Ayreon’s 8th studio album “The Theory of Everything” might sound like a very “smart”, lyrically complex album, but the “Theory” issue is only a background plot device that gives vibe and drive to this very familiar story about a genius outcast mistreated by society; “Society”, in this story’s context represented by different characters: The Father, The Mother, The Psychiatrist, The Girl, The Rival. And although these characters differ, they all have the same main motif to their roles, which is misunderstanding the young genius (or “The Prodigy“), and treating him badly according to on their own interests:
-The Father totally disregards the emotions of his son, treating him only as a tool that functions\dysfunctions.
-The Psychiatrist is driven only by his education & research, and to promote the latter he is willing to put the prodigy’s life at risk.
-The Rival represents violent competition and manipulation.
Other characters like the girl or the teacher are more balanced, but almost everyone – except the mother – pushes or pulls at the prodigy, abusing him while falsely claiming to “help” him. If you take the “Theory..” issue out, this story feels common & very familiar. It could easily be the story of an intelligent kid with Asperger\ADD\etc, pick your favorite syndrome. I won’t spoil the entire thing for you, but the story is tragic, as most characters are oblivious to their doing, and even the mother, who can see the truth through her compassion, alone by herself cannot stop this collective abuse.
Regarding the music itself, although claimed to be “four long tracks divided into various segments”, I found the division into many mini-tracks makes it very hard to put the pieces together, mentally speaking. Almost each track has its own unique intro and outro – more like a rock opera or a theatric play\musical than “four long tracks”. Now add to that the huge musical variation this album features and you got an immeasurably segmented thing going on. Describing the different genres at hand would be futile, just know this is prog rock done the right way. Arjen Lucassen is one incredibly inspired guy and he makes DT‘s last album look awful. I mean, MORE awful.
However, in terms of musical coherence, the album loses me halfway. I really want my rock\metal to have something to hold onto, be it a repeating chorus or a kickass riff. Repetition is important, even in prog. Creating tension and breaking it is powerful, yes, but without some repetition in between, songs become a disorienting experience. I get that going “full-prog” or how’d you call it perhaps means the composer gives himself complete creative freedom. I respect that kind of art and my guess is listeners will immensely appreciate it. But you certainly will not be rocking to this CD in the traditional sense, unless you are a diehard fan of Lucassen, or are obsessed with musicals.