Saturday, March 19, 2011

Reminiscing...: Ayreon - Into The Electric Castle (1998)

Entering Ayreon's palace

In the town I lived in the previous country I resided in, there was a mall and in that mall there a Tower Records store. My wife and I used to frequent that store whenever we dropped by that mall every now and then, despite my dislike for the place (plus there was nothing attractive for me there, aside for a supermarket to buy groceries).
I don't remember the exact year this was in, but I guess it was sometime around 2002-3. By that time I had gone back to live in that city, after living in another one in the north, where I did my undergraduate studies.
We went to that mall for whatever reason and at some point we went into Tower. There I started browsing the rock/pop section and then the metal one. In the metal section I started in the Z's and made my way backward towards the A's. As I reached the beginning of the B's, I noticed a big bulgy digipack sticking out from the row. I picked it up and on it was this otherworldly and strange panorama drawing, a very cool picture and a weird sounding name appearing as the band's name: Ayreon.
"Hmmm...., never heard the name before, wonder who they are? A Space Opera... sounds like potential symphonic and cheesy power metal, but it could be good as well, you never know". I let it down and took a note to check out who this was and what the music is like.
Typically, I forgot all about it, 5 minutes after leaving the shop, not remembering a thing about the album until I came back to the shop some weeks later and saw it again. This time I just decided, the hell with it, I'll take a risk (as if I haven't done this before, as was the case for Opeth's orchid, but that's for another Reminiscing post). I bought the album and this time, being in my hands, I didn't forget about it.
At home, I unwrapped it and started "examining" this double cd package, the beautiful drawings, the list of guest musicians and vocalists and the lyrics. I put the cd in the player and the journey began.
This wasn't heavy at all, in fact, quite ear-friendly for people who dislike metal (not me, in case you were fooled). The opening was strange, with that person speaking about picking individuals from various times and putting them to the test on some foreign planet. The music, very much influenced and sounding like space-rock and progressive rock was magical to my ears and the various vocalists enhanced the experience and brought the story of the album to life. Though accessible and beautiful, it took me some time to absorb everything properly, and get to know the songs well. I got captivated by the album in the process, particularly by the songs Isis and Osiris, Amazing Flight, Across the Rainbow Bridge, The Castle Hall and The Two Gates.
After having devoured this album, I went on and got The Final Experiment and the two Universal Migrator albums. I would also anticipate any new recording from him since. But this album remains my favourite.

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