Released: Aug 3, 2004
Genre: Progressive Metal, Neo-Prog
Label: Inside Out Music
Number Of Tracks: 20
Like his previous Ayreon and Star One titles, Maestro Arjen Lucassen has once again assembled an all-star cast.
Universal Migrator, Pts. 1-2
PsychoWolfD, on september 27, 2005 0 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sound: Now at first, I know I'm going to be hated by some prog-metal fans or hardcore Ayreon fans for the inferior rating I've given this album, being a prog metal fan myself. I assure you this is an honest rating on my part. It'll be explained. Ayreon is a project that is almost single-handedly Arjen Anthony Lucassen, who plays guitar, synths, bass, and primary songwritings for it. He incorporates a vast number of guest singers, and on this particular album he incorporates one singer per song, unlike other albums where multiple singers share a song. This album is a re-release of the two Ayreon Albums "The Dream Sequencer" and "Flight Of The Migrator," which share a continuous storyline about Arjen's sci-fi story about how the universe formed. The universal migrator refers to the very first soul in the universe that spreads new souls throughout the universe. Interesting storyline, isn't it? The problem is, the songs are almost not worked out very well in my opinion as to how the storyline goes. There are parts where I severely dislike the lyrics because it ruins the track it is in as a song. Enough about lyrics until I get to that part of the review.
The first disc contains mostly atmospheric soundscapes and not much heaviness at all. Now normally, I don't care a all if the music is "heavy," that is not the factor I am looking for in my music. But innovation is. In my opinion it is just the same thing over and over again. And on the other hand, it can get too progressive, that the songs tend to drag, become uninteresting. And I just cannot stand the synth and techno elements used in Arjen's style. Sounds too computerized. On the second disc is where the "metal" begins and gets more dynamic, and slightly more interesting than the previous disc, however I am just sick and freakin tired of the "thum-du-dum" banging riffs that some people call "metal guitar." I think it is one of the most boring and non-creative styles used in modern metal, even in prog. The techno-elements make it worse as well. It ruined a song with one of my favorite ever singers featured. I hate the sounds of analog synths as well. You know, the kind that those very old bands used (Deep Purple, etc). In my opinion, the make the name of keyboard instrumentation a complete joke. I swore that I would never incorporate any form of techno or electronic sounds in my music, ever. Some guitar parts are fast and talented, but I honestly feel that Arjen could do better in some areas in the disc. The bass is terrible, almost completely inaudible. That just made me plain mad. And what can I say about the drums? Nothing new at all. Just heavy drumming, not that interesting. // 5
Lyrics: Disc 1: The Dream Sequencer. The last human being alive, a Martian colonist, steps into the recreative "dream sequencer" to spend his remaining hours there. He goes through the past in his sequenced dreams.
01. The Dream Sequencer - intro track. Some compterized (and rather corny) dialogue and sound effects at the beginning, and the rest of the track is just a synth pattern. 02. My House On Mars - now, this may be the only track I have listened to a second time. Features Johan Edlund (Tiamat) on vocals and depicts the colonist and his sister as children being left behind on Mars after an Earth war. Only time when music is actually interesting in my opinion. 03. 2084 - it's kinda boring. Lana Lane is not that great a singer. 04. One Small Step - about the 20th century Apollo mission to the moon. Singer skills are boring and the chorus was kinda lame. 05. The Shooting Company Of Frans B. Cocq - I declare this the most prepostrous track on the disc. Storyline is about some shooting company? Posing for a master painter in the 17th century? I don't like this at all and I never heard it again and hope not to. 06. Dragon On The Sea - don't really hate it, but then again, not that interesting. Female singer acts as Queen Elizabeth sending Sir Francis Drake against an armada. 07. Temple Of The Cat - this was the single from the album? I know, short, radio-friendly, blah blah blah. So far I've not really seen how any of those songs fit into the storyline so well. This song is about a Mayan girl on the central American continent. 08. Carried By The Wind - Arjen himself sings here. To be honest with you Ayreonauts, I won't reallycare about hearing him sing again. Music? Nope, not interested. 09. And The Druids Turn To Stone - I've nothing really new to say same as the other songs. 10. The First Man On Earth - song topic speaks for itself. I'll give creadit to the songwriting details here but that's it. 11. The Dream Sequencer Reprise - synth outro.
Disc 2: Flight Of The Migrator. The metal disc, now describing the journey of the migrator.
01. Chaos - cheesy computer dialogue again, but goes to metal instrumentaion. 02. Dawn Of A Million Souls - Symphony X guest musicians Russell Allen and Michael Romeo! Russell is superb, however the chorus lyrics need musch to be desired. "What a show! Behold!" that's kinda hard to forgive. 03. Journey On The Waves Of Time - power metal band Primal Fear's vocalist featured. This is actually one of the more listenable songs in this whole re-release. Love that singer, but I wish Primeal Fear had more creativity than just a power metal guideline. 04. To The Quasar - kinda annoying singing in the first half, but gets real awesome I must admit on the second half. Overall, this is too electronically fused and disinterests me from listening to it again further. 05. Into The Black Hole - Bruce Dickinson on vocals! Longest track on the album going over ten and a half minutes. The synth solo is actually fine (unlike having synth throughout music, here's an exception: I really like synth SOLOS when the song calls for it and I'd practice some myself) Fine outro chorus. I honsetly wish Arjen would stop thum da da dumming on his guitar and do more leads. More basswork, for Maiden's sake! 06. Through The Wormhole - Rhapsody singer Fabio Lione. Excellent singing! Yet music completely ruined by the consistent techno. Why Arjen? Why do you do this? Please, for the sake of good vocals, lets not ruin the rest on the crucial components! Good synth solo by Shadow Gallery's Gary Wehrkamp though. 07. Out Of The White Hole - Stratovarius singer Timo Kotipelto. Awesome singing like he always is. Note the analog-synth intro. That's what I was talking about that I really hate. One of the most annoying keyboard sounds ever produced besides the terrible Van Halen keyboards. 08. To The Solar System - here in the storyline the dream sequencer starts to break up and the colonist, as the Universal Migrator, cannot reach Earth even in his dream. 09. The New Migrator - the colonist's body is dead, but he now knows that his spirit cannot die. The real migrator communicates to him without words and tells him that he is the new universal migrator and must carry out his impending destiny. Must admit, good storyline, and the song's not too bad either. You can't help but feel happy for the fortunate colonist. // 6
Overall Impression: Arjen Lucassen may be an awesome storyteller, but the lyrics need some work definately. The music is something I will never ask for seconds however. I don't want my opinion on this album and of Ayreon to affect your own of course. I don't discourage you from trying this one at all. By all means, give it a listen. If you like your music free of electronic sounds, this isn't for you. For those who like prog/creative music in all horizons (even electronic), I'd even say you've already heard it and liked it. I must give credit to Arjen for being good at what he does. My point is, this is not my style of music, and its to me uninteresting. // 6
Universal Migrator, Pts. 1-2
Dajjal, on august 04, 2007 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: Ayreon is a project by the multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen. Each album is a concept album with a new story written by Arjen for it, usually a sci-fi fantasy story. While I will discuss the plot for the album's story in the lyrics section, I shall offer my thoughts on the compositions and musicianship. The first disc consists of an atmospheric, often orchestral, ambient variety of progressive rock music, dominated primarily by brilliant melodies. The compositions usually have a ambient/light electronica beat, which I've noticed is signature in Ayreon's music. Now, this may come as a surprise for progressive music enthusiasts and many may shy away from the ambient aspect of the music (it even scared off a certain reviewer, apparently), but I say that it is a very innovative take on the progressive music universe, and can act to the advantage of the individual songs to open-minded listeners. The second disc is the heavy, metallic part of the 2-album set. Progressive metal lovers find familiarity in the fast solos and riffs true to metal's reputation. This isn't to say that it's just another CD of straightforward metal, because coming from Ayreon, there's the transcendental creativity that makes it such a novel work of art. Still prevailing from the former disc are the ambient/electronic approaches, and the heavy but welcome synths are again part of the sound. The orchestral touches are not discarded, and contribute to the epicness of the story and songs.
On "Dawn of a Million Souls", a guest guitar solo by Michael Romeo from the magnificent band Symphony X is featured, and according to Arjen on his site, it was the most impossible-by-human-standards solo he's ever done anywhere, and his ears unbelieving, he did not touch his own guitar for months since! But this is not to say that Arjen is a mediocre guitarist. Although he doens't really know how to read sheet music (heard that from somewhere), he does have the capability to write the intense, systematic music for each album of Ayreon, and that creative aspect may be more important than memorizing sheet music for prestige. Every musician has performed exemplary on the album, and they have also offered some of their original input to help craft the album, to great effect. // 10
Lyrics: Ayreon features guest singers from various bands in the world, and they portray characters within the story of each album. Usually, he has had multiple singers per song for his other albums, but Universal Migrator is unique in that each song features an individual singer. This album revolves around a single character, he is the last surviving human, and a colonist on Mars in the future. With the oxygen supply running out and his demise only a matter of time, he seeks a soothing way to pass the time though the colony's recreation device called the Dream Sequencer. He travels onward to the past in this simulation/pre-incarnation program, and portrays various figures and people in Earth's history on the first disc, entitled "The Dream Sequencer", starting from his isolation on Mars in his childhood (My House On Mars" featuring Johan Edlund of Tiamat) to the earth's first human ("The First Man on Earth" featuring Neal Morse [ex-Spock's Beard]). Continuing on the second disc "Flight of the Migrator", the character is now the Universe's first soul, The Universal Migrator, as he ventures across the universe encountering fantastic phenomena until he reaches the Solar System. However, his body dies in the Dream Sequencer and the real Universal Migrator communicates with his still-living mind that he is the new Migrator, and there's a whole universe out there waiting for him.
The singers are mostly from the progressive and metal worlds, though Arjen also takes into consideration more obscure singers. All of whom are splendid choices. Many progressive metal fans will be pleased at the familiar voices of Symphony X's Russell Allen, Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson, Stratovarius' Timo Kotipelto, Rhapsody of Fire's Fabio Lione among others. The progressive rock world will find delight in hearing the melodies of Spock's Beard's former singer Neal Morse, though most of the singers on the first disc were somewhat obscure, whose bands may not even be that well known. A particualar favorite vocalist of mine was Jacqueline Govaert from a Dutch pop-rock band (surprise, prog fans! ) called Krezip, and sings on "Temple of the Cat" on the first disc. Although Arjen has stated that this is his least favorite Ayreon song, I find that ironic because it is one of my choice cuts while wanting to listen to something quick to chill. It's a good song, methinks. I still have to get used to Lana Lane's vocals, even after multiple listens I still haven't absorbed her vocals, featured on 2 songs on the first disc, "2084" and "Dragon of the Sea". But the preference of singers is left to the individual, and I don't try to judge hardworking singers. // 9
Overall Impression: Both "The Dream Sequencer" and "Flight of the Migrator" were sold separately, but it's better to get the 2-disc set because it's forthe price of one, and there's no bonus tracks on this release, for Arjen felt it unfair to the people who bought both discs before. This is a unique venture into progressive music, and Arjen Lucassen has worked hard to produce a masterpiece. You can definitely tell he is not one to bow to commercialism at the expense of his own creative work. Everyone who performed on the album did so with passion, and this would have served the album to it's advantage and success. And yet, Arjen is such a modest person, as evidenced in interviews and what not. But perhaps that contributes positively somehow to his ambitious music? Perhaps. Fans of various genres should listen to this album and all of Ayreon's music to introduce themselves to a more adventurous approach toward rock and metal. Also, already-enthusiastic musicians can discover new and obscure artists with Ayreon as a more than capable outlet. Enjoy. // 10