Album Reviews

Star One – Revel in Time Review

Label: InsideOut Music

Release Date: February 18th, 2022

Genre: Progressive Metal

Links: https://www.facebook.com/ArjenLucassenOfficial

 

Line Up:

Arjen Lucassen – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Vocals

Ed Warby – Drums

Erik van Ittersum – Solina Strings

Marcela Bovio – Backing Vocals

Irene Jansen – Backing Vocals

 

Tracklist:

 

Disc 1:

1. Fate of Man ft. Brittney Slayes (Lead Vocals), Michael Romeo (Guitar Solo)

2. 28 Days (Till the End of Time) ft. Russell Allen (Lead Vocals), Timo Somers (Guitar Solo)

3. Prescient ft. Ross Jennings (Lead Vocals), Michael Mills (Lead Vocals)

4. Back From the Past ft. Jeff Scott Soto (Lead Vocals), Ron Bumblefoot Thal (Guitar Solo)

5. Revel in Time ft. Brandon Yeagley (Lead Vocals), Adrian Vandenberg (Guitar Solo)

6. The Year of ’41 ft. Joe Lynn Turner (Lead Vocals), Will Shaw (Backing Vocals), Joel Hoekstra (Guitar Solo), Jens Johansson (Keyboard Solo)

7. Bridge of Life ft. Damian Wilson (Lead Vocals)

8. Today is Yesterday ft. Dan Swano (Lead Vocals), Lisa Bella Donna (Keyboards), Marcel Singor (Guitar Solo)

9. A Hand on the Clock ft. Floor Jansen (Lead Vocals), Joost van den Broek (Keyboard Solo)

10. Beyond the Edge of it All ft. John Jaycee Cuijpers (Lead Vocals), Arjen Lucassen (Guitar Solo)

11. Lost Children of the Universe ft. Roy Khan (Lead Vocals), Hellscore Choir (Choir Vocals), Steve Vai (Guitar Solo)

 

Disc 2:

1. Fate of Man ft. Marcelo Bovio (Lead Vocals), Michael Romeo (Guitar Solo)

2. 28 Days (Till the End of Time) ft. John Jaycee Cuijpers (Lead Vocals), Timo Somers (Guitar Solo)

3. Prescient ft. Will Shaw (Lead Vocals)

4. Back From the Past ft. John Jaycee Cuijpers (Lead Vocals), Ron Bumblefoot Thal (Guitar Solo)

5. Revel in Time ft. John Jaycee Cuijpers (Lead Vocals), Adrian Vandenberg (Guitar Solo)

6. The Year of ’41 ft. Alessandro Del Vecchio (Lead Vocals), Will Shaw (Backing Vocals), Joel Hoekstra (Guitar Solo), Johansson (Keyboard Solo)

7. Bridge of Life ft. Wilmer Waarbroek (Lead Vocals)

8. Today is Yesterday ft. Arjen Lucassen (Lead Vocals), Lisa Bella Donna (Keyboards), Marcel Singor (Guitar Solo)

9. A Hand on the Clock ft. Irene Jansen (Lead Vocals), Marcela Bovio (Lead Vocals), Joost van den Broek (Keyboard Solo)

10. Beyond the Edge of it All ft. Mike Andersson (Lead Vocals), Arjen Lucassen (Guitar Solo)

11. Lost Children of the Universe ft. Tony Martin (Lead Vocals), Hellscore Choir (Choir Vocals), Steve Vai (Guitar Solo)

 

It seems every year I emerge from the first two months with a strong album-of-the-year candidate. This year, I’ve already heard a few excellent metal albums that normally would be contenders for my album of the year, but going in I already had one particular album I was eyeing, in anticipation of it overtaking everything else. That, of course, would be Revel in Time, the third album from Dutch songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen, who has released several of my favorite albums of all time and is undoubtedly my favorite musician and songwriter in the world. Every time he releases something I await it with great anticipation, and he rarely disappoints me. Needless to say, Revel in Time is no exception to the rule, and is in fact what I’d consider one of his top five or so releases to date!

Compared to Lucassen’s more famous Ayreon project, which tends to cover a wide range of different styles on each album, Star One is meant to be his main progressive metal project, featuring a mix of heavy riffs and very complex arrangements, to go along with his usual knack for fantastic melodies and a wide range of guests. Where Space Metal was one of his more fun albums, with a lot of rather light, upbeat tracks, to go along with a couple more epic ones, Victims of the Modern Age was a much darker, heavier album, and largely featured on more complex tracks than its predecessor. Revel in Time falls somewhere in the middle, having the more crisp, modern production of the latter, as well as plenty of heaviness, atmosphere, and some complex arrangements, but it also brings back a lot of the fun and catchiness of the debut, with some of Arjen’s most addictive choruses to date, as well as plenty of fantastic vocal hooks, to go along with some epic instrumental work, of course. As always, Arjen has brought in a ton of excellent guest musicians to provide some epic solos, and of course longtime collaborator Ed Warby is on hand, providing some excellent drum work, as fans would expect.

Fans of Star One and Arjen, in general, should know exactly what to expect, as he isn’t likely to attempt anything too new or different at this point, but everything is executed to absolute perfection, with the performances and songwriting being fantastic all around, as usual. I find in general the pace of the album is quite a bit slower, even compared to Victims of the Modern Age, with the opener being the only track I’d say has strong power metal influences, but there’s still a good amount of variety to the tracks, with some being more atmospheric or complex, while others are more straight-forward and super flashy. Every song is fantastic in its way, though, and while a couple took time to grow on me, I’d say this is the most consistently entertaining of the three Star One albums to date, as well as my personal favorite. As usual, this is a concept album, with each track being centered around a specific time travel-themed movie, so fans of the movies in question are sure to get an extra kick out of the songs.

Revel in Time is slightly different from past releases, though, when it comes to its vocal approach: While the first two albums both used a group of four lead singers throughout the entire album, this time around Lucassen has gone with an approach similar to his Universal Migrator set, featuring different vocalists on each track, further splitting it up by releasing two discs, both being identical in terms of music, but each featuring different lead vocalists. For the most part, Disc 1 does feel like it’s intended to be the “Main” disc, while Disc 2 is more of an alternate take, but in general, I’d say both versions are fantastic, and there isn’t a single vocal performance here that I’d say is less than very good, with many of them being pure perfection.
The album opens up strongly with Terminator-themed “Fate of Man”, a fast-paced, super catchy power metal track that starts with a nice atmospheric synth intro, before quickly picking up the pace and never letting up. It’s the only real fast-paced track here, and it moves at a furious pace, with some heavy riffs and an amazing, super fun chorus, as well as a fantastic, very technical guitar solo from Symphony X guitarist Michael Romeo. Disc 1 features the ever-powerful Brittney Slayes (Unleash the Archers), who does exactly what her last name would imply, delivering smooth, yet powerful vocals that help elevate an already fantastic track, especially on the chorus where she gets to go all out. Disc 2 features Marcela Bovio (MaYan), taking the lead for one of two tracks, and while she doesn’t quite have the power of Slayes, she still excels, singing with a slightly lighter tone and higher voice that still fits the music perfectly, and she gives it her all, delivering a very smooth and strong performance.

Next is the much darker, more complex “28 Days (Till the End of Time)” (based on Donnie Darko), which starts very somber, with some heavy yet very subdued riffs during the early portion, and it goes through a lot of twists and turns, featuring one particularly memorable riff that was used a lot in previews, as well as one particularly upbeat section that stands out as a personal favorite. Instrumentally, it’s a fantastic track with a lot going on, but at least on Disc 1, it’s the vocals that take it to the next level, as Russell Allen (Symphony X) puts on a show for his fans. As a longtime fan, this is one of the absolute best performances I’ve heard from him, as he gets to show every side of his voice, starting with some softer vocals early on, getting to deliver some very brief screams at a couple of points, and then going all out with some epic soaring vocals for the highlight of the track, in a section coming just before the epic guitar solo from Timo Somers. Disc 2 features John Jaycee Cuijpers, who appears on several tracks. Overall, I find him to be probably the least memorable guest here, but he still does a solid job every time, this track included.
Somewhat surprisingly, Lucassen follows up one complex track with another in “Prescient” (based on Primer) and this one also happens to be somewhat the oddball of the album. It begins with some very epic synth sounds, featuring some pretty neat effects, and while it starts rather slow and subdued, it ends up becoming very interesting, with some rather bouncy beats at times, as well as some complex vocal melodies. It doesn’t necessarily have anything you’d call a chorus, though there is one particularly memorable vocal section that gets reprised a couple of times, with some pretty epic vocal layering. This is where the guests come into play, and yes, this is indeed the one track on the main disc to feature multiple lead vocalists in Ross Jennings (Haken) and Michael Mills (Toehider). The two play off each other perfectly, with the former delivering his usual rather quirky and unique vocals, while the latter goes all out with his theatrical, high-pitched vocals. Disc 2 features Will Shaw, who does an excellent job of imitating both of them, filling in both roles nicely, doing a great job with both the more offbeat, quirky vocals and the over-the-top high notes.

Following two of the more progressive tracks, it’s no surprise that “Back from the Past” (based on Back to the Future), is a return to more simple, fun territory. Featuring well-known vocalist Jeff Scott Soto, the track partially feels like it was written just for him, with the main riff having a bit of an 80’s hard rock feel to it, while the keys often give a slight AOR feel, both of which fit Soto’s voice perfectly. The chorus does introduce some more complex rhythms, and there are definitely some progressive leanings here, especially in the instrumental portions in the second half, but overall it’s a very fun, catchy track with a fantastic chorus, and Soto shines throughout, with his deep, powerful yet super smooth vocals. Disc 2 features John Jaycee Cuijpers and I think the more hard rock sound of this track fits his voice perfectly, and this is probably his best performance on the album.
Next is the title track, which opens up with an infectious vocal melody, and it never lets up from there. It features some rather offbeat riffs, which took me some time to get used to, but it’s a very fun track, overall, with some heavy riffs, some rather unique vocal melodies, especially during the verses, and a fantastic, unforgettable chorus that ranks as one of my personal favorites from Arjen. The track also features an excellent guitar solo from Adrian Vandenberg, which fits in well with the sort of classic heavy metal/hard rock feel it has. The track is based on Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and features vocals from Brandon Yeagley (Crobot) and John Jaycee Cuijpers. The former stands out, delivering some rather animated, yet smooth vocals that sound especially great during the chorus, while the latter delivers a very solid performance, without really standing out, as usual.

The fun and catchy tunes continue with “The Year of ’41” (based on The Final Countdown), a more classic Star One sounding track, that feels like it would have fit in perfectly on Space Metal. It’s a rather light track, with the riffs being a bit softer than usual, while still standing out, and it’s another track with a bit of a hard rock vibe to it, though it does have one particularly intense upbeat section where it goes full-on metal. The backing vocals are excellent throughout this track, while Joe Lynn Turner (ex-Deep Purple, ex-Sunstorm) delivers a strong vocal performance that fits in wonderfully with the track, on Disc 1. However, Disc 2 features Alessandro Del Vecchio, who steals the show with some very wild and animated vocals that help elevate the track, especially during that one sped-up section towards the end, where he gets to go crazy, and he delivers big time. The track also features a fantastic keyboard solo from Stratovarius legend Jens Johansson, which elevates the track even further.

The lines between prog metal and prog rock are greatly blurred on Frequency themed “Bridge of Life”, a track which alternates between heavy, yet subtle riffs as well as some very light, atmospheric keys that give the track a similar feeling to the classic Ayreon track “And The Druids Turned to Stone”. This comparison is only made stronger by the fact Disc 1 features none other than Damian Wilson (ex-Threshold), who has of course collaborated with Lucassen many times in the past, including the first two Star One albums, as well as on the aforementioned track. His light and airy, yet very strong vocals are as effective as ever on this track, blending in perfectly with the music, while instrumentally the track is very atmospheric, and the backing vocals by Marcela Bovio and Irene Jansen are again fantastic (as they are throughout the album.) Disc 2 features Wilmer Waarbroek, who sounds fairly similar to Wilson and does an excellent job of imitating his style.

While Groundhog Day based “Today is Yesterday” isn’t particularly long, it has a ton of ideas packed in, starting with some heavy, offbeat riffs and throwing in quite a few surprises, including some rather quirky verses, as well as an ultra-catchy chorus that easily ranks as my favorite on the album. It also features several intense passages in the second half, while also occasionally slowing down for some more atmospheric sections. It’s quite complex, yet still insanely catchy and addicting, in large part due to that chorus, where the backing vocals are at their absolute best. It also features probably the biggest difference in approach on lead vocals between the two discs, with Disc 1 featuring Dan Swano, utilizing his deep, powerful voice throughout, while occasionally throwing in some death growls for extra flavor. Meanwhile, Disc 2 features Arjen Lucassen himself, with his ever smooth, light voice somehow fitting in very well on this rather intense and heavy track. He sings a bit lower and more intense than usual at points while getting to fully showcase his voice on that wonderful chorus, where he truly excels. I love both versions, but I think I prefer Lucassen’s performance, if only because I’m a sucker for his vocals.

Next is “A Hand on the Clock” (based on Source Code), a fairly straightforward, very riff heavy track that features my favorite female vocalist in the world, Floor Jansen. She excels as always, getting to fully showcase her powerful, intense metal vocals on the verses, while toning it down a touch, for some very beautiful vocals during the lighter chorus. The track is solid musically, if not a particular standout, but Jansen’s vocals steal the show. Disc 2 features her sister Irene, who has a similar voice, and she also does an amazing job, along with Marcela Bovio who delivers a very smooth performance on the chorus. Floor’s former After Forever bandmate Joost van der Broek is on hand to deliver a fantastic keyboard solo that helps enhance the track even further.
I’ve mentioned John Jaycee Cuijpers a few times in this review already. Well, he gets to take the lead on “Beyond the Edge of It All” (based on Sapphire and Steel), a rather dark, subdued track with some pretty heavy riffs and a very nice, melodic chorus. He gives a solid performance, as always, but I prefer Disc 2 which features Mike Andersson (ex-Cloudscape), who delivers a very smooth, very powerful performance that greatly enhances the track. This is also the track where Lucassen delivers his excellent guitar solo.

Closing out the album is Interstellar-themed “Lost Children of the Universe”, a long, dark, and very epic track that closes out the album nicely. Compared to most tracks on the album, it lacks big vocal hooks (at least from the lead vocals), instead of going for a more atmospheric approach, largely carried by instrumental sections and choir vocals. It starts very slow and calm, with the synths carrying the way, and while it does get heavy at points, it stays fairly subdued throughout, being a relatively laid-back closing track by Lucassen’s standards. Disc 1 features former Kamelot vocalist Roy Khan, who sounds in top form despite not being given any huge vocal melodies to work with, instead largely being used during calm, verse-like passages, while Disc 2 features former Black Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin. Both singers sound great, and I’m sure fans of both will be happy, but it’s Hellscore Choir who get to shine here, delivering some hauntingly beautiful choir vocals, especially at one point in the second half, and of course, the backing vocals are also fantastic, as is the guitar solo performed by Steve Vai.

Overall, Revel In Time is a fantastic album, the likes of which I’ve come to expect from Arjen Lucassen. It features some of his heaviest guitar work in recent years (since at least the previous Star One album back in 2010), as well as his typical super catchy vocal hooks and choruses, some very complex arrangements, fantastic musicianship, incredible songwriting, and some excellent guest vocal performances all around. Fans of Star One or Lucassen, in general, are sure to love this, while any fans of progressive metal are highly recommended to give this a listen, as it’s certain to be one of the highlights of the year. Even though we’re only in early February, this is already pretty much guaranteed a place in the top 5 albums of 2022 by the end of the year, and I won’t be shocked if it’s at the absolute top, it’s that good.

 

Ratings: 10/10

Editors Pick EditorPick Rex Brown - Smoke On This Review

 

Written by: Travis Green

My Global Mind – Staff Writer

Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.

 

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