Sound — 10
01011001 has been in the making for quite some time and sonically speaking, there's little to pick on. The level of producing records has gotten so high that on occasion I feel that this section is almost unnecessary. But, for what it's worth, it's an immaculate production, and that is no small feat given the numerous elements involved. Industrial sampling, choirs, multi-layered harmonized vocals, soft sections, heavy sections... you name it, and this album probably has it. It's a slick, modern production and it isn't overly aggressive, but nor is it overly soft. I hate to say it sometimes, but it's pretty much what you could expect from a production in this day and age. Multi-instrumentalist and mastermind Arjen Lucassen has succesfully managed to craft a sound that leaves nothing to be desired.
Lyrics — 8
I'll do my best to keep this somewhat short. 01011001 is the fourth album in a series of albums dealing with a continuous storyline. I'll leave out the previous three, and focus only on this album. On the Planet Y, which is also the name of the first disc (and for the geeks among us, 01011001 is the binary for the number 89, which in ASCII becomes the letter Y), a race has lost touch with their emotions and have become completely dependent on machines. They of course think this stinks, so they hop on a comet and fly to earth, where they crash onto the planet, killing all the dinosaurs, and thus we have mankind. However, things don't work out as smoothly as these beings had hoped, 'cause also us humans end up being dependent on machines eventually, losing touch with our morals and that stuff.
In the end, I guess we can shorten it down to being a sci-fi story that mixes in a good dose of social criticism. Lyrically, it's good. Hell, writing such a long album and not ending up with any vomit-inducing lines is a feat worthy of 7/10... but! I am always one for rewarding the daring souls in the industry who dare go beyond the standards of the genres. This album features several different characters, all with well-written lines and when dialogue occurs, it succeeds and surpasses attempts by most others in the genre. Lyrically and thematically, it's a very convincing case.
Overall Impression — 6
To start it off -- the most striking feature of this album is without a doubt the number of guests. 17 different vocalists and almost 10 different instrumentalists. Notables include guitarist Michael Romeo of Symphony X, Derek Sherinian, Simone Simons of Epica, Tom Englund from Evergrey, and perhaps the guy who gets the biggest chunk of the vocals, Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian. Vocally and instrumentally, it's very, very well done. The majority of the album probably leans towards the softer side of the spectrum, warranting the progressive tag, but there should be enough heavy sections to please most fans of this type of music. There's a truckload of captivating melodies on this album, and Arjen works the main themes very well, adding subtle flavors and layers to them when they return. For lack of a better phrase, it's almost subliminal at times.
Secondly -- it's long. 102 minutes, to be precise. For those quick in maths, that means 2 CDs. The first disc, which is called Y focuses on the race who hop on the comet and crash on to earth, while the second disc is fittingly dubbed Earth, and focuses on... yeah, you get it. Sadly for Arjen and his project, when you get to the part about the length of it, is when it gets a bit sticky. As much as I wish it would, 01011001 doesn't hold up the entire way. I can't help but lose interest time after time when the album rolls past the 60-ish minute mark. The opening however, with Hansi pulling most of the workload is, well, awesome. The shining moment one could say comes a bit too soon, with the soothingly beautiful Comatose. It's far from being a fast downhill after that, but the material afterwards isn't nearly as captivating as the opening half-hour or so.
Still -- it's a good progressive album, and it should get good points just for the vocal performances and the scope of the album. There's plenty of good material to be found on these two CDs, but when push comes to shove, one can't help but feel 01011001 outstays it's welcome by 20-or-so minutes.