Ayreon
The Theory of Everything


3.5
great

Review

by Thompson D. Gerhart STAFF
December 2nd, 2013 | 41 replies | 8,049 views


Release Date: 10/28/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An album as subtle as it is brief.

"Brevity is the soul of wit."
-William Shakespeare

With such a voluminous, varied, and overall successful career, you might expect Arjen Lucassen to understand this parable, proverb, and potentially most important principle of artistic production that the immortal bard penned centuries ago. Yet, here we are, faced with The Theory of Everything - an album as subtle as it is brief. And the problem with The Theory of Everything lies entirely in its defiance of Shakespeare's advice.

It's easy enough to simply say that a 42 track album that clocks in at just under an hour and a half is too long and too subdivided, but when acclaimed and genuinely good albums like Into The Electric Castle and The Human Equation clock in with even longer run times, the problem becomes more complex. More than mere time, the issue with The Theory of Everything lies in an underdevelopment of musical structure and an overreliance on an operatic vocal format that knows no brevity.

Allow me to truly begin by stating that many instrumental sections on The Theory of Everything are dazzling and intriguing and that the instrumental portion of the album is incredibly well-arranged. Talented solos and arrangements from the project's mastermind and guests the likes of Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, and Jordan Rudess are easily the album's highlights with tracks like "Surface Tension" and "Progressive Waves" presenting themselves as easy standouts.

The unfortunate thing is that the real focus of The Theory of Everything is the vocal delivery. While there are few Ayreon albums that cannot be called rock operas (mostly the coupled Universal Migrator albums), the last two have focused so much on the opera portion of the experience that they've missed the point expertly captured on The Human Equation - emotion through storytelling and personal reflection.

And, for as much as The Theory of Everything tries to recapture the glory of The Human Equation, it's unfortunate how far off it veers. From a storytelling and lyrical point of view, The Theory of Everything fails to focus on the introspective and emotional dialog the way The Human Equation did. Instead of focusing on raging emotions and relatable event-based storytelling that forged a real connection between listener and core character, The Human Equation presents a cold corps of mathematicians and scientists with a noble goal and sentiments that don't seem relatable. The lyrics are stunted by their own complexity and an all too frequently awkward rhyme scheme, which makes the vocals feel out of place even among powerful instrumentation.

The second issue with the veering path of The Theory of Everything is in the cast of characters and their delivery. Most of the singing on the album rarely surpasses the realm of unemotive "sing-talking." Christina Scabbia is one of the few distinct and powerful voices, though most of her identity comes from being the sole female vocalist for a time, and things become much more muddled with the addition of Sara Squadrani, who plays the very odd role of a girl who wants to pursue a relationship with the autistic protagonist. Most male voices become frustratingly similar - a frustration that compounds with the knowledge that primary vocalists like Tommy Karevik have a much more expansive range not utilized on this album. The most curious thing, however, is that Arjen's own very distinct voice (which has appeared on most other Ayreon releases) is absent from The Theory of Everything. Unsurprisingly, the album is worse off for it.

To be entirely honest, previous albums have flourished with a certain dialog and a certain cast - The Human Equation functioned by putting innerspace under the microscope with a varied and vocally distinct cast of pointed players filling emotional and relatable roles, where Into the Electric Castle was a triumph for exploring an ultimate mash-up of distinct character stereotypes backed by the crew of vocally unique artists needed to give them all life and conflict. And while the instrumental portions of this album are certainly magnificent, it's the ultimate lack of brevity in topic and and a proper cast of players to put on the show that prevents The Theory of Everything from soaring as high as its creator's dreams.



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3.9
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Comments:Add a Comment 
AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
December 2nd 2013


1992 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

But it gets a 3.5 just on the merit of tracks like "Surface Tension" and "Progressive Waves."

pizzamachine
December 2nd 2013


12571 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

How to stretch out a song 101 amirite? ;) Review is spot on my friend! mind pos

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
December 2nd 2013


6089 Comments


Well written review, mindpos. Correct me if I'm wrong but the review summary does not go along with Shakespeare's proverb.

Clocking at 1h 30min, the album is far from brief.

Digging: The Sabbathian - Ritual Rites

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
December 2nd 2013


1992 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's not very subtle either ;)

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
December 2nd 2013


6089 Comments


Oh I see, it is a gentle irony. Hmm if I could see you talk it, I would understand it immediately, but in writing it is a bit vague.

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
December 2nd 2013


50342 Comments


"Brevity is the soul of wit."
-William Shakespeare

*William Shakesman

Digging: The Brave Little Abacus - Masked Dancers

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
December 2nd 2013


1992 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Voivod - Yeah, I can see how you'd read it that way. I think the review does enough to speak of how long the album is to make it clear that I think it's neither brief nor subtle, though.

Trebor - I honestly thought of doing that and just writing the entire review in a Plinket tone.

Calc
December 3rd 2013


12185 Comments


don't click on the tracklist it'll ruin everything

Digging: Jizue - Shiori

Tyrael
December 3rd 2013


20876 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

har har har that summary

Digging: Darkspace - Dark Space III I

Poet
December 3rd 2013


5933 Comments


Never really got into Arjen Lucassen and his friends.

StormChaser
December 3rd 2013


333 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Totally agree with the interview. Nice stuff

GnarlyShillelagh
Staff Reviewer
December 3rd 2013


6109 Comments


very well put tr7v you should be staph

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
December 3rd 2013


10190 Comments


promoting as we speak

Digging: The Contortionist - Language

CaptainDooRight
December 3rd 2013


29130 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

aight

Digging: Kangding Ray - Solens Arc

PostMesmeric
December 3rd 2013


366 Comments


This album is big and dramatic to the point of absurdity, but I still found it to be worth listening to.

conesmoke
December 4th 2013


5208 Comments


album art is brilliant.

CaptainDooRight
December 4th 2013


29130 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

s'like you're swaying ina boat

SirDrumsalot
December 4th 2013


1555 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Hmm...Spotify shows Haken and Cynic as related artists. Now I'm even more intrigued! This better be good!

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2013


1992 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

If you haven't heard Ayreon before, skip this and listen to The Human Equation.

SirDrumsalot
December 4th 2013


1555 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Already put 40 minutes into this one. So far its definitely good...dont know if I'm a fan of the vocals/phrasing though. I will listen to The Human Equation at least by tomorrow if not today. Further analysis of this album to follow...



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