ARJEN ANTHONY LUCASSEN

Non-Metal / Metal Related • Netherlands
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Arjen Anthony Lucassen is a Dutch multi-instrumentalist and vocalist best known for his work with the progressive rock/metal opera project Ayreon. His other projects include Star One, Ambeon and Guilt Machine. Lucassen has also been a member of the bands Vengeance, Bodine, and Stream of Passion, the latter of which he founded but has since gone on to forge their own career without him.

His first solo album, Pools of Sorrow, Waves of Joy, precedes his work with Ayreon. It was released in 1994 under the name Anthony.

He didn't release another solo album until 2012, this time under his full name. Lost in the New Real draws on many of Arjen Lucassen's musical directions including progressive music, metal, hard rock, psychedelic rock and folk. The concept of the album is its own story, but features references to Ayreon's story, showcased by use of the Dream Sequencer on the cover art.

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ARJEN ANTHONY LUCASSEN Pools of Sorrow, Waves of Joy album cover 2.00 | 1 ratings
Pools of Sorrow, Waves of Joy
Non-Metal 1994
ARJEN ANTHONY LUCASSEN Lost in the New Real album cover 3.78 | 16 ratings
Lost in the New Real
Metal Related 2012

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ARJEN ANTHONY LUCASSEN Lost in the New Real

Album · 2012 · Metal Related
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Phonebook Eater
5/10

Lucassen's Lowest Point So Far.

"Lost In The New Real" is a 2012 album by multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen, a.k.a. Ayreon, the name of the project his man has been most successful with. Even though it is the same person writing the songs, the result is no way near as memorable as Ayreon's material, when Arjen was capable of forging landmark Prog Metal albums such as "The Human Equation".

Lightly played Progressive Metal has been Arjen's trademark in his music, and apparently still is: the crunchy, distorted guitars are here, but so are the abundant lead synthesizers that give to the music a strong spacey feel a-la-Star Trek. It is no surprise as a matter of fact that there is a strong Space Opera feel, not only in the album's flow but in the lyrics, which honestly can be either incredibly cheesy or kind of interesting, not really for the quality of the writing itself but the concepts/ideas that Lucassen can come up with. He puts in his stories a little bit of silliness, but for the most part, it ends up not being that entertaining, compared to the lyrics of another Prog Metal classic with a Space Opera concept, Devin Townsend's "Ziltoid The Omniscient".

The songwriting is hit-or-miss, some songs can be quite catchy and memorable, other borderline pathetic in their over-synthetic production and cheesiness. Another big flaw is the various inconsistencies of the album's natural flowing: especially due to the fact that this is a concept album, the result ought to be a coherent piece with a good climactic ending and with a solid succession of songs throughout; instead, a lot of these songs seem to be very loosely connected, especially in the second half of the album; plus, the ending is anti-climactic to the extreme, causing the final moments of the album to sound rushed and destined to end with an abrupt bump the album really doesn't deserve to have.

Lucassen is a great musician and has done some great music in the past, but his subject material was a bit risky, meaning that it could have fallen into full out tackiness, and it never really did. But now, "Lost In The New Real" falls in that ditch, something that had to happen eventually. Hopefully, just a temporary visit down there.

ARJEN ANTHONY LUCASSEN Lost in the New Real

Album · 2012 · Metal Related
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
adg211288
Lost in the New Real is the second solo album to be released by Dutch multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen, although only the first to be released under his full name. His previous solo album, Pools of Sorrow, Waves of Joy, was released as simply Anthony in 1994. Although it’s been eighteen years between solo efforts, Lucassen has in that time made quite a name for himself within the progressive rock and metal genres with his many projects, including (most notably) Ayreon, Star One, and Guilt Machine. Like several of the Ayreon albums Lost in the New Real is a double disc effort. The fist disc contains the main album concept, while the second includes a 50/50 split of songs that didn’t quite fit into the main album and a selection of covers; the tracks being originally by Pink Floyd, Blue Öyster Cult, Led Zeppelin, The Alan Parsons Project and Frank Zappa.

Musically Lost in the New Real plays very much like an Ayreon album, highlighting Arjen Lucassen’s many influences. More accurately placing it closest to Into the Electric Castle wouldn’t be wrong because the album features heavy use of narration, performed by actor Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner). The big difference is that, as a solo album, there isn’t a host of guest vocalists and a huge cast of characters. Arjen sings all lead vocal himself in character as Mr. L (presumably the same fictional version of himself that appeared as a character in Ayreon’s 01011001). Rutger Hauer adopts the character of Voight Kampff, Mr. L’s psychological advisor. The story has ties to the Ayreon story, most evident by the presence of a Dream Sequencer on the artwork, but is its own tale.

Lost in the New Real is most definitely an eclectic album. As usual with Lucassen’s work the core style is progressive music but it very much sways between being based in rock, metal and other styles, most notably folk, although you’ll also find touches of psychedelic and symphonic sounds. The first of the discs, the main album, is all things considered mostly metal dominant, although it’s impossible to put a single accurate tag on an album such as Lost in the New Real without inventing something new and specific just for it. Lucassenism would be appropriate in that case. It’s clearly mostly a metal effort on the first disc though with two clear metal tracks in Parental Procreation Permit and Yellowstone Memorial Day, with metal appearing prominently in both The New Real and Lost in the New Real, as well as in some lesser degrees in a few of the other songs. A couple of tracks on the other hand are very much folk based, in different ways but both When I'm A Hundred Sixty-Four and Where Pigs Fly fit this side of Lucassen’s style, and although described as power pop in the album’s trailer Dr Slumber's Eternity Home has a main melody that isn’t hard to imagine in a folk context. E-Police is distinctly an upbeat styled rocking track and Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin is a psychedelic track that brings mind to Day Seven: Hope (aka Come Back to Me) from Ayreon’s The Human Equation. The rest of made up of progressive pieces but honestly the most progressive thing about the album as a whole is its genre hopping aspect. It many ways the album is very typically Lucassen, but I don’t think his fans would expect any less. Ultimately despite being a metal dominant disc it isn’t really a metal album; overall it’s Lucassen’s least metal release since Ayreon’s The Dream Sequencer. But as I said, putting a single definite tag on this is impossible.

The second disc is much less metal based. Perhaps ironically it’s usually the selection of covers that contain the most metal orientated parts, especially the Pink Floyd cover Welcome to the Machine. Overall this disc highlights progressive rock first and foremost although as with the main album, you can expect a nice variety of sounds on offer. Of course as with any good music genre is ultimately irrelevant. No matter what style Arjen turns to during Lost in the New Real he maintains the high level of quality.

Since Arjen Lucassen isn’t most known as a singer I think it’s definitely worth giving over a paragraph dedicated just to his vocals in this review. Arjen is easily his own biggest critic when it comes to vocals so it’s definitely a brave move to get a record where he’s unashamedly the lead vocalist. Lucassen will never be a full out metal singer of the calibre of your Bruce Dickinson’s or your Russell Allen’s or but he does know his own material, and sings the whole of Lost in the New Real with the same conviction as any established vocalist. The fact that there are a lot of non-metal parts compared to Lucassen’s other works helps, because he has a voice much more suited to the prog rock, folk and psychedelic styles than the metal, though he does do that pretty well all the same. There are some guest vocalists here, but neither of them feature very prominently. Wilmer Waarbroek provides backing vocals throughout while there are female vocals by Elvya Dulcimer in the Led Zeppelin cover Battle of Evermore. There’s a growl at the end of Parental Procreation Permit as well, which I have to presume is Arjen, since it doesn’t say different in the album booklet, although I didn’t really expect him to come out with this vocal style even for one line, but hey, stranger things have happened. I can’t fault Arjen’s vocal performance, hopefully after this he’ll get as much recognition as vocalist as he gets as a musician and composer.

And, as with his back catalogue, Lost in the New Real is an excellent testament to Lucassen’s abilities as a composer. I said the album was eclectic but the amount of styles thrown into the one record is just sensational, especially the in the title track, the amount of different moods in that one is unlike anything I’ve ever heard, even from Arjen. The tracks of the main album flow together flawlessly through the use of Rutger Hauer’s narration, making the first disc feel like one long song. That’s a feeling that is heightened through the way the title track reprises the ideas of both The New Real and Don’t Switch Me Off. I haven’t heard many albums where narration didn’t ultimately hinder the overall experience though. Into the Electric Castle was one of the exceptions. So, I’m please to say, is this.

Although the story presented is somewhat dark in nature – a man, Mr. L, died in the twenty-first century and was cryopreserved and revived in a distant future where he finds himself in a world that has changed a lot to the point that one cannot tell what is real and what is not – it is also somewhat comedic. Tracks like Where Pigs Fly can’t help but bring a smile to my face with narration/lyrics like “what quantum mindfuck is that?”, “E.T. dialled the wrong number”, “Alice was known as Vincent”, “Arnold never came back” and “Keith drank only juice” get me every time. You shouldn’t be surprised to recognise the references either, the song is full of them, all being alternate versions of actual reality. Elsewhere there are more humorous lyrics such as in Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin, which I’m convinced is a reference to PINK Floyd, The BEATLES, (in a) Deep PURPLE and Led ZEPPELIN. There’s also a song about the Internet piracy (E-Police) of the now, which manages to lighten the generally dark mood of the album, which is evident in the lyrics of tracks such as The New Real, Don’t Switch Me Off and Parental Procreation Permit.

The first disc of the album is absolutely sensational. I wouldn’t hesitate to give full marks to this part of the album, although it does have its clear highlights, such as The New Real, Where Pigs Fly, Pink Beatles In A Purple Zeppelin and Dr Slumber's Eternity Home. However there is a second disc to consider. Here we have tracks that are covers or didn’t fit into the main album but are still a part of the ‘New Real’. It’s safe to say that this disc isn’t as easy to get into as the first, although I’m tempted to put that down to the first disc being such a masterpiece that it’s difficult to get out of your head in order to give the second a proper chance. This was my experience in any case. After a few listens though I came to properly appreciate disc two. While I wouldn’t say it has quite the same spark as disc one, I miss Rutger Hauer’s narration (I never thought I’d say that about an album with narration) and the covers are (mostly) just that – covers, I think it does keep the same quality level. I think Arjen made some good choices for covers though and I wouldn’t say any of them are out of context with the theme, but the original compositions from both discs outshine them every time. Highlights from the second disc would be Our Imperfect Race, So Is There No God?, The Social Recluse and The Space Hotel. That’s all but one of Arjen’s originals, however I would also include the cover of Some Other Time as a highlight, especially vocally.

But honestly Lost in the New Real is worth buying for the first disc alone. Arjen has shown once again that he ranks among the best of the best and with yet another masterpiece under his belt it looks like there really is no stopping this guy. From Ayreon to Guilt Machine to Star One to a solo album, the quality level of his work over the last few years has never gone below exceptional. I don’t know where he’ll be going next, but precedent says it won’t matter – whether it’s a rock opera with Ayreon, a full out metal assault with Star One, or all over the place progressive work like Lost in the New Real, it will be one of the best albums of its year, as Lost in the New Real certainly is for 2012. Not only is it amazing, but I also think you’ll struggle to find a more versatile release this year. Get it now, especially if you’ve enjoyed Arjen’s previous albums, this one has everything, like all his other projects come full circle.

9.9/10

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (http://metaltube.freeforums.org))

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