Ayreon – Into The Electric Castle (2018 re-issue)

If perchance you have never encountered this album before, here’s the concept: way back before the new millennium, the mad genius space hippie Arjen Lucassen brought together a lot of other exceptional instrumentalists and vocalists and made an album. On this album, some unknown entity has kidnapped a bunch of characters from various points in earth’s timeline and brought them together for what seems like the ultimate psychedelic escape room: the Electric Castle. Here, the characters are confronted with their culture’s beliefs around death, self, and the supernatural, all voiced by a phenomenal international cast, among which Sharon den Adel, Damian Wilson, and Fish.

Ever wondered what it would be like to witness an argument between a barbarian and a hippy, in space? Those must have been some great drugs you were on, try listening to this album next time you do them.

The original came out in 1998 via Transmission Records and 2004 saw a special edition re-release through InsideOut. But now, on the 20th anniversary, the epic space opera Into The Electric Castle has been remixed, remastered and definitively re-released by Mascot Label Group/Music Theories Recordings. Yes, you read that correctly: remixed! Arjen actually dug out all the files of the original recordings and made the album all over again!

Compared to the 2004 version (the CD of which this author happened to have lying about the house), the balance between instruments and effects is changed at times, and vocals are cleaner and clearer in the new version. On occasion, Arjen has chosen a different line or brought a different instrument to greater prominence, or just added more instruments. One prominent example is the song ‘Tower of Hope’. The drums are more pronounced, and both the solo and the end of the song have been tweaked. Casual listeners might not even notice, but the consummate Ayreon-nerd will. Perhaps the best change is in ‘The Two Gates’, where Jay van Feggelen’s amazing final section as The Barbarian is now fully audible. Overall, this new mix is crisp and modern, and will see the album through the next few decades.

After the great success of the Ayreon Universe shows last year, September 2019 will see Ayreonauts flocking to Tilburg 013 again for Electric Castle Live, And Other Tales. These four shows (that are already sold out and lined up to be recorded for a subsequent DVD release) will see the album performed in its entirety, and a remarkable portion of the original cast will be there to reprise their original roles – including, of course, Arjen Lucassen himself as The Hippie.

Click here for full order details of the different formats, including a very limited edition gold vinyl