Sound — 10
Something that is important to note about the "band" Ayreon is that it is really just one man, Arjen Anthony Lucassen (who provides all guitars and vocals), with a bunch of guest musicians, and in The Human Equation it is definately the guest singers who make this album the progressive masterpiece it is. It is very hard to place the music of Ayreon into any specific genre, as the music varies throughout from power-pop to death metal-ish on different tracks. However this album is not about the instruments (which are by no means bad), it is all about the singing, and more importantly the singers that Arjen gathered for this beast of a rock opera.
Lyrics — 10
The Human Equation is a rock opera, with several characters, each played by a different guest singer, and deals with the story of a man in a coma after a mysterious car accident (Me, played by James LaBrie of Dream Theater) confronting his emotions Fear (Mikael kerfeldt of Opeth), Agony (Devon Graves of Dead Soul Tribe), Reason (Eric Clayton of Saviour Machine), Pride (Magnus Ekwall of The Quill), Love (Heather Findlay of Mostly Autumn), Passion (Irene Jansen of Karma) and Rage (Devin Townsend of Strapping Young Lad), and at the same time it deals with his Wife (Marcela Bovio of Elfonia) and Best Freind (Arjen himself) standing vigil by his hospital bed, and through the dialogue between these various characters we are taken back to Me's childhood (with another guest singer, Mike Baker of Shadow Gallery as Me's cruel and evil father) and gradually learn about the events leading up to the crash, and ultimately, the accident that put him into the coma. The lyrics themselves all represent dialogue either between the actual characters (Wife and Best Freind) or between Me and his various emotions, and although most of them fit very well, a few of the lyrics are of questionable English (it is Arjen's second language), however the sheer quality of the singing on this album more than makes up for this, with outstanding vocal performances from every singer, each fitting their part perfectly (I am convinced that Arjen wrote the part of fear for Mikael kerfeldt he performs it so well) -producing an overall sound like nothing I have ever heard. In short, absolutely amazing singing on this album.
Overall Impression — 10
I purchased The Human Equation after being reccomended it by a few freinds, and I have to admit it has been almost constantly played since, and even though I had not heard anything by Ayreon before buying this, I am definately going to look into their other material, however I'm not sure if anything could compare to this brilliant rock opera. I am of the opinion that there are no weak tracks on this album, however some certainly stand out as some of my favourite songs ever. Day 3: Pain - some fantastic singing by Devon Graves and James LaBrie over a simple chugging guitar rythm, building up to an explosive and powerful chorus guarenteed to blow you away the first time you hear it thanks to the brilliant Devin Townsend. Day 8: School - again, a soft acoustic rhythm accompanied by Mikael kerfeldt and James LaBrie leads into another huge chorus thanks to Devin Townsend, however the highlight of this song is the amazing vocal battle between Pride (Magnus Ekwall) and Reason (Eric Clayton). Day 12: Trauma - Arjen unleashes Mikael kerfeldt on this song, who fails to dissapoint providing the standout vocal track on the song both with haunting clean vocals and his trademark death growls. Again, the track starts of slow but gets kicked into overdrive by an kerfeldt growl ("You're Better Off Dead!") and from there progresses into very heavy territory. My favourite track on the album. Day 16: Loser - the only song to feature the character of Father (Mike Baker), who gives another outstanding vocal performance as the evil father, however this is one of the few tracks where the music is really memorable as well as the singing (It even contains a digiredoo (sp? )). The third and final track Devin Townsend appears on, and he delivers in style with his trademark mind blowing insane screams to close the track. I absolutely adore this album, and I would reccomend it to anyone, no matter what type of music they listen to, it is simply a masterpiece and in my opinion one of the best albums ever released. If this was stolen, I would not hesistate a second to go find the theif, get this album back (I have one of the very few special edition copies with the bonus DVD in New Zealand) and probably buy another one just in case.