Released: 2008, InsideOut
For the past 13 years, Arjen Lucassen has been slowly whipping rock and progressive music fans into a frenzy with each successive Ayreon release. From 1995’s THE FINAL EXPERIMENT, up to his current crowning achievement, 2004’s THE HUMAN EQUATION, Ayreon has been a non-stop artistic success. In fact, that last effort garnered not one, but two 5/5 scores here on Metal Rules, and is currently rated at 98% over on the Metal Archives. Needless to say, expectations were running at an all-time high for Arjen’s next move.
Although Arjen handles most of the music himself (with right-hand man Ed Warby drumming), the list of guest vocalists that have appeared on Ayreon albums is a veritable who’s who of metal and rock. The good news is that 01011001 is no different. Take a glance at the “Line-up” section below and see what I mean (I’m too lazy to list ‘em all twice!). As you would expect, each of those performers turns in an excellent showing. Sadly, that’s where the best news about the album ends.
Starting with the obnoxious album title (seriously, what are fans going to call this? “That number album?”), something just seems...off about Ayreon this time out. It’s frustrating, because on the surface, Arjen has all the pieces lined up perfectly: the vocalists are great, the musical performances are spot-on, and there are two full discs of music to digest. Ah, but here is where things begin to go off the rails. There are some great songs, and riffs, on 01011001, but they are padded out with some very dull and/or ridiculous songs this time. For every catchy “Ride the Comet” or “The Truth is in Here”, there is a boring “Connect the Dots”, or a downright ludicrous “Web of Lies” (worst Ayreon song ever – seriously).
Furthermore, where the lyrics on THE HUMAN EQUATION told a fascinating story that was easy to get in to, the story this time around is so overblown and, for me, hard to follow that the lyrics become irrelevant. Disappointing.
Realistically, there was probably no way that Ayreon could have met the huge expectations for this album, and my score reflects those feelings. Make no mistake, 01011001 is a very good album – it’s just not a great one.