CD Reviews

Ayreon - 'Universe: The Best Of Ayreon Live' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     March 15, 2018    
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This is simply sensational!

Amazingly, just six months after the three scheduled shows were filmed in Tilburg, this multi-format collection is now released. My promos are downloads, but I have no doubt the album's packaging will be comprehensive, living up to the usual Arjen Lucassen standard. Certainly, the show lacks for nothing with lighting, back projections, LED screens, flames, fireworks and a CO2 effect all being utilised. Being old school, I love seeing keyboard player Joost van den Broek surrounded by a phalanx of different instruments, including a proper Hammond Organ. Mention also has to be made of the rest of the superb band who perform wonderfully throughout; Marcel Coenen (lead guitar), Ferry Duijsens (guitar), Johan van Stratum (bass) and the inimitable Ed Warby (drums) providing the perfect platform. Rob Snijders puts in a couple of appearances on drums too.

Twenty-eight songs, sixteen vocalists and filmed using thirty cameras, this is an extravaganza that includes extensive extra material such as interviews, a documentary and footage of a try-out show performed a few weeks earlier. Each Ayreon album is represented, including the most recent 'The Source', plus a few favourites from one of Lucassen's other enterprises � Star One. There's very little time wasted as one track quickly and slickly follows another with vocalists coming and going in rapid succession.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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One of my favourite moments is when Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gentle Storm) and Marcela Bovio (Stream Of Passion) combine for a superb rendition of 'Valley Of The Queens' which takes the bombast quotient down significantly. Indeed, Bovio and fellow backing vocalists Irene Jansen and Lisette van den Berg are pivotal to the show as they flesh out the vocals in sensational fashion, often doubling up with the lead singers. This is particularly evident on the splendid 'Ride The Comet' where they support Maggy Luyten (Nightmare). The following 'Star Of Sirrah' is equally impressive with no less than four lead vocalists appearing.

One of my chosen Ayreon songs, 'Comatose', is present and it has a spine-tingling quality, as does Damian Wilson's performance on 'And The Druids Turned To Stone', while Tommy Karevik (Kamelot) receives a huge reception as he arrives on stage to deliver a terrific 'Into The Black Hole'. The trio of Ben Mathot (violin), Jeroen Goossens (flute) and Maaike Peterse (cello) make telling contributions, not least alongside Edward Reekers (Kayak) on the delicate 'Actual Fantasy'. Reekers remains for the following song 'Computer Eyes' where he duets with Robert Soeterboek; it's another standout moment amongst so many.

Suffice to say Lucassen, who appears late in the piece, and his cohorts have delivered an absolute masterpiece of a show with everyone clearly relishing their involvement � this is simply sensational!

Gary Marshall

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