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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, in 2012. Come 2013, however, he revived Ayreon with a fresh set of vocalists and a more instrument-oriented direction in The Theory of Everything. Four years later, The Source was released, coming back to both a guitar-heavy sound and the Forever storyline where the album serves as their backstory.

Arjen has teased a new direction with Transitus, a romance dealing with death in more Gothic Metal direction than the previous albums. The album, together with a tie-in comic book by Felix Vega, is set for release in September 2020.

Compare and contrast Avantasia.

  • The Final Experiment (1995)
  • Actual Fantasy (1996)
    • Actual Fantasy Revisited (2004, remaster)
  • Into the Electric Castle: A Space Opera (1998)
    • Electric Castle Live And Other Stories (Live performance of the album in order plus a few other songs, recorded in Tilburg, Netherlands in September 2019, released in March 2020)
  • The Universal Migrator (2000)
    • Part I: The Dream Sequencer
    • Part II: Flight of the Migrator
  • The Human Equation (2004)
    • The Theater Equation (live album which is basically the theatrical adaptation of The Human Equation recorded in 2015, released in 2016)
  • 01011001 (2008)
  • The Theory Of Everything (2013)
  • The Source (2017)
  • Ayreon Universe – The Best of Ayreon Live (Live performance of various songs from the above albums, recorded in Tilburg, Netherlands in September 2017, released in March 2018)
  • Transitus (2020)

Ayreon songs include (remember, thar be spoilers here)


    Notable guest vocalists 

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:

  • All There in the Manual: Several of the albums have narrations in their album booklets that would guide you through the Mind Screw of it all. Lyric sites have since also included those narrations.
  • Anachronic Order: To experience the plot chronologically would require a rather complicated playlist, frequently jumping between albums. To experience it linearly from an in-universe perspective would occasionally result in swapping albums mid-song.
  • Artistic License – Space:
    • Alpha Pegasi is not in M31.
    • The quasar 3C273 is not located in the center of the Virgo cluster of galaxies, but much further away.
  • 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.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "Epilogue (The Memory Remains)" wraps up the fates of the Forever and New Migrator.
  • Clarke's Third Law: The Forever have created a substance that allows them to live forever by means of a simple injection, and altering the course of objects in space is something children do for fun.
  • Epic Rocking: Played with. Most songs are upwards of five minutes and often Fading into the Next Song.
    • The Theory of Everything has its "phases" cut up into tracks that either avert or invert the trope.
  • 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 they're noticeably shorter than the double albums he'd later be known for.
  • Heavy Mithril: Sci-fi with a hefty mix of Arthurian fantasy and historical fiction.
  • Incredibly Long Note: More recent material has seen bouts of this, e.g. Jørn Lande near the end of "Newborn Race", Tommy Karevik in "Patterns", and Sara Squadrani in "Quid Pro Quo".
  • Large Ham/Ham-to-Ham Combat: Ayreon provides the perfect arena for this, plus many of the singers hail from Power Metal and Progressive Metal bands and thus are already well-versed in these tropes.
  • Ludd Was Right: Because all these machines you're enjoying right now will eventually grow cold-hearted enough to kill you.
  • Rock Opera: Except Actual Fantasy, each of their albums is a (more or less) contiguous chapter in the story of the Forever and their interactions with humanity.
  • 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. The Dream Sequencer is so atmospheric it's hard not to imagine what the songs are describing.
  • Soprano and Gravel:
    • The Indian (Sharon den Adel) vis-à-vis Death (Robert Westerholt and George Oosthoek) in the second part of "Cosmic Fusion".
    • Fear (Mikael Åkerfeldt) provides his own gravel in "Day Twelve: Trauma".
    • To some extent, Guttural Growler Magali Luyten delivers a Type 4 Metal Scream hook to contrast the ethereal verses in "Ride the Comet".
    • Floor Jansen and Jonas Renkse in the second part of "The Sixth Extinction".
    • The Chemist (Tommy Rogers) whips up his signature Metal Scream in "Everybody Dies" while everyone else sings cleanly.
    • The Furies in Transitus, voiced by Marcela Bovio (mostly soprano) and Caroline Westendorp (both).
  • World War III: Due to the Forevers' interference, and in spite of their attempts to fix it, humanity wipes itself out in a nuclear war in 2085 CE. Most prominent in "Waracle", "2084", and "The Sixth Extinction".

Tropes per album

    open/close all folders 

    The Final Experiment 
  • 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 The Dream Sequencer.
  • Blind Seer: Ayreon. He sometimes wishes he wasn't.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Ayreon's visions and his madness are, as later elaborated on in 01011001, the result of the message sent back into the past by the Final Experiment, humanity's last-ditch effort to save itself from destruction by changing the past. Ayreon, being a minstrel living in the Dark Ages, couldn't cope with the knowledge imparted to him by the message. He's also one of only two people to receive the message at all, the other being Mr. L, who was also driven at least partially out of his mind by it. So the only thing the Final Experiment actually accomplished was driving two innocent people insane.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Ayreon in the song "Nature's Dance". It's understandable.
  • Ominous Message from the Future: Merlin eventually finds that EVERYTHING Ayreon had been seeing was the result of a message sent back in time by humanity on the eve of its destruction. "E=mc^2" later reveals that Ayreon and Mr. L are the only ones who received the message sent by the Final Experiment, the last effort to save humanity.

    Actual Fantasy 

    Into the Electric Castle 

    The Dream Sequencer 
  • Call-Back: "2084" harks back to The Final Experiment and Ayreon's visions.
    • "Carried by the Wind" sees the colonist reliving Ayreon's last moments himself.
  • Dark Reprise: One Small Step.
    As I lie here in this cold tank...
  • Disappeared Dad: The colonist's father died in the midst of World War III.
  • 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".
  • The High Queen: "Dragon on the Sea" sees the colonist as Queen Elizabeth I leading the defense of England from invaders.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: The Dream Sequencer.
  • Lighter and Softer: Than Flight of the Migrator. Fanservice for the prog rockers who like it diverse and atmospheric.
  • Long Title: "The Shooting Company of Captain Frans B. Cocq" is named after a painting by Rembrandt.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: "My House on Mars", where the colonist and his sister lament never getting to experience the ups and downs of life on Earth.
    • Other childhood flashbacks include "One Small Step", where the colonist used to be a little boy watching the first man on the moon, and "Temple of the Cat" in the eyes of an 8th-century Mayan girl.
  • Original Man: "The First Man on Earth".
  • Reincarnation: The colonist lives his past lives throughout the course of this album.
  • Taken for Granite/Circle of Standing Stones: "And the Druids Turn to Stone". Who knew Stonehenge itself was made of people?

    Flight of the Migrator 

    The Human Equation 

Tropes regarding the theatrical adaptation will go to The Theater Equation.

  • The Atoner: "River of Time": The Forever resolve to give humans the technology to send messages to the past, in an attempt to push the Reset Button on all the damage they did.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Counting binary, "01011001" = "Y".
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: The Forever, as their technology approaches "indistinguishable-from-magic" levels, create substances and machines that enable them to live forever in a post-scarcity utopia. However, in the process, they largely lose their ability to feel emotions. They view humanity's arising on Earth as an opportunity for them to re-experience life as they once knew it... only for their interference to drive humanity down the same path they took.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: "The Sixth Extinction": Because of the Forever's meddling with humanity's development, human civilization is destroyed by nuclear war in 2085 CE.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: We gave them dreams, and what did they dream?
  • Fling a Light into the Future: First they try to fling a light into the past with the Final Experiment, and when that doesn't work, the Migrator leaves Earth before civilization ends.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Mr. L receives the message from the Final Experiment and is driven at least partially insane by it. It also seems to open his mind to visions of the Forever, as "The Truth Is In Here" depicts him describing them and their undersea civilization in accurate detail, even though the humans who sent the message had no knowledge of the Forever.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: The machinery used in the Final Experiment, and the idea for it, are subliminally suggested to human scientists by the Forever, who regret what their interference has done to humanity and seek to repair it. It doesn't work out.
    It all came to me in the wake of a dream.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: "Unnatural Selection": The Forever despair over the way their interference with the human race has caused it to develop faster than it was ready for, leading to its self-destruction.
  • Phlebotinum Killed the Dinosaurs: "The Fifth Extinction": the Chicxulub meteorite is depicted as a toy lost by a Forever child, whose carelessness in playing with it put it on an impact course with the Earth.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • "Web of Lies". Simone likes PX, but when PX actually gets to reciprocate her messages, Simone has fallen for another guy online.
    • "E=mc^2" is the apocalyptic version, as the scientists do fling signals to the past but nothing really improves, because Ayreon and Mr. L are the only ones who receive the messages, and both of them Go Mad from the Revelation.
  • Product Placement: "Connect the Dots": the protagonist mentions his Mac by name, and later drops KFC's "finger-lickin' good" catchphrase. These are used to showcase his uber-consumerist lifestyle, and, as he's The Everyman, the growing obliviousness of humanity as a whole to the damage unchecked consumerism is doing to their planet and their civilization.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: Taken Up to Eleven by Anneke van Giersbergen in the "We Are Forever" part of "Age of Shadows", chanting "zero, one, zero" "off, on, off" "no, yes, no"). The verses respectively translate to "help help", "forever" and "sos sos".

    The Theory of Everything 
Father: "I was driven and blind, not so unlike yourself!"

    The Source