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Arjen Anthony Lucassen.jpg
Arjen Anthony Lucassen, the main creative force behind Ayreon
Background information
OriginWaalwijk, North Brabant, Netherlands
Years active
  • 1995–2008
  • 2012–present
Associated actsAmbeon, Finch, Guilt Machine, Star One, many others
MembersArjen Anthony Lucassen
Past membersGuest performers

Ayreon /ˈɛriən/ (About this soundlisten) is a musical project by Dutch songwriter, singer, multi-instrumentalist musician and record producer Arjen Anthony Lucassen. Ayreon's music is described as progressive rock, progressive metal[1] and power metal[2] sometimes combined with genres such as folk, electronica, experimental and classical music. The majority of Ayreon's albums are dubbed "rock operas" (or "metal operas") because the albums contain complex storylines featuring a host of characters, usually with each one being represented by a unique vocalist.

Each Ayreon album tells a different story, but all, with the exceptions of Actual Fantasy and The Theory of Everything, take place in the same fictional, science fiction universe; additionally, Lucassen's solo album Lost in the New Real is also set in the Ayreon universe. Ayreon's music is characterized by the use of traditional instruments in rock music (guitars, bass guitar, drums, analogue synthesizers, electric organs) mixed with instruments more native to folk and classical music (e.g. mandolins, violins, violas, celli, flutes, sitars and didgeridoos). Lucassen writes the music and the lyrics, sings and plays most of the instruments on all of the Ayreon albums, alongside many guest musicians. His most regular collaborator is drummer Ed Warby.

Due to the project's particular nature, Ayreon live performances are rare, and they did not play their first ever official concert until 2017. Several Ayreon songs were first included in two live albums by other Lucassen bands: Live on Earth by Star One (2003) and Live in the Real World by Stream of Passion (2006).


Origins: The Final Experiment and Actual Fantasy (1995–1998)[edit]

The first Ayreon CD, released in 1995, is The Final Experiment, which has a mixture of science fiction and medieval themes. The album features thirteen singers and seven instrumentalists, most of them Dutch. The Final Experiment is often mentioned as one of the first metal operas. The album was originally titled Ayreon: The Final Experiment, with the artist listed as Arjen Lucassen, but upon re-release, the title was changed to The Final Experiment, and the artist was changed to Ayreon.

Actual Fantasy from 1996 is the only Ayreon album without a continuous story. With its individual fantasy stories, it can still be considered a concept album, though. There are only three singers and three instrumentalists on Actual Fantasy. Themes inspired by songs on this album can be found on later Ayreon releases, particularly the two Universal Migrator albums. The album did not sell as well as its predecessor.

Continuation of the Ayreon storyline (1998–2008)[edit]

The double album Into the Electric Castle followed in 1998, continuing the Ayreon storyline from The Final Experiment. The album features eight singers, each playing a role of a single character, and eleven instrumentalists. Arjen has stated that he wanted this particular album to be a more flight-and-fancy-free record, or "pure escapism" than the previous albums' more serious tones, and portrayed his characters in more of a B movie light. The album was a huge success and is widely regarded as one of Ayreon's best albums.[3][4][5]

The twin Universal Migrator albums were released in 2000. The first album, The Dream Sequencer consists of soft, atmospheric progressive rock, whereas the second album, Flight of the Migrator, consists of a more heavy-metal theme. Both of the albums feature around ten singers supported by many instrumentalists. One of the more notable guests was Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, who made an appearance on the Flight of the Migrator album.

Shortly following Universal Migrator came Ayreonauts Only, an album generally meant to be only for diehard fans of Ayreon. The album itself was the second to not follow a specific storyline; it instead contained alternate versions (With different vocalists or instrumentalists) of existing songs, or the original demos used when recording them. In addition, it contained a preview of Arjen's then-upcoming project, Ambeon. It is the only Ayreon album not to see re-release on InsideOut.

In 2004 came The Human Equation. As on Into the Electric Castle, there are several singers, each playing their own role. With The Human Equation, Ayreon turned away from the usual science fiction and fantasy themes with a seemingly semi-normal psychological theme.

Starting in 2004, after changing from Transmission Records to InsideOut, Arjen began rereleasing his Ayreon catalog on the new label, with enhancements ranging from basic (The Universal Migrator, issued as a two-disc set instead of two separate albums) to drastic (Actual Fantasy, "Revisited" with completely re-recorded drums, bass, synth and flute). In 2005, to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Ayreon, The Final Experiment was reissued with a bonus semi-acoustic disc.

At the end of September 2006, when Arjen's new studio was finished, he began making a new album entitled 01011001, which was released on 23 January 2008. This album was noticeably darker than previous Ayreon releases, Lucassen attributes this to a depression and his divorce in the preceding year.[6]

On 25 April 2008, Arjen released a new Ayreon EP named Elected. The EP features two tracks from 01011001, one from The Human Equation and an Alice Cooper cover (Elected), with vocals by Arjen and Tobias Sammet.[7]

On 16 September 2008, Arjen announced in his official website the release of Timeline, his second compilation album, that will reunite selected songs from all Ayreon albums and an unreleased one in three CDs and a DVD. The album was released on 7 November 2008 in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and all of the EU on 17 November 2008. It was released in America on 13 January 2009.[8]

Hiatus (2008–2012)[edit]

Arjen took a break from Ayreon and completed a new side project, Guilt Machine, in 2009. He also went on to release a second Star One album in 2010, and then a solo album under his own name in 2012.

The Theory of Everything and The Source (2012–2017)[edit]

The Theory of Everything was released on 28 October 2013. In 2015, The Human Equation was performed in its entirety live in an unofficial full-scale theatrical production called The Theater Equation, with Lucassen making an appearance and helping promote the project. It was performed four times, all at the Nieuwe Luxor theater in Rotterdam between 18 and 20 September. Although produced as an unofficial series of performances, it was recorded and released in June of the following year as an official Ayreon release, The Theater Equation, produced and mixed by Lucassen himself.[9][10]

The Source was released on 28 April 2017, marking a return to science fiction and the Ayreon storyline. It is Lucassen's first album under his new label, Mascot Label Group.[11]

Focus on live performances (2017-present)[edit]

In November 2016, Lucassen announced the first ever official Ayreon concerts for September 2017, entitled Ayreon Universe. The show featured 16 singers and 11 instrumentalists, all of which had previously worked together with Lucassen on his studio albums.[12] Unlike The Theater Equation, it consisted of unrelated songs from Ayreon performed after each other as in a traditional concert, with a few songs from Star One featured as well.[13] One of the performances was released as a live album/DVD on March 30, 2018, titled Ayreon Universe – The Best of Ayreon Live.[14]

On December 7, 2017, Lucassen stated that a new Ayreon concert would take place on June 22, 2018 at Graspop Metal Meeting, where they would headline the Marquee stage.[15][16] It featured the same instrumentalists as the Ayreon Universe shows and most of its vocalists, along with Simone Simons and Tom S. Englund, who had never performed live with Ayreon before, and Mark Jansen and Barry Hay, who had never collaborated with Lucassen before; Lucassen himself also performed a few songs.[17]

Between September 13 and 15 of 2019, the album Into the Electric Castle was performed in Tilburg in its entirety similarly to The Theater Equation in 2015, this time as official Ayreon performances. Fish, Anneke van Giersbergen, Damian Wilson, Edward Reekers, Edwin Balogh, and George Oosthoek returned from the original cast, alongside Ed Warby and flutist Thijs van Leer, who also performed on the original album. Simone Simons and Mark Jansen of Epica, Praying Mantis singer John Jaycee Cuijpers, Marcela Bovio, Bovio's husband and VUUR bassist Johan van Stratum, and Ex Libris members Dianne van Giersbergen and Bob Wijtsma were also featured, with actor John de Lancie acting as narrator.[18][19]


Lucassen said, "Though I do like the similarity of the sound of my own name Arjen and the project name Ayreon, this is purely coincidental. Yet no one seems to believe that! Originally I called the leading character of the first Ayreon album 'Aries'. But then I had to change it because it had to fit the meter of the song. I wanted the new name to sound old fashioned because of the medieval influences, so I used the old-English sounding 'AY' (Aylesbury, Ayrshire). But I also wanted it to sound modern because of the futuristic parts ("2084") so I used 'ON' (electron, neutron, etc.), hence 'Ayreon'."[20]


Notable regular collaborators

List of guests in Ayreon[edit]


Studio albums[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart positions Sales
The Final Experiment
  • Released: 27 October 1995
  • Label: Transmission, Inside Out Music, SPV
  • Formats: CD
Actual Fantasy
  • Released: 23 October 1996
  • Label: Transmission, Inside Out Music, SPV
  • Formats: CD
Into the Electric Castle
  • Released: 30 August 1998
  • Label: Transmission, Inside Out Music, SPV
  • Formats: CD, digital download[30]
Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer
  • Released: 20 June 2000
  • Label: Transmission, Inside Out Music, SPV
  • Formats: CD, digital download[31]
90 64
Universal Migrator Part 2: Flight of the Migrator
  • Released: 20 June 2000
  • Label: Transmission, Inside Out Music, SPV
  • Formats: CD, digital download[31]
87 61
The Human Equation
  • Released: 25 May 2004
  • Label: Inside Out Music
  • Formats: CD, digital download[32]
50 160 7
  • Released: 23 January 2008
  • Label: Inside Out Music
  • Formats: CD, digital download[33]
18 90 85 54 2 96 80
The Theory of Everything
  • Released: 28 October 2013
  • Label: Inside Out Music
  • Formats: CD, digital download[34]
21 37 41 46 26 3 36 58
The Source
  • Released: 28 April 2017
  • Label: Mascot Label Group
  • Formats:
10 95 21 17 27 21 1 36 38
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


Title EP details
  • Released: 25 April 2008
  • Label: Inside Out Music
  • Formats: CD, digital download[38]


Title Year Peak chart positions Album
"Sail Away to Avalon" 1995 The Final Experiment
"The Stranger from Within" 1996 Actual Fantasy
"Temple of the Cat" 2000 Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer
"Day Eleven: Love" 2004 39 The Human Equation
"Come Back to Me" 2005
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Compilation albums[edit]

Title Album details
Ayreonauts Only
  • Released: 12 December 2000
  • Label: Transmission
  • Formats: CD
  • Released: 7 November 2008
  • Label: Inside Out Music
  • Formats: CD

Live albums[edit]

Title Album details
The Theater Equation
  • Released: 17 June 2016
  • Label: Inside Out Music
  • Formats: CD+DVD
Ayreon Universe – The Best of Ayreon Live
  • Released: 30 March 2018
  • Label: Music Theories Recordings/Mascot Label Group
  • Formats: CD+DVD

Music videos[edit]

  • "The Stranger From Within" (1996)
  • "Day Eleven: Love" (2004)
  • "Loser" (2004)
  • "Come Back to Me" (2004)
  • "Beneath the Waves" (2008)
  • "The Day That the World Breaks Down" (2017)
  • "Everybody Dies" (lyric video) (2017)
  • "Star of Sirrah" (lyric video) (2017)
  • "Run! Apocalypse! Run!" (lyric video) (2017)
  • "Across The Rainbow Bridge" (lyric video) (2018)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Huey, Steve. "Ayreon biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  2. ^ a b Sharpe-Young, Garry (2003). A-Z of Power Metal. London: Cherry Red Books Ltd. ISBN 1-901447-13-8.
  3. ^ "RateYourMusic ratings of Ayreon albums". Rateyourmusic.com. Archived from the original on 15 July 2012. Retrieved 14 April 2010.
  4. ^ "SputnikMusic's review of the album". Sputnikmusic.com. Retrieved 14 April 2010.
  5. ^ "ProgArchives user ratings of Ayreon's albums". Progarchives.com. Retrieved 14 April 2010.
  6. ^ "Ragnarök Radio Interview Part one". Ragnarokradio.co.uk. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 14 April 2008.
  7. ^ "New Ayreon EP – with a special surprise…". Arjenlucassen.com. Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  8. ^ "Timeline: New Ayreon compilation album". Arjenlucassen.com. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  9. ^ "The Human Equation Theater Experience - Coming In 2015, Pre-Registration Starts Today". Metal Storm. 19 May 2014. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  10. ^ "Ayreon - Timeline | Facebook". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  11. ^ "Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles". 6 October 2016. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  12. ^ "AYREON Universe: The Best Of Ayreon Live, Out March 30". 12 January 2018. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  13. ^ "Ayreon Universe". 21 November 2016. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  14. ^ "Ayreon Universe set for live release in March". 12 January 2018. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  15. ^ "By name - Graspop Metal Meeting 2018". Graspop.be. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  16. ^ Lucassen, Arjen Anthony (7 December 2017). "Big news! Ayreon will be headlining the Marquee tent (capacity 14500) at Graspop, Friday, June 22!". Ayreon's official facebook. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  17. ^ Lucassen, Arjen Anthony (9 May 2018). "The line-up for the Ayreon headline show on the Graspop festival is finally confirmed!". Ayreon's official facebook. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  18. ^ "Ayreon Electric Castle Live in September 2019". Ayreon. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  19. ^ "AYREON LIVE 2019". Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  20. ^ Hill, Gary (March 2008). "Ayreon – Interviewed by Gary Hill". Music Street Journal. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  21. ^ "Home - Offizielle Deutsche Charts". Officialcharts.de. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  22. ^ "Les charts français". Lescharts.com. 23 May 2004. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  23. ^ "Das österreichische Hitparaden- und Musik-Portal". Austriancharts.at. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  24. ^ "Die Offizielle Schweizer Hitparade und Music Community". Hitparade.ch. 17 February 2008. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  25. ^ "Swedish Charts Portal". Swedishcharts.com. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  26. ^ "Norwegian charts portal". Norwegiancharts.com. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  27. ^ "Dutch Charts". Dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  28. ^ "Ultratop Belgian Charts". Ultratop.be. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  29. ^ "Ultratop Belgian Charts". Ultratop.be. 16 February 2008. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  30. ^ [1][dead link]
  31. ^ a b [2][dead link]
  32. ^ [3][dead link]
  33. ^ [4][dead link]
  34. ^ [5] Archived 2 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ "Metal By Numbers 11/13: Stryper has a hell of a debut". Metal Insider. 14 November 2013. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  36. ^ "Metal By Numbers 11/27: Five Finger Death Punch Debut At Number 2…Again". Metal Insider. 29 November 2013. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  37. ^ "Metal By Numbers 11/6: The Charts Doth Protest The Hero Too Much, Methinks". Metal Insider. 6 November 2013. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  38. ^ [6][dead link]
  39. ^ Steffen Hung (17 May 2008). "Dutch Charts". Dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 8 December 2015.

External links[edit]