Thank goodness for Arjen Lucassen. In a world where news coverage can often drag us into the darkness and which constantly mirrors the worst we have to offer, Lucassen is rarely far away in one of his many guises – Ayreon, Guilt Machine, The Gentle Storm, etc – with his passion, his excitement and his ultimately optimistic messages about humankind and our ability to overcome.
More than a decade since he last explored his Star One universe, he’s back with Revel In Time delivering all the special guests, power metal and classic rock stylings and prog embellishments one could wish for.
After a digression – an attempt at a narrative approach on 2010’s Victims Of The Modern Age – Lucassen has returned to his original Star One conceit, basing every song on some popular (and some less well-known) science fiction films. No spoilers, but it shouldn’t be too hard to work out the inspiration from the titles for songs like Back From The Past or Today Is Yesterday. Longtime collaborator Ed Warby is back behind the drum kit and there is the expected cast of vocalists and solo instrumentalists, but most of what we hear is performed by the talented Lucassen himself.
Fate Of Man almost demands fist pumping, grabbing an air-guitar and gawping at the astonishing vocal power of Brittney Slayes from the get-go. Elsewhere, fans of classic heavy rock are likely to thrill at Joe Lynn Turner’s vocal turn over the dirty riffing (and suitably vague nods towards Rainbow) of The Year of ’41, and at the contribution of frequent guest and Nightwish vocalist Floor Jansen on A Hand On The Clock.
Fantastic, crunching riffs feature throughout, with the heaviest possibly found in the aforementioned Fate Of Man, Revel In Time and the inexorable forward motion of Today Is Yesterday, which also features some interesting vocal interplay. Yet this isn’t an unrelenting musical assault – almost every track has dynamic shifts and space to breathe at some point. For example, finale Lost Children Of The Universe has some stirring ensemble singing and serves up portentous slabs of guitar and thick synth sounds, but it also creates room and plays around with sounds and tempo. It also has a lovely showcase guitar solo from Steve Vai that manages to be both technically brilliant and gorgeously melodic.
For fans of the original Star One release and, indeed, of any feel-good, metal-leaning acts, this is a must-buy – check out the option with alternative versions of the whole tracklisting. It’s glorious, uplifting, powerful, joyous and thoroughly entertaining.