AYREON — The Human Equation (review)

AYREON — The Human Equation album cover Album · 2004 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
2/5 ·
Ten or Twenty minutes of great prog and progressive metal tracks awash in a sea of filler. That is my best description of Ayreon's 'The Human Equation'. It's disappointing because really, Arjen Lucassen is a talented songwriter and should know better to cap it off when he needs to, rather than letting the album go on. And on. And on.

The sound is pretty typical. There are modern (neo?) prog songs, and there are standard progressive metal ones. Although Lucassen has invited a few virtuoso guests like Ken Hensley from Uriah Heap and Oliver Wakeman, there's nothing on this album that's really technical. If anything, the prominent keyboards and lots of well known talented musicians make the album progressive, as the songs are pretty standard anyways.

The album starts off in a manner pretty standard for the rest of it. After the short "Vigil" the next actual song "Isolation" kicks off with James Labrie in the forefront. The riffs aren't really incredible, and Labrie going back and forth with Eric Clayton comes off as very cheesy, even for a prog album. Things don't continue much better until Devin Townsend comes in midway through "Rage". Holy crap! Why is he missing from the rest of the album? His parts are great, and strangely enough he fits into the album perfectly and makes it worth listening to. His bursts out make the album. Unfortunately, he scarcely makes more appearances.

Again, I cannot emphasize how much filler is in the album. The next tracks after are filler, until the single track "Hope", which is beautiful and full of retro keyboards and soft melodies. But it's better than any of the Genesis clones, it's quite nice, and the main theme is quite intricate. It seems that the best tracks on the album are the ones with Townsend bursting into anger and the soft, almost devoid of metal ones, since the next decent track is "Love" a passionate and fun song, which isn't heavy but distorted guitars add to the melody and Irene Jansen comes in with an emotional pleading chorus.

Again, the album continues with filler. There are a few cool solos here and there, but nothing special. Again, this album seems to go nowhere! "Loser" is quite a fun track. Is it just me or are the singles the best tracks on the album? Anyways it's full of energetic folk styled instrumentation and composition and contains (again) a great screaming outro courtesy of Townsend as well as an excellent vintage organ solo by Oliver Wakeman.

And then, nothing, for the next closing tracks. The songs in the album are with a few exceptions almost completely unmemorable. This is the trouble when progressive artists try and make double albums. Most of the time the material they release can easily be moved to one disc, often less than that. Such is the case in The Human Equation. The softer more prog rock oriented tracks and the Devin Townsend tracks could go together so well in this release and make a single CD. Or an EP! But in this case it's an entire double album, where there's a bunch of boring tripe to wade through to get to some truly quality tracks.
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