Album: The Theory Of Everything
Review: Kev Rowland
Thoughts: So there I was listening to this album, and I found that I was extremely intrigued by some of the keyboard passages as some of them sounded like Wakeman, but others were a direct Emerson lift, so it got me wondering just who was playing on this. So I investigated and my jaw hit the floor, as not only was Arjen Anthony Lucassen providing some of the keys (it is his concept after all so he can do what he likes), but he had been joined by Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson and Jordan Rudess! Talk about having the heavyweights of the keyboard world involved! To then notice that Steve Hackett was providing the lead guitars was just the icing on the cake, there can't be many times when these guys have all played on the same album.
Ayreon has always been renowned for having some of the finest singers involved, and for this one Arjen has restricted himself to just seven, none of whom have previously performed on an Ayreon album. From the symphonic side we have Marko Hietala (Nightwish) and Tommy Karevik (Kamelot), while Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) and JB (Grand Magus) represent the metalheads. There are two relatively unknowns in Michael Mills (Toehider) and Sara Squadrani (Ancient Bards), while the line-up is completed by none other than John Wetton (I haven't got room to list all of the major bands he has been with, so let's just say King Crimson and leave it at that).
No science fiction story here this time, but rather how two parents deal with their savant child and the ramifications of that approach. The double CD set is broken into 42 songs, and is approximately 90 minutes long, and there are some astounding passages of music within this while the vocals are stunning. But, there are times when it doesn't quite come off, and this is mostly when Arjen is trying to force the lyrics to fit in more of the storyline and it is just doesn't seem to scan as well as it should. There also isn't enough melodic repetition of ideas within the whole for it to work seamlessly as a complete piece of music, with many of the songs being very short indeed. While there are times when this is sheer brilliance, I found that when comparing it against Clive Nolan's Alchemy (2013) which was also released this year, it doesn't contain the same level of continuity and travel. However, it is still an incredible piece of work and something that I have found myself returning to time and again. I was a little surprised to see that Ian Anderson wasn't involved as Jeroen Goossens has obviously been playing close attention and some of his playing contains exactly the same attack and inflections that one would expect from the master.
Overall this is a big album, with big ideas and a huge sound that is complex and incredibly powerful but somehow just hits short of the masterpiece level. It is still an incredible album all the same.