Posted on February 27, 2010 -
If someone has recommended the Ayreon project to you, but you haven’t heard any of Lucassen’s work, look no further. This is a great place to get to know Lucassen’s sound. There’s a little bit from every album [including from the semi-acoustic version of The Final Experiment] so you can very clearly see the development of the Ayreon project from beginning to end.
If you’ve heard one of the Ayreon albums and want to know what the rest are like, then you’re in for a real treat with this album.
If either category applies to you, buy the album and read no further: my complaints below might seem numerous, but they are irksome only to the die-hard fan.
If you’re that die-hard fan, someone who already owns the entire Ayreon collection, you might be a little disappointed. Or more than a little. In that case, you should really only look to pick this up if you’re a collector… and if that is so, do yourself the favor, and quickly head over to ayreon.com so you can get a signed copy before that offer goes away. It’s about $[...] more, but worth it for the collector.
This album is a compilation of both fan favorites as well as Arjen Lucassen’s own favorites, picked from all the Ayreon albums. As a bonus, there is an “epilogue” to the Ayreon saga. I feel the epilogue falls a little flat as an end-cap however, when you consider how epic this saga is. It works as an Ayreon song, but Lucassen has no new tricks up his sleeve for this final song in the story. It also doesn’t wrap any story threads up that can’t easily be inferred from the ending to 01011001.
Another problem that I have with the album is the track order. I would have liked to see the songs in “timeline order”, much as the title suggests it should. Instead everything is grouped by album, and even then inexpertly when it comes to The Universal Migrator. “And the Druids Turn to Stone” is between “Dawn of a Million Souls” and “Into the Black Hole” for some bizarre reason. Worse, before “Dawn” is “The Shooting Company of Captain Frans B. Cocq”; and after “Black Hole” comes “The First Man on Earth”. What were they thinking? More to the point, what were they smoking?
Similarly, I am confused by the inclusion of both “Actual Fantasy” and “Abbey of Synn” from Actual Fantasy. The other two tracks from this album, “Computer Eyes” and “Back on Planet Earth” could be justified to fit in the Ayreon story, but neither “Actual Fantasy” nor “Abbey of Synn” are remotely tied to the story. I just do not feel that they belong. On a differently themed compilation of Ayreon tracks it might be appropriate to include these songs, but not on Timeline.
Another complaint that I have is the booklet. I realize I’m being picky now, but all tracks -except- those from Into the Electric Castle contain blurbs from Arjen about the track. Why were the Electric Castle songs skipped?
All that said, there are nice things about this compilation. While the track list has failed to live up to the album’s title of Timeline, this special edition comes with a poster that does. On one side is a very nice full-sized version of the album artwork; and on the other is an actual -Timeline- for the Ayreon saga. All of the significant years [and dates, for AD 2084] are included, with a brief blurb about what events take place and which songs cover said events. This, this was what I was looking for. If the album’s songs were listed in this order, I might well have given the album a five star rating.
All in all, as a collector, I don’t feel that I wasted money in buying a signed copy straight from the Netherlands. But I would not have wasted the money on buying this from Amazon, and would not recommend it for anyone else who has all or most Ayreon albums already.