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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Ayreon

Flight Of The Migrator Universal Migrator (Part 2)

Review by G. W. Hill

Dutch band Ayreon has released two albums together as two parts of one story. The discs both have very different sounds, and a large cast of supporting musicians. This disc is the more hard-edged, leaning towards prog metal at times. It also has the longer, more adventurous music of the two releases. Neo classical leanings abound. Both are wonderful releases, and do make a fine combined work.

The core group on this release is Arjen Anthony Lucassen, Ed Warby and Erik Norlander. The other musicians who add their skills are Michael Romeo, Oscar Holleman, Gary Wehrkamp, Rene Merkelback, Clive Nolan, Keiko Kumagai, Sir Russel Allen, Ralf Scheepers, Andi Deris, Bruce Dickinson, Fabio Lione, Timo Katipelto, Robert Soeterboek, Ian Parry, Damian Wilson and Lana Lane.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Chaos
This one begins with sci-fi effects and voices. As those sounds end, hard edged, neo classical prog screams out. This is furious and fun. It then drops to an almost funky keyboard dominated break and begins building from there. It just keeps reworking its classically oriented themes in new ways. An explosion ends the piece.
Dawn of a Million Souls
Keys start this one, then metallic modes take it for a couple measures. Next, very Deep Purpleish keyboard strains take over. These merge with the returning metal mode. Then the two of them build the sound, getting very symphonic before the music drops off. Next the arrangement gets sparse, focusing most of its attention on the powerful vocal performance. This is more great prog as it keeps bringing back its old themes, merging and expanding on them.
Journey on the Waves of Time
As the cut comes out of the silence left behind from the last one, a symphonic sort of sedate sound takes the piece for a time. Next, metallic modes dominate with neo classical overtures for a Royal Huntish experience. This one has some very intriguing textures in a prog metal motif. It includes an awesome Jon Lordish keyboard solo.
To the Quasar
A fast paced acoustic intro that calls to mind both Zeppelin and Hawkwind gives way to a more electronic, processed verse with Beatlesesque tendencies. The next movement has more Hawkish modes, but with an '80's alternative bent combining with '60's psychedelia. The cut alternates between these modes for a time. As it enters the next movement, neo classical keyboard tones dominate for a time. Then all hell breaks loose as metal tones with neo classical leanings take over for a while. The verse is more straight prog, but still this really rocks, too. It comes across perhaps as a bit Dream Theater meets Starcastle. It is very dynamic and kicks some serious posterior. The instrumental break is very strong.
Into The Black Hole
This one features the considerable vocal talents of Mr. Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson. Starting atmospheric and mysterious, a brief classically oriented metallic segment gives way to more mysterious sounding tones that herald in the powerful guitar balladic first verse. As the song moves on, the tone gets quite bombastic with some very strong metallic and prog and neo classical moments. It drops to a considerably metallic mode that starts to build and explore in neo classical fashion. The number alternates between its various sections as it continues on. It features an awesome, almost Wakemanesque (Six Wives…era) keyboard solo with Dickinson wailing at the same time. A very powerful crescendo ends the piece.
Through the Wormhole
Winds and percussion start this one, then keys come in, lending a Kraftwerkian texture. Some nicely crunchy guitar comes in and the next segment calls to mind Deep Purple. In fact, the DP texture really seems to dominate this one, but DP at their most creative (Machine Head - Stormbringer). This one gets very progish at times, and the Kraftwerkian segment does return.
Out of the White Hole
Starting with Lordsish keys, this one seems to build on musical themes begun on the last cut. The overall tone of the number is sort of as if you combined the music of Dream Theater with Deep Purple. The instrumental break on this one is particularly strong.
The Solar System
Mysterious sci-fi sounding textures make up the early segments of this one, while much harder and more straightforward rock tones create the sound of the bulk of the rest of the number.
The New Migrator
Sci-fi effects and processed voices begin this number. Dramatic tones begin and start to build in a rather cinematic mode. This one gets quite symphonic. Then it jumps to a fast paced hard rock, rather like DT meets Royal Hunt. It turns into a more traditional prog sound for a time. The instrumental break on this one is awesome, including neo classical textures and a nice Wakemanesque keyboard solo. This one ends with the instruments fading down to leave just a martial sounding drum.
 
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