Music Theories Recordings/Mascot Label Group are thrilled to announce Ayreon Universe – The Best of Ayreon Live which will be released on March 30th and will be available to pre-order form January 30th.
On 15, 16, 17 September 2017, Ayreon played live for the first time ever, bringing together 16 guest singers and 11 musicians, playing 28 songs with performances by Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Damian Wilson (Headspace), Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot), Anneke Van Giersbergen (Vuur), Marco Hietala (Nightwish), Jonas Renkse (Katatonia), Edward Reekers (Kayak) and many more.
Ayreon Universe – The Best of Ayreon Live will be available on 3LP + MP3, 3LP + MP3 (Limited Colored Vinyl), 2CD, 5 disc Earbook, plus 2DVD and Blu-ray with 90 minutes of exclusive behind the scenes footage and interviews with the whole cast.
It takes a special kind of talent to bring together 16 of the finest singers from the world of progressive and power metal whilst staking your own reputation on a show that will highlight the best of a 23-year career as one of the leading lights of the progressive music world. And on top of all that, you know you will also have to overcome your own crippling stage fright. But Arjen Lucassen is a special kind of talent.
The daunting task of co-ordinating 16 singers — all with their own bands and busy schedules — is just the beginning. There’s also Lucassen’s live band; the core line-up of Ed Warby (drums), Johan van Stratum (bass), Marcel Coenen and Ferry Duijsens (guitars) and Joost van den Broek (keyboards) augmented by a violinist, flautist and cellist. To top it off there’s a stage set up that boasts one of the world’s biggest HD screens spanning the entire width of the 013 stage. It’s a spectacular backdrop for a set that comprises of 28 songs over two hours, filmed by 30 cameras in front of 9000 fans who have flocked in from all over the world. Little wonder the three shows in Tilburg, Netherlands sold out within a day.
It’s hardly a surprise that someone with Lucassen’s vision and sense of adventure managed to pull off a spectacle such as Ayreon Universe with apparent ease. Since 1995, when he released Ayreon: The Final Experiment, Lucassen’s imagination and ambition have flourished unfettered by convention.
It was the Ayreon albums, centered around a conceptual theme from their creator’s vast imagination, that began to attract the attention of a burgeoning audience interested in new progressive sounds. For 1998’s Into The Electric Castle, Lucassen began what is now his standard MO of working with an array of popular artists from the prog and metal worlds, namely Fish, Anneke van Giersbergen, Sharon den Adel, Edward Reekers, Damian Wilson, Thijs van Leer, Ton Scherpenzeel and Clive Nolan. This was the masterstroke that would bring his musical vision the wider acclaim he so clearly sought.
“Writing and producing”, he says, “is what I love doing, coming up with the stories and putting it all together.”
Since then, Lucassen has hardly looked back. The two part Universal Migrator albums, released in 2000, saw the likes of Bruce Dickinson, Floor Jansen, Russell Allen and Neal Morse join the ever-impressive list of musicians featured on Ayreon albums. Later on he would add such luminaries as Mikael Akerfeldt, Devin Townsend, Steve Hackett, Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman on albums like The Human Equation (2004), 01011001 (2008) and The Theory Of Everything (2012).
2017’s The Source was another star-studded conceptual affair, this time boasting Dream Theater’s James LaBrie, Marillion’s Mark Kelly and Epica’s Simone Simons. Yet despite being one of prog and metal’s most prolific writers and performers, there is one area where Lucassen does not feel at ease: on stage, in front of an audience.
“I get absolutely crippling stage fright,” he explains. “Up to the night before the Tilburg shows I was having dreadful panic attacks. I honestly didn’t know if I was going to make it on stage.”
“We worked on Ayreon Universe for two years,” he says of the event. “We basically started planning right after ‘The Theater Equation’ was done. There were literally hundreds of things that had to fall into place to make the shows a success.”
And, as you will see from Ayreon Universe: The Best Of Ayreon Live, it turned out pretty special indeed. A crowning achievement, to date, for Lucassen’s remarkable career.
“I just love recording my various projects in the studio,” he states. “To me, it’s another way of performing. But I’m not a live performer. I’m the guy who comes up with the ideas, sees the big picture, and puts it all together. So I’m glad that so many incredible musicians helped me bring my music to the stage.”
3. Abbey Of Synn
4. River Of Time
5. The Blackboard
6. The Theory Of Everything
7. Merlins Will
8. Waking Dreams
9. Dawn Of A Million Souls
10. Valley Of The Queens
11. Ride The Comet
12. Star Of Sirrah
14. Day Sixteen Loser
15. And The Druids Turned To Stone
16. The Two Gates
17. Into The Black Hole
18. Actual Fantasy
19. Computer Eyes
21. Age Of Shadows
22. Intergalactic Space Crusaders
24. Everybody Dies
25. The Castle Hall
26. Amazing Flight In Space
27. Day Eleven Love
28. The Eye Of Ra