Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One
Released: 2002, InsideOut
I don’t give out many perfect scores. I regularly try to avoid the “gushing fanboy” syndrome, where everything is magnificent and godly. Often it is hard to avoid the passionate excitement about new music and add extra marks because over-zealous enthusiasm.
However, this CD truly deserves a Five out of Five. This is a very strong contender for album of the year for me and is practically guaranteed a place in my Top 10. Brainchild of Arjen Lucassen this is the metal CD that fans of Ayreon have been waiting for. While Ayreon occasionally in self-indulgent prog stylings, Star One is a metal treat all beautifully wrapped in a Sci-Fi theme. Don’t let the words, Sci-Fi theme scare you. This is not some laboured, multi-CD project that is difficult to follow like Iron Savior. Star One is a collection of songs, each incredibly individual and strong that each are loosely based on Science fiction films. I won’t tell you what they are I’ll let you have the fun on your own. Some songs only touch on certain scenes from movies as it woul dbe hard to take a 4 minute song and explain an entire 2 hour movie. The concept is fresh and unique, I wish more bands did this. Lucassen is a pioneer!
The packaging is flawless, many beautiful images, each correlating to each song, adorn the inside booklet, along with notes and lyrics and so on. Star One has an absolute multitude of guests, much like the Ayreon albums giving it the feel of yet another side project. However, there is a main band and each guest is usually a vocalist that brings an incredible individual flair and style to each song. Truly magnificent. I don’t like to just list people but often it is the only way. This CD includes appearances from members (and ex-members) of Shadow Gallery, After Forever, Gorefest, Edge of Sanity, Symphony X, Stratovarius, Threshold and more if ya want to get into line-up and membership trivia.
The performances are sterling as is the production; the sound is lush, modern and powerful. The songwriting is easily the heaviest material he has done in a while and it makes sense that this is not another Ayreon CD. The soloing is elegant and tasteful and Ed Warby shows why he is still one of the most respected, multi-faceted drummers in rock and metal today. The songs are not long, pretentious or self-indulgent like so many of these projects can be. It has a very streamlined, metal feel compared to Ayreon, and the tunes are faster and heavier. A highlight for me was the vocal trade off between Russell Allen and Damien Wilson on the song “Intergalactic Space Crusaders”. The vocal performances on the tune “Perfect Survivor” capture perfectly the mood of the movie in question. Apparently the European version has some bonus tracks, so I may have to bite and get that as well, that’s how much I enjoyed this one.
SPACE METAL gets my highest recommendation and fans of virtually all-metal genres (except perhaps death and black metal) will appreciate the absolutely top-notch writing, production and performance, lyrics and packaging on this essential CD.