AYREON — 01011001 (review)

AYREON — 01011001 album cover Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
adg211288
By the time it was released in 2008, Ayreon's seventh album 01011001 was an album I had been waiting to get for months, it is easily my most anticipated metal release of 2008 and also my favourite album of that year. So what can be said about it? Well a good start would be to say that it certainly was worth the long wait that Arjen Lucassen has put his fans through, only giving us small teasers every so often for each vocalist on this album, a total of seventeen, a record number for an Ayreon album. While it was fun to guess all it did in the long run was make me want to get a copy of 01011001 in my hands. Of course there was the fear that the album may not live up to expectations but there certainly needed have been, this is easily the second best Ayreon released to date for me, the only one beating it being Into the Electric Castle from 1998. Previous offering The Human Equation isn’t a patch on this masterpiece and I already rate that album pretty highly.

Starting up this double disc album is the song Age of Shadows incl. We Are Forever. Age of Shadows is the main song, but the We Are Forever section is like a separate track but placed in the middle of Age of Shadows. Progressive bands are known for making songs that have movements, each with a different subtitle; 01011001’s own Beneath the Waves, Newborn Race, The Fifth Extinction and The Sixth Extinction are examples of this, but Age of Shadows is different. It’s a song within a song, something I personally haven’t known a band to do before. I can’t really say if it’s original or not but it makes for a change from the normal formula that lengthy progressive metal songs seem to follow.

But even those songs that do follow the formula of ‘movement one, movement two, etcetera’ are all varied from each other. Beneath the Waves is dominated by it’s first movement with the only real variations in the second and final movements. Newborn Race is almost the same but it’s musical style is completely different from Beneath the Waves, which is a much slower, but not quite a ballad. Newborn Race is much more a metal song and it also features one of the album’s best guitar solos courtesy of guest guitarist Lori Linstruth.

The other two songs of this kind, The Fifth and Sixth Extinctions respectively are much more traditional progressive metal songs, with nearly every movement differing greatly from the last. The main difference here though to something that Dream Theater may write is that each has many different vocalists, nine in each to be exact.

In other, more traditionally structured songs we have Liquid Eternity, which features what I consider to be some of the best vocal performances on 01011001, a duet between After Forever’s Floor Jansen and Jorn Lande of Masterplan/Ark fame, and a great chorus from Magali Luyten, in one of her two appearances on 01011001. Then, nearer to the end of the first of these two discs we get her second and sadly final appearance on Ride the Comet, one of the album’s shortest tracks and one of it’s best, although if you look at the score I’m giving this album you don’t need me to tell you that there is no bad track on here.

It’s not all heavy songs though. The second song on disc one is Comatose, which features no metal elements and is much more like the sound of Ayreon’s Dream Sequencer album. Web of Lies is also a 100% non-metal song but is much more classically based. Waking Dreams from the second disc is another non-metal song.

Elsewhere on the second disc of 01011001 we have two songs that are heavily influenced by folk music. First up we hear The Truth is in Here, a catchy track and a duet between Arjen Lucassen himself and Dial’s Liselotte Hegt. Second we have River of Time, a lighter song than The Truth is in Here and voiced by Bob Catley of Magnum fame and Blind Guardian’s Hansi Kursch. Both are great additions to what is a greatly varied album.

There is even a song that comes across as pop. Connect the Dots is probably going to be many people’s least favourite track on 01011001 but to me it comes across as just another facet of one of metal’s most varied artists and a song that does fit into the rest of the album.

Vocalist wise the group of seventeen is split into two groups. There is the main cast, who portray the alien race Forever in the Ayreon story, are ten of them and the ones that sing on all but four of 01011001’s fifteen songs, and the supporting cast, who portray humans in the story, sing on those four, most of them being duets between male and female. Connect the Dots is the only exception, as it is sung almost entirely by Ty Tabor of King’s X, with the occasional line from Lucassen himself. They are a diverse cast, ranging from gentle female tones (Anneke van Giersbergen) to the strong tones of Jorn Lande and the versatility of Daniel Gildenlow, even operatic warbling from Floor Jansen and even the occasional death grunt front Jonas Renkse. Arjen Lucassen even has the bravery to have a hip-hop artist sing on the song E=mc2 but thankfully there’s not a trace of any rap.

01011001 is without a doubt in my mind the album of 2008. You'll going to struggle to find a album from 2008 that is better than this is.

(Review originally written for Heavy Metal Haven)
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