead of heading for the technical perfection and complexity. That's an error many progressive bands commit including Ayreon himself with some of his future works. This album here is smooth and has an enjoyable flow. It focuses on the right melodies and coherent structures and that sounds vivid, human and authentic to me. Don't expect three minute long keyboard solos. Arjen Lucassen doesn't want to be the center of the own universe he created. He rather let his guests be part of it and shares the stage with them on almost equal levels.

It's difficult to point out any songs on the record because it works as a whole. Let's mention that the first couple of songs are quite huge and complicated and not easy to digest. I didn't immediately fell in love with them and rather began to appreciate the album towards the second and especially the last third. In the end, the only problem of the album is that after a promising beginning the less impressing and memorable tracks are right in the beginning of the record and it still takes me some time to get into it. But the further the record goes the more interesting the pieces get and the more I get into the whole concept even if there is a clear lack of a truly memorable hit on this album. The powerful and yet quite diversified orchestral single "Sail Away To Avalon" is the closest one to in this kind of category.

Nevertheless, the true highlights can be found in the smoother songs and mostly in the middle or second half of the record. First of all, there are some really calm songs influenced by natural sounds. I could mention the very ethereal atmosphere of the relaxing "Nature's Dance". Another highlight is without a doubt the dreamy progressive rock killer "Listen To The Waves".

Second, there are some more bombastic and fast paced tracks that present another side of Ayreon's universe. The harmonies and the energy of "Merlin's will" and the majestic closing finale "Ayreon's Fate" are the highlights I want to mention concerning this concrete style of the album.

In third place, there are also some truly experimental tracks on the record that give a hint of what the band would try to install on later releases. The best example on this record is the quite modern and electronic approach that is used in the visionary "Computer-Reign".

In the end, anybody that likes calm and inspiring metal albums, conceptual projects or the whole spectre of progressive music from "Amon Düül" to "Frank Zappa" should check out the entire discography of this diversified composer and this record is a pretty great start to it. It's actually amongst the best Ayreon releases and establishes the basis of what would come later with "Into The Electric Castle" and the other parts of the same saga that begins in here.
After leaving Vengeance, guitarist Arjen Lucassen started to write this masterpiece "Ayreon - The Final Experiment". A rock opera with 13 lead singers (a.o. Edward Reekers from Kayak, Barry Hay from the Golden Earring, Jan-Chris de Koeijer from Gorefest), several backing singers and 7 instrumentalists, produced in a low budget way. This album is the first rock opera since the sixties and seventies, when such as Tommy, The Wall or Jesus Christ Superstar were popular. And Arjen became a trendsetter, because after this release, many other rock- and metal-operas were made, such as Avantasia, Aina and Nikolo Kotzev's Nostradamus. Four stars.

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