Review: Ayreon – Transitus

Mr. Arjen Lucassen again succeeded to keep a project a secret. This time it is called Transitus. A horror rock opera with a comic included that guides you through the story. Let me first say that the comic is absolutely beautiful. The illustrations of Felix Vega are truly a work of art. However, it is going to be difficult to review Transitus as the massive project it actually is if I also include a review of the comic, so let’s stick to the music, shall we?

From the first tones of the opening Fatum Horrificum the spooky horror vibe is imminent. Narrator Tom Baker, known for his role in Doctor Who, tells you exactly what you are in for with his ominous and menacing voice. He introduces the listener to the two lead roles of this story. Daniel, played by Tommy Karevik and Abby, played by Cammie Gilbert. Then there is a musical part that immediately shows how greatly crafted this album is going to be. After that the words Fatum Horrificum greet you in a horrifying and disconcerting way. This whole first track divided into parts lasts for a total of 10 minutes and leaves you wondering what is going to happen next.

Further down the track list in Two Worlds Now One we actually meet Abby and Daniel for the first time properly. Cammie Gilbert’s voice immediately brings a very unique sound to Ayreon and it fits seemingly together with the powerful and sometimes raw voice of Tommy. Before that we quickly meet the Angel of Death played by Simone Simons from Epica in the short track Listen to My Story, but more on her later. Arjen told in interviews that Transitus didn’t begin as an Ayreon album and there are still some instances that this can be heard and that to me is very positive, because the album feels very fresh. To me it feels straighter to the point than some of the earlier Ayreon albums and is, other than in service of the music also a servant of the story. This might have something to do with the incredible choice for a narrator, but that also might be my personal preference.

In Talk of the Town, an up-tempo song, you hear the level of detail that has gone into this album. When the song begins you hear people gossiping in the background, hence the title. Some central themes of the album are beginning to take shape now. It is a classic love story with aristocratic and racial backdrops dipped into some horrifying supernatural stuff. The album uses some returning musical motives and melodies while each time, depending on what the story needs adding flavor and suspense to it. Everything has been carefully thought through. The singers enter at exactly the right moments and this also goes for the instrumentalists. Michael Mills enters the fray in Dumb Piece of Rock. What can I say about this guy? The harmonies he creates with his voice alone are from another planet. This guy is everything and I just can’t describe it, other than to urge you to listen to it. If any of you bought the earbook edition, then be sure to listen to the 5.1 mix on the DVD, because this song and many others on the album are a treat in glorious Dolby Digital. None other than Joe Satriani himself performs an incredible guitar solo on the song Get Out! Now!. This song again showers us with incredible vocals and harmonies. The rhythm section here is also outstanding and incredibly tight. Seven Days Seven Nights is a beautiful and calm song. It’s time for the aforementioned Simone Simons to shine together with her two Fury demon ladies played by Marcela Bovio and Caroline Westendorp. These three ladies are in perfect sync with each other. Let me say that the vocal diversity of Marcela Bovio is absolutely unparalleled here. However, there has never been a moment that I am totally convinced by the vocal capabilities of Simone Simons more than when she is with Ayreon. And maybe even specifically on this album. With all due respect to Epica of course. Generally speaking, Arjen seems to pull out everything a singer has to offer time and time again. Yes, all the people on this album can sing, but every time I listen to an Ayreon album it amazes me how well it all syncs together! And to me that is especially apparent with Simone. Condemned Without A Trial uses the most apparent musical motive again and supports this with heavy guitars and very powerful drums. It strongly seems like Arjen made the right choice of not letting alumni Ed Warby play the drums this time. Juan van Emmerloot does an excellent job and is very versatile. Hopelessly Slipping Away is probably one of my favorite songs on the album. Like I said earlier, the two lead roles couldn’t be more perfectly chosen, they just belong to each other in this story. This Human Equation is perhaps the best song by the Angel of Death and her Furies. In this song there is also a reference to another successful Ayreon album called The Human Equation. Universal Migrator is also mentioned. I don’t want to repeat myself by consistently talking about harmonies, however, with this album I seem to have no choice in the matter. Because again in this song the harmonies are spot on and the girls fit each other perfectly and it’s all perfectly splendid. Henry’s Plot best describes itself as a powerful Disney villain song. Both Henry and Lavinia played by Paul Manzi and Amanda Somerville deliver an almost theatrical duet that just oozes musicality.

I initially said to myself that I wasn’t going to review this album track by track, however, it seems that I did this partially anyway. This is due to the fact that so much is happening on this album that really excites me! The last thing I want to talk about in this review is the fact that literally everything is in the details. Like I said, the music perfectly guides the story and vice versa. The sound effects, like for example fire and rain and even an epic storm, give a cinematic feel to it and help bring the story to life. It makes it a musical audiobook. If you combine this with the visuality of the comic, Transitus lets you dive into one of Arjen’s brainchild’s and completely lose yourself. The master did it again and I should say go and experience it yourself because you don’t want to miss this!

You can also read our earlier review of Ayreon’s The Source here, as well as our interview with Ayreon’s Arjen Lucassen here.

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