Progressive Metal

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Progressive metal, more commonly know as prog metal, is characterized by genre transgression and instrumental virtuosity. Its signature features are guitar driven songs that have complex time signatures and very intricate playing.

Progressive metal as a genre is associated with acts such as Dream Theater, Fates Warning and Queensrÿche, who had their heyday in the early 1990s, but progressive elements have been fused into metal virtually since the inception of metal. For instance, on their early releases, Black Sabbath would incorporate jazzy passages into their compositions, while also drawing on other genres, and many proto-metal acts also had backgrounds in progressive rock and heavy psychedelic rock. In the early to mid 1980s, some NWoBHM groups, such as Iron Maiden would find direct inspiration in progressive rock acts like Genesis, Yes, and King Crimson and incorporate progressive elements, such as complex song structures, twin guitars and changes in time and tempo into their style, while the cult band Mercyful Fate were known for blatantly disregarding the conventions of composition in popular music, opting for complex and unusual song structures.

So, progressiveness was a part of metal since the inception of the genre, but it was not until the late 1980s and mid 1990s as bands like Watchtower, Fates Warning, Queensrÿche, Psychotic Waltz, and Dream Theater that progressive metal became established as an independent subgenre. These bands would draw both on previously established metal genres, like NWOBHM, and progressive rock acts of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Especially Dream Theater would become iconic of the genre, and their instrumentation, which includes prominent keyboards, became the blueprint for many progressive metal bands to follow. The music that came out was very diverse and even symphonic at times. Not all of it was overly technical, though some bands such as Dream Theater were very technical, while others, like Fates Warning and Watchtower emphasized odd time signature. Psychotic Waltz incorporated psychedelia into their sound, and Queensrÿche began to operate with complex lyrical themes.

After progressive metal had been somewhat popular for some time, it began to take on more extreme forms such as progressive death metal, and so on. Bands such as Edge of Sanity and Atheist took prog metal to greater heights with their infusion of prog and death metal. Atheist also added a jazz/fusion sound to their music to make it true progressive death metal, as did Pestilence on their jazz-influenced Spheres. Also during this time, bands such as Opeth and Voivod changed their style to a more progressive sound. While Voivod changed in the early 1990’s, Opeth became a more progressive metal band in the late 1990’s which was probably an effect of the progressive metal movement that was going on at the time. Some already established metal acts in other genres would similarly cross over into progressive metal territory, such as Savatage, who - although having a background in traditional metal and power metal - released several progressive metal albums. In parallel with the development of progressive extreme metal genres, many power metal acts would take their music in a more progressive direction, resulting in the subgenre of progressive power metal (which is included under power metal here at the MMA) some of which, like Kamelot and Savatage, would eventually become fully fledged progressive metal acts.

Most bands in the progressive metal genre have their own unique style; whether it is more spacey, more symphonic, or more technical while others follow the Dream Theater configuration to a smaller or greater extent (these are sometimes referred to as 'traditional progressive metal' bands), but they all have an equal balance between the influences. Over the years progressive metal has gained the title of having longer songs then regular metal, and while this is mostly true, it isn’t always.

These bands are here because they are different, in a sense, than regular metal bands because they not only include metal but different genres as well, such as jazz/fusion, prog rock, and classical music, and put them all together to make an enjoyable sound. Bands and releases who include progressive elements in their music, but whose central sound is more firmly anchored in another genre are placed in that genre - for instance, Enslaved, whose style is progressive and experimental but still quite firmly based in their black metal roots, are placed in the black metal category, while mathcore and progressive metalcore bands are placed in metalcore.

Sub-genre collaborators (shared with Avant-Garde Metal):
  • siLLy puPPy
  • DippoMagoo
  • Sisslith
  • adg211288

progressive metal top albums

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THRESHOLD Legends Of The Shires Album Cover Legends Of The Shires
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4.76 | 19 ratings
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OPETH Still Life Album Cover Still Life
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4.48 | 202 ratings
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DREAM THEATER Images and Words Album Cover Images and Words
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4.44 | 244 ratings
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ANUBIS GATE Horizons Album Cover Horizons
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4.59 | 23 ratings
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HAKEN The Mountain Album Cover The Mountain
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4.42 | 178 ratings
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progressive metal Music Reviews

VANDEN PLAS The Empyrean Equation of the Long Lost Things

Album · 2024 · Progressive Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Germany’s VANDEN PLAS was one of the pioneering progressive metal bands forming as far back as 1984 and joining the ranks of Dream Theater, Psychotic Waltz, Mekong Delta and a bunch of others in the 1990s by delivering some of the most cutting edge metal meets prog the decade had to offer. The band has weathered the storms for well over four decades now and even produced four rock operas. VANDEN PLAS’ prog metal creds are undeniable and yet somehow this band has remained just outside of my grasp. Although i’ve heard of them for years and even checked out an album or two, there was just something about them i found off-putting. Well, sometimes it’s unwise to sample the proper nectar before one is ready to glean the benefits and i figured it’s time to once again dip into the musical world of VANDEN PLAS since the band is obviously in no hurry to set up a retirement plan.

Although the band debuted in 1994 with its first release “Colour Temple,” the band has never been in a rush to pump out as much product as possible. The latest album THE EMPYREAN EQUATION OF THE LONG LOST THINGS is the band’s 12th album and it’s absolutely amazing that this band has pretty much kept the same lineup since its 1994 debut. The exception to this long lasting stability was broken when keyboardist Günter Werno departed in 2023 and for the first time VANDEN PLAS had to scout out some new talent to fill his shoes. The band found a suitable replacement with Italian born Alessandro Del Vecchio who has been well seasoned in a number of bands including Alex Beyrodt’s Voodoo Circle, Sunstorm and Silent Force. Given his prog rock / power metal / hard rock creds, a perfect candidate for VANDEN PLAS’ classic prog metal sound that seems to remain firmly planted in the 1990s.

While the world of progressive metal has evolved exponentially since the 90s and branched out into every possible direction conceivable, VANDEN PLAS has retained its ties to the early heavy metal and power metal roots that spawned the more progressive metal variations that emerged in the 1990s. The band features the same style of guitar riffing and accompanying solos, melancholic atmospheres, frenetic keyboard runs, high pitched vocals and the typical melodic and rhythmic drive that made the earliest variations of prog metal so endearing. Not much has changed in the VANDEN PLAS camp as the same formulaic approach as always has been implemented. THE EMPYREAN EQUATION OF THE LONG LOST THINGS features six tracks and adds up to the 55 minute plus mark. The tracks are mostly on the longer side with every track clocking in at over six minutes and the lengthiest grand finale “March Of The Saints” approaching the 16-minute mark.

The album starts off with the title track and showcases beautiful piano rolls and the classic build of tension that merges into the prog metal thunder the band is famous for. Andy Kuntz still delivers clean and confident vocal workouts and the band is by all means a well-oiled machine at this point in their career and newbie Del Vecchio seems to fit in like he’s been a member of the band since the beginning. The tracks are all well-crafted and deliver veritable slices of that old school prog metal stylistic approach that will remind you of classic Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Symphony X, Threshold, Pagan’s Mind, Shadow Gallery and a gazillion others. In that regard little has changed in the VANDEN PLAS sound and the band carries on as if the modern world doesn’t exist. For some that may be a nice comfort zone and for others it conveys a band that remains staunchly committed to a certain stylistic approach that refuses to branch out into new turf. Whatever the case, VANDEN PLAS’ latest offering delivers a veritable slice of classic prog metal but doesn’t really do much more. Even the 16-minute closing “March Of The Saints” doesn’t deviate from the overall established sound of the band in any way.

Upon listening to THE EMPYREAN EQUATION OF THE LONG LOST THINGS i’m reminded why VANDEN PLAS never really clicked with me. Sure they are a more than a competent band that delivers all the prog metal goods in fine form but the band lacks imagination and a creative spirit that animates the music to a higher level. This album is very anachronistic and may serve as a form of comfort food for those who have been alienated by the world of prog metal seeping into the caustic arenas of dissonant death metal, black metal and extremist hybrids and for that it is perfectly suitable however i just find this band to be a bit too generic for my liking. There is not a single bad track on this album and the performances are impeccable with every keyboard run, every guitar riff and every drum roll teased out to perfection but there is a very clinical feel to the album as if VANDEN PLAS engineers its music through a microscope rather than allowing an organic process to inspire and evolve its style. It’s sure to be a fan pleaser for those who expect a band to remain consistent but after three decades i would expect the band to have at least evolved a smidge. Decent album but comes off as prog metal by the numbers.

VOLA Paper Wolf

Single · 2023 · Progressive Metal
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UMUR
"Paper Wolf" is a one-track digital single use by Danish rock/metal act Vola. The single was released through Mascot Records in August 2023. It´s the follow-up release to Vola´s third full-length studio album "Witness" (May 2021). It´s possibly the first single from a forthcoming fourth full-length studio album, or it could be a standalone single, similar to when they released the "Glasswork" single all the way back in 2010, which was also a track exclusive to that single release. Since at this point the fourth full-length studio album hasn´t been released yet, your guess is as good as mine.

Stylistically "Paper Wolf" pretty much continues the slick, polished, and melancholic rock/metal style of the material found on "Witness". So if you´re familiar with "Witness", you won´t be surprised by what you hear when listening to "Paper Wolf". Asger Mygind´s strong and paatos filled vocals dominate the track, and atmospheric keyboards and electronic effects are complimented by mellow/loud dynamic rock and metal sections. It´s not a particularly heavy track, but Vola still produce some relatively heavy riffs and rhythms when that is called for.

"Paper Wolf" is a well produced track (produced by Mygind and mixed and mastered by Jacob Hansen) and a nice little breather before Vola opt to record and release their fourth full-length studio album. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

TOOL Salival

Boxset / Compilation · 2000 · Progressive Metal
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CounterClockWorld
Salival is the first and unfortunately only live album by TOOL. I say unfortunately because this is really, really good and left me wanting more and I'm not even a big TOOL fan. This album is has mostly original material on it and God damm this must've been one hell of a show. The album opens with one of of not my favorite songs by them "Third Eye" it has a new intro and imo it flows better than the studio version, the ambient section always killed the paceing of the song but this version is slightly altered. The next track is a song from their debut EP "Opiate" the song "Part Of Me" and sounds better than the studio version, it's much more aggressive you could say it has more much more room to breathe. The next song is the final track that shows up on any studio album, the rest are originals/covers. This version of the Ænima track "Pushit" is a slower more tribal jam with a slightly longer runtime clocking in at 13 minutes, this is probably an unpopular opinion but I was never the biggest fan of (the studio version) but here I much prefer it. There's a quick interlude "Message To Harry Manback 2" not much to say about it other than it's creepy but an interesting track nonetheless. "You Lied" is a cover of a PEACH song, aka Justin Chancellor's old band and this song is a highlight for me, BUZZ OSBORNE of THE MELVINS shows up as the second guitarist on this track, Maynard's vocals are also really good here. Merkaba is one of the strangest songs by the band, it opens with this percussion sounds like it could be a xylophone or marimba, the song turns into a drum solo that's layered with a repetitive vocal sample and psychedelic effects, the song sounds like the older brother to Chocolate Chip Trip from the Fear Inoculum album. The next song is a cover of the legendary LED ZEPPELIN song "No Quarter", like the "You Lied" cover they remake the song in their style, it's dark and atmospheric the song has an extended instrumental section making it 11 minutes. The album ends with (what I believe was a hidden track on the CD) is L.A.M.C a skit type track with these dare I say creepy sounding repetitive (I think there call hammer strikes but don't quote me on that) the whole atmosphere is just off, for lack of better words. The next song is a personal favorite of mine "Maynard's Dick" it sounds like a parody of the alternative rock at the time and it's hilarious. But overall this is probably my favorite TOOL release, the instrumentation is amazing, the tones on the bass and guitar are phenomenal the drumming (like always) is on point and the vocals are insane Maynard in his prime, this has honestly become my favorite TOOL album I don't understand why both Prog Archives and RYM have this rated sort of low

VOLA Witness

Album · 2021 · Progressive Metal
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UMUR
"Witness" is the third full-length studio album by Danish rock/metal act Vola. The album was released through Mascot Records in May 2021. It´s the successor to "Applause Of A Distant Crowd" from October 2018. A few videos were released to promote the release of the album.

Stylistically this is unmistakably the sound of Vola. Melancholic and atmospheric rock/metal with the strong and paatos filled vocals of Asger Mygind in front. Influenced greatly by artists like Katatonia, Riverside, and fellow Danish art/progressive pop/rock act Mew (although the influence from the latter was stronger on the preceding album). Compared to the more mellow and electronic tinged "Applause Of A Distant Crowd", Vola have opted to include more heavy distorted guitars and heavy drumming again like they had on their debut album. Keyboards and electronic effects are still a big part of the band´s sound as well as atmosphere enhancing choirs and harmony vocals. The tracks are predominantly vers/chorus structured and for the most part easily accessible. The strong melodies and melancholic atmospheres are the greatest assets of Vola´s music.

The album features a gorgeous, polished, and powerful sound production, which perfectly suits the material. This is not the type of music which would benefit from a more gritty and raw sounding production job. So upon conclusion "Witness" is another high quality release from Vola. To my ears it´s maybe a bit too formulaic and a few more musical experiments wouldn´t have hurt (including a rap part on "These Black Claws" does not qualify as being experimental IMO). A 3.5 star (70%) rating is still deserved though.

VOLA Applause Of A Distant Crowd

Album · 2018 · Progressive Metal
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UMUR
"Applause Of A Distant Crowd" is the second full-length studio album by Danish Danish rock/metal act Vola. The album was released through Mascot Records in October 2018. It´s the successor to "Inmazes" from February 2016 and features one lineup change as original drummer Felix Ewert has been replaced by Swedish drummer Adam Janzi.

The material on "Applause Of A Distant Crowd" is, although it´s not as heavy and riff oriented as the material on "Inmazes", and generally features more electronic pop/rock music influences, still the sound of Vola. Melancholic and atmospheric rock/metal with the strong and expressive vocals of Asger Mygind in front. This time around just focused less on heavy riffs and rhythms (although they do appear on some tracks like they do on "Smartfriend"). Katatonia is an obvious influence (the Norwegians in Manes could be another valid reference and other times the Polish in Riverside), but also fellow countrymen in Mew are a big influence on Vola´s sound. Vola is often described as a progressive rock/metal act, but they are generally (at least on this release) a pretty straight forward vers/chorus structured rock/metal act with big catchy melancholic choruses, sophisticated choir- and harmony vocal work, and a great understanding of songwriting dynamics. There are a few exceptions on "Applause Of A Distant Crowd", where Vola treat themselves and their audience to some unconventional time-signatures and some pretty heavy riffs and rhythms, but it´s not the dominant sound on the album.

While some listeners may miss the heaviness of the debut album, this slighly more mellow and electronic tinged sophomore release is still a high quality album, which is wrapped in a powerful, clear, and detailed sound production, which perfectly suits the material. The melancholic melodies and atmospheric songwriting approach work really well, and although not used that much on this release, the heavy riffs and rhythms occasionally provide some needed bombast and edge. It is overall a soothing, beautiful, and mellow melodic rock/metal release though, so don´t come to this expecting something that´ll kick your teeth in. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

progressive metal movie reviews

OPETH In Live Concert at the Royal Albert Hall

Movie · 2010 · Progressive Metal
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Warthur
This release captures a compelling live performance from Opeth, hailing from right towards the tail end of their metal era; Watershed had been out for nearly two years when this April 2010 concert were recorded, and the band were still some months away from entering the studio to record Heritage, heralding their stylistic shift from prog metal to a more purely prog-based approach.

In this case, the results are excellent. The band are working with songs which have had extensive road testing. Moreover, the format of the concert makes this an apt tribute to Opeth's past before they moved on to a significantly transformed future - for the concert is divided into a first act in which the entire Blackwater Park album is performed, and a second act in which the band pick out and play one song from each other their other studio albums to date in chronological order.

Blackwater Park is, of course, a stone cold classic - an album where the band's prog influences and death metal roots achieved a seamless fusion, carrying enough of their past to be an appropriate album to focus on for this journey through their career whilst also exhibiting enough of their innovations to suggest the seeds of future developments. The second half of the set allows the band to take us on a whistle-stop tour of their musical evolution, and the "one song per album" approach allows them to showcase the absolute cream of the crop, with the band erring towards epic pieces to perhaps give each album a fairly expansive showcase. (All of the songs in the second half are over ten minutes long except Hope Leaves from Damnation - and none of the songs there hit the ten minute mark.)

With the recording of Heritage a few months after this concert, an entire new chapter of Opeth's existence would begin - but this concert is an excellent summation of their previous incarnation, and will be of interest to all Opeth fans.

DREAM THEATER Breaking The Fourth Wall

Movie · 2014 · Progressive Metal
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Warthur
This came hot on the heels on the Live At Luna Park live set, which might prompt you to wonder whether Dream Theater were starting to flood the market a little with these epic-length live releases. Ever since Live Scenes From New York ended up as legendary as it was, triple album-length live workouts have been part of Dream Theater's schtick, but I'm unpersuaded.

If you're here for the visuals, then god this is a lot of Dream Theater to sit there and watch for nearly 3 hours; probably too much. This got an audio-only release on CD as well as a DVD release, at least, though the audio does reveal some issues with the mix - LaBrie's vocals are outright murky at some point, and some of the higher cymbal sounds end up coming across weird. The audience are also a little prominent in the mix - some crowd noise is nice on live albums, of course, but here it's a little more intrusive than usual.

Sure, some imperfections come with the territory, that's part of the appeal of live albums usually, but on the technical front past live releases from the band have avoided these issues. It really comes across as something knocked out and released in a hurry - particularly given how close this release was to the Luna Park one - which only contributes to the impression of Dream Theater needlessly flooding the market. Maybe I could give it more of a chance if these nagging technical issues didn't keep taking me out of it - there's nothing wrong with the performance here, if anything the band are at the top of their game - but in this case, their live recording setup wasn't keeping pace with them.

DREAM THEATER Live at Luna Park

Movie · 2013 · Progressive Metal
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Warthur
Though released in late 2013, a few months after they put out their self-titled album, Dream Theater's Live At Luna Park actually captures a 2012 residency at the titular venue hailing from the Dramatic Turn of Events tour - hence the daredevil unicyclist from that cover appearing here.

That album was, of course, largely an exercise in reassuring listeners that Dream Theater could still be Dream Theater without Mike Portnoy at the drum stool, though it managed to pull through on the strength of its material. Here, the band seem to be doing the same thing from the perspective of live albums - demonstrating to fans that we needn't worry, new boy Mike Mangini can drum for absurd amounts of time just like Mike Portnoy could. The three-CD live album had become something of a calling card for Dream Theater - though by this point in their career they tended to be coupled to DVDs - and so this seems to have been an exercise in demonstrating that the adjusted lineup could still do this.

It's not bad, on the whole, but it doesn't feel compelling necessary either. Unless you are a true zealot, there's a point where you've kind of got enough live Dream Theater, and though the focus here on material from A Dramatic Turn of Events at least means there's fresh stuff here, there's more that could have been done to shake up the set list. There's a bizarre lack of material from Black Clouds and Silver Linings, despite that they hadn't done any of their 3CD live albums since the Systematic Chaos tour, so that's an entire well of material left unaccountably untapped. Chunks of this material has already had good airings on live albums, and the strong focus on material from Images and Words and Awake makes the set list feel lop-sided - Octavarium, Six Degrees, and Metropolis also get a look-in, but there's several albums which just get overlooked entirely.

To an extent, of course, that's a testament to the strength of Dream Theater's body of work - of course you can come up with a 3 hour-plus setlist only working from a fraction of their back catalogue, they've got an embarrassment of riches to choose from! At the same time, it does make the setlist feel a bit off, and between this and them sticking fairly closely to the studio renditions for the most part it just makes the whole thing seem inessential compared to prior live releases. It comes across as Dream Theater putting out these super-long live albums because they feel an obligation to, rather than (as with Live Scenes From New York) it felt like the natural and artistically appropriate choice. If my feeling on that is correct, that's an issue; if it's not, it's still a problem, because it means the album's failed to convince me on that front.

Either way, this captures a solid performance so I can't rate it down too much, it just doesn't quite have the magic of Scenes From New York.

DREAM THEATER Chaos in Motion

Movie · 2008 · Progressive Metal
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Warthur
Dream Theater might have thought that their triple live album schtick was starting to wear thin after Live Scenes, Budokan, and Score, because for Chaos In Motion the triple CD is only actually available with the DVD set (though most of the live album - bar an intro track and a keyboard improvisation - is available streaming). I don't think they need to have worried; this live sampling of the Systematic Chaos tour absolutely cooks.

Naturally, Systematic Chaos itself is well-represented, with all but two of its songs represented (those being Repentance and Prophets of War, the latter of which I considered one of the weaker songs on that album). In the Presence of Enemies is presented as one single 26 minute song, rather than split into two halves on the album, which is interesting in itself. As far as dipping into the band's past goes, honourable mention has to go to the extended version of Surrounded from Images and Words, extending it from a five and a half minute piece to a fifteen minute workout which ends up being a medley incorporating a good chunk of Marillion's Sugar Mice, which is a fantastic interpretation of what is already an incredible song.

It's surprising to find that Dream Theater are still excelling to this level on these triple live releases at a point when you would have thought that these would start getting redundant, but I genuinely think Chaos In Motion is an overlooked and undervalued part of their discography and it's well worth a revisit... just, lads, consider a standalone CD reissue, will ya?

AYREON Electric Castle Live and Other Tales

Movie · 2020 · Progressive Metal
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adg211288
Electric Castle Live and Other Tales (2020) is a live release by Dutch progressive rock/metal project Ayreon. It is a documentation of the second run of official live Ayreon shows following the Ayreon Universe shows and was recorded in Tilburg in September 2019. While the prior Ayreon Universe was a retrospective show, Electric Castle live is a stage version of Ayreon's breakthrough album Into the Electric Castle (1998) with an assortment of songs from other Arjen Anthony Lucassen projects and one cover song.

Like with Ayreon Universe Arjen Lucassen isn't performing himself as part of the live band, but he does reprise his original vocalist role as the Hippie from Into the Electric Castle so is generally on stage more often on this live release than he was on the former. Speaking of the cast most of the vocalists from the original album have returned to their roles on Electric Castle Live; Fish (ex-Marillion) as the Highlander, Damian Wilson (ex-Threshold, Headspace) as the Knight, Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering, Vuur) as the Egyptian, Edward Reekers (ex-Kayak) as the Futureman, Edwin Balogh (ex-Tamás Szekeres) as the Roman and George Oosthoek (ex-Orphanage, MaYaN) as one of the voices of Death. Replacement cast members for unavailable vocalists are Simon Simons (Epica) as the Indian (replacing Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation)), John 'Jaycee' Cuijpers (Praying Mantis) as the Barbarian (replacing Jay van Feggelen (ex-Bodine)) and Mark Jansen (Epica, MaYaN) as the other voice of Death (replacing Robert Westerholt (Within Temptation)). The vocalists replacements are well chosen and you'd be forgiven for mistaking them for those who original sang their parts. Of course there is one person I have no mentioned yet, the most notable of the re-casts: actor John de Lancie (best known as Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation) replacing Peter Daltrey as 'Forever' of the Stars, complete with new narration. Marcela Bovio (ex-Stream of Passion), Jan Willem Ketelaers (Knight Are) and Dianne van Giersbergen (ex-Xandria) make up a trio of backing vocalists.

Some of the stage musicians are the same as on Ayreon Universe but with some changes that were likely due to availability from their usual projects. Of course Ed Warby is there on drums and Joost van den Broek on keyboards, with a triple guitar setup of Ferry Duijsens (Vuur), Bob Wijtsma (Ex Libris) and Marcel Singor (Kayak), with Johan van Stratum on the bass. Ayreon regular Ben Mathot is on violin with cello performed by newcomer Jurriaan Westerveld. The most noted guest performer is of course Thijs van Leer of Focus, just as on the original album. He makes his entrance during Amazing Flight and continues to appear both through the album show and the Other Tales segment.

The narration change is the biggest difference that the live version of Into the Electric Castle has to the original. The songs themselves are faithfully performed, more so than much of the material on Ayreon Universe was, with minimal other changes to the flow of the album. Some other changes are the inclusion of a piano solo by guest musician Robby Valentine after Cosmic Fusion; some backing death growls on The Castle Hall and some vocal alternations to include Fish on the final song Another Time, Another Space. Nothing changed is out of place and makes the performance unique from the original. In some ways de Lancie's narration is faithful to Daltrey's original, but is a little jarring at first when you're like me and are so familiar with the original that anything else seems wrong to start with. By the time the show is over though, I've come to realise that the de Lancie narration is in some ways a improvement on the original, especially for the live environment.

The show isn't over with Into the Electric Castle though, as there is more to come. After a quick pre-recorded video introduction by Mike Mills (Toehinder) in character as Th-1 from The Source (2017), the other projects of Arjen Lucassen are worked through: The Gentle Storm and the heavy version of Shores of India (sung of course by original vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen), Stream of Passion's Out in the Real World (with Marcela Bovio on vocals), Ambeon's Ashes (with Simone Simons on vocals), Guilt Machine's Twisted Coil (with Damian Wilson on vocals), a cover of Marillion's Kayleigh (with Fish on vocals, of course), Arjen's solo album Lost in the New Real and after a speech by Lucassen and Joost van den Broek, Star One's Songs of the Ocean as an encore with Arjen on guitar and primary vocals by Robert Soeterboek (making his first and only appearance during the show), Dianne van Giersbergen, Marcela Bovio and Damian Wilson before everyone involved in the show comes out on stage for a climatic sing-alone finale. The extra songs allow some Lucassen work that wasn't featured on Ayreon Universe to also get an airing. The total show is over two and a half hours long, so there's a lot of value for money to be had here.

Where Ayreon Universe gave the overall better airing of the Ayreon catalogue in the live environment, a stage show of a complete album is where the project's music really comes to life. The main cast of singers are all dressed up as their characters, with Damian Wilson coming out in full knightly armour and wielding a sword being the best costume, while Oosthoek and Jansen don black metal style corpse paint in the role of Death. The stage is done up as a castle set, though sadly it doesn't look like the Electric Castle from the original album's cover, but that's probably for production reasons: the castle set is set up to its battlements can be used by the vocalists and musicians as well as the main stage.

So Ayreon Universe or Electric Castle Live? There's no easy answer to that question. Except perhaps to say, both. Once again this is an essential live release from the project that I once thought would never have true live releases. This is especially essential if you're as big a fan of Into the Electric Castle as I am (it's my favourite album of all time) and it's clear that more Ayreon albums deserve this kind of attention.

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