Gildan's Guide to Good Music: Arjen A. Lucassen's Star One - Victims Of The Modern Age

Gildan's Guide to Good Music

The world of music is a vast ocean of crap - join me on a voyage to the tiny isolated islands of excellence.

As the tagline not so subtly suggests, it's really easy to find terrible music - you have but to turn on your radio, and lo, bad music abounds. The good stuff though, well that's rarely quite so easy to find, and while some popular music actually deserves the accolades it receives[1], most excellent music languishes in comparative obscurity. And that's where I come in!

If it's thought provoking, epic, eccentric, or exceptional (or possibly all of the above), I take it upon myself to write about it in the hope that at least one of the comparative handful of people who actually read my rambling and rampantly egotistical definitely quite humble reviews will find it useful[2] - or if not useful, at least momentarily entertaining; I take what I can get really.

If you've read my previous Guide to Good Music pieces, you may have noticed that I make a lot of satirical requests for reader suggestions on what I should talk about next, which I clearly have no intention of actually acting upon; I've always just written about whatever the hell I want to, reader suggestions be damned (ha ha!). Which makes the bit where I'm taking a reader suggestion to heart all the more surprising - enjoy this out of character departure from the norm[3] while it lasts!



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Arjen A. Lucassen's Star One

Victims Of The Modern Age

Musical Genre: Space Rock/Progressive Metal
Running Time: 53 minutes
# of Tracks: 9[4]
Particularly noteworthy songs: Earth That Was, Victim Of The Modern Age, Cassandra Complex

Of all the wonderful albums released in 2010, Victims Of The Modern Age is perhaps the most surprising simply because I didn't expect it to ever be made... but I'm getting ahead of myself! Some background is in order - time to put on our knowledge (of pointless music trivia) hats boys and girls and Great Old Ones come to devour all, it's learnin' time!

As you probably noticed because it was in rather large text just up above, in the thread title, on the album cover to the right, etc, Star One is yet another one of Dutch multi-instrumentalist/composer Arjen Lucassen's side projects (making it the third one I've talked about in this series so far). You might also know that it's a Progressive Metal resurrection of the classic 70s Space Rock genre, featuring a slightly heavier spin on Arjen's usual synth-heavy compositional style, with songs that are all based on iconic science fiction properties.

What you probably don't know about Star One though is that it was originally born out of a collaboration between Lucassen and Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson (Arjen writing the music and Bruce writing the lyrics), which Dickinson initially proposed; they'd already completed 4 songs together when Bruce's manager found out about the project (via Arjen talking about it on the internets) and put the kibosh on it for some reason or other.

Rather than simply abandon the project entirely at that point, Lucassen decided to put his own lyrics to the music that he'd already written, compose additional material, and put together a small (for him) ensemble cast to record it, and thus the 2002 Star One album Space Metal came into being; the result was both sublime and exceptionally nerdy, considering the source material consisted of iconic science fiction franchises such as Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, Dune, Alien, and 2001: A Space Odyssey - I laughed so hard when I realized "Songs of the Ocean" was about Star Trek IV that it hurt, heh. Fans loved it, and there was even a fairly successful tour.

And that, as far as the subset of the population who cares about this soft of thing knew for the better part of the intervening 8 years, was that - Lucassen had initially suggested that he would "probably" make another Star One album, but later stated that he thought an attempt to make a 'sequel' might ruin the magic that the first Star One album possessed and so he wasn't going to release a follow-up; after a while the people who really wanted another Star One album (like say... me) gave up on him ever changing his mind.

And then he changed his mind, and there was much rejoicing, yay!

Everything that I loved about Space Metal, such as the stellar vocal cast (Damian Wilson, Dan Swano, Russell Allen and Floor Jansen), the Prog-Metal spin on 70s Space Rock that's heavier than the composition in his main Ayreon project (more guitar riff-based versus the chord progression that's the focus of Ayreon music) while maintaining the multi-layered vocals and expansive synths, and the oh so nerdy source material (this time around we have songs about The Matrix, Firefly/Serenity, A Clockwork Orange, Planet of the Apes, Escape from New York, 12 Monkeys, Children of Men, and Blade Runner) is back - the result is an album that kicks ass at what it sets out to be, and a worthy sequel to the original.

Which I invite you to verify for yourself by giving these tracks a listen.



I am under no particular illusion though that this is anything but an album which you're either going to A) adore or B) question my sanity for recommending it to you, because there's just not a tremendous amount of 'mainstream appeal' to be found in a modern revival of Space Rock as seen through the lens of Progressive Metal - we are very much operating in "niche audience" territory with music like this. With any luck you are part of the overlap in the Venn diagram between "people who read this Guide" and "that particular niche", and my effusive praise has therefore fallen upon receptive eyes (and the music itself upon receptive ears). If you aren't a part of that niche, well it sucks to be you I guess? I suppose you should go write your own guide to good music then! you might enjoy what I'm going to talk about next more.

Or not, as I haven't actually narrowed down just what that is going to be quite yet (just that I have a notion to do something... a bit different), I guess you'll have to read the next edition of the only Guide to Good Music that you need because I said so (and you can trust me when I say that because I am completely infallible (because I said so)) - tune in... whenever I actually get around to typing up another article, so... soonish? Or not? Only time will tell!

Other entries in Gildan's Guide to Good Music

Orphaned Land - The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR
Guilt Machine - On This Perfect Day
Ride The Sky - New Protection
Karmakanic - Who's The Boss In The Factory?
The Romanovs - ...And The Moon Was Hungry...
Penumbra - Seclusion
Within Temptation - The Heart Of Everything
Octavia Sperati - Grace Submerged
Virgin Black - Requiem - Mezzo Forte
Allen/Lande - The Battle
Devin Townsend Project - Addicted
Todesbonden - Sleep Now, Quiet Forest
Beyond Twilight - Section X
Katatonia - Night Is The New Day
After Forever - After Forever
The 69 Eyes - Back In Blood
Red Circuit - Homeland
Hurt - Vol. 1
Myrath - Desert Call
Ayreon - The Human Equation
Nocturnal Rites - The 8th Sin
Witchbreed - Heretic Rapture
Agua de Annique - Pure Air
Joe Bonamassa - The Ballad of John Henry
Taal - Skymind

Want to be notified whenever I post a new Guide to Good Music article? Well then join the Guide to Good Music notification service group, and you'll receive a notification whenever I post a new Guide to Good Music article! Huzzah for truth in advertising.

[1] In which case it is certainly good music, but you don't really need me to tell you about it, now do you?
[2] Whether that's always the case is debatable, as these articles of mine generally don't receive a great deal of comments or views - but that's okay, since I write mainly to amuse myself. Feedback, while nice, is merely an optional extra.
[3] Admittedly not that much out of character considering it was a suggestion of something that I would have started talking about on my own anyways, but still - everything you thought you knew about me has been shattered, ha ha!
[4] As with the original Star One album, there is a special 2-disc edition with a bunch of additional tracks, but unfortunately (for me) that isn't the version I've acquired.

Well written. Not quite my glass of juice, but it wasn't bad. The music that is.

I absolutely love the instrumentation. Absolutely hate the vocalists voice. Honestly, the vocalist evokes entirely too many memories of late 80s hair metal.

Certainly a good write up though, Kudos.

My heart jumped with excitement when i read that this was originally a collaboration between Arjen and Bruce. And i am so disappointed that Bruce isn't one of the vocalists in the album :'(

Still, it's good stuff, i like most of Arjen's stuff, i'll be youtubing "star one" next time i want to listen to some music. Also, well written article.

I'd actually heard some of this album on youtube when I was searching around for music a few weeks ago. I didn't particularly like it then, but I'm enjoying it more on this second exposure, and the Orphaned Land album that you recommended has really grown on me after a few listens, so I might end up getting something from Star One eventually. It really is a shame that Dickenson didn't end up contributing on vocals though.

Did somebody say progressive space rock?

Very nice music you got there, although I think the singer is rather too wail-y but wacha gonna do.

Icarion (aka Stockholm):
Well written. Not quite my glass of juice, but it wasn't bad. The music that is.

Thanks - I'd be overly optimistic if I thought Star One was something everyone was going to love as much as I do, heh.

viranimus:
I absolutely love the instrumentation. Absolutely hate the vocalists voice. Honestly, the vocalist evokes entirely too many memories of late 80s hair metal.

Stranger of Sorts:
Very nice music you got there, although I think the singer is rather too wail-y but wacha gonna do.

See, the problem with griping about "the singer" or "the vocalist" in this particular case is that there isn't just one, there's 4: three men and one woman. Pretty sure they all sing on every track too...

Anyhow, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that it's Damian Wilson's voice that bugging you, since he's the first dude that starts singing on the first of the tracks I posted (well not anymore, as I've just switched around the order so the first voice anyone is likely to hear will be Allen's), and I imagine that if Russell Allen's voice bugged Stranger he'd have mentioned that in his review of The Odyssey. Also Dan Swano doesn't wail (background in Death Metal + baritone vocal range), and Floor Jansen is Floor Jansen, heh.

Personally his voice, while not an issue for me, is my least favorite of the bunch, so I can see where you're coming from (unless that wasn't who you were complaining about, in which case I'm confused).

Nickolai77:
My heart jumped with excitement when i read that this was originally a collaboration between Arjen and Bruce. And i am so disappointed that Bruce isn't one of the vocalists in the album :'(

WhamBamSam:
It really is a shame that Dickenson didn't end up contributing on vocals though.

Yeah, it's definitely one of those "if only..." scenarios that will forever go unanswered (unless they later make another Star One album with Dickinson), much to our collective detriment (probably, because it's unanswered dang it all, heh).

But to cheer you up, Bruce Dickinson has in fact contributed his voice to a Lucassen project, it just wasn't this project: he's one of the vocalists on the Ayreon album Universal Migrator Part 2: Flight of the Migrator (along with Russell Allen and a bunch of other Power Metal lead vocalists).

Oh how marvelously embarrassing. I must have been focusing on that a little too much.

I knew I had heard that voice somewhere before, thank god I didn't say that it was stereotypical (may have been close to) because that really would have been disastrous.

Stranger of Sorts:
Oh how marvelously embarrassing. I must have been focusing on that a little too much.

I knew I had heard that voice somewhere before, thank god I didn't say that it was stereotypical (may have been close to) because that really would have been disastrous.

Huzzah for partially dodging bullets by being vague, ha ha!

Fun Trivia Factoid: Russell Allen's voice apparently moved Arjen Lucassen to tears once while he was singing a vocal part to him over the phone.

Additional Trivia Factoid: Lucassen credits Allen as "Sir Russell Allen" whenever he works with him.

Anyhow, as a helpful guide for future reference, here's the order the vocalists "appear" in on the track "Victim of the Modern Age":

    1. First up is Russell Allen (Symphony X, Allen-Lande), who sings the verses by himself until the chorus kicks in.
    2. Once the chorus starts, Damian Wilson (ex-Threshold, Headspace) sings the first line...
    3. Dan Swano (Nightingale, too many other things to reasonably list) sings the second line...
    4. ... and Floor Jansen (ex-After Forever, ReVamp) sings the third (though that was probably pretty obvious since she's the only female voice on the album).
 

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