REVIEW: Arjen Lucassen’s Star One – Revel In Time

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Once upon a time, Dutch progressive metal composer Arjen Lucassen released an incredible debut album for a new project, called STAR ONE. The album was titled “Space Metal” and progheads all over the world rejoiced by its ingenuity and catchy offerings like “Songs of the Ocean” and “Intergalactic Space Crusaders.” While he proclaimed that he may never be able to capture its atmosphere in any future release, we were all surprised by the dystopian character of “Victims of the Modern Age,” which was released in 2010. After working tirelessly on Transitus for AYREON, Arjen Lucassen wanted to do something a little bit more straightforward, so he plugged in his guitar and started composing a brand new STAR ONE album: “Revel in Time.” This progressive guitar feast is going to be released on February 18th, 2022, via InsideOut Music.

Each of the tracks off “Revel in Time” is inspired by a sci-fi movie about time traveling. Subsequently, it’s fun to listen to the album and try to guess what movies may have inspired Arjen Lucassen this time around. We’ll leave the guessing to the listeners, so no spoilers! Although, they may already float somewhere on the worldwide web anyway.

“Revel in Time” has a plethora of guests; in fact, every track has a different singer and this time around, Arjen Lucassen has invited some new talent who have earned their stripes in the metal world. One example is UNLEASH THE ARCHERS‘ lead vocalist Brittney Slayes, whose glorious voice is paraded in the album’s opener “Fate of Man.” One of Arjen Lucassen‘s many talents is to push vocalists into extraordinary levels of awesomeness. While we don’t precisely hear Brittney doing anything differently than what she does in her main band – she is just that good – that last high note is what true bliss sounds like. The song itself kicks off with an electronic soundscape and Arjen Lucassen‘s trademark keyboard sounds before it accelerates and plummets into a time-traveling fury of a progressive metal extravaganza, add into that an incredible solo by Michael Romeo (SYMPHONY X).

The plethora of keyboards are left behind in “28 Days (Till the End of Time),” which starts with heavy guitar riffs and bouncy, groovy bass lines. During the verses, the instruments take a seat, accompanied mostly by keyboard chords, bass, drums, while Sir Russel Allen sings ominously, befitting the title. Let’s not forget the pretty slick solo in there as well, backed by some dark and groovy rhythms. Allen doesn’t need much to keep an entire audience of listeners captivated, all he needs to do is sing whoa-whoa and it sounds powerful, thus it doesn’t surprise anyone that this second track is once again a banger thanks to his undeniable presence.

While “28 Days (Till the End of Time)” was relatively dark and very heavy, “Prescient” works on a rather different plane of sound. At a first glance, this track could have easily been an AYREON track, but somehow in the context of the album, it works very well, adding to the dynamics of this album. Both Mike Mills [TOEHIDER] (a regular collaborator these days) and Ross Jennings [HAKEN] are featured on this track and their vocals blend surprisingly well together on opposite sides of the vocal spectrum. Due to the many-layered vocals towards the end (surely a contribution from Mills), it’s clear to see why Ross Jennings was invited. “Prescient” is perhaps the most intricate song to listen to on “Revel in Time,” yet somehow it has a lightness to it that makes the listening experience altogether easy on the ear.

The hard rock banger “Back from the Past,” is fairly stylistically reminiscent of RAINBOW, so it’s no surprise that Arjen Lucassen invited a vocal legend such as Jeff Scott Soto, as his deep, powerful vocals fit very well with the heavy riffs and choirs that surround his voice. “Back from the Past” is definitely one of the most straightforward songs, but don’t take that to mean boring, as the solo explores everywhere. The title track, “Revel In Time,” is an epic earworm that starts with impressive vocals by Brandon Yeagley, that take the lead as the song begins. In the same sphere of the prior track, this song has a catchy chorus that will make it an excellent live track. The title track proves that you don’t need speed to create one hell of a track if you’ve got stylish grooviness in your rhythms, while the choppy pacing really works to elevate the song.

The song I was looking forward to the most though was “The Year of ’41” featuring Joe Lynn Turner, Will Shaw, Joel Hoekstra, and Jens Johansson. In contrast with the prior two songs, a beautiful acoustic guitar that’s strumming subtly along with the heavy riffs gives this song a lighter character. It starts off with a guitar riff, drums, and then a simple yet impressive scream by Joe Lynn Turner. The track is pretty standard for a STAR ONE track, mostly focused on a hard rock/heavy metal sound, but little added elements make it extra special. The synth solo by Jens Johansson is an example, after that the track is lifted up to extraterrestrial planes of existence and Joe Lynn Turner shines with an impressive high-pitched scream.

What would an Arjen Lucassen album be without Damian Wilson? The next track, “Bridge of Life,” features the vocalist in what is one of my personal highlights of this record. The song starts off with a cutesy Christmassy intro with glockenspiel, after which guitars take the upper hand. The same Christmassy melody is reprised by an organ and Damian Wilson starts singing in his soulful way. As the song progresses his voice gets more powerful until it climaxes in a timeless chorus. Midway through, “Bridge of Time” becomes a bit more complex and there’s a nice interplay between Damian Wilson and the backing vocalists.

If you think of the prior STAR ONE albums, Dan Swanö is an omnipresent vocalist that was often involved in super cool tracks, much like “Today is Yesterday.” This is perhaps the most fun track on “Revel in Time,” with an intro that’s easily the best piece of musicianship on this record, from grungy heavy riffs to classically-oriented keyboards, all the way to Swanö‘s trademark deep vocals and growls. The verses surprisingly toe the line of industrial metal, capped off by a wicked guitar solo by Marcel Singor and a Moog synth solo by Lisa Bella Donna – you’re almost swept away instantly to another space and time.

By now the word floorgasm has been included in every metalhead’s dictionary, so logically there’s a track with singer Floor Jansen (and her ex-bandmate Joost van den Broek who sweeps out an incredible Hammond solo – raise your hands if you, like me, miss AFTER FOREVER!) The song is a bit slower and more serious than the prior craziness of “Today is Yesterday,” so it’s a welcome change in dynamics. However, it still has its great moments, the most obvious being Floor Jansen‘s powerful vocals, the drumming by Ed Warby, the interlacing of various synth sounds, and of course the previously-mentioned Hammond solo.

The album approaches its end with “Beyond the Edge of it All”; AYREON fans have already seen John Jaycee Cuijpers performing at quite a few shows and his powerful vocals were an absolute necessity on a song like “Beyond the Edge of it All.” Towards the ending, there’s almost a conversation between the backing vocals and John Jaycee Cuijpers, which leads to an impressive ending to a compelling song.

“Lost Children of the Universe” is the first single that Arjen Lucassen released off “Revel in Time” and it’s also the last track from the album. It starts off with a DEEP PURPLE/URIAH HEEP-inspired Hammond organ intro (think of “Child In Time” and “July Morning”). Very simple, yet very powerful along with more keyboards and the deep, yet hauntingly beautiful vocals by Roy Khan. While it takes a while for the song to set off, it doesn’t take long for the hype train to arrive whenever the heavy-ass guitar riffs kick in, after which the Hellscore Choir provides some epic vocals that turn up the track’s epicness. “Lost Children of the Universe” is plain prog storytelling at its best, where the vocals take you to a different realm and the guitar solo by Steve Vai transports you to a parallel universe, where everything is chill and cool. The softness of the outro adds a nice layer of tenderness and hope to the end of the story. This epic finale is truly the best choice to end the album with, even though it feels like the song literally flies by in one second – but hey, that’s a good sign no? The added disc which features the guide vocals that Arjen Lucassen used to help the vocalists perform is an extra bonus which adds a different character to the songs as well.

What’s left to say about this album? If there is one criticism it’s probably that it doesn’t matter how many songs are included in the album, it’s never enough. That aside, STAR ONE‘s “Revel in Time” is perhaps the most dynamic of the three releases. As per usual, this album is very guitar-oriented, however, there are plenty of moments that people who solely enjoy AYREON may also enjoy. The tracks are very diverse, some are a bit darker, but overall the album has a lighter character. A big shout-out to the women in the backing vocals as well, who give texture and life to the tracks. Moreover, this album sounds just like Arjen Lucassen had a blast composing these songs, especially after writing an album with a time span of 3 years (I’m looking at you Transitus), turning it into an instant prog classic that everyone who is remotely interested in Arjen Lucassen‘s work should listen to; the prog extravaganza of 2022!

Written by Laureline T. and Bear W.

Tracklist

1. Fate of Man
2. 28 Days (Till the End of Time)
3. Prescient
4. Back from the Past
5. Revel in Time
6. The Year of ’41
7. Bridge of Life
9. A Hand on the Clock
10. Beyond the Edge of it All
11. Lost Children of the Universe

Lineup

Arjen Lucassen – guitars, bass, keyboards and vocals
Ed Warby – drums
Erik van Ittersum – Solina Strings
Marcela Bovio – backing vocals
Irene Jansen – backing vocals

Label

InsideOut Music

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