While Ayreon's 'Forever/Planet Y' saga seemed to have reached its conclusion with the album 01011001, it's clear that Arjen Lucassen's creative muses had other plans. The new Ayreon album The Source revisits the Forever saga, adding a whole new chapter to Lucassen's impressive body of work. With its top-flight cast of singers and musicians, compelling songs, overwhelming sound, and intriguing story, The Source offers everything that has gained Lucassen dedicated fans worldwide since he laid the foundations of Ayreon back in the mid 90's.
"Whenever I start something new, I usually have a solo album in mind", Arjen Lucassen explains. "It gives me the freedom to go any direction I want. All options are still open, with regards to sound and style. This time around I initially felt that a new Star One album was appearing on the horizon because the guitars were so dominant. But after the first flutes and violins showed up, I realized I had a new Ayreon album in the making."
This album, to be released on April 28, saw Lucassen's creative process take an unusual twist. Normally, finding and assembling the album artwork comes very late in the process, long after the music is finished. But to gain inspiration he began looking for artwork very early on, after writing just the first few songs.
The Story of The Source is set six billion years in the past relative to Earth. It begins on Planet Alpha, a world in the Andromeda system where computer intelligence has far surpassed that of humanity. Alpha is facing a massive global crisis, with ecological and political catastrophes threatening all human life. The Alphans (our human ancestors) try to save their planet by entrusting the global computer mainframe—The 'Frame—to find a solution. Given total control of the planet, the 'Frame reaches the logical conclusion that its creators are the cause of all the trouble. The only way to solve Alpha's problems is to exterminate humanity. This leaves the Alphans no other option than to try and escape their horrific fate. But their escape comes at a terrible price.
It's the beginning of a story that contains everything that has made the Ayreon epics so endlessly fascinating all these years. First there are the musical riches, then there is the layered story line. It can all be interpreted as strict science fiction, but Arjen Lucassen doesn't shy away from making references to actual events.
Arjen Lucassen strives to make every Ayreon album a contrast to the one before. "If The Theory of Everything was my prog album, then The Source is my rock album. It's more guitar oriented, which makes it heavier than previous Ayreon releases. The Source is also more 'accessible' than The Theory of Everything: the songs are structured more conventionally, and the melodies are catchier."
The title of The Source invites various interpretations. It's a reference to water—the source of life—and the water planet where the escaping Alphans find a safe new home after their long, arduous journey. The Source also points to the origins of humanity and the question of where we come from. The title also hints at the role that the album itself plays in the whole Ayreon catalogue. Given that it is a prequel, it can be thought of as the source of the entire Ayreon epic.
The international status of Ayreon enables Arjen Lucassen to write his characters with some of the most respected singers in rock in mind: James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Tommy Giles Rogers (Between the Buried and Me), Simone Simons (Epica), Mike Mills (Toehider), Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Michael Eriksen (Circus Maximus), Tobias Sammet (Edguy, Avantasia), Nils K. Rue (Pagan's Mind), Zaher Zorgati (Myrath), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot) and Russell Allen (Symphony X). Special contributions were offered by guitarists Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big), Guthrie Govan (The Aristocrats, Asia, Steven Wilson), Marcel Coenen and keyboard player Mark Kelly (Marillion).
Just as on his previous albums, The Source has Arjen Lucassen playing a wide variety of instruments, while the inimitable Ed Warby (o.a. Elegy, Gorefest, Hail Of Bullets) once again masterfully handles the drums.
2017 will be a particularly exciting year for Ayreon fans thanks to a unique chance to actually see Ayreon live. Limited to three exclusive performances, "The Ayreon Universe" will take place in September in the prestigious 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland. This unprecedented live event features the best of twenty years of Ayreon music, brought to life by a top cast of musicians such as Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Russell Allen (Symphony X), Damian Wilson (Threshold), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot), Jonas Renkse (Katatonia), Anneke van Giersbergen and various others. The reclusive Arjen Lucassen himself is also expected to make a rare appearance on stage. The tickets for all concerts – 9000 in total – sold out within a day, proving once again that the Ayreon magic is still very much alive and kicking.
The Source is the first Ayreon album to be released by the renowned Dutch record company Mascot Label Group/Music Theories Recordings, which could be considered a new beginning for all things Ayreon. "Let me start by saying that I always make every effort to create the best Ayreon album possible. This time was no exception. I really wanted to deliver the goods, and I hope I did! I've got a very good feeling about it, mainly because of the way everything seemed to fall easily into place with this album. I've only experienced that twice before, with Into The Electric Castle and The Human Equation. The music, the story, the artwork and most of all the fantastic guest musicians just came together very naturally."
Ayreon studio albums on Music Theories Recordings:
The Final Experiment
Into the Electric Castle
Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer
Universal Migrator Part 2: Flight of the Migrator
The Human Equation