What can you expect from an Ayreon (Arjen Anthony Lucassen) project? A great fantastical story surrounded by epic symphonic metal performed by a cast of thousands. Well, maybe not thousands, but definitely the cream of the crop. This includes Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian, Demons & Wizards), Daniel Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation), Tom S. Englund (Evergrey), Bob Catley (Magnum), Floor Jansen (After Forever, Star One), Michael Romeo (Symphony X), Derek Sherinian (Planet X, Yngwie Malmsteen, ex-Dream Theater), and Tomas Bodin (The Flower Kings) and a multitude other great talent. '01011001' comes on two CDs, which is not unusual for an Ayreon project, and tells a fictional and fantastical story of Planet Y and the seafaring Forever. The story is complex and you can read more about it on Ayreon's web site or the Wikipedia entry. Nevertheless, as much as I enjoy his stories, I listen to an Ayreon project for the depth and strength of the music. Again, I was not disappointed.
Now, there isn't much more to say about '01011001.' This is simply great symphonic metal from one of the best in the field. How does it compare to previous works? Well, it's pretty much along the same caliber: prolific, complex, and elaborate. In other words, it's typical Ayreon. So, the answer is that the continuity remains. As for the best tracks on this work, that is a difficult choice. The work must be taken as a whole, and as a whole it is great. My favorite songs include 'Comatose,'Connect The Dots,' and 'New Born Race' (great guitar intro) on the first CD. On the second half, check out the following: 'The Earth Extinction,' 'The Truth Is Here,' and 'E=MC2,' Michael Romeo (Symphony X) is superb.
I love Ayreon's work. I was first introduced to him through my local independent record store, The Record Connection, and have never looked back. This is quality music by a brilliant composer who surrounds himself with the best talent (much like Tobias Sammet). I was not disappointed in the least, and Ayreon fans will be immensely pleased. Very recommended!
Ayreon (Arjen Anthony Lucassen) has got to be one of the most prolific composers of this generation. '01011001' is equal in quality to his previous works. Surrounded by the best musicians of the day, Ayreon has delivered another masterpiece of epic, symphonic metal.