Adam Gardiner
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2790 reviews/ratings
WINTERHORDE - Underwatermoon Melodic Black Metal | review permalink
SONIC PULSAR - Playing the Universe Progressive Metal | review permalink
STAR ONE - Victims of the Modern Age Progressive Metal | review permalink
IRON MAIDEN - The Number Of The Beast NWoBHM | review permalink
DREAM THEATER - Images and Words Progressive Metal | review permalink
REBELLION - Miklagard - The History of the Vikings Volume II Power Metal | review permalink
BEYOND TWILIGHT - Section X Progressive Metal | review permalink
IMMORTAL - At the Heart of Winter Black Metal | review permalink
DARKOLOGY - Altered Reflections Progressive Metal | review permalink
CRUACHAN - Folk-Lore Folk Metal | review permalink
ALICE IN CHAINS - Black Gives Way To Blue Alternative Metal | review permalink
AYREON - The Final Experiment Progressive Metal | review permalink
BLIND GUARDIAN - Imaginations From the Other Side Power Metal | review permalink
EPICA - The Divine Conspiracy Symphonic Metal | review permalink
AYREON - The Human Equation Progressive Metal | review permalink
EPICA - Design Your Universe Symphonic Metal | review permalink
ASTARTE - Quod Superius Sicut Inferius Melodic Black Metal
AVANTASIA - The Metal Opera Power Metal
AYREON - 01011001 Progressive Metal | review permalink
REBELLION - Arise: From Ginnungagap to Ragnarök - The History of the Vikings Volume III Power Metal | review permalink

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Power Metal 366 4.14
2 Progressive Metal 290 4.15
3 Heavy Metal 218 3.88
4 Atmospheric Black Metal 193 4.08
5 US Power Metal 154 4.21
6 Black Metal 152 3.88
7 Folk Metal 106 3.97
8 Symphonic Metal 105 3.80
9 Thrash Metal 96 4.05
10 Non-Metal 86 3.80
11 Death Metal 84 3.93
12 Technical Death Metal 78 4.21
13 Metal Related 75 4.13
14 Gothic Metal 62 3.85
15 Hard Rock 55 3.90
16 Doom Metal 54 4.03
17 Melodic Black Metal 51 4.15
18 Melodic Death Metal 51 3.90
19 Speed Metal 41 3.88
20 Stoner Metal 40 4.15
21 Alternative Metal 38 3.46
22 Symphonic Black Metal 28 4.09
23 Death-Doom Metal 27 4.11
24 Atmospheric Sludge Metal 26 4.15
25 Groove Metal 24 3.63
26 Pagan Black Metal 23 3.89
27 Heavy Psych 23 4.33
28 Viking Metal 23 4.11
29 Heavy Alternative Rock 22 3.27
30 Avant-garde Metal 21 3.90
31 NWoBHM 18 4.42
32 Traditional Doom Metal 18 4.33
33 Depressive Black Metal 17 3.82
34 Stoner Rock 15 3.97
35 Sludge Metal 15 4.10
36 Technical Thrash Metal 14 4.14
37 Funeral Doom Metal 14 4.11
38 Brutal Death Metal 12 3.25
39 Melodic Metalcore 12 3.38
40 War Metal 11 4.09
41 Metalcore 7 2.57
42 Proto-Metal 7 4.14
43 Industrial Metal 5 3.80
44 Neoclassical metal 3 3.83
45 Drone Metal 3 3.50
46 Deathcore 2 1.75
47 Death 'n' Roll 2 3.00
48 Crossover Thrash 1 3.50
49 Crust Punk 1 4.00
50 Trance Metal 1 0.50

Latest Albums Reviews

SWEVEN The Eternal Resonance

Album · 2020 · Progressive Metal
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A few years ago there was a Swedish death metal band called Morbus Chron and their second album was called Sweven (2014). It was a gem combining death metal with retro progressive rock and psychedelic music, something that had been heard in black metal based acts like Hail Spirit Noir and Oranssi Pazuzu, but was still a rare element for metal to use (outside of the more obligatory stoner metal genre of course). It was the kind of album that showed its band off as something unusual and special. But then Morbus Chron disbanded in 2015. But now they're back, well, at least frontman Robert Andersson is and since his new project is also called Sweven you know that the new band is going to be more or less a continuation of where Morbus Chron left off. The Eternal Resonance (2020) is the group's debut album.

Sweven's The Eternal Resonance is not a mere rehash of their namesake album, but all the same elements are there: death metal, prog and psychedelic rock. While Robert Andersson brings a growling vocal style to the music it often feels like a bit of stretch to call this a death metal record. The instrumental work transcends death metal far too much to even pigeon-hole as progressive death metal; instead it falls more into the category of extreme progressive metal, a term often reserved for big names like the Opeth of old and Ihsahn and few others. And even that doesn't completely describe Sweven's sound, because there's just far too much retro progressive rock and psych in here as well to say its merely 'just' one thing. It's an album sitting on a bridge between two worlds, not torn between them, but in harmony.

The big difference in how the elements are balanced between The Eternal Resonance and the namesake album Sweven is that Morbus Chron used the psych influences a lot more than Sweven the band do here, but those are still an integral part of the new album's sound and it wouldn't be quite as special without them. Though if there is a fault here then it's that I really would have liked to hear the psychedelic element a bit more like in the previous band. Psychedelic metal is such an untapped well of potential that few bands seem willing to embrace, and fewer still the fans that seem to be able to recognise it, such as seems to have happened with this year's Hail Spirit Noir album Eden in Reverse, which to my knowledge could well be the first true psychedelic metal album that isn't stoner or extreme metal based. It's a shame that Sweven dialled this back on The Eternal Resonance, but they still make a really excellent record that has a rather unique sound, so I can't complain too much about that.

I find The Eternal Resonance to be one of 2020's finest debut metal records. Creating a unique sound in 2020 is no easy feat and while Sweven do lift a lot from their frontman's previous outfit one can hardly cast blame on the man for continuing to peruse a musical vision that produces an album this good. I can only imagine that Sweven will go on to impress even more if this is what they serve as the appetizer. Let's hope though that they make more albums than Morbus Chron did.

WAKE Devouring Ruin

Album · 2020 · Black Metal
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Canadian act Wake first hit the metal scene in 2010 with the EP Surrounded by Human Filth, playing grindcore, a genre that they've stuck with through their first decade of existence. While their last album Misery Rites (2018) was noted by some for bringing a blackened approach they were still a grindcore band. So it might come as a surprise to some that their fifth and latest album Devouring Ruin (2020) has seen them pretty throw all their grindcore roots out of the window and have instead released their first actual black metal record.

Of course that's selling the sound of the release shorter than a lot of grindcore albums are. Wake didn't just go black metal, they've expanded their sound in a number of different directions, with everything from technical death metal to post-sludge being found on Devouring Ruin. The change in direction has also resulted in an album of greater quantity from Wake; in true grindcore fashion the longest any of their four prior albums latest for was just shy of twenty-seven minutes, while the four albums between them could only claim two tracks that broke three minutes. Here we have a much more substantial not quite forty-six minute album, complete with a song, Torchbearer, which breaks the ten minute barrier. Grindcore is of course a genre where the very idea seems to be to go in and get the point across as quickly as possible, but with the new sound Wake have been able to change their approach to song-writing and new ideas are given room to be expressed.

It's a powerful sounding record, only really ever letting up for a couple of shorter interlude style tracks (sorry to disappoint those who thought the short tracks would be grindcore numbers), which are oddly placed to either side of just one song (and not even the real long one) rather than more effectively break up the record. Wake's take on black metal has a rawer sound to the vocals of Kyle Ball, approaching more death metal style and avoiding the cold, necro roots of black metal, though the riffs themselves retain a black metal atmosphere throughout, with other genre details hidden in the album's subtleties. Listen casually as your own peril, for there's a lot to dig into and explore here.

Existing fans of Wake who were expecting them to continue on with the grindcore may be disappointed in the change in direction, but for me Devouring Ruin is the release that has put the band on the map. Of course I listen to a lot more black metal than I do grindcore (by which I mean none at all), but they certainly seem to be making more waves with the album since it's release than they did before, which can only be good for them. They're obviously a talented band, based on what Devouring Ruin has to offer, an album that reaffirms for me my love of the black metal genre and it's continual ability to produce such high calibre albums. I hope we'll get to hear more of this kind of thing from Wake.

LOVEBITES Electric Pentagram

Album · 2020 · Power Metal
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Japanese act Lovebites do not have the most metal sounding name. You'd think that a metal band with such a name would, at most, belong to the glam metal genre (in fact there is a glam metal act with the similar name Lovebite). The all female band has never been afraid to show off their femininity either, challenging the entire genre's stereotypes on image since they hit the scene, but that's not actually unusually for Japanese acts. These things may lead those out there with a habit of pre-judging to get the wrong idea about what kind of music that Lovebites play or if they do get it right, assume that the calibre of the band will be the same as others in their country's little sub-scene.

So let's say it plainly: Lovebites plays power metal infused with old school speed/thrash metal influences, with some tasteful but never domineering symphonic elements. Any uses of terms like j-pop and Visual kei to describe them is by those judging based on mere association with other power metal acts of the Japanese sub-scene or the members gender itself, which in this context may even amount to the same thing, since those other Japanese female power metal bands sometimes do have these things. More important than Lovebites' genre, is their chops as musicians. These young ladies are some of the best in the game right now, showcases blistering power metal speed from all four instrumentalists and incredible guitar solos. They also have a great singer in Asami, whose voice admittedly comes across as very accented to these English ears, yet for me that just adds a regional charm to the band. Togther they fully deserve to be recognised not just as Japan's best power metal export since Galneryus, but also one of the best power metal acts to emerge in the 2010s, a decade which gave the world the masterful albums Awakening From Abyss (2017) and Clockwork Immortality (2018).

Electric Pentagram (2020), the band's third full-length album that continues their Morbid Angel-esque naming conventions (the EP Battle Against Damnation (2018) and live album Daughters of the Dawn (2019) were sandwiched between the full-length albums, while Electric Pentagram has more recently been followed by a second live album, Five of a Kind (2020) - so we can only assume their next release will start with a G), is therefore the work of a band who already has nothing left to prove. It would have been very easy for it to be the record where the band slipped up. Instead it's the work of a band that don't seem to be losing any creative steam just yet.

One caveat with that last statement though, I would say that Electric Pentagram doesn't make itself more essential than what Lovebites has already released up until this point. For me their first album is the one that remains the true must have. While Clockwork Immortality was in many ways a refinement, wow factor and nostalgia are powerful things. Someone who discovered Lovebites through a later album (including this one) could easily feel the same about it as I do about their first. On Electric Pentagram it does feel like the band have taken a step back toward the debut again in terms of influences – more obvious deviations into speed metal and even some outright thrashy territory compared to Clockwork Immortality's more polished sound, but the differences between all three albums are really subtle.

What I can say about Electric Pentagram though is that it's another collection of great songs from Lovebites. It is perhaps their weakest album on account of the length though. It's seventy minutes long, which is a lot for a power metal album to be honest. They do have the skill to handle it without it getting into the area of being too much of a good thing, but the previous albums do come across as tighter packages for being even just ten minutes shorter, as was the case with the debut. It's not that there's an excessive amount of songs included here, just twelve, which is the same number as Awakening From Abyss, but their writing style, while never too elongated, has produced no track shorter than five minutes this time (with that said nothing breaks seven minutes either), so on paper it does start to look a little formulaic, like they've sat down and said 'okay, this is what works, let's stick to it'. With that said, I couldn't possible pinpoint any exact point where I'd say they should have trimmed something down or any particular song that should have been pruned entirely; it's just a feeling that upon conclusion, while an immensely satisfying third album, that this will go down on one to complement better, more essential works by Lovebites. I feel like they are at the point where their next record will need to try to be braver and break some new ground, though of course hopefully without ruining the identity of the band.

In summary I have enjoyed Electric Pentagram a lot, with a few cautious criticism that don't really detract from my enjoyment while listening to it, though this will be the lowest rating I've given to a Lovebites album so far and that sounds like a blow but this is is still a 4.5 star album for me, just following two 5 star albums, which is a pretty damn good achievement for any band. I still think that Electric Pentagram is a stronger release that many new power metal albums are as well and reviewing it in October after it's January 2020 release I can safely say that it's still the one to beat for the year in the genre.

AYREON Transitus

Album · 2020 · Progressive Metal
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Transitus (2020) is the tenth full-length studio album by Dutch progressive rock/metal project Ayreon. The follow-up to The Source (2017), Transitus wasn't originally convinced as an Ayreon album, which may explain why Arjen Anthony Lucassen has released two Ayreon studio albums in a row without working on another project between them, as is the normal process for him. Because of its origins Transitus is also the first Ayreon album since The Dream Sequencer (2000) to not feature Ed Warby on drums. They are instead played by Juan van Emmerloot. Other regular guest musicians like Joost van den Broek (keyboards) and Ben Mathot (violin) are still featured however. Guest guitar solos on this album are performed by Joe Satriani and Marty Friedman. Transitus was released with an accompanying comic book that tells its story, to be read along with the music, with all the characters designed to look like their vocalists.

Transitus is primarily the story of Daniel, played by Tommy Karevik (Kamelot / Seventh Wonder) and Abby, played by Cammie Gilbert (Oceans of Slumber). Daniel and Abby are a mixed race couple living in 1884 (200 years before the human race destroys itself in the main Ayreon storyline). If we were to talk of Transitus in terms of movie or literacy genres, then we'd primarily call it a romance as the starstruck couple face social prejudice related to their respective stations: Daniel's the son of the lord of the manner (Twisted Sister legend Dee Snider), while Abby is a mere servant. But this is Ayreon, so there are going to be twists of an otherworldly nature, so in fact Transitus is perhaps more than just a romance, but a ghost story. Spoiler alert, Daniel dies in track one. He ends up in a mysterious place between this world and next: Transitus!

Transitus is narrated by Tom Baker (TV's Fourth Doctor in Doctor Who), who adds a dramatic flair to his narration that's sure to get anyone's inner geek bouncing off the walls. Narration is something that for me that can ultimately harm a very good album if done too excessively, but Baker makes this a real treat, conjuring some real gothic horror vibes at times, which fits the music perfectly. Though not a singer, Baker is the only member of the cast in his role as The Storyteller to appear on every song on the album. Tommy Karevik's Daniel, despite his death right at the start of the story, appears the most often of the actual vocalists, but Transitus isn't designed to give everyone even close to equal singing time, so while Daniel is the tale's protagonist his role is primarily featured on the first disc of the album, where he appears on all but two songs. His appearances are reduced on the second disc, as the still living characters' parts in the story are told. Cammie Gilbert's Abby is the second most appearing character, followed by Lavinia, her stepmother, played by Amanda Somerville (Trillium). Lavinia, a medium, becomes haunted by the ghost of Daniel right at the start of the story, but her vocals are only featured on the second disc of the album, where she effectively becomes the lead character, neither hero nor true villain, just misguided.

The remainder of the album's diverse vocal cast are supporting characters. The most important of these is Henry, Daniel's brother, played by Paul Manzi (ex-Arena), who while only appearing as a singer on four songs, is the story's antagonist. He is most vehemently against the union between Daniel and Abby and after Daniel's death is determined to see that Abby pays for it, in which he conspires with Lavinia, who mistakenly believes that Abby killed Daniel, when in fact his death was a tragic accident. Also key on the supernatural side of things is The Angel of Death, played by Simone Simons (Epica), whom Daniel meets in Transitus along with her henchwomen The Furies (Marcela Bovio (ex-Stream of Passion) and Caroline Westendorp (The Charm The Fury)) – though the pair also play the servants of the manor and two of the villagers. Daniel is able to appeal to the Angel's better nature and after some wibbly wobbly, timey whimey stuff revealing the backstory between Daniel, Abby, Henry and Daniel's Father, gives Daniel seven days and seven nights to try to save Abby from the fate Henry has prescribed for her.

Also a part of this tale is Abraham, Abby's father, played by Johanne James (Threshold (drums) / Kyrbgrinder). While his role is much more minor than many of the cast on Transitus, appearing on just three songs, Abraham represents the quintessential 'good man' of the tale, devoted to his daughter and spending his appearances just trying to save the life of first Daniel and then Abby herself. Then there is The Statue, played by Mike Mills (Toehider), who makes a single song appearance, Dumb Piece of Rock, encouraging Daniel to choose Abby over status during the flashback, but whose role is probably all in Daniel's mind (but it is Ayreon so maybe not?). It's surprising to hear Mills regulated to a single song appearance given that he is basically one of Lucassen's favourite collaborators right now, this being his third consecutive Ayreon album (as it also is Karevik's). Dee Snider also appears on a single song, Get Out! Now! as part of the same flashback sequence.

Some other vocalists are also featured on Transitus in small roles as the Villagers, basically cameos, while Dianne van Giersbergen (ex-Xandria / Ex Libris) also appears on the album but isn't playing a role, just providing her soprano voice for a haunting eerie effect. As a vocalist cast it feels much more restrained than some Ayreon albums, especially The Source, with just seven recurring characters appearing on anything from three to eleven tracks each (out of twenty-two), two one off characters, a narrator and Bovio/Westendorp playing multiple characters in a backing capacity, with six additional villagers.

It is a good cast and I like that Lucassen has highlighted rising progressive metal star Cammie Gilbert along with his regular collaborators, as well as Johanne James, who is better known as a drummer than a singer, but I also feel like he may have missed a few tricks with this one. Both Bovio and Westendorp are surprisingly underused despite handling multiple roles and I feel like the story could possible have seen the role of the Furies expanded upon, perhaps with one in support of The Angel of Death's aiding Daniel and one against. I have this image of Bovio's Fury supporting the Angel and Westendorp's rebelling, using her growling voice to full effect instead of the few bits we do hear in the background. There was certainly plenty of running time that could have been used for such a subplot, or any subplot that saw their characters developed more, since as a double CD Ayreon album Transitus is only just of a length that requires that distinction at 80:49 long, making it the shortest Ayreon 2CD. But alas, that was not to be. Additionally Dianne van Giersbergen is such a good singer that her not even playing a role seems almost criminal. And finally the biggest gripe: I can't be the only Ayreon fan who is waiting for the day that Lucassen allows his own voice to grace an album again. Come on Arjen, it's been three albums now!

Just how much this story fits into the greater Ayreon universe is debatable. There are lyrical references in This Human Equation, which not only references The Human Equation (2004) but also the Universal Migrator (2000) albums, but mostly Transitus seems to be very stand-alone. The music itself has some familiarity to it – the guitar riffs are metallic, but overall this isn't as heavy an album as its predecessor The Source and the writing structure is very different, aiming for shorter songs in general, although not to the extremes of The Theory of Everything (2013) and its four long twenty-plus minute suites. But one should expect many tracks that are under three minutes long, doing their job to advance the story between more traditionally structured tracks. The only epic of sorts is the opener Fatum Horrificum, which is in some ways like a very long intro into the story about to unfold. There are other elements of genres heard like symphonic elements and some Celtic folk on Talk of the Town. Much like The Theory of Everything though, it's album that works best when listened to as a whole, considering each disc an separate act.

As such it often feels like the individual highlights are lacking on Transitus. They are here, but with the exception of the Mike Mills sung Dumb Piece of Rock fans should perhaps expect the album's singles to be the most individually memorable tracks, like the Dee Snider led Get Out! Now!, the soft duet between Tommy Karevik and Cammie Gilbert Hopelessly Slipping Away, along with the Simone Simons led This Human Equation and of course Talk of the Town, which features Paul Manzi as the lead singer with support from Karevik and Gilbert. That's not to say that the rest of Transitus isn't excellent, but it is fair to say that it's the Ayreon album that is closest to being an actual musical that you need to experience everything in sequence, narration included, in order to appreciate everything that Arjen Lucassen has created.

While I don't imagine ever ranking Transitus alongside my favourite Ayreon albums like Into the Electric Castle (1998) – my favourite album of all time – The Human Equation, 01011001 (2008) or The Source, I find myself very satisfied with it. It's very easy to get into, immerse yourself in its story (which I hope I didn't spoil too much) and if we can ever get out of these worldwide restrictions because of Covid-19 I can well imagine this getting the full stage show works like Into the Electric Castle and The Human Equation have done. It's very good work from everyone's favourite Hippie once again and dare I say...nice!

AYREON Electric Castle Live and Other Tales

Movie · 2020 · Progressive Metal
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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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