Arjen Anthony Lucassen is best known for his elaborate Ayreon rock operas featuring ensemble casts of illustrious guest musicians from all over the world. But his latest release, "Lost in the New Real" finds Arjen going solo, singing all the lead vocals and playing most of the instruments himself. "I need a challenge on each album," Arjen explains, "And this time I wanted to see if I could keep an album interesting without a spectacular cast of famous lead singers. I've always been pretty critical about my own singing, but at the risk of sounding arrogant, I think I've finally gotten a lot better. I'm 51 now, so it's about time!"
Musical diversity is one of the hallmarks of Lucassen's Ayreon project, and "Lost in the New Real" is no exception to that tradition. The album features an array of contrasting styles such as prog, rock, folk, metal, industrial and even pop, arguably making this Arjen's most eclectic-sounding album to date. "This is a truly fearless album. It's so eclectic you're really going to need an open mind to get into it." Arjen embraced the opportunity to follow his muses without having to make any musical compromises. "Established projects like Ayreon or Star One carry with them certain expectations -- deviate too much from these and you risk disappointing people. So with my recent releases I've been pretty focused on trying to please the fans. But not this time -- this is an unashamedly ego-maniac album where I follow my heart, returning to my inspirational roots of the Beatles, Floyd, and Zeppelin. Of course I hope that people will like the results, but this album wasn't made with that intention at all".
As expected from Arjen, "Lost in the New Real" is a concept album. "I grew up in a time before computers, and am amazed by how much the world has changed in the last 20 years thanks to the digital revolution. This got me wondering: What will the world look like in a few hundred years? What will technology, science, and society be like then? How will today’s pressing social/environmental problems be dealt with?" These musings inspired the overall concept of the album. The story follows Mr. L, a twenty-first century man who was cryopreserved at the moment of clinical death from a terminal disease. The album begins as Mr. L is being revived at a point in the distant future, when technology has advanced enough to cure his disease. Mr L finds himself in a world that has drastically changed -- to the point that the line between what’s real and what’s not is no longer clear. His appointed psychological adviser (Rutger Hauer) is tasked with helping him to emotionally adapt to this strange new world.
Arjen was able to enlist the talents of legendary screen actor Rutger Hauer as the psychologist, who is also the album's narrator. "Working with Rutger is a dream come true," says Arjen. "He's not only one of my favorite actors, he also starred in my all-time favorite sci-fi movie, Blade Runner." Rutger also enjoyed the collaboration with Arjen, saying that "it was marvelous work, very creative." Based on Arjen's story notes, Rutger wrote his own narration script, choosing the Blade Runner reference "Voight-Kampff" very deliberately. While not inspired by the film per se, both Blade Runner and "Lost in the New Real" examine questions about the nature of reality and what it means to be human.
Conceptually, "Lost in the New Real" deals with a host of controversial topics such as censorship, population control, euthanasia and religion. "I wanted to raise questions about provocative topics, but didn't want to alienate anyone or come off as too confrontational or preachy, because I certainly don't presume to have any answers! So the album has two sides: on the one hand it's quite serious, and on the other it's pretty tongue-in-cheek. I'm hoping that treating super-controversial topics with cheesy sci-fi and humor will let me get away with it without too much hate mail!"
The beautiful package, illustrated by the striking artwork of Claudio Bergamin, contains 2 CDs. The songs on CD1 follow Mr. L's emotional journey as he is confronted with both serious and comical aspects of the "New Real", and desperately tries to decide if he can find a meaningful place within it. CD2 is a mix of songs that are part of the concept but didn't fit on CD1, and cover songs that are (more or less) related to the concept. As Arjen's fans have come to expect, informative and humorous 'behind the scenes' videos are added to both CDs as CD-Rom tracks.