The Arjen Lucassen-led project Ayreon has a history of releasing albums best described as symphonic folk and space metal, which on one hand reach heights of intense splendor and on the other hand can be cringe worthy. Having listened to most of them, I would consider this the definitive release. All the elements of previous releases are here, and although it rarely offers anything new from previous releases, 01001101 is in my opinion the most mature of them all. The concepts laid out in previous releases are all resolved here. Still, it is full of pretentious excess, but the album feels more complete, cohesive, and accessible than anything Ayreon has released to date. I appreciate Lucassenís compositions for the most part, but itís usually the concepts that weigh the albums down. You either love this type of music or you hate it, but if you want to experience Ayreon and you are not sure where to begin, my advice is to start here.
Ayreonís music is operatic at times, and the albums opener is no exception. I am actually bored by the first five minutes of the song, but in the last five I start to get into it. The second song, Comatose, is probably my favorite track on the album, which is dark and brooding musically, as well as expressive and genuine lyrically, qualities that help this album in comparison to previous releases. This song really gets under my skin in a good way, and with a handful of other songs, they can stand on their own and donít act as props to hold up the concept of the album (propping, in my opinion, will ruin a song to no end). The album is way too long for itís own good, so I will mention the songs that really stand out: Newborn Race, Ride the Comet, and Liquid Eternity are probably the best songs from the first disc. The last half of Newborn Race is actually mind-blowing; very theatrical in nature, the folkish metal here really comes out in climatic form. Ride the Comet gives me chills every time I listen to it. The angelic signing to the female vocalist, the word ďextremophiles,Ē and the chorus, which reminds me of some early 80ís Rush passages, are not to be missed. However, Web of Lies offers us one of the most cringe worthy moments Ayreon has offered, and a terrible note on which to end the first disc.
The second disc is more of the same. The Fifth Extinction is a great song, very progressive, and showcasing a formula for Lucassenís ability to write complex compositions that donít go over the top. I would have liked to hear this formula throughout the album, and this song really demonstrates that Lucassen can write symphonic folk metal as good as anyone. Waking Dreams and The Truth Is Here are solid songs, a bit quieter, and not too pretentious, but Unnatural Selection and E-MC squared are perfect examples of songs that are uncompromisingly attached to the concept of the album, and as a result cannot stand on their own. The closer, The Sixth Extinction is the perfect ending, as it demonstrates to what extent Ayreon can rock out, be tied down by a lofty concept, and put me to sleep.
Itís difficult not to recommend this album for fans that enjoy lofty sci-fi concept albums, but others may find something to enjoy here too. The spectacular moments are spectacular, and the bad moments are bad. Obviously, if you canít look past the pretentiousness inherent in this type of music, then you should stay away, but this doesnít mean that the music is not compelling and rewarding in its own right.
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