STAR ONE — Victims of the Modern Age

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STAR ONE - Victims of the Modern Age cover
4.08 | 40 ratings | 6 reviews
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Album · 2010

Tracklist

CD1:
1. Down the Rabbit Hole (1:20)
2. Digital Rain (6:23)
3. Earth that Was (6:08)
4. Victim of the Modern Age (6:27)
5. Human See, Human Do (5:14)
6. 24 Hours (7:20)
7. Cassandra Complex (5:24)
8. It's Alive, She's Alive, We're Alive (5:07)
9. It All Ends Here (9:46)
A. I Think Therefore I Am
B. Four Years
C. It All Ends Here

Total time: 53:09

CD2 (Enhanced Multi-media CD with LIMITED EDITION 2-CD MEDIABOOK):
Audio Tracks:
1. As the Crow Dies (4:42)
2. Two Plus Two Equals Five (5:04)
3. Lastday (4:46)
4. Closer to the Stars (5:11)
5. Knife Edge (ELP cover) (4:25)

Total time: 19:03

Video:
1. The Making of "Victims of the Modern Age" (35:00)

Line-up/Musicians

- Arjen Lucassen / Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals (on CD2, track 3)
- Ed Warby / Drums
- Peter Vink / Bass
- Joost van den Broek / Keyboard solos
- Gary Wehrkamp / Guitar solos
- Russell Allen / Vocals
- Damian Wilson / Vocals
- Floor Jansen / Vocals
- Dan Swanö / Vocals

with

- Mike Andersson / Vocals (on CD2, track 1)
- Rodney Blaze / Vocals (on CD2, track 2)
- Tony Martin / Vocals (on CD2, track 4)

About this release

RELEASE DATES
USA -- 25 October 2010
G.A.S.-- 29 October 2010
Europe -- 1 November 2010

Thanks to [email protected] for the addition and graphix, adg211288 for the updates

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STAR ONE VICTIMS OF THE MODERN AGE reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

Time Signature
Human hear, human like...

Genre: progressive power metal

The album has been praised by critics, and, when it came out, there was quite a lot of hype surrounding it.

I can understand the praise this album has received, but I was never as hyped about it as so many other people were, and there were loads of other releases in 2010 that made a much bigger impact on me. I think there are three reasons why "Victims of a Modern Age" became so popular.

Firstly, Lucassen is involved, and that in itself may lead to some pretty high expectations from fans - expectations which were clearly met.

Secondly, the album some quite high profile artists on vocals - namely, Russell Allen, Damian Wilson, Floor Jansen, and Dan Swanö. That in itself is enough to attract some attention, and the combination of different vocal styles does work brilliantly.

Thirdly, there is the music itself, which may be heavier and less complex than what one might be used to from Lucassen's other projects. The music on "Victims of a Modern Age" is probably best described as progressive power metal with an emphasis on heavy and groovy guitar riffs and catchy melodies. The album also features organs and spacey 80s style keyboards, which - although they get a little too cheesy now and then - fit nicely in with the album's sci-fi oriented theme.

On the whole, this is definitely a fine work of progressive power metal, which will certainly appeal to Lucassen's fans in general as well as to fans of Ian Parry's Consortium Project.
bonnek
It had to happen. It was written in Lucassen's stars. His tendency to plaster every square inch of his music with overstressed production values had to blow up in his face one day. I just wouldn't have though it to happen in his Star One project, certainly not after teasing us with the news that the album would be heavier. Well, it's heavy yes, but not wild or exciting. For that it is too glossy and indulges in sound bombast that pushes me to the edge of a sonic indigestion.

After the mandatory synth bombast intro, Digital Rain kicks off the album with a cliched but fine heavy rock song. The best reference that comes to mind would be Rainbow from the albums after Dio left the band, meaning lots of pomp-rock and little excitement. And that's all for the song by song part of this review as none of the remaining items add anything to what Digital Rain presented. Some tracks are a bit catchier others not.

The whole idea of this project is to revisit the late 70's heavy rock, but with such a clinical and pompous production it never comes off the ground. Little variation, few surprises, nothing new, nothing too exciting but nothing too offensive neither.

The album has been received very positively so it has to be a satisfying release for fans of the AOR/hard/glam-rock side of Lucassen, but no match for his better work like Into the Electric Castle.
J-Man
Human See, Human Do

Strangely enough, I jumped onto the Arjen Lucassen bandwagon pretty late. Having only discovered him through Ayreon's 01011001, I really only delved into his massive discography in the last two years or so. So after thoroughly enjoying the Ayreon classics and some other side-projects, I was pretty excited for the new Star One album, Victims of the Modern Age. Although I set a pretty high level of expectations for the album, I can confidently conclude that Arjen Lucassen & co. has exceeded almost every single one of them. Even though I can't consider Victims of the Modern Age to be one of the best albums released in Arjen's catalog, calling this anything less than a spectacular masterwork would be criminal. It seems as though it's impossible for Arjen Lucassen to create anything that isn't great, and this Star One album is just further proof of that. If you like progressive metal, power metal, or rock operas, Victims of the Modern Age should already be in your collection!

The music here is a typical Arjen creation, though a bit more metal-oriented and darker than we're used to. If Ayreon played a heavier and slightly more stripped-down style, this would be the result. The songs are also a bit more commercial-sounding than other things Lucassen has done in the past. There aren't a whole lot of progressive tendencies outside of the synth-laden sound and vocal harmonies. Victims of the Modern Age is first and foremost a power metal album, and a very good one at that. There is some expected cheese, mainly in the production, but when the music is this good, it's rarely a problem. Every song is irresistibly catchy, filled with bombastic arrangements, terrific vocal harmonies, and crushing riffs. After the brief synth intro, Down the Rabbit Hole, the album rarely stops and catches its breath again. Victims of the Modern Age is filled to the brim with heavy and melodic riffs, sure to please fans of progressive power metal.

One of the best things about most of Arjen Lucassen's projects is the host of guest vocalists, and the same surely applies to Victims of the Modern Age. With a cast consisting of Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity, Nightingale, Unicorn, Bloodbath, Demiurg, etc.), Russell Allen (Symphony X), Damian Wilson (Threshold, Headspace), and Floor Jansen (After Forever), you're bound to have a terrific vocal department. The instrumentalists are also some of the best in the prog and metal worlds. The drumming from Ed Warby is especially notable.

The production is a bit of an issue, in my opinion. Although the sound is powerful and heavy, it's far glossy and over-produced to be enjoyable. I really wish Arjen would take a bit of a step back in terms of production. This is way too synthetic and pompous for me. Some may enjoy the sound, but it just adds loads and loads of cheese to an otherwise incredible album, in my opinion.

Conclusion:

Victims of the Modern Age is a great comeback album for Star One, and another terrific release in Arjen Lucassen's shining catalog. Although the album is over-produced and occasionally a bit pompous, there are so many great things that tremendously outweigh any detriments. If you like Arjen Lucassen's past projects, it'd be awfully hard for you not to enjoy this. Even though Victims of the Modern Age isn't quite a masterpiece, it's awfully close, and surely among one of the best albums in 2010. 4 shining stars are well-deserved here.
The Block
Arjen Lucassen has done it again!

First with Aryeon and now with Star One, again. Once again he has a star studded cast that includes Floor Jansen, Russell Allen, Dan Swanö, and many more. I am so glad that Dan Swanö is in on this one since he is so good. You can easily hear him on “Victims of a Modern Age” and “Human See, Human Do”, where he graces us with his growling talent. This album also has a great mix of both heavy and light metal. Victims is much more lighter than I expected, but that is good since I tend to like lighter metal better.

Another thing I like about this album that is new to me is a prominent woman vocalist. I always backed away from them because I never thought that a higher pitched voice should be in the same sentence as metal. Boy was I wrong. Floor Jansen really adds to the overall feel of the album.

A great example of this is in the song “Human See, Human Do”. It shows the great things that come from the contrast between high and low sounds. The chorus is very good, and in the end of the song Dan Swanö comes in and growls for the second and last time on the album. Besides the great vocals there are supreme keyboards from Arjen Lucassen and guitars from Gary Wehrkamp and Arjen Lucassen again. It has a very 70’s feel to the song along with more modern implements. The song is based off of the 1960’s movie “Planet of the Apes”, which you could tell from the line, “We were here first…”.

Another song that I like a lot is “Cassandra Complex” which features a great duel between Floor Jansen and Russell Allen, which is very cool. It, once again, has great guitars from Gary Wehrkamp, too. “Cassandra Complex” also has one of the more catchier riffs on the album, so it sticks in my mind, making it more memorable.

One other song with a great chorus is “Digital Rain” which was the first song that Arjen Lucassen wrote for the album. It has great drums from Ed Warby, and at the end it features a cool a cappella section. The last song “It All Ends Here” has a Pink Floyd feel to it, and is much darker, and longer than all the other songs on the album.

Overall this is definitely one of the best albums of 2010 featuring many stars including Arjen Lucassen, Dan Swanö, Floor Jansen, and many more. It definitely deserves the five stars I am giving it, but one thing I would have liked was more growling from Dan Swanö.

AtomicCrimsonRush
Star One’s new album is atmospheric, spacey and a fascinating, compelling listen. The synthesizer melodies immediately transfix on the opening track. Those crystal clear synth lines simply blast and there is a shimmering Hammond that segues into Digital Rain, one of the genuine Arjen classics. The heavy drums and thrashing riffs crunch over the sustained organ. You have to love this if you are into metal as it delivers full blown crashing guitars and a great invective vocal harmony. The vocals sound like Dio resurrected “Let go your anger, empty your mind, return to your senses…. Cut through these lies, lives are in danger, open up your eyes. Reach for the answer... take the chances and taste the pain… don’t trust your senses, you have been blind, digital rain, awaken the sleeper…”

Great synth solo and lead guitar trade offs simply kill with power. I love the melody which is majestic, pretentious but totally accessible for metal heads and prog enthusiasts. The vocals are loud and sung with conviction similar to Symphony X. Floor Jansen is always welcome on these Arjen albums, she is brilliant as usual.

The next track, ‘Earth That Was’ has a very deep grunge metal power riff that annihilates on this. It is relentless and powerful. The vocals are superb again, between accomplished singers, and such tremendous harmonies. The space themes are strong and not subtle... “a fire in the darkness… quest for freedom… a desperate need to find our place in the emptiness of space”, there are images of a cataclysmic war and a futuristic Armageddon.

The synth solo is again wonderful, over the choppy metal riffing. The production value is A1 on this. Reminiscent sound of Ayreon’s best albums, though much heavier; he doesn’t hold back on these opening tracks, and its great to hear the musicians take off in full flight.

I love the droning sounds on ‘Victims of the Modern Age’. The theme is “lashings of violence, the sound of symphony sends shivers up my spine, I am singing in the rain… a restless mind trapped in his cage, a victim of the modern age” yes it’s an obvious homage to ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and a very good one. As a fan of the Kubrick film I was delighted to hear this tribute to the 70s film. The beat is steady with dark distortion and downbeat chord changes. There are lines from the film throughout such as “Violence makes violence.. I swear to you my brothers… I’m still singing in the rain”; a real delight to my ears.

The references to “Planet of the Apes” are obvious with the famous oft quoted line beginning ‘Human see Human Do’. This is a full blown attack on the senses; a speedy riffing metal banger with Dragonforce style motifs and heavier growling vocals, though not too gravelly. The obligatory lead break is as good as you might expect from these virtuoso musicians. The real drawcard on this though is that incessant breakneck riff and the incredible keyboard lightning fast lines.

A quieter intro after the frenetic chaos of previous is welcome, and begins ’24 Hours’ nicely. The Queensryche type style jumps out on the verses for a while and then the heavy guitars crash in on a steady slower tempo on the chorus. Damien Wilson is terrific on vocals and Floor chimes in to bring up the octave. There are a number of time sig changes and detours, with a crunching bridge and melancholic synth solo. Wonderful music I can assure you. The lyrics are about a ruleless dystopia, “A crime ridden city, confined within these walls, a place without pity, a place of sin, no rules apply here, among this desperate crowd, once you come in you are never coming out” ;perhaps reference to ‘Escape From New York’, ‘The Matrix’ or others you can think of where the world has gone to hell in a handbasket.

Cassandra Complex’ has a dynamic metal riff over a rising synth line. The lyrics are easy to comprehend “you are caught inside a fantasy… I came back from the past, I’ve come to save our world, times up so we better move fast… Cassandra complex… We can change the future but we can’t change the past”; perhaps , ‘12 Monkeys’ springs to mind here. I like how the female and male vocals trade off and answer each other in theatrical style. Some innovative moments on this track too with a riff that follows the melodic vocals in particular mid way through. It is a complex track that grinds along with a bright synth to light up the darker guitars.

A buzzing techno synth line begins “It's Alive, She's Alive, We're Alive” , that really sounds like a metal Gary Numan song as far as the music goes. The melody is infectious and really sticks in your brain. I absolutely love this track and it cemented the masterpiece rating for me as I was already taken with the amazing sounds previous, teetering on the star rating; whether one track was going to drive the nails in, but this hammered that last star on the rating for me. This track features everything I love about prog metal; creative structure, terrific vocals and harmonies, metal riffs and awesome spacey synthesizers with a plethora of solo performances and trade offs with an infectious melody and innovative lyrics; what more do you want? I love Floor’s beautiful vocals on this too.

It All Ends Here’ is a dark crawl metal piece for a while, the drums are steady and accommodate the vocals, and atmospherics. You can hear references to ‘Blade Runner’ “moments lost like tears in the rain”, and a sound like Fate’s Warning or Symphony X is prominent. As the longest song it stays with you and locks into your brain. After it is all over the only thing I want to do is begin the CD again. You can totally immerse yourself in the cosmic ethereal fantasy that is created here.

I am absolutely blown away by this album, I believe it is a masterpiece from Arjen and among the best he has done only beaten by the incredible Ayreon brilliance on ‘The Human Equation’ for conceptual creativity and quality. His latest album with Star One is sheer genius on every level.

adg211288
Victims of the Modern Age is the second studio album by Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One project, and it marks the first time that Lucassen has done a second album with any of his personal projects that wasn’t his Ayreon project, which he put on ice after the release of the retrospective collection Timeline, in order to focus on other projects, of which Victims of the Modern Age is also the second, following 2009’s On This Perfect Day by Lucassen’s Guilt Machine project.

Victims of the Modern Age’s predecessor, Space Metal, was released in 2002, and the prospect of a new album by Star One has been a hot topic for debate amongst Lucassen’s fans. Among the most popular questions asked, other than the main ‘will it happen?’ question, were ‘will the singers be the same?’, ‘what movies will the album be based on?’ and ‘what will it be called?’ Obviously the latter is ‘Star One – Victims of the Modern Age’ and not Star Two and/or Space Metal II.

To clear up the first question then, yes the singers are the same, at least on the main album, the bonus disc features some additional singers. Just for those reading this who are new to the Star One project, Star One has four main singers, those being Russell Allen (Symphony X), Damian Wilson (Threshold), Floor Jansen (ex-After Forever, ReVamp), and Dan Swanö (Nightingale, Edge of Sanity et all). The Bonus disc features vocals from Tony Martin (ex-Black Sabbath), Mike Andersson (Cloudscape), Rodney Blaze (who has sang on the Ayreon project) and Arjen himself.

So what about the movies? Well this time Arjen has focused on post-apocalyptic and dystopia science-fiction movies and TV shows over those set in space, as on Space Metal. They are as follows:

Down the Rabbit Hole (Intro song, though clearly Alice in Wonderland) Digital Rain - The Matrix Earth That Was - Firefly Victim of the Modern Age - A Clockwork Orange Human See, Human Do - Planet of the Apes 24 Hours - Escape from New York Cassandra Complex - 12 Monkeys It's Alive, She's Alive, We're Alive - Children of Men It All Ends Here - Blade Runner As the Crow Dies – The Road Two Plus Two Equals Five – Nineteen Eighty-Four Lastday – Logan’s Run Closer to the Stars - Gattaca

And so onto the music itself. Victims of the Modern Age is a very different album to Space Metal. It’s much heavier in its delivery. Where Space Metal had some songs which were more commercially orientated like Songs of the Ocean, that aspect of Star One is gone on Victims of the Modern Age. After the intro track, Down the Rabbit Hole, it’s almost always a full throttle metal album. While it still has its lighter moments it’s very clear what Lucassen set out to do here, and the results are nothing short of amazing.

That said, I personally found some of the songs of the album needed a few listens to properly appreciate. Maybe that was because I’ve owned Space Metal for years and as full songs started getting release by Lucassen prior to the album’s release, I was expecting something with the same feel as that album, and what we have here is something with its own identity rather than being Space Metal Part II – a good thing, but nevertheless, it threw me. Sure, when you get into the sound of Victims of the Modern Age it is very much Star One (it was a good choice by Lucassen to use the same four singers), but Lucassen hasn’t made the same album twice.

I previously stated that Victims of the Modern Age is very much a metal album, so much that one of its biggest surprises was that Dan Swanö performs some death growls on the tracks Victim of the Modern Age and Human See, Human Do. Space Metal featured no such vocals, although Lucassen had previously utilised them on several Ayreon albums. The growls are featured sparingly, Swanö performs his clean vocals much more often, but I have to bring attention to them as I think that when used they fit the theme of the songs, whereas on Space Metal they would not have done. I haven’t actually seen the films that these two songs are based on, but being familiar with other post-apocalyptic and dystopian science-fiction films and literature, it’s a lot darker in tone than much of sources for Space Metal were. Characters in such stories have good reason to really scream with rage so why not use the death growls? They set the mood perfectly.

That’s not to say that the clean vocals don’t fit, they do, and every singer on the album provides an excellent performance. Everyone is at the top of their game and that’s just one of the reasons why Victims of the Modern Age is so good. One complaint I had about Space Metal was that Floor Jansen's voice seemed to be underused, something that has now been rectified, although she isn’t so prominent in early songs Digital Rain and Earth That Was. Russell Allen as always can be relied upon to be nothing short of amazing, but it’s Damian Wilson that really shines on Victims of the Modern Age, with excellent performances throughout.

The compositions themselves are among the best pieces that Lucassen has ever written. Despite being more riff based than Ayreon, Victims of the Modern Age comes across as quite atmospheric, with notable moments being some really frantic synth sounds to back Dan’s tortured sounding growls in Human See, Human Do (the synths contribute a lot to the overall atmosphere) and some all round epic chorus sections in every song going. In the final track on the main album, titled It All Ends Here, Lucassen throws one of the albums few light and melodic sections with something that can only be described as being very Pink Floydian. There’s some moments within the albums instrumentation in 24 Hours that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Ayreon’s debut album, The Final Experiment.

With not a bad moment on the album, its fifty-three minute duration seems to pass in the blink of an eye. That makes it difficult to separate favourite tracks from the album for me, they are all insanely good in their own way. If I had to pick a top three it mostly likely have to be Human Se, Human Do, Earth That Was and It All Ends Here, although I’m kind of bias towards that last one since Blade Runner is one of my favourite films. Cassandra Complex comes very close to that top three.

If I have to be negative in any way about Victims of the Modern Age, it would have to be an identical complaint to one I had for Space Metal, and many other albums by a wide variety of artists, and that is the presence of an intro track. Down the Rabbit Hole may flow into Digital Rain very well (in the way which Lift-off went into Set Your Controls on Space Metal), but in general this piece of music is somewhat unnecessary. I’ll say what I usually do in these cases, just make the intro music the actual intro to the first song as one track. This isn’t really a criticism to affect the score I’m going to give this album though, in fact I’m being very boring by bringing it up every time such things happen on an album, but with albums like this one, it’s the one thing I can find to be critical about.

I once said, in a review for Space Metal actually, that Star One paled when put up next to Ayreon. I’m beginning to regret those words. I still prefer Ayreon, but admittedly it’s much easier to prefer the project that has many more albums to enjoy, but with Victims of the Modern Age Arjen Lucassen has given the world an album to rival much of his Ayreon material. I expected a solid album when this was first announced, Arjen rarely disappoints with his albums, but I wasn’t expecting what Victims of the Modern Age turned out to be, which is, in a word: Masterpiece.

There also exists a 2CD version of Victims of the Modern Age, containing an additional five songs, four originals and one cover of an Emerson, Lake & Palmer song called Knife Edge. It is quite different from the main album since only the cover song features the usual vocalists, the four additional originals all feature a single singer with the exception of Two Plus Two Equals Five, where Dan Swanö is present.

First up here is As The Crow Dies, which features an opening that isn’t too dissimilar to the sounds used on Ayreon’s 01011001. Vocals here are handled by Cloudscape's Mike Andersson. He’s a pretty god singer and can certainly hold his own here, though it is a little unusual to be listening to a Star One song with just a single vocalist and if I’m honest there’s moments in this one that I imagine would have suited Russell or Damian better. Following track Two Plus Two Equals Five is something entirely different, the synths in the intro here wouldn’t really sound out of place in an electronica group. Again there is a guest vocalist, one Rodney Blaze. He’s the relative unknown here among all the vocal talents featured, though fans of Ayreon should recognise him from the 2005 bonus disc from The Final Experiment special edition, where he sang a version of The Accusation section of The Banishment. Dan Swanö is also on this track however, doing some very deep and instantly recognisable vocals. It’s a very strong track, and works well for Rodney Blaze even on his own (he’s definitely the lead vocalist here over Dan), which is why I prefer it to As The Crow Dies, though don’t let that make you think that As The Crow Dies isn’t a good song, it is, it just would have been better with the main vocal cast.

Lastday features some hippy on vocals...but it’s another strong track. Joking aside, Arjen really needs to stop underrating himself as a vocalist. While it may be true that he’s no Russell Allen or Bruce Dickinson in terms of power, he has a very pleasant voice, which works very well in this song’s generally slower, sometimes almost doom influenced style. The main thing with this one is that it doesn’t really feel like Star One, more like Ayreon, even though lyrically it’s definitely Star One style, being based on Logan's Run.

Closer to the Stars is one of the biggest highlights of the bonus disc. Tony Martin, the singer who fronted Black Sabbath for many years takes the vocalist position here and while I’m not personally very familiar with his era in Sabbath (those albums being typically hard to get and all), he really knocks out a belter of a performance here and he also helped to write the track. While it may be true that Russell Allen in particular could have done this song just as well, I don’t actually miss the absence of the normal vocalists on this one so much, though again, with just one vocalist it doesn’t feel Star One style so much, though neither does this one feel particularly Ayreon either, it’s something different and it’s something very good.

Final bonus track is the cover. Most of the main vocalists are back with this one with the exception of Dan (Arjen's vocals are present however) but as a cover it’s naturally different to Arjen’s originals. It’s good, but pales in comparison to all the other material on offer on Victims of the Modern Age.

(Review originally written for Heavy Metal Haven)

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