With a career spanning more than three decades, composer and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen has firmly established himself worldwide as driving force in progressive rock. While best known for his rock opera project Ayreon, the multi-talented Dutchman also regularly embarks on musical side projects such as Ambeon, Guilt Machine and Star One. These projects all explore different aspects of Lucassen's musical personality, with each new release being a creative reaction to the style of its predecessor. As his previous project (Guilt Machine’s "On This Perfect Day" 2009) was a relatively relaxed and subtle affair, Lucassen's muses responded by urging him to record something loud, heavy and anything but subtle for this new release. Thus it was a perfect opportunity to launch his musical spacecraft towards the galaxy of bombastic sci-fi rock by revisiting his Star One project. The result is the album "Victims of the Modern Age," the follow-up to the Star One debut album, “Space Metal” (2002).
Lucassen strives to keep a consistent cast of vocalists for Star One rather than mixing it up with the ever-changing vocal line-up that characterizes Ayreon. For "Victims of the Modern Age" he reunited the stellar cast of lead vocalists from the first album: Russell Allen (Symphony X), Damian Wilson (Headspace, Threshold), Floor Jansen (ReVamp, ex-After Forever), and Dan Swanö (Nightingale, Second Sky, ex-Edge Of Sanity). Ranging from soaring power vocals to hauntingly melodic passages to brutal growls, the contrasting vocal styles of these magnificent vocalists provide each song with a stunning variety of vocal textures.
When it comes to instruments, the tall Dutchman played the rhythm guitars, Hammond organ, Mellotron, Solina strings and analog synths himself, and invited drummer Ed Warby (Ayreon, Hail of Bullets, Gorefest) and bassist Peter Vink to lay down the powerful rhythm tracks. He also enlisted the intimidating solo skills of former After Forever keyboardist Joost van den Broek and guitarist Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery), each of whom provide their trademark scorching solos.
On top of this formidable cast, Lucassen recruited three other singers -- Mike Andersson (Cloudscape, Full Force, Silent Memorial), Rodney Blaze, and former Black Sabbath front man Tony Martin -- for some additional tracks to be featured on the album's CD2 (Special Edition only). These tracks are by no means just leftover "bonus" tracks; they are, as Lucassen puts it, “songs that didn't fit in with the overall sound and concept of ‘Victims of the Modern Age,’ but were simply too good not to use. These songs also gave me the chance to work with other fantastic vocalists who aren't part of the actual Star One line-up."
While Star One is not technically a rock opera like Ayreon, it is still very much a concept album. Rather than following continuous storyline, each song is based on a different sci-fi film and tells its own story. Lucassen describes the concept of "Victims Of The Modern Age" as follows: "I based the songs on dystopian and post-apocalyptic sci-fi movies that have made an impression on me throughout my life. Unlike the first Star One album ‘Space Metal,’ where all the songs were set in space, this time most of the songs take place right here on Earth. No, I’m not going to tell you which movies inspired the tracks -- that would spoil all the fun! And I do hope that the dark subject matter won’t keep people from enjoying this journey through time to some of the more grim possible outcomes for humanity's future."
Compared to 2002's "Space Metal," the overall sound of "Victims Of The Modern Age" is darker, heavier, more guitar-oriented, and slightly less "spacey." Arjen has also raised the bar significantly when it comes to the album's sound: "I think it's my best sounding album to date; it's a huge difference compared to the first Star One. For the guitars I spent weeks experimenting with different amps and settings in every combination imaginable -- and it was worth it. The drums sound fantastic, and the vocalists all outdid themselves, putting in even stronger performances than they did the first time around."
With its stellar musicianship, strong melodies, meticulous production and compelling concept, Star One "Victims of the Modern Age" is yet another exciting project from one of rock's great visionaries. It is available in two editions: