Review By Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck
Ayreon (Arjen Anthony Lucassen) never intended on releasing a career spanning boxed set or compilation outlining the continuing stories in his successful rock operas. Arjen changed his mind after the release of this year's 01011001 because it connected all the previous stories musically and lyrically so after more thought, and now feeling comfortable with completing the musical circle if you will, we have Timeline. This set is a beautiful three CD and one DVD box set, which includes a Timeline poster (list releases) and a booklet stocked with photos, liner notes from Arjen, lyrics, and the usual previously unreleased nuggets from the archives. All of the tracks selected for this release were remastered especially for this compilation.
This being the first Ayreon retrospective it is without any doubt quality like all the other releases this fine artist puts out. I am talking about all around quality including sound, presentation, artwork and value to the music fan. On a scale of 1 to 10, it is easily a 9 with just a few points taken off for the DVD. What turns out being a bonus when a recording artist decides to do this is the fact that some listeners will pick this set up and discover Ayreon for the first time and come to the realization that he has a long legacy of recorded works and will then seek that catalog out. In this case certainly that would be the minority because it falls squarely into the progressive-rock genre and longtime fans would be more likely to grab this because of the newly remastered tracks and video footage on the DVD, some of which I have never seen myself and other tracks culled from previous special edition CDs.
I found this most pleasing, being a lifetime fan of Ayreon, for all of the reasons I just sited. The only issue I had was navigating the video tracks on the DVD. It was most difficult getting the little yellow triangle to land where you wanted it on the carefully arranged Timeline grid. As I found out, you are better off popping it into your PC and simply clicking on the selection you would like to view. If you are viewing it on the big screen in your living room trying to figure out how to get it to "play all" is another thing I could not do for some reason, once you view one video it takes you back to the grid and you have to start all over again with that annoying yellow triangle. Normally the "play all" option is a given but in this case it was not, which I found baffling to be honest. You can however choose your sound, 5.1 or Dolby Stereo. The "Stanger Within" video, which is excellent, shows up for an encore in 5.1-surround sound. Also in 5.1 are "Day Eleven: Love", "Farside of the World", "Back on Planet Earth" and "Beneath the Waves", another very cool video with outstanding graphics and imagery.
To fittingly end the story so Arjen can move on and start another one, a new song makes its debut titled "Featurette Epilogue: The Memory Remains." This closes out the Ayreon legacy, this chapter that is. Therefore, this is a nice way for Ayreon, the launcher of Star One and The Universal Migrator, to finish and make a grand departure. We all know that as one door closes and another opens for such an ambitious artists like Arjen Lucassen. I look forward to a new chapter of progressive rock operas right around the corner. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy this set and reach back for the previous releases of this fascinating creator of music and storytelling.