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Music / Ayreon

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"Welcome. You have entered the cranial vistas of psychogenesis. This is the place of no-time and no-space. Do not be afraid...."

Ayreon is a series of sci-fi/fantasy Rock Opera albums by Dutch musician Arjen Anthony Lucassen. The music is mainly a combination of folk-influenced Progressive Rock and Progressive Metal, but many other genres are represented. A key element of Ayreon's sound is the use of many guest musicians and vocalists - 01011001, for example, has 17 singers, including Lucassen himself.

Although each album has its own concept or plot, the stories are all connected, if in sometimes strange ways. (The possible exception is Actual Fantasy, which has songs based on several different stories and doesn't seem to be related to the other albums, although it could be argued elements of "Stranger from Within" were used in The Human Equation, and "Back on Planet Earth" has several concepts that are later used in 01011001.) Because of the Mind Screw nature of the series, it's hard to describe the plot without giving away major spoilers for the different albums.

After a minor Hype Backlash to 01011001, Arjen decided to stop making Ayreon albums, releasing Lost in the New Real, with him as the only lead vocalist.

Then, in 2013, he released this YouTube video, stating that Ayreon would be coming back, albeit with a different storyline.

In 2017, Arjen revealed that the next album in the Ayreon saga, titled The Source, would be a return to the original storyline, serving as a prequel of sorts. The album features 12 singers in total, including some notable returning cast members.

Compare and contrast Avantasia.


From the first storyline:
  • 1995 - The Final Experiment
  • 1996 - Actual Fantasy
  • 1998 - Into the Electric Castle
  • 2000 - Universal Migrator Part I: The Dream Sequencer
  • 2000 - Universal Migrator Part II: Flight of the Migrator
  • 2004 - The Human Equation
  • 2008 - 01011001
  • 2017 - The Source

From the second storyline:

  • 2013 - The Theory Of Everything

Ayreon songs include (remember, thar be spoliers here):

Notable guest vocalists include:

Note: Due to the very nature of the series, it is difficult to discuss the tropes without revealing major spoilers. To those that are new to the series; you have been warned.

Ayreon includes examples of the following tropes:

  • After the End: The Universal Migrator
  • Ancient Astronauts
  • Anyone Can Die: The Electric Castle. "Indeed, some may die."
  • Arc Words: From The Theory of Everything : "A future to build/A role to fulfill/Something to give/A reason to live"
  • Artifact Title: Ayreon himself only prominently appears in The Final Experiment, where he is the protagonist. However, he makes a cameo in "Carried by the Wind" from Universal Migrator Part I.
  • Artistic License – Astronomy:
    • Alpha Pegasi is not in M31.
    • With regard to Alpha Pegasi, they might have meant to say Alpha Andromedae, since they refer to Sirrah, which is another name for that star. M31 is also known as Andromeda. Then again, confusingly, they refer to "Sirrah in Alpha Pegasi", which gives the impression they think Alpha Pegasi is a constellation...
    • It can be assumed that the comets were moved by the power available to the Forevers, though why they even needed them if that is the case is a mystery.
      • As a carrier/vehicle, most likely.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The last man alive, possibly the Forevers.
  • Author Avatar: Some fan theories have it that Mr. L is supposed to be Arjen Lucassen himself, mostly because they have the same last initial (and Mr. L is played by Arjen Lucassen in the one song he appears in). Taken a step further by a later solo album which although not technically an Ayreon album, has many nods to it and revisits Mr L
  • Bilingual Bonus: If you count binary as a language, anyway. The title of the album 01011001 maps to 89 in decimal numbers. 89 is ASCII code for Y - the name of the planet that the Forevers live on. Also, the song "Age of Shadows/We Are Forever" has a few verses of binary or pseudo-binary (multiple Annekes chanting "zero, one, zero" "off, on, off" "no, yes, no"). The verses respectively translate to "help help", "forever" and "sos sos".
    • The binary chanted by the android TH 1 in The Day That The World Breaks Down translates to "trustTH1".
    • In "Deathcry of a Race", Zaher Zorgati sings verses off Genesis (the Biblical Genesis) in Arabic.
  • Bittersweet Ending:the ending of Flight of the Migrator. The last human being dies alone in the Dream Sequencer. In his final moments, The Universal Migrator speaks to him in his mind and tells him that his soul will become the new Migrator and spread life to other worlds in the Universe.
    • At the end of The Theory of Everything the Prodigy finally solves the Theory, but slips into a catatonic state and his father is dead.
    • At the end of The Source the survivors of Alpha turned themselves into The Forevers and start a new civilization on Y. But despite their vows to not use technology this time, they fall back into their old habits of technology dependence.
  • Blind Seer: Ayreon.
  • Careful with That Axe: At the end of "Loser", the comical folk song is interrupted by Devin Townsend screaming like a banshee:
    Father: My ex wives all sue me, and with half my kids in jail, I'll still come out laughing, because me, I never fail. Loser!
  • Clarke's Third Law
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: The Hippie
  • Colorful Song: The Hippie's part in Across the Rainbow Bridge.
  • Concept Album: All of them.
  • Continuity Nod
  • Creator Break Down: After Arjen lost his senses of taste and smell, the poor man went into a depression for some time. See Darker and Edgier.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: The Forevers
  • Dark Reprise: One Small Step. "As I lie here in this cold tank..."
  • Darker and Edgier: The Ayreon albums were somewhat dark to begin with, but they've been getting progressively grimmer in tone since Universal Migrator. On the other hand, see Lighter and Softer.
  • Depopulation Bomb: At the end of 01011001.
  • Disappeared Dad: Me's father in The Human Equation; the Colonist's father in Universal Migrator
  • Downer Ending: The ones that aren't bittersweet.
  • Driven to Suicide: The Father in The Theory of Everything
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Although good albums in their own right, The Final Experiment and Actual Fantasy are a bit odd to listen to later on. The music is softer and more electronic than other albums, the production's a bit below his later works, and their noticeably shorter than the double albums he'd later be known for.
  • The End of the World as We Know It
  • Epic Rocking
  • Fanservice: Universal Migrator Part 2: Flight of the Migrator is particular Fanservice for those who are fond of power metal, as many famous metal vocalists (Timo Kotipelto, Fabio Lione and Bruce Dickinson in particular) lend their voices to that album. (Ironically, Arjen went on record as saying this was his least favourite album...)
  • Fish People: the Forevers
  • Fling a Light into the Future: first, they try to fling a light into the past, and when that doesn't work, the Migrator becomes the "light"
  • Foreshadowing: Almost every line the Prophet sings in The Source counts, doubles as Future Shadowing in a lot of cases due to the release order of albums.
  • Functional Magic: Merlin, the Stonehenge druids.
  • Genre Shift: The Theory of Everything shifts away from the Mind Screw Science Fantasy themes, being more of a psychological drama grounded to reality. The Source shifts right back to the original style, leaving it an open question which route potential future albums might lean towards.
  • Ghost in the Machine: "Me" in The Human Equation.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Abundant. For a particularly awesome example, check out the four-way melee between Tom Englund, Steve Lee, Daniel Gildenlow and Jorn Lande starting at 3:00 in The Fifth Extinction.
    • Mike Baker vs. Devin Townsend in "Day Sixteen: Loser".
    • The Barbarian (Jay van Feggelen) and the Highlander (Fish) In 'The Decision Tree', magnificently singing about which one of them is a better warrior.
    • The Theory of Everything has this a few times, most notably on the tracks "Collision" in Phase 3 and "The Argument, Pt. 2" in Phase 4.
  • Heavy Mithril: They're sci-fi/fantasy.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: We gave them dreams, and what did they dream?
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Ayreon in the song "Nature's Dance". It's understandable.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: the Dream Sequencer and the machinery used in the Final Experiment.
  • It's All About Me: The barbarian oh so very much.
  • Karma Houdini: The Rival on The Theory of Everything.
  • Large Ham:
    • Both Bruce Dickinson and Jay van Feggelen (the Barbarian) come to mind. Bruce even has the line "Feed me light!"
    • Steve Lee on 01011001 comes to mind too. "The AGE of SHAAADOWS has beguuun!!!" Particularly ironic since he's supposed to be playing a character incapable of feeling emotions.
    • Ayreon provides the perfect arena for the who's who of prog metal to compete to out-ham each other.
  • Lighter and Softer: Lost in the New Real to the joy of many fans.
    • The Theory of Everything, compared to the previous Ayreon album 01011001.
  • Ludd Was Right
  • Mad Oracle: Ayreon and Mr. L. Bonus points for being each other's (p)reincarnates.
  • Magic from Technology: the Dream Sequencer and the Electric Castle.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Did the Prodigy's father return as a ghost to help his son, or was he a side effect of the drugs that the Prodigy was taking?.
  • Metal Scream: Shows up occasionally, for example on "Loser" from The Human Equation.
  • Mind Screw: EVERYTHING.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: On The Human Equation, "Day Twenty: Confrontation" is interrupted by a Forever. Not just a Forever. It's "Forever" of the Stars - the same one that was in Into the Electric Castle.
  • Myth Arc: Though the albums are stand alone for the most part, each continues the mystery of the Forevers and the end of the world prophecied by Ayreon.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Folk progressive rock pop neoclassical metal.
  • Not So Different: The Father and the Prodigy from ''The Theory of Everything""
Father: "I was driven and blind, not so unlike yourself!"
  • Out of Order: Listening to the albums out of order won't spoil anything. Listening to the storyline from beginning to end, however, requires some skipping around between the albums. The timeline of events in the Ayreon universe is described on a poster that came with the Timeline compilation. With this in mind, plus updates, the chronological order of the albums and songs goes something like this:
    • The Source
    • The first disc of 01011001 (excluding "Connect the Dots" and "Web of Lies"), "The Fifth Extinction," "Waking Dreams," "Unnatural Selection," "Connect the Dots," and "Web of Lies"
    • Into the Electric Castle
    • "The Truth is in Here," "River of Time," and "E=MC^2" from 01011001
    • The Final Experiment
    • "The Sixth Extinction" from 01011001
    • The Human Equation
    • Universal Migrator Part I: The Dream Sequencer
    • Universal Migrator Part II: Flight of the Migrator
    • "Epilogue: The Memory Remains" from Timeline
  • Phlebotinum Killed the Dinosaurs: Such as the careless trajectory of a child's lost meteorite?
  • Reincarnation: Ayreon == Hippie == L == Colonist == Universal Migrator == Elizabeth I, among others
  • Progressive Metal
  • Rivals Team Up: The Rival and the Prodigy work together.
    • The Prodigy and his Father in "The Breakthrough".
    • The President and The Opposition Leader in The Source.
  • Rock Opera
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Firmly on the Romanticism side. 01011001 is especially anvilicious about this, but the message is present on other Ayreon songs and albums too.
  • Running Gag: the many ways Arjen has come up with not to thank his brother.
  • Scenery Porn: Due to the quality of the music, most albums have this to some extent, Universal Migrator Part I is so atmospheric it's hard not to imagine what the songs are describing.
  • Schmuck Bait: The golden gate in Into the Electric Castle. The Barbarian assumes it must be the correct gate due to its opulent appearance and charges through. He then falls screaming into Oblivion and dies.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Floor Jansen and Jonas Renkse in 01011001, the Indian and Death in Into the Electric Castle
  • The Stoner: Hippie.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: The Forevers.
  • Title Drop - 01011001 has a Title Drop of the previous album (almost) in "The Sixth Extinction": "We must resolve this human equation..." Voices can also be heard chanting "0...1...0...1..." in "Age of Shadows/We Are Forever" on the same album. Actual Fantasy has two title drops both in "Actual Fantasy" and at the start of "Beyond the Last Horizon". The Final Experiment and The Universal Migrator also have Title Drops in them. However, if you listen closely, (or read the lyrics,) you will find that they do not spell out the title (01011001, or Y), but rather the word "help" in ASCII binary code. The "off"/"on" part spelling "forever" is probably a better example.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: The Human Equation ends with the reveal that the entire album was a Dream Sequencer program being run by none other than Forever of the Stars as a way of rediscovering emotion.
  • The Great Offscreen War: World War III. However, we do get a very brief glimpse of what probably was one of the last battles in the intro of 2084.
  • Touched by Vorlons: Mr. L.
  • Transhuman Aliens: In The Source, the Alphans artificially evolve into the Forevers to adapt to their new home planet.
  • Uncancelled: To the delight of many fans.
  • Unhappy Medium: Ayreon and Mr. L.
  • Unrealistic Black Hole: Well, yeah—it's singing!
  • Wham Line: In March of the Machines, a Call-Forward is made to the events of 01011001, hinting that the Forevers' utopia isn't built to last.
    The Biologist: The Age of Shadows will begin!
    Forever of the Stars: Emotions...I remember...
  • World War III