After many years of work and many bands behind (Bodine, Vengeance), Arjen Anthony Lucassen has finally found the ideal means to develop all his musical thoughts. Under this name, Arjen has released two works of a different quality level ("The final experiment" and "Actual fantasy") and an excellent work called Into the electric castle with which he began to surround himself with excellent company. Now Arjen gives another turn to the screw in his career presenting a double conceptual work. Some can tell me: "OK, their previous album was also double and conceptual". Yes and no. The new project of Arjen is called "Universal Migrator", it is presented in two dif-fe-rent albums (that is to say, you will be able to you buy them independently) and its biggest pretentiousness is that each album has a different music style. One moves into heavy progressive metal and the other one into classic progressive rock, all under the careful supervision of Arjen. Quite similar to what the American Djam Karet made with "Burning the hard city" and "Suspension and displacement", two albums with very different characteristics but with a single concept.
"The Dream Sequencer" is the first part and the guests are vocalists such as Edward Reekers (Kayak), Lana Lane, Johan Edlund (Tiamat) or even Neal Morse (Spock´s Beard). The core members of the band are Lucassen (guitars, mellotron, hammond, bass, keyboards and several synths), Erik Norlander (Rocket Scientists) to piano, hammond, voice in vocoder and synthesizers, and Rob Snijders (Celestial Season) to drums. As guest musicians, the always present Clive Nolan that already collaborated in "Into the electric castle", and that repeats in this new project.
A robotic masculine voice and that of Lana Lane introduce us in the trip, in between diverse effects and space noises, with "The dream sequencer" (5:08) an exquisite instrumental piece that navigates in between influences of Eloy-Tangerine Dream in the background, and a spacey guitar a la Gilmour. A start that omens a good listen. "My house on mars" (7:49) is a very hypnotic track, sung by the treated voice of the Martian Johan Edlund (I recommend you their band Tiamat) and the beautiful and delicate voice of Floor Jansen (After Forever). The references to Pink Floyd continue, mainly in the vocal melodies and a guitar solo, and the treatments Hawkwind-Eloy in the use of synths. The high quality level remains. "2084" (7:42) is the first piece sang by Lana Lane and it develops starting from countless layers of mysterious synthesizers on which rest very suggestive acoustic guitars. Lana sings really well and Clive Nolan and Arjen provide with a tense solo of guitar and synthesizers. "One small step" (8:46) begins in epic-galaxy way and turns into a ballad sung by Edward Reekers (Kayak) but that is developed finally in an impressive mixture between the most epic Floyd and the Ayreon of the last album. The song is a marvel in spite of the fact that the vocal melodies are not an example of originality and that the voice of Reekers is not the most appropriate. Nevertheless, the sound effects, the hammonds, the blinks to head-music, the craziness a la Hawkwind and the guitar solo with a lot of feeling make of this piece something special. Lets move to the following song, The shooting company of "Captain Frans B. Coco" (7:57), with a marked Ayreon accent -yes, Ayreon already has its own sound- that could be defined as a mixture spacey-prog with soft and melancholic elements, clouds of synthesizers and stratospheric sensations. Tension, epics, tranquillity and other sensations come to mind with this topic. The treated voice of Mouse (Tuesday Child) and Lana Lane choirs round up the composition.
More space effects and aquatic noises begin "Dragon on the sea" (7:09), sung by Lana Lane and that would have been brilliant with Annie Haslam's voice as it seems a mixture of Eloy/Floyd with Renaissance playing in Saturn (in this last case in the vocal melodies and the treatment of the acoustic guitars). The first single of the album is "The temple of the cat" (4:11), a seemingly simple song in which they show slight references to Renaissance and a more folky accent in the arrangements (strings, flutes). Jaqueline Govaert's voice (Krezip) is perfect. A beautiful moment of tranquillity that serves as a preamble to "Carried by the wind" (3:59), another song easy to assimilate with a folk inspiration in which Lucassen sings and that contains a melody of unforgettable guitar. The calmness continues with the start of "And the druids turn to stone", a guitar solo over a backdrop of acoustic guitars a la "Wish you were here" and a later development in the Procol Harum style in which Damian Wilson's clear voice (Landmarq, Threshold) rests on analogue keyboards and hammonds while light synths round up the atmosphere. The successive guitar and keyboards solos make the song be impressive. We are coming to the end in which Neal Morse puts the voice to "The first man on earth" (7:19). This man is able to print the personality of Spock´s Beard to everything he sings, even he does not participate in the composition of the music. The track is very vigorous and it possesses some interesting mellotrons and arrangements a la Spock´s and Beatles of "Strawberry fields forever". Specially interesting is the final riff of Arjen. The last piece "The dream sequencer reprise" (3:36) is a revision of the first topic and has another Floydian guitar solo made-in-Lucassen. An exquisite end for an exquisite disk.
Not to extend more in my final valuation, only to say that if you like the references that I have given along the review and you are fanatic of space progressive rock with epic elements and film score connotations, this album is made for you. In fact, I believe that this album will satisfy all followers of good music