Album: Electric Castle Live (and Other Tales)
Label: Mascot Label Group
Finally, some fucking quality.
I won’t lie, I’ve been a HUGE Ayreon fan since… what, 2001? A friend brought his pirated 500Mb music hard drive that had some songs from Actual Fantasy (1996), Into the Electric Castle (1998), The Dream Sequencer (2000), and Flight of the Migrator (2000). I had no idea what the hell I was getting into while listening to “My House on Mars,” thinking about how fucking cool it’d be to live on Mars. Later on, to redeem myself of the sin of maritime robbery, I got most of the Ayreon albums and listened to them, well, ever since, I suppose. I’ve been to every concert that he’s had in Finland and of the three big Amsterdam shows, this particular gig was the only one I missed. Let me tell you: IT SUCKS SO HARD THAT I MISSED IT.
The meat of the DVD (or BluRay in my case) is of course in the concert, which goes through the entirety of Into the Electric Castle, narrated by John de Lancie of Star Trek fame and consequently plays an omniscient and omnipotent being toying with humans. It’s good, it’s great. I already linked the report up there and it’s 99% of what I want to say – mostly few missed opportunities, like why didn’t Robert Soeterboek come out in a Starfleet uniform during “Songs of the Ocean”; the song is about Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home, after all. The narration during “Across the Rainbow Bridge” isn’t the greatest, since it’s pretty integral in the original album and I kind of didn’t like John de Lancie’s take on it. Also “Songs of the Ocean” could’ve been replaced by “Intergalactic Space Crusaders” and it would’ve been better in my opinion, though understandably they chose something different than what they played in Ayreon Universe (2017/18). But that’s it, those are all my gripes. It’s great. I might’ve cried a bit during “Tunnel of Light” and “Valley of the Queens” since Anneke van Giersbergen may have the most beautiful voice in the galaxy. The editing is good, nothing is lingered on for too long or too little, it keeps its pace up competently and thus calls for no further comment.
Where I got my value, however, was the behind the scenes material. It’s informative, funny, and heart-warming. Most of the BtS stuff is interview footage with Arjen Lucassen, Joost van den Broek, and the cast of the show, of course. My favorite parts are the interviews with Damian Wilson and John de Lancie. I never knew how funny Damian Wilson is. He seems so dorky and I love it. I could listen to him for hours just talking about nothing. Mr. de Lancie’s story about how he got involved in the production was funny too, bless his agent. There is rehearsal footage, fan interviews, and some miscellaneous goofing around, pretty much everything you’d expect from any production. As said, it was quite informative on how everything worked and what was involved in it, including the apparent nightmare that was the metal mesh for the titular Electric Castle.
The third piece of this DVD is the interview, which is mostly unedited footage of the two masterminds, aforementioned misters Lucassen and van den Broek. It had some new information that wasn’t in the BtS section and it’s good for watching if you just want the “dry” stuff without any fluff. I did find a section in the interview funny, where Mr. Lucassen said that he made ItEC with the express reason of not having to do a live show because he doesn’t like doing them, yet here he is. He just seems like a really great guy and from what I’ve heard of him, it’s probably true. Also there’s a dog, and a pretty damn cute dog at that.
It’s great. I love it. I thought at first that I’d just watch it once, watch the special features, and then write about it, but it’s been playing for 2 days almost non-stop, it’s that impressive. Every time I listen to it I hear some new intonation that I missed or I notice an expression from one of the performers and it just keeps getting better.
Even now, the last thing I wanted to mention is that Edward Reekers sounds so jarring to me. That voice shouldn’t be able to form inside his body, since it’s so smooth and gentle. I see that man and I think of the late, great Dan Haggerty that was punching people on the road and interrogating them about Nazi elves. They look so similar, it’s uncanny.
Final score: 9.5/10, 5 stars
Into the Electric Castle
1. Welcome to the New Dimension
2. Isis and Osiris
3. Amazing Flight
4. Time Beyond Time
5. The Decision Tree (We’re Alive)
6. Tunnel of Light
7. Across the Rainbow Bridge
8. The Garden of Emotions
9. Valley of the Queens
10. The Castle Hall
11. Tower of Hope
12. Cosmic Fusion
13. The Mirror Maze
14. Evil Devolution
15. The Two Gates
16. “Forever” of the Stars
17. Another Time, Another Space
18. Shores of India (The Gentle Storm)
19. Ashes (Ambeon)
20. Out in the Real World (Stream of Passion)
21. Twisted Voil (Guilt Machine)
22. Kayleigh (Marillion)
23. Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin (Arjen Lucassen)
24. Songs of the Ocean (Star One)