Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Kaiser's Metal Moment - Arjen Anthony Lucassen

It's time for another Metal Moment, motherfuckers.

It seems that one of my last Metal Moments, Beauty and the Beast, is extremely popular with people who don't look at the rest of my blog.  Of course, it's not because they want an in depth look at the subgenre or a taste of the musical quality of these women of metal.  Hell no.  Almost all of them have been led here by one source: Google image search.  They just want to look at all the hot metal women for a faptastic good time.

Why do you bastards make me regret putting hot chicks on my site?  I like sexy women just as much as the next guy, but it's a pain in the ass when a bunch of turdsuckers just come over to gawk at the sexy pictures and check out nothing else.  If I was having a party and some guy I didn't know came in, grabbed a few beers, and left, I'd tear him a fifth asshole (and if he's missing assholes two through four, I'd work those in, too).

It's a sad balancing act I have to do.  I like having hot women on this blog, but I don't want a bunch of guys just going to the site looking for something to inspire their cockmongling.  Screw that bullshit.  You know what, if you happen to be one of those people, chances are you're not even reading this, so fuck off.

Needless to say, this Metal Moment has nothing to do with hot chicks.  If that doesn't turn you away, if you're really interested in metal, then read on, my friend.

When you think of progressive metal supergroups, what name comes to mind?  If it's not the one that's featured on the title of this post, then let me tell you this: Arjen Lucassen is certainly one of the more prolific individuals when it comes to getting a bunch of great metal musicians together for a project.

If you've never heard of him, that's okay.  To be honest, I didn't know who he was until my cousin-in-law introduced me to Lucassen's most productive project, Ayreon.  Ayreon would, mostly, be considered progressive metal, though the songs range from ethereal prog rock, to heavier metal assaults, to folk and classical styled songs.  Following a classic prog rock trope, all of their studio albums are concept albums, but most of them are also rock operas that tell a story.  In reality, there's only one permanent member of Ayreon:  Lucassen, though he does use the same session drummer, Ed Warby, making him an unofficial member.  The rest of the group is filled with musicians from various metal bands, especially the vocalists.  Each character in Ayreon's rock operas is portrayed by a different singer and has included the likes of James LaBrie (of Dream Theater, who also did their own rock opera album, Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory, but LaBrie played all the characters in that one), Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden), Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), Russell Allen (Symphony X), Tobias Sammet (Edguy, Avantasia), and the lovely ladies Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation), Simone Simons (Epica), and Floor Jansen (ex-After Forever - okay, so there's mention of hot chicks in this post, but you're not getting any pictures).

Thematically, Ayreon's albums have gone from science fiction and fantasy to more psychological concepts and the rotating selection of singers and musicians (Lucassen plays a lot of the instruments while recording, but he does have musicians from other metal bands, such as the ones mentioned above, play on the album as well) make for an eclectic mix of music, though keeping to the progressive root.

If that doesn't sound like Lucassen has his hands full with that project, he's also worked on others, such as the heavily sci-fi influenced Star One, which released one studio album, Space Metal, as well as a live album.  Unlike Ayreon, Star One was more focused on heavier progressive metal infused with space rock.  Originally, the project was conceived by Lucassen and Maiden's Dickinson, but Dickinson's agent called off negotiations when Lucassen mentioned the project online.  Lucassen took what material he had, wrote his own lyrics and set to getting a bunch of his famous collaborators together.  Again, Lucassen and Warby were on the album.  Russel Allen, Floor Jansen, Dan Swanö (ex-Edge of Sanity and another influential force in progressive metal), and Damian Wilson (Headspace) lent their voices.  This time, not so much as individual characters as Space Metal was not a rock opera.  Instead, each of the songs were inspired by different science fiction movies and TV shows, such as The Empire Strikes Back, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Blake's 7 (which the name of the group comes from).
In his free time, when he has any, Lucassen likes to etch
his face on every moon in the galaxy with 
his laser hands.

Of course, there are other projects that Lucassen has worked on.  If you want to know more about his expansive body of work, check out his website.

Just to give you a taste of his work, here's a couple of songs from Ayreon as well as one from Star One.  As I said before, the Star One song was inspired by a sci-fi movie.  Guess which one.  If the title doesn't give it away, which it should, just listen to the lyrics.  I'll give you a hint, the movie came out in 1994 and spawned a series of TV spin-offs that seems to have a greater following than the original movie.

Until next time, lay off the Google image search.

Kaiser out

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