I am stunned. For whatever reason, I’ve heard very little about Ayreon and The Human Equation. I took a chance and recently purchased this because someone told me that I might like it. Well, I think it is outstanding. This album grabbed me in the very first listen (not always a good thing) and has continued to thrill my ears on subsequent listens (definitely a good thing).
Unlike a lot of listeners, I have a softspot for double album rock operas such as this. When I consider albums that I consider to be prog masterpieces: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (Genesis) and Snow (Spock’s Beard) are two albums that immediately come to mind. The Human Equation may be just as good (if not better) due to the amazing vocalists who all contribute to make this such a special listen.
Eric Clayton, Heather Findlay, Mikael Akerfeldt and Magnus Ekwall are the most noticeable in their performances, while the rest of the vocalists provide wonderful textures to this musical landscape. If I could change anything regarding the vocalists, I would have a little less LaBrie and a little more Clayton and Lucassen.
The entire two-disc album consists of 20 tracks called “days” which comprise the conceptual story. Each vocalist plays a part of either an individual in the story or of an emotion (fear, passion, love, rage, etc.) that grips the protoganist. Arjen Lucassen pulls this whole thing off superbly with each song often becoming a dueling duet as two varying emotions oftentimes pull at the central character. And with every song being loaded with numerous vocalists, there is never a dull moment despite the length of the entire album.
I enthusiastically give this album a rating of Magnificent, but feel that I should point out two minor criticisms. The concept is very unoriginal as it has been done many times before. While the story does have a bit of a twist, the whole man-in-a-hospital-bed thing sure is cliché. The second criticism is almost not worth mentioning, but it is a shameless copy of the James Bond theme used in one of the first couple of tracks. While it sounds good, it is the James Bond theme exactly. Both of these criticisms are really very minor in comparison to the musical smorgasbord that will treat your ears. I highly recommend this piece of art. It has left me stunned.