Ayreon - Loser review


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Band: Ayreon
Album: Loser
Release date: September 2004

01. Loser [Star One version]
02. How You Gonna See Me Now [acoustic version] [Alice Cooper cover]
03. Into The Black Hole [acoustic live version]
04. Castle Hall [acoustic version]

Time plays a big role in the choice of single track for the album. The choice itself depends on whether the single comes before or after the release of the album. The one that comes before must make a sneak preview of the album, attract new audience and tease fans as is often the case. The one that comes later usually comes out by popular demand of the happy audience. And thus is the case with this particular single from Ayreon. "The Human Equation" has been a real blast on the world and surprisingly to the mastermind Arjen Anthony Lucassen himself the most controversial track "Day sixteen: Loser" has been the most popular one. And thus it was decided to thank people by releasing this track as a single.

Because "Loser" was being filmed on the video tape and, as Arjen didn't want to end up playing most of the instruments himself, the line-up had to be changed. Eventually it's more or less a Star One version of the track, especially as far as the line-up is concerned. Ed Warby is on the drums, Joost van den Broek on keyboards, Peter Vink on bass and master Lucassen plays guitars. But as mentioned the track is controversial, so there are also didgeridoo by Jeroen Goossens and flute by John McManus, and of course magnificent vocals by Mike Baker in the style of Alice Cooper, and Devin Townsend doing his most raging screams.

So what's so special about this track? It doesn't happen often when didgeridoo and flutes are mixed up with prog metal into such an ear-catching track. Unfortunately because Ken Hensley couldn't come to record the video, the single version does not feature an amazing Hammond solo which you could hear on the album. And as Arjen couldn't have Joost do Ken's solo instead of Ken himself, you are delivered a short keyboard and guitar duel. It has a good and catchy melody and is going fast with great drum rhythm in the background. It sounds even though it is not as good as Joost and Arjen did on the live show of Star One. And it does not beat Ken's dirty Hammond sound. But you still get great singing from Mike Baker. You got to hear him portraying a crazy father who has come to laugh at his son in a coma. Imagine a situation like that! "I came here to watch you bleed, oh how I love to gloat" Funny and painful at the same time. Devin is the only man who is missing from the clip but is still featured on the track. Amazing how this man can scream.

Along with the single track come three more. Firstly an acoustic cover of Alice Cooper's track "How You Gonna See Me Now?" originally released in 1978 on "From the Inside" album. When it was first mentioned that Arjen and Mike were going to do Cooper's cover I figured it would have been something angrier. Instead a ballad. But still quite a beautiful one. Originally it was inspired by the letter Cooper wrote to his wife from the hospital while trying to overcome alcoholism and because of that I wondered why this track was picked for covering. Of course it was quite a hit in Holland in it's own time. Though Mike did a great job singing "Loser", Alice remains ahead on this one. Not much though - they do have similar voices. But one thing that I miss in the cover version is piano. It made the song deeper.

Secondly you get two acoustic tracks with Irene Jansen on vocals. "Into the Black Hole" was recorded during the pre-release party on 18th April 2004. A great live performance that just cannot be compared to the original version of the song where Bruce Dickinson was singing. These two are just too different. Irene has a very emotional voice and sings the song in her own way. And the classic Ayreon track "Castle Hall" only confirms that. It was wonderful to hear those tracks sung differently. As well that they are acoustic - acoustic tracks are always interesting to listen to in comparison.

So, to buy or not? Sure. You get great three great tracks beside the single. In it's own way this single is an intriguing piece. For fans it's a must. For other people it could be a great spring-board to listen to more Ayreon. On the other hand this gives totally wrong impression of what Ayreon really is. But at least it can get people interested. So, grab it and decide for yourself. And seek "Loser" video on TV.


Written on 01.08.2004 by I shoot people.

Sometimes, I also write about it.

And one day I'm going to start a band. We're going to be playing pun-rock.

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