Arjen Anthony Lucassen

Arjen Anthony Lucassen is such an inspired musician that soon he will probably exhaust the whole set of known sounds. However, one may expect he will take it as a new challenge for his world has no limits and the only one is human’s imagination.

The beginnings

Since his early years his interests were focused on music. During the school days he was more concentrated on giving gigs than on learning, which seems strange as he couldn’t yet play the guitar. The skill of playing the instrument came later with the  sounds of Deep Purple which inspired Lucasson to treat music as a way of living life.

His first serious band was Bondine. He came for a rehearsal with a strong need for becoming their vocalist and a smouldering hope he would manage to jump into a position of second guitarist. The dream came true and thanks to his already rich experience, Lucassen started to conquer the world and gain the appreciation of musicians and audiences. However, in 1984 Arjen transferred from Bondine to Vengeance considering the change as an opportunity for his development and a chance to direct the band towards some other paths.

The cooperation of Lucassen and Vengeance came to its an end in 1994 after failing to find a common musical denominator. Still, a restless, continuously insatiable Arjen’s nature didn’t allow for a long break in delivering new sensations.  A new solo project of Arjen was released two years after he had parted Vengeance. The album “Pools Of Sorrow, Waves Of Joy” recorded under Anthony title, represented a mixture of diverse styles – from country to progressive – which indicated that gaining independence somehow hampered finding his own way in music. What’s interesting, the solo album contained a germ of what was about to develop into Lucassen’s brand.

Ayreon

The musician’s label grew into the difficult yet infinite potential genre of rock opera. That enterprise had been tempting Arjen for a long time and the great successes of productions like “Tommy” by The Who or “The Wall” by Pink Floyd only made him convinced it was worth risking. Science-fiction and fantasy tales evolved into his favourite theme of the storylines. The fruit of Arjen’s work was the album released in 1995 called “Ayreon: The Final Experiment” telling a story of a blind minstrel Ayreon. The project brought together many artists in the world of rock music and hit the bull’s eye as the form didn’t limit Arjen’s creativity, and all the listeners were speechless with admiration.

The album “Ayreon: The Final Experiment” was released as a no-name project, but at the insistence of the company, further albums were recorded under the Ayreon name. The next long-play, “Actual Fantasy” wasn’t a rock opera, but a concept album clipped together with a fantasy theme.

In 1998 Arjen created one of his most spectacular work maintained again in the rock opera convention, an album “Into the Electric Castle”. The album is about eight different characters taken from various ages, transferred into another, unknown dimension. In order to get back to their own times, they have to find The Electric Castle, struggling on their way with their fears. The album featured, among the others, Fish, Sharon del Adel and Damian Wilson, and the album itself passed into the canon of the genre.

Surprises followed in 2000 with two independent albums: “Dream Sequencer” and “The Flight Of The Migrator” both released under a common name “Universal Migrator”. The story tells about colonisation of Mars and the artist who contributed to the long-play were, among the others, Bruce Dickinson, Neal Morse and Lana Lane. This time however, Lucassen departed the rock opera convention focusing more on particular songs as the individual stories, not dividing them into specific roles. Also the same year came out the album “Ayreonauts Only”, a rarity to the fans, consisting of songs and demo versions which hadn’t appeared on the previous albums for various reasons.

An album of 2004 “The Human Equation” is a story about an inner struggle of a man in coma, and the line-up of the musicians exceeded the most daring expectations of his fans. In recording the album artists James LaBrie, Heather Findlay and Marcela Bovio took part to name but a few.

A break filled with side projects of Lucassen lasted until 2008 when the world heard of another Ayeron masterpiece called “01011001”. It was the darkest Arjen’s story telling about annihilation of mankind, the lineup of the vocalists would even make for an intergalactic cataclysm. This time one can hear Mike Baker, Daniel Gildenlöw, Ty Tabor, Tom Englund and Bob Catley and many more. Apart from that, another album of Ayreon, “Timelines”, was released the same year. It was a compilation that summed up all the Ayreon achievements.

Side projects

Released in 1997 an album mysteriously entitled “Strange Hobby” surprised Arjen’s audience, who had already got used to a specific form in his productions. The material fully recorded by Lucassen included covers of hits from 60’s and 70’s of, among the others, The Beatles, Status Quo and The Who. The album was recorded and re-mastered in the Abbey Road Studio, which for Lucassen, a declared fan of The Beatles, was fulfilling one of his dreams.

In 2001 of Arjen’s music tok another turn in direction. This time he tried his strength in a more ambient genre. For recording the vocal lines, he invited Astrid van der Veen, a gifted 14 year old with a clear, expressive voice. She also wrote the lyrics. As a result, the fans got in their hands an extraordinarily ethereal, climatic album “Fate Of A Dreamer” released under the name Ambeon being combination of Ayreon and ambient.

In 2002, another project, Star One, let Arjen fulfil his dream of recording an album bordering on metal music. The album “Space Metal”, inspired by the cult science-fiction films, managed to gather the best vocalists of the world of hard rock and metal, including again Damian Wilson, but also Russell Allen and Dave Brock. Soon Lucassen decided to hit the road, and one of the gigs was recorded on a live album “Live On Earth” and DVD. All the concerts were extremely exciting to everyone, especially the great number of the artists who had been standing behind the Ayreon project. Touring with Star One suddenly appeared to be possible.

The cooperation with Marcela Bovio who took part in “The Human Equation” went so well that the following year the world was captivated by the news of another Arjen’s project, a band called Stream Of Passion. Initially, the project was to be a solo album of the vocalist. As time went by, it evolved into an independent band featured the very talented guitarist Lori Linstruth who joined the Ayreon team later on. In the frame of “Live In The Real World” tour, the group gave lots of gigs, one of which was recorded on both CD and DVD.

The history of many rock groups shows that experimenting with sound rarely withstands the test of time. Those bans which try different, sometime poles apart genres, often loose their identity and get missed under a pressure of new artists. Arjen Lucassen has certainly found his area, exploration of which is definitely an endless series of surprises for him and his fans. Each hearing of any of his album is a source of new emotions. So with great excitement the world is anticipating a new Ayreon project – Guilt Machine – which, according to Arjen, even for him will be exceptional. Hence, taking into consideration his modesty, we’re standing upon the threshold of a new music era.

Anna Jankowiak

www.ayreon.com

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