Ayreon: The making of Into The Electric Castle

Front cover

Into the Electric Castle is the third album of progressive metal/rock opera project Ayreon by Dutch songwriter, producer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen, released in 1998. Being a concept album, as every Ayreon album, it narrates a science fiction story with exaggerated, flamboyant characters influenced by B-grade science fiction movies. There are eight main characters (each one sung/played by a different vocalist, as is standard in every Ayreon album) from different times and locations. They find themselves in a strange place; guided by a mysterious voice which tells them that they must reach the Electric Castle if they want to survive. Into the Electric Castle is also the first collaboration between Lucassen and Ed Warby, who has since become Lucassen's most regular collaborator: he played drums on every following Ayreon album except Universal Migrator part 1: The Dream Sequencer, in the Star One project of Arjen and in his solo album Lost in the New Real. The album was a commercial success and received overwhelmingly positive reviews from music critics. Although Ayreon has never played live, five songs from Into the Electric Castle were included in Star One live album Live on Earth and two in Stream of Passion album Live in the Real World.

Welcome to the New Dimension


Background

After the previous Ayreon album, Actual Fantasy, sold below expectations, Arjen sought to deliver a top-quality recording with Into the Electric Castle. If the album had not been a success, Lucassen said he would have no longer continued the Ayreon project. Into the Electric Castle received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics, who praised Lucassen's writing and composition abilities and the performances of the singers. Sputnikmusic reviewer stated "if you’re a fan of progressive metal, or even progressive music in general, your collection will not be complete without Into the Electric Castle". Metal Storm acclaimed the album, stating "with so many excellent vocalists, a great number of musical styles incorporated and a duration of over 100 minutes, the only thing greater than Arjen's ambitions, is the actual result: a true masterpiece of progressive rock music." Allmusic reviewer Robert Taylor praised the album, saying that "The massive coordination of such a large project is admirable, but to pull it off with such impressive results is stunning."

Tower of Hope



Plot

The story begins with a strange voice (Peter Daltrey) calling out to the eight characters that are taken from various planes of time. The mysterious voice tells them they are in a place of "no-time and no-space". Urging them to continue, the voice gives them a task: to reach The Electric Castle and find out what's inside. After various steps, they come to the Decision Tree where the voice tells them one of them must die. They must then go through the Tunnel of Light, but the Highlander (Fish) refuses to reach the light, stays behind, accepts his death slowly, and lays himself down to die while the others continue. Then in the Garden of Emotions, the Egyptian (Anneke van Giersbergen), overwhelmed by her emotions, becomes convinced that Amon-Ra is coming to seal her fate. She loses her will to continue and wanders alone until she lays herself down and dies as well. The surviving characters finally reach the Electric Castle, penetrating the Castle Hall. On the Tower of Hope a breeze draws the attention of the Indian (Sharon den Adel), luring her away towards the sun despite the warning of the Knight (Damian Wilson) and the Futureman (Edward Reekers). On the breeze, she encounters Death itself (George Oosthoek and Robert Westerholt) who take her while she screams. The characters then come to their final test: the voice said them that beyond them stands two gates, with one of them leading to oblivion and the second to the desired time of the heroes. One of the gates is old, deteriorated, and ugly, and the other made of gold and appears at first glance to be paradise. The Barbarian (Jay van Feggelen), in his arrogance and pride, walks through the golden gate regardless to his companion's choice, and fall into oblivion forever. Finally, the Knight, the Roman (Edwin Balogh), the Hippie (Arjen Anthony Lucassen) and the Futureman, who had chosen the right gate, discover the true nature of the voice: it is called "Forever of the Stars", and claims that its kind is an alien race who lost all emotions. It also claims its kind caused the emergence of humanity on Earth, and that the eight heroes was an experiment in understanding and/or rediscovering emotions. Feeling tired, the voice tells them to go on ahead and open the door, and that they won't remember what has happened. Back in their real time, the heroes all wonder what had happened, with the Futureman wondering if his memory has been erased, the Roman feeling stronger whatever really happened and the Knight thinking he found the Grail in a magic dream. The voice of the Forever of the Stars is then heard, asking them all to remember Forever.

Cosmic Fusion


Track listing:

CD 1
1. Welcome to the New Dimension (3:05) 
2. Isis and Osiris (11:11) 
a) Let the Journey Begin
b) The Hall of Isis and Osiris
c) Strange Constellations
d) Reprise 
3. Amazing Flight (10:15) 
a) Amazing Flight in Space
b) Stardance
c) Flying Colours 
4. Time Beyond Time (6:05) 
5. The Decision Tree (We're Alive) (6:24) 
6. Tunnel of Light (4:05) 
7. Across the Rainbow Bridge (6:20)

CD 2 
1. The Garden of Emotions (9:40) 
a) In the Garden of Emotions
b) Voices in the Sky
c) The Aggression Factor 
2. Valley of the Queens (2:25) 
3. The Castle Hall (5:49) 
4. Tower of Hope (4:54) 
5. Cosmic Fusion (7:27) 
a) I Soar on the Breeze
b) Death's Grunt
c) The Passing of an Eagle 
6. The Mirror Maze (6:34) 
a) Inside the Mirror Maze 
b) Through the Mirror 
7. Evil Devolution (6:31) 
8. The Two Gates (6:28) 
9. Forever of the Stars (2:02) 
10. Another Time, Another Space (5:20)

Evil Devolution


 Into The Electric Castle lyrics:
http://www.darklyrics.com/lyrics/ayreon/intotheelectriccastle.html


Personnel

Vocalists:
Edwin Balogh-Roman
Sharon den Adel-Indian
Jay van Feggelen–Barbarian
Fish–Highlander
Anneke van Giersbergen–Egyptian
Arjen Anthony Lucassen–Hippie
Edward Reekers–Futureman
Damian Wilson–Knight
Robert Westerholt and George Oosthoek–Death
Peter Daltrey–the Voice

Instrumentalists:
Arjen Anthony Lucassen–all electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, bass, minimoog, mellotron and keyboards
Ed Warby–drums
Roland Bakker–hammonds
Robby Valentine–all pianos, synth solos on "Isis and Osiris a) Let The Journey Begin", "Amazing Flight a) Amazing Flight in Space", and "Tower of Hope", Mellotron "The Mirror Maze a) Inside the Mirror Maze"
Ernő Oláh–violins
Taco Kooistra–cello
Jack Pisters–sitar
Rene Merkelbach–synth solos on "The Decision Tree (We're Alive)" and "Evil Devolution" and harpsichord on "Valley of the Queens"
Clive Nolan–synth solos on "Amazing Flight c) Flying Colours"
Ton Scherpenzeel–synth solos on "Cosmic Fusion c) The Passing of an Eagle"
Thijs van Leer–flute on "Amazing Flight c) Flying Colours", "Time Beyond Time", "Valley of the Queens", and "The Castle Hall"

Production:
Arjen Anthony Lucassen–producing, mixing
Oscar Holleman–mixing
John van den Oetelaar–layout and image handling
Thomas Ewerhard–additional layout for the special edition
Jef Bertels–cover art and all other paintings
Peter van 't Riet–mastering
John Verheijen–scanning

This is Arjen Lucassen's Inside The Electric Castle footage, about the guests and the making of the album.