Being confirmed Arjen Anthony Lucassen as one of the progressive artists to keep in mind in this early new millennium due to the success of "Into the electric castle" and double concept album "Universal Migrator", and while the first delivery of his new project "Ambeon" is finished, all the Ayreon fans and general progressive lovers are awarded with this one hour album which offers demos, alternative versions and assorted surprises. Let's go in parts:
Alternative versions: The first version is "Into the black hole" (10:46) sung by Damian Wilson and Lana Lane instead of Bruce Dickinson, who this time gives chorus only. To be true, I think that both Damian and Lana gives more magic to the track than Bruce's vocals, making the song totally different from the original and showing how important a voice can be. Robert Soeterboek is the one in charge of doing vocals in "To the solar system" (7:12), giving a more bluesy and hard rock feel that the original one sung by Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius). Something similar happens to "Through the wormhole" (6:14) sung by Ian Parry in a more "classical" mood than the original sung by Fabio Lione (Rhapsody). One can say that all the original tracks defined as hard progressive rock are stripped from its heavy metal component to definitively adopt a classic vocal character. To conclude with the "Migrators", we find a beautiful acoustic version of "Temple of the cat" (3:07) sung by Astrid Van Der Veen (we will speak of her later) instead of Jacqueline Govaert. From "Actual Fantasy" there is only one version of "Beyond the last horizon" (5:34) sung by Gary Hughes (Ten) quite worse than the original. From "The final experiment" there are three tracks: "The charm of the seer" (3:30) sung by Arjen himself and being better than expected but not as good as the original version; "Eyes of time" (5:10) where Leon Goewie (ex Vengeance) does his best to complicate the song with his voice making a final noisy version; and "Nature´s dance" (2:33), a beautiful acoustic guitar driven track with the voice of Arjen not filtered by Hammond's Leslie as it was in the original.
Demos: here we can find the original version of "Chaos" (opening track of "Flight of the migrator") originally recorded nine years ago while Arjen was in Planet Nine, now renamed as "Carpe Diem" (4:15). A very faithful version to the original but suffering the lack of Ed Warby's drums.
Surprises: The first one is "Original Hippie´s amazing trip" (6:38) sung by Mouse who originally had to be the hippie in "Into the electric castle" but was replaced by Arjen. With a beautiful Floydian feel the hippie's character from the CD is developed with the help of the good choirs of Anneke Van Giersbergen and Edward Reekers.
But the great surprise is "Cold metal" (7:10) a preview of Ambeon, the new project of Arjen with the splendid voice of Astrid Van der Veen, an only 14 year-old lady!. The "Ambeon" project is an Arjen's idea which seeks a more ambient effect to Ayreon music. This track shows a new direction in the career of Arjen, beautiful and rich music with a moderate and pleasant ambient touch.
All this is "Ayreonauts only", a special price limited edition CD which completists will love and progressive community will not dislike, with all the proper ingredients to assure a good listening. Nevertheless, if you don't have any material from this Dutchman, it is always better to pick any of their original works.