AYREON — 01011001 (review)

AYREON — 01011001 album cover Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Conor Fynes
'01011001' - Ayreon (9/10)

When I first listened to the vocal samplings released on the internet a few months before '01011001' was released for sale, I was a little bit concerned as to what this album was going to turn out like. There was no doubt in my mind that it was going to be good, but having been so used to masterful works such as 'The Human Equation' and 'Into The Electric Castle,' I was worried that this third double album wouldn't match up to the other two. Upon listening to the finished project in it's entireity, it was a pleasant feeling to realize that not only was this a good album, but it was more or less on par with the other two double albums (which exist as the defacto core of Ayreon's repetoire.) What Arjen has done here is apparently wrap up his epic Ayreon storyline with an equally epic album, that uses a relatively unique style of storytelling to get the plot across. Instead of having recurring, filled-out characters, each singer, or 'character' is used to compliment the whole, instead of take a shape of his or her own. While this different conceptual approach took a while to get into, it ends up working well for the story Arjen is trying to tell.

The heart of this tale consists of the three 'epics' the album has to offer; 'Age Of Shadows,' 'The Fifth Extinction,' and 'The Sixth Extinction.' Each clock in at least ten minutes, and do the best job of telling the story. For those unfamiliar with the Ayreon concept, a race of alien beings called 'Forever' populated Earth with lifeforms in their own image (humanity) in order to experience emotions and primal feelings once again. However, in their blindness, they let humanity become too advanced and in the process, mankind destroys itself in a great war. While the concept is a little morose, it has a profound social message to tell, and that added dimension makes '01011001' a really moving experience.

Despite the fact that most of the singers portray alien characters, there is a resounding feeling of humanity that emanates from each performance. Despite each Forever character being named as nothing more then a symbol (such as a heart or pentagram) each character manages to forge it's own distinct personality.

The music itself passes off as being darker then alot of Ayreon's previous works. Elements from electronic and folk music are used alot here. There's a strong metal influence here, second only to the metal-centric 'Flight Of The Migrator' album. The heavy use of synthesizers adds to the science-fiction theme, and the concept. Of special recognition is the beautiful Thomas Bodin keyboard solo in the song 'Waking Dreams.' Another highlight of this album is the mind-blowing choral arrangement 'We Are Forever' performed by one of the best female vocalists in Prog, Annette Van Giersbergen. The compositional talent required to write four-plus singing counterparts is massive.

Arjen Luccassen does not dissapoint on this album. '01011001' stands as being one of the best albums of 2008.
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