The Theory of Everything (Ayreon album)
|The Theory of Everything|
|Studio album by|
|Released||28 October 2013|
|Recorded||June 2012—August 2013|
|Label||Inside Out Music|
|Arjen Anthony Lucassen chronology|
The Theory of Everything (stylized as ŦĦΣ ŦĦΣΦɌ¥ ΦƑ ΣVΣɌΨŦĦIΠG) is the eighth studio album from Ayreon, a progressive metal/rock opera project by Dutch musician Arjen Anthony Lucassen, released on 28 October 2013.
As with every Ayreon album, it is a concept album with each character being portrayed by one singer, however being released five years after 01011001 which concluded the original Ayreon story, The Theory of Everything is a fresh start from the Ayreon storyline developed since Ayreon's first album The Final Experiment in 1995; in addition, while previous albums which took place in a sci-fi context (with the notable exception of The Human Equation, taking place in a man's mind), it is set in a realistic world. Lucassen composed all the music, and wrote the story and lyrics with his girlfriend Lori Linstruth, making it the first Ayreon album in which he shares lyrics credit for all the songs.
In the typical style of the project, the album features several guest singers to portray the characters across the album, including former King Crimson and Asia member John Wetton, Marco Hietala of Nightwish and Tarot, Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil and Tommy Karevik of Kamelot and Seventh Wonder. It also features various guest musicians such as keyboardists Rick Wakeman (ex-Yes), Keith Emerson (ex-Emerson, Lake & Palmer), Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater, and guitarist Steve Hackett (ex-Genesis). It is Lucassen's first collaboration with every singer on the album, with the exception of backing vocalist Wilmer Waarbroek, who already sung on his solo album Lost in the New Real.
According to Lucassen, the album is "four long tracks divided into various segments", with each song longer than 20 minutes for a total of almost one hour and a half of music. The complete number of segments is 42, which is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, recognized by Lucassen as a direct reference. On 18 December 2013 Lucassen released on YouTube a free version of the album with all vocals sung by Waarbroek.
The Theory of Everything was a commercial success and received acclaim from audience and critics, who praised its instrumental sections, songwriting, story, and the performances of the cast.
After the release of 01011001, Lucassen decided to temporarily put Ayreon on hold, because he was not inspired to continue and also because many critics noted that there was nothing new being offered on 01011001. He then focused on other projects, such as Guilt Machine's first album, Star One's second album, and a new solo album.
On 23 August 2012 Lucassen published on his YouTube channel that he started composing a new project, and on 9 October 2012 revealed it via YouTube again to be a new Ayreon album, planned for 2013. On 26 March 2013 Lucassen revealed the name of the next album to be The Theory of Everything. Since then, Lucassen progressively revealed the singers and musicians involved in the new album, through YouTube. On September 6, the artwork and track listing for the new album was revealed on the official Ayreon Facebook page. The album cover was painted by frequent Ayreon artist Jef Bertels.
During the recordings, Lucassen suffered an elbow injury. According to him, it is "pretty serious" and will need to be operated on, with only 70/80% chance of success. However he chose to not be operated immediately because it would delay the release of The Theory of Everything, and continued to record despite the pain.
The story follows a young prodigy and his family, a girl, a rival, and a teacher, none named. The first phase opens ("Prologue: The Blackboard") with a hint of the genius of the prodigy before the story falls back eleven years to the prodigy's parents ("The Theory of Everything part 1"). The father is working on the titular "Theory of Everything"—a unified theory explaining all the forces of the cosmos. In doing so, he neglects his wife and young child. The main character, the prodigy, is finally introduced ("The Prodigy's World") and reveals his genius prevents him from normal social interactions. He frequently lives inside his head and stares off into space. Human life and society bore him and don't fit into the grand scheme of things—his mental model of the universe.
The story jumps three years ("The Teacher's Discovery") where the teacher, a voice from the prologue, discovers the boy's genius. A rival classmate accuses him of fraud, and a girl rises to his defense ("Love and Envy"). The teacher arranges a meeting with the boy's father ("The Gift"), where the father learns that his son is more than just an awkward kid who spaces out. A few more years pass ("Inertia") and the prodigy tries to reach out to his father to no avail. Finally, the father and mother decide the child needs some medical intervention ("The Theory of Everything Part 2"): the mother believes the child needs to fit in with society to have a normal life, and the father finally realizes that his genius son might help him discover the Theory of Everything.
Phase 2 deals with the prodigy's visit to therapy. A drug is introduced that might help him, but the psychiatrist admits that it is very experimental. Even though the father is intrigued, the mother is completely against anything that might endanger their son ("Diagnosis" / "The Argument 1"). His teacher reveals that he could use the child to boost his own popularity; the girl reveals she wants him to open up to her ("Potential"). As the prodigy continues living in his own chaotic world the father wonders if the psychiatrist's drug really will help ("Quantum Chaos"). The Father wants the child to help with the Theory of Everything, and decides to take the therapist's drug ("Dark Medicine") and feed it to the child secretly. The prodigy takes very well to it, as the results are almost immediate and miraculous ("Alive"). The mother is also happy about their son's drastic improvement, even though she is still unaware that it is due to the drug she was adamantly opposed to ("The Prediction").
Phase 3 opens as the teacher also notices the changes in the prodigy, but wonders if something unhealthy is occurring. But he is still determined to help the prodigy ("Transformation"). As a result of the drug the prodigy has a great new found confidence and finally confronts his classmate rival ("Collision"). Eventually the psychiatrist tells the father that the drug can cause severe psychosis and delusions and urges him to stop the treatment. The father comes clean to the prodigy about giving him the drug. Feeling betrayed he runs away ("Side Effects"). Eventually, after trying to find the teacher, the prodigy runs into the girl and the rival, and explains to them about what his father did. The prodigy asks if he can stay with the girl, who reciprocates his offer without hesitation or resistance at the behest of the rival who says the prodigy will use her. Undaunted, the girl tries to take care of the prodigy, but without the drug he withdraws into himself again ("Magnetism"). Time passes and the rival reveals he can synthesize the therapist's drug if the prodigy helps in a bank robbery ("Quid Pro Quo"). When the plan succeeds, the girl tells the prodigy to leave since she is disappointed in his choices, and he is heartbroken that she is gone ("Fortune?").
Phase 4 opens three months before the prologue, with the girl and the mother revealing their helplessness in the main character's situation ("Mirror of Dreams"). The prodigy, having nowhere else to turn now, meets the teacher again to resume work on the Theory of Everything. With money now a formality to the prodigy, he buys and resumes his work in a lighthouse ("The Lighthouse"). The father knows his chances for discovering the theory lie with the prodigy, but the mother doesn't want to hear any more of it ("The Argument 2"). After months of fruitless arguments, the mother tells the father that she is leaving him, he is heartbroken and believes there is only one thing left for him to do ("The Parting"). The prodigy later—only one day before the opening of the story—sees the father in the lighthouse to help unify their efforts and complete the work. They work constantly all throughout the night while the prodigy takes a much larger dose of the drug than usual ("The Visitation" / "The Breakthrough"). Exhausted, the prodigy writes a quick note explaining their success to the teacher ("The Note").
The next day, --same day as the Prologue—the real nature of the previous day's events is revealed: the teacher comes to visit the lighthouse and finds the prodigy lying catatonic in the corner, with the note crumpled in his hand. He immediately calls the girl to tell her of the note regarding the breakthrough. As the girl showed up at the lighthouse to meet the teacher, she is already in tears after a phone call with the prodigy's mother. The girl explains that the father took his own life before the supposed visitation ("The Uncertainty Principle"); he couldn't have been there with his son for the breakthrough ("Dark Energy"), and it could only be a hallucination from the prodigy. The girl and the mother mourn together the losses of their loved ones, come to an agreement that the world isn't ready to know the Theory of Everything, and decide to move on with their lives. After everyone else leaves the lighthouse, the teacher examines the blackboard and notices there are two different hand writing styles, as if the father and son had truly completed their theory together ("The Theory of Everything Part 3" / "The Blackboard - Reprise").
|Dangerdog Music Reviews|||
|Metal Hammer (GER)|||
|Nightfall in Metal Earth|||
|Ultimate Guitar Archive||8.6/10|
The album received positive reviews from music critics. Metal Mouth gave the album a perfect rating of 10 out of 10, stating " a massive undertaking that completely pays off. It draws from many genres and gives you so much more than you’d ever expect, leaving you with a sense of overwhelming calm [...] This album is essential listening. It’s prog perfection, and for that I have to salute everyone involved." Dangerdog Music Reviews called The Theory of Everything "another melodic progressive rock tour-de-force from the creative mind of Arjen Lucassen" and gave a near-perfect score of 4.5 out of 5.
Metal Injection called the album "the most musically diverse offering [Lucassen] had a hand in, perhaps with the exception of his solo record [...] listeners should treat it as a proper musical or film in a theater. Try to experience it all in one sitting for the full effect. It's absolutely worth it." MyGlobalMind called it a "masterpiece, filled with many different musical styles, seven strong guest singers, many guest musicians, and an unforgettable story that’s sure to take you on an emotional ride. In short, it delivers everything an Ayreon album should deliver, then it goes one step further."
Despite a positive review, Sputnikmusic reviewer pointed out several faults: "the issue with The Theory of Everything lies in an underdevelopment of musical structure and an over reliance on an operatic vocal format that knows no brevity [...] 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". He also criticized the singing performances, calling them "unemotive sing-talking", as well as the characters that he felt less inspired than in previous Ayreon albums. He did however strongly praised the "dazzling and intriguing" and "incredibly well-arranged" instrumental sections, and gave the overall album a note of 3.5 out of 5.
|Phase I: Singularity|
|1.||"Prologue: The Blackboard"||Janne JB Christoffersson, Sara Squadrani||1:55|
|2.||"The Theory of Everything Part 1"||Michael Mills, Cristina Scabbia||3:01|
|4.||"The Prodigy's World"||Scabbia, Tommy Karevik||1:31|
|5.||"The Teacher's Discovery"||JB, Karevik, Marco Hietala||2:58|
|6.||"Love and Envy"||Squadrani, Hietala||2:39|
|8.||"The Gift"||JB, Mills||2:38|
|9.||"The Eleventh Dimension"||Instrumental||1:46|
|11.||"The Theory of Everything Part 2"||Scabbia, Mills||1:50|
|Phase II: Symmetry|
|12.||"The Consultation"||John Wetton, Karevik, Scabbia||3:49|
|13.||"Diagnosis"||Wetton, Mills, Scabbia||2:48|
|14.||"The Argument 1"||Scabbia, Mills||0:24|
|15.||"The Rival's Dilemma"||Hietala||2:22|
|17.||"A Reason to Live"||JB, Squadrani||0:45|
|20.||"Dark Medicine"||Wetton, Mills||1:23|
|Phase III: Entanglement|
|4.||"Side Effects"||Wetton, Mills, Karevik||2:59|
|6.||"Magnetism"||Karevik, Squadrani, Hietala||3:54|
|7.||"Quid Pro Quo"||Hietala, Karevik, Squadrani||3:09|
|9.||"Fortune?"||Hietala, Squadrani, Karevik||1:36|
|Phase IV: Unification|
|10.||"Mirror of Dreams"||Squadrani, Scabbia||2:30|
|11.||"The Lighthouse"||JB, Karevik||3:16|
|12.||"The Argument 2"||Mills, Scabbia||0:49|
|13.||"The Parting"||Scabbia, Mills||3:27|
|14.||"The Visitation"||Mills, Karevik||3:27|
|15.||"The Breakthrough"||Karevik, Mills||2:00|
|17.||"The Uncertainty Principle"||JB, Squadrani||2:09|
|19.||"The Theory of Everything Part 3"||Scabbia, Squadrani||1:29|
|20.||"The Blackboard (Reprise)"||JB||1:13|
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