Has anyone heard of Arjen Anthony Lucassen? Anyone? Anyone? What about Ayreon, Guilt Machine, or Star One? No? Well,that’s not really surprising – not to say that the popularity of Lucassen’s projects is non-existent, but that he certainly isn’t in the mainstream of the music industry and it’s rare to meet anyone who’s heard of him or his projects.And that’s a damnedshame because a vast majority of everything Arjen puts out is monumentally excellent and even the songs that don’t hold up to that bench mark are still very good.
Arjen Anthony Lucassen is one of rock and metal’s best kept secrets. He is so diversely atypical in style, Wikipedia describes him as a progressive metal/rock songwriter, singer,multi-instrumentalist musician and record producer from the Netherlands. Okay, we’ll start with that.
To fully review Arjen’s awsomeness would take a novel. I don’t
have that much time to write it and I’m guessing you don’t have
that much time to read it either. So, I’ll keep it simple with
a review of the 2002 album Space Metal from Arjen Anthony
Lucassen’s Star One.
What really got me interested in this album (and pretty much
everything Arjen has done) was when I happened to hear the song,
“Intergalactic Space Crusaders,” on Pandora Radio. Needless to
say, I was impressed and wanted to hear more. I came to learn
that Arjen’s Star One project is a concept project based on
science fiction movies and TV shows. From a very young age, I
have been a huge science fiction fan (don’t judge), so I grew
even more intrigued. The songs covered Star Trek, Star Wars,
Dune, and Blake’s 7 (the BBC TV show that the song “Intergalactic
Space Crusaders” is based on) to name a few. Listening to the
album in its entirety, I can say it had a very epic, modern,
classical sound greatly influenced by 80′s rock and metal. As you
would expect from an album called Space Metal, it also had a lot
of complex, yet subtle synthesizer parts to all of the songs -
kind of like “classical meets spacey.” What impressed me the most
was how well the guitar and synthesizers worked together and
complimented each other. For instance, when you hit a pinch
harmonic or do a run on the higher register notes, it’s obviously
going to sound thinner and less meatier than playing power
chords. So what Arjen did was thicken up those guitar parts with
synthesizers and vice versa. I point this out because of how
tastefully it was done. Instead of using those parts to show off,
he accented them perfectly and just enough to fill in the gap, so
to speak – very disciplined.
The guitars were written (or so I believe) to have an Yngwie
Malmsteem/Iron Maiden melodic and rhythmic feel, but when the
guitars gets really heavy, it has a sound you might equate to Zakk
Wylde and John Petrucci birthing a riff together. With all the
layering of the different instruments and the thick, deep, dark
(as far as the tone goes) sound this album has, it’s imperative to
point out how incredibly clean, clear and expertly mixed this
Another thing to point out is the transitions between the separate
phrases in each song. They are not as abrupt as you would hear
from bands like Opeth or Dream Theater and not as leading as you
would hear from bands like Ihsahn or The Devin Townsend Project.
Rather, they are a mixture of all the above and smoothly done.
For example, the song “The Eye of Ra” starts out with a slow soft
synth melody, then moves into the verse which has a mysteriously
curious tone played only by a Hammond organ moving into a short
bridge with only deep ominous synth sweeps. After all that, a very
heavy guitar break follows with all the instruments joining in -
in simple terms, it starts with very little going on and then
The point I’m trying to make is that all the songs on this album
go from one end of the spectrum to the other at the drop of a hat,
but the transitions are extremely smooth. In conclusion, this
album is something that anyone who has a love for great music
would enjoy. But one thing I would suggest the first time you
listen to it – don’t be thinking a badass guitar player wrote this
album. Rather, listen to it with the understanding that a badass
composer who happens to be badass on guitar wrote this album.
Either way, I don’t think you will disappointed.
By D Jones