Here’s the story: in the 22nd century humanity finally manages to wipe itself out in a massive world war…. Earth is dead, with not a single person left alive. A few colonists on Mars have enough supplies to last a few more years, but slowly they die off as well. This is the story of the last survivor, the last member of the human species anywhere. He was born on Mars and has never been on Earth, and now he too faces death soon. He chooses to end his days inside the Dream Sequencer, a sort of very advanced virtual reality machine. Inside it, one can relive earlier parts of one’s life, but what’s more, under the “pre-incarnation protocol” it can take you back to relive your past lives as well. So this last human being decides to get in the machine and go back, back, back… as far back as he possibly can before he dies (and trust me, he goes far). After the first song to set things up, each remaining song is about one of his previous lives.
Hokey as hell? Sure. But hey, there’s some good music here. This is, after all, Ayreon — the main project of the very talented multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen (a name you may remember from my previous Star One review. And of course there’s a whole gang of guest vocalists: Damian Wilson (Threshold, Landmarq), Edward Reekers (Kayak), Floor Jansen (After Forever), Jacqueline Govaert (Krezip), Johan Edlund (Tiamat, Lucyfire), Lana Lane, Mark McCrite (Rocket Scientists), and Neal Morse (Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic). So… some nice progressive rock with lots of great vocals, and a SFnal-ish-type story to boot. Not too shabby.
My favorite songs are the first three, and I’ll give you some clips below. “The Dream Sequencer” sets up the story as our protagonist enters the machine. In “My House on Mars” he relives his days growing up as a Martian colonist. In “2084” he goes back to his immediately previous incarnation, who dies during the final war on Earth. This is my very favorite, featuring the lovely voice of Lana Lane (I’m a huge fan of the female voice in rock and metal, and some of Lane’s solo work too), as well as some quite mournful yet poetic lyrics:
My body lies motionless
Upon the kitchen floor
The Earth has died, the world’s at rest
We carried on down the road we chose
The path of nevermore
The journey ends, the book is closed
This is part one of a 2-cd set called The Universal Migrator; but I didn’t care as much for part two, so I won’t delve into that.
For a tracklisting, audio samples, and more info, I’ll refer you to Lucassen’s Universal Migrator page on his website.
“The Dream Sequencer”
“My House on Mars”