Hi, I’m JotaKa. I’m a rocker by birth and grew listening to rock discs and long plays by the dozen. My favorite bands are Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and Queen, and they will be mentioned in this work.
I wanted to talk a little about this album I just got to know but first, I have to talk about this guy named Arjen Anthony Lucassen, a multi-instrumentalist from Netherlands. He founded the band known as Ayreon, and is the only musician in the band at all times, playing all instruments. In the third album, the drummer Ed Warby joined in, performing in all his albums since 2009 “On This Perfect Day” by the Guilt Machine, another project by that crazy Dutch man. For those who are thinking that he must sing like the angels, well, he doesn’t. He sings really just a little in the first two albums, as he invites basically ALL the singers of Death/Power/Melodic/Progressive Metal he can find to sing for him. And I mean all. For the sole reason that I will talk more about the 6th album “The Human Equation”, I’m going to list all the singers that he invited and band where they came. Devin Townsend from the eponymous band, Devon Graves from Dead Soul Tribe, Eric Clayton from Saviour Machine, Heather Findlay from Mostly Autumn, Iren Jansen from Karma, James LaBrie from Dream Theater, Magnus Ekwall from the Quill, Marcela Bovio from Elfonia and Stream of Passion, Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth and Mike Baker from Shadow Gallery. And most of them worked with Ayreon ONLY for this album. Other thing in need of mentioning is that most of the Ayreon albums feel like a play, as each character is voiced by one of the many metal singers that he casts for each album, which is kind of cool, knowing you can tell the characters apart if you pay attention to their voices.
Until now, Ayreon has released 7 Studio Albums and 2 Compilation Albums. When asked if Arjen would make another Ayreon album, he replied: “Definitely.”. Later, asked about the same subject, he said that maybe in ten years he will do such a thing, as a new album.
And he better do it. He won’t dare dying before it. Because he reached the fucking jackpot with Ayreon.
Arjen Lucassen decided that all the albums would be concept albums and tell a single story. So, if you catch all the Ayreon albums to the date and some kind of hallucinogenic substance, you can hear a story out of the albums, and it’s there when I see the genius at work, because the music sucks. All in all, the vocals of all the metal singers is kind of bland, the elements of rock and echo that Arjen tries to make in the songs are boring and every fucking piece of vocal has back vocal. And that will tire you. Fast. But the story is fascinating. Just the planning of all from the very first album, “The Final Experiment”, diving “Into the Electric Castle” which at first seems completely unrelated, starting a kind of continuous arc with the “Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer” and “Part 2: Flight of the Migrator”, dashing in a parallel with the already mentioned “The Human Equation”, and then explaining the fits with “01011001”, shows a pretty brilliant storyteller. The only album that doesn’t go in with the story is “Actual Fantasy”, which discusses sci-fi movies and other sci-fi Arjen stories, but I believe it was just cleaning grounds for the mind-fuck that is the rest of Ayreon repertoire.
I am legally obliged to tell that I’m a sucker for conceptual albums and storytelling mechanism. My life listening to classics like The Who’s “Sell Out”, Jethro Tull’s “Thick as a Brick”, Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, Rush’s “2112” and The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” made me a lover of these kind of stuff. And in other prism, I love sci-fi movies and literature. Star Wars and Isaac Asimov may be my main types of recreation, although I hate Star Trek and despised Alex Proyas’ “I Robot”, loosely based on the eponymous book by Asimov (and when I say loosely, I say LOOSELY!!!! It’s as if Titanic was loosely based on the Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.). So… a rock band that makes concept albums AND, on top of that, the concept is Sci-fi? Give it to me. Now!
Before entering in depth into “The Human Equation”, last thing is to set the story as to how far do we know it before “The Human Equation”.
The first album, 1995 “The Final Experiment” (kind of like Final Fantasy, huh) told that in 2084, humanity was lost in apocalypse and chaos, and discovered a technology that could communicate through time and avert the destruction that people have caused. They are able to send visions of future to a bard of the 6th century called Ayreon (convenient…) and he tells the tale of the future to the King Arthur’s Court. Blinded by jealousy, Merlin curses Ayreon to become a mute, which he acknowledges to be a huge mistake. Without being properly explained how, Merlin senses that there will be another divining minstrel in the 20th century, thus, ending the album.
The second album in the chronology, “Into the Electric Castle”, talks about several heroes, most important a knight from King Arthur’s Court, a man from the future, a hippie (played by Arjen, convenient once again) and a roman, that suddenly see themselves in the Electric Castle and have to go to the end. When there, they discover that it was all a plan from the being known as Forever of the Stars, that claim that the human being is an experience made by these aliens to make them remember what emotions are, as they seem to have forgotten long ago because of machinery. Here is when one of the major plots, the Forever of the Star, is first introduced. This album is by many considered to be the Ayreon’s “White Album”, the best of the best in its career. Not by me in any way, but is still considered by many.
The third album and the fourth album in the chronology, Universal Migrator Part 1 and Part 2 were released simultaneously. Part 1 tells about how the war of 2084 destroyed the Earth and how the human kind fled to Mars. Although they bring supplies, they can’t grow them, so the album just talks about one person: the last human alive on Mars, which has never visited Earth. He then proceeds to use this machine, the Dream Sequencer, which can make the user go back in time and experience every life that he lived. Each track of UM Part 1 is one of his lives before, including Mayans, druids who were turning magically into stone forming the Stonehenge (one more believable cause for that, thanks Ayreon) and Ayreon the minstrel from the first album, ending with him being the first man on the earth. UM Part 2 continues the story, with the last man becoming ambitious and demanding that the machine takes him far beyond the creation of life on Earth, making him fly threw the universe, as each track of the album is him contacting new celestial objects, like quasars and black holes, including the Planet Y, where the Forever of the Stars live. As he gets near the planet Earth, the Dream Sequencer fails and the last human alive, well… ceases to be. Little before that, he meets the being known as the Universal Migrator, an ethereal being that migrates through the universe. When the human dies, the Universal Migrator tells him that eternity awaits him, as he himself becomes the Universal Migrator. Wow.
So now, with the background all cleared, let’s take a look at the album The Human Equation. First of all, of all the cover arts, it is probably the most well done. It’s not like the other covers are shitty in any ways, I just think that this cover actually embodies what I think when I think Ayreon. Go figure, this is just me after all. It was released in 2004, and it was not as well received as the UM part 1 and 2. It 7th place in the Dutch chart and 50th place in the Deutsch Top 50. So let’s get this over with: Human Equation in depth, track by track.
1st track: “Day One: Vigil” Well, the album starts off with cardiogram sound and synthesizer echo. Cool. Then, the Best Friend (From now on, referenced as BF, interpreted by Arjen himself) and Wife (Marcela Bovio, from Elfonía) are trying to pass guilt to one another for something. The song ends with the bleeping cardiogram getting faster and faster as a car goes in high speed, burning rubber. I guess that kind of explains: the car of which somebody was driving crashed. Of course we don’t care who the fucker is, since we don’t even know… well, who the fucker is.
2nd track: “Day Two: Isolation”: “Me” finally starts singing (James LaBrie, Dream Theater)! Well, it wasn’t that hard of a crash, I guess. Oh, wait… look who else comes singing. Apparently, Fear (Mikael Akerfeldt, Opeth), Reason (Eric Clayton, Saviour Machine), Passion (Iren Jansen, Karma), Pride (Magnus Ekwall, The Quill) and Love (Heather Findlay, Mostly Autumn) are there too. So, either he’s in Care-a-Lot or he is trapped inside of his mind. Well, since there is bland singing, it’s probably Care-a-Lot. But no, trapped inside of his mind is the right answer. Well, seems like he is in Care-a-less, because Fear just comes and fucking depresses James. Really, James needed a pep talk, not trash talk. Reason comes in, later, and dashes out bull shit philosophy, as it get as cliché as it could. Of course, as goes without saying, James LaBrie, Mikael Akerfeldt and Eric Clayton singing together is as bland metal as it could be. Well, suddenly, Passion comes in. It is so passionate that every time she sings, she gets auto back-up vocals! Superb! Pride also possesses the ability of auto back-up, as he finally gives James the pep talk he needed. After some minutes into the song, you start realizing the sad truth that they tend to repeat the most boring part of the song: in this case, Passion and Pride repeat 3 times the same verses, with the same back-vocal. After the second repeat, a dramatic sound change as the only woman who proves that can sing is finally presented: Heather Findlay does an excellent job as Love. And the sound change is exactly what this song was asking for. But then, “Run like Hell” from The Dark Side of the Moon is played, as the song returns to the same old shit, repeating Passion and Pride until the cut.
3rd track: “Day Three: Pain”: Promising Start. Agony (Devon Graves, Dead Soul Tribe) sings with the most uninspired voice EVA, but hey, he’s Agony. I imagine that pink devil from Hercules. Another one to depress poor James. Kind of a more heavy rock grab of the guitar, as Rage (Devin Townsend, Devin Townsend Band) starts singing. And I really think that Rage should have a more angry voice. It’s a calm voice, what makes it really angry is the guitar and the cello, not the vocal itself. It reminds me of Nickelback, for some bizarre reason. From nowhere, Jethro Tull strikes! Yata, yata, yata, Love tries to protect James from Agony and Rage.
4th track: “Day Four: Mystery”: Judging by the singers, its back to BF and Wife… and back vocals. Man… why? I give some reason to the feelings inside him, that are inside his head, they sort of echo, I don’t know. But why BF and Wife have back vocals? The Hospital is empty? They are near a precipice? They are singing inside James mouth? I NEED TO KNOW! Synthesizer kicks in again. They keep singing about the possibilities of James death and if he saw something that he shouldn’t. Apparently, he got in a coma by hitting a tree in broad day light, and it’s called many times “Strange conditions”. I blame the booze. If your wife and best friend had back vocals all the time, you would drink too. The same exact possibilities are exchanged by James and most of the feelings, in-head. Overall, a good track. But again, it gets boring because they repeat the same boring verses over and over. Good keyboard solo. Good Pink Floyd ending.
5th track: “Day Five: Voices”: Good start. Pride starts singing a pep talk. Yey Pride! And the freaking cello is so distracting as Reason tries an undertone without success, Love tries convincing James that the voices outside are friends and Fear trash talks James. Poor James. To this point, it’s probably the worst song of the album. It’s like they are all chewing the scenery. Blandly chewing the scenery. With fucking back vocals!
6th track: “Day Six: Childhood”: As the synthesizer starts rolling, Agony and Fear relates one day of James childhood, where he kept waiting for his father that abused him, and how James hated him and wanted to overcome him. Well, I always wanted to be the best child molester ever, so I guess that make James and me rivals. The song sounds like that CDs that Native American people sell downtown.
7th track: “Day Seven: Hope”: The ultimate pep talk given by BF, with the aid of, you guessed it, synthesizer and back vocals! Because no one can get enough of those, right? He reminds James of the times when they were sexual predators in the school. It’s not exactly that, but I find it so much funnier when I think that way. With the lonely guitar on the back, it’s quite a cool song to listen. I really recommend looking out for it, as it is only three minutes long.
8th track: “Day Eight: School”: I get lost by here. Now you discover that James was a loser that was constantly bullied, as Rage, Fear and Agony relates moments of day. Note: Every verse that Rage sings in this song, you can hear “HUMAN!” singing behind him. Try doing that in school plays. It’s funnier than it looks. James was in between beating other losers and continuing being a loser, as Pride says: “Beat the kid!” and Reason says: “Don’t beat the kid…” I say fucking beat the kid! Reason sounds like such a pussy.
9th track: “Day Nine: Playground”: What a boring instrumental. It starts as the most peaceful playground on the planet, with a song that is the closest to that one that plays in peaceful moments in cartoons that you can get without getting sued. After a minute, the harmony goes to flute, and then, an overdriven guitar, but it doesn’t matter. It’s boring.
10th track: “Day Ten: Memories”: This is one of the best songs of this album. It’s basically the Wife and BF telling Comatose James (that could be a title of a movie) things of the past so maybe it’ll help he comes back. At the same time, Pride sings together with BF as Love sings together with the Wife, thus explaining for the first time the annoying back vocals. The first inspired synthesizer, the guitar in the back… It’s the first humorous part of the album, aside from the melancholic tune as always. It actually has some funny scenes, like the first time he and his wife were naked together and all his friends rushed into the scene. It can make you chuckle.
11th track: “Day Eleven: Love”: This is the first single of this album. It kind of reminds me of Metallica in some way, don’t ask me why. James remembers how he and he’s wife met, in a ballroom, as Love was encouraging him, with Passion a Pride also rooting but I think it was more of a “Just do her” kind of thing. Nothing goes smooth with James, as Agony and Fear keep reminding him of his father, and how James will make her sad as his father made her mom sad. It’s an enjoyable song. The ending is a cheap trick that I always felt deep in my heart: the A Capella part. It’s the part of the song where the music fades and you just here the singing, and overall, it works. Just remember the only song in Mulan that worked and you will see why it worked.
End of Disc 1. Star of Disc 2.
12th track: “Day Twelve: Trauma”: For some reason, my CD player separated this track from one before it, not mentioned in the cover. So technically, this was the 13th track, and there was this kind of lame instrumental song before it. For the reason that I’m lazy as hell, I will ignore this fact and keep labeling the track with the day, as it is pretty much easier for me. The instrumental kept playing through the start of the song. The feelings keep talking about James mother and how that he always blamed himself for his father leaving and the consequential death of his mother. And Fear keep comparing her with a zombie in a creepy way, and he sings so without any kind of inspiration, after the guttural vocal that he did that I fucking hate. There is a guitar solo. That’s all I can say about it. Generic as it could be. It’s the lengthiest song of all the album and you will notice every second of it. The beat is like a metronome, and you could count the second. I fucking hate guttural vocal.
13th track: “Day Thirteen: Sign” I know this is not a screenplay and everything has to be in metric and rhyme, but they sound like retards! The dialog doesn’t seem natural In ANY way. James is suffering, poor James, and Wife and BF keep waiting for a sign, as he cries and clenches his fists. Both actions are understood by the dynamic duo as: he’s sad and he’s angry. Really? Wow! And they keep questioning it back and forth with no really meaning. The cello is finally right on tune, and Love really knows how to sing. Wife started singing well. But the incredibly retarded duo ruins the song. The instruments make the show while the duo keeps acting like retarded.
14th track: “Day Fourteen: Pride”: Wow, with a name of the track like that, Magnus Ekwall really will command the show, I guess. He’s the only one that was given a freaking song and he has finally the right to do what he has done the entire album: chewing the scenery. The melody reminds me of Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow” meets Sonata Arctica’s cover of Helloween “I Want Out”. For the first time in the album, Pride drives down his tone and gets more discrete. In the song with his name, he gets discrete. And Jethro Tull strikes again. Fear and Pride for the first time get together and agree with each other. Each one with his back vocal. As the song ends with Jethro Tull.
15th track: “Day Fifteen: Betrayal”: This is the “Comfortably Numb” of this album. It’s the part of the concept album that the persona realize that he had let the shit hit the fan. He and his BF were competing for a job as “the Boss” and James let the books of the firm that BF tampered open a top of the table. This guy is a jackass. If someone does that to me in the firm, he will wake up with the mouth on an anthill. Anyway, the song doesn’t have nearly the charm of the original Comfortably Numb, so it’s easily forgettable with the synthesizers from hell. He gets to grip with himself as James thinks that he must tell his friend what he have done.
16th track: “Day Sixteen: Loser”: The second and last single of the album. On the sixteenth track, they present the Father (Mike Baker, Shadow Gallery), which I thought we would only hear by the voice of others. It’s kind of a cool Irish folk song, which sooths the soul. Then, it mends in this trash talk from the dad. If what was before was depressing, this is actually terrifying, as I never could figure out if this father is a figment of James’ mind or if he is there at the hospital, as he says things that couldn’t be in his memories. And from nowhere, Rage starts screaming LIKE HELL! If you are listening to this song at 2:48 AM, you will get pretty scared. But funny, in all, the father is a crude mother fucker, Rage is an asshole, but you know what? It’s a good fucking song. Probably, one of the best songs of this album, even though I really like Memories. In this track, Jeroen Goossens plays the Didgeridoo. Why did I mention it? Because his name is funny and the name of the instrument is funny. He, Goossens plays de Didgeridoo. *snickers*
17th track: “Day Seventeen: Accident?”: I wasn’t expecting a continuation of the Comfortably Numb, but there it is. Apparently, James crashed his car because he saw his wife with another man. What a fucking pussy. Reason may be getting to him, as Agony says that he’s a wreck because of love and that James only friend is him. Man, we tell so many things to make people play co-op games with you… Agony just wanted to play some Perfect Dark Co-Op on the n64 and the other feelings were sleepy. Let Agony play some Perfect Dark. The song is bland, as I’m making jokes of Co-op instead of listening to the song.
18th track: “Day Eighteen: Realization” By the size of the lyrics and the size of the song, It must be a fucking long instrumental song. I was right. They summoned Rick Wakeman to fake play some keyboard. And Ian Anderson to play the flute! But jokes apart, it’s a really good song. As the album moves to a closure, the song is quite climatic and edgy, until they started singing. The song is really good, if it wasn’t for the vocal part. Why they have to screw with it?
19th track: “Day Nineteen: Disclosure”: Fucking tearjerker song! Finally, the reason why the crash occurred is told: he crashed his car because he saw her Wife that he neglected and the BF he got fired having sex. They should crash your car in him, fuckface! The feelings keep pushing them forth as James gave himself a pep talk, like he would be better. Just stop crashing cars over trivial stuff and everything will be just dandy. It’s a pretty beautiful song, with all in the right place, as the climax finally came.
20th track: “Day Twentieth: Confrontation”: James wake up from his coma of twenty days. As his BF keep pushing him forth, all the feelings say goodbye as Love and his Wife sing together. Pretty touching if you heard the entire album. Pretty dull if you just heard this song. And everybody just give themselves for this song, it really sounds like a goodbye. So, after a long journey of song, through twenty days of coma, he finally wakes up and stares reality in the face.
Or does he?
James (as “Me”): AAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!
The Human Equation program aborted.
Have a nice day.
Dream Sequencer system offline.
Yes. It was all just that guy in mars playing with the Dream Sequencer. This makes the album so epic that it counts for it all.
Overall score: 5 for the album/9 for the group of albums
I really suggest looking for it and if you want to know how it all ties up, go get the 01011001 album, that really knot it all up.
Thanks for reading it all, I hope it was fun to read as it was to write.
This is JotaKa, signing of.