Arjen Lucassen continues to astound the world of music worldwide with a string of releases that always seem to raise the bar for everyone else in the prog-rock community.
010110001 is yet another 2 CD set that fans and media are calling a prog-rock opera masterpiece... and with good reason of course and I am in total agreement with those thoughts. So is this the Ayreon Magnum Opus? Well, every time I hear a new album I really want to say that but this time I am not going to count my chickens before they are hatched because he will probably find a way kick it up another notch on the next release. Clearly, this is one of his best albums.
In typical Ayreon style, he put together an incredible cast of characters to contribute and every one of them honored to get the call from the master of the modern day rock opera. Some of the stars that stepped into Arjen's studio were Ty Tabor, Jonas Renkse, Hansi Krusch, Anneke van Giersbergen, Simone Simons, Tom Englund, Michael Romeo and Derek Sherinian to name a few.
The first two discs is the entire story with some the of best prog-rock you will hear this year and the third disc is a DVD that takes you through the behind the scenes recording sessions and all the people that participated including interviews with all of them and their thoughts on the project and how they feel about Arjen. There is also a 5.1 surround sound version of the video "Beneath the Waves." It is unfortunate that the 5.1 conversion process is so cost prohibitive as this recording would be unbelievable in that format. I cannot take anything away from the stereo version though because it is outstanding. Arjen knows exactly what he wants during the recording process and is simply brilliant producing his own work. The separation of instruments is fantastic and it sounded great on my surround system, it really just blew me away entirely.
There is also a section of bloopers on the DVD that is riot... it shows a side we never see as listeners while at the same time shedding some light on our rock star heroes illustrating that they put their pants on every day just like you and me. That is what Arjen is all about; he never takes himself too seriously.
I enjoyed the entire recording but I did have some favorites. The theme is typical Ayreon, with songs based on our dark future and what it will be like because of our poor stewardship of our surrounding environment and where technology rules our every move.
"Unnatural Selection," "Beneath the Waves" (a five-part track) and "Comatose" I feel are classic prog-rock opera tunes, its vintage Ayreon surrounded by some of the best of his contemporaries. This is an environment that he thrives in, getting the energy and input from all the participants. The only drawback with projects like this is that it is highly unlikely you will ever see it hit the road. Not only is it a logistical nightmare, everyone has his or her own bands and projects they are responsible to return to. Perhaps someday I will have the chance to see this legendary musician perform but until then I have his entire catalog to dive into and enjoy and that is quite satisfying to say the least, 010110001 is another template for his peers to judge their success by, if anyone can come close to matching this superlative effort they would have released a fine album.