I also voiced my opinion of the way Esoteric Recordings put out the release of the Deluxe Edition Box Set in that review. They done it in a way like many other record companies put out expensive packages without offering an alternative smaller package to entice you to shell out the extra cost to get your hands on what you want. Especially in the case of SURROUND FREAKS! like myself who are only really interested in the 5.1 mix.
As nice as a box set like this looks, I personally do not see the point of why anybody would want the same album on Vinyl, CD & DVD. The vinyl album that comes in this box set has only been remastered so it’s not really giving you anything new. The only thing new is the new stereo and multichannel remixes that are on the CD & DVD and those in reality should be the only real incentive of why you would want to buy the album all over again.
Had Esoteric Recordings released the new mixes in a smaller and more affordable package in the first place by breaking them up they would of sold a hell of a lot more than what they ever did of the box set. The Deluxe Box Set was released as a Limited Edition well over 2 years ago now and it’s still easy to obtain and widely available. It’s currently priced at £85.95 on Amazon UK which is slightly more than the £77 I paid for it when I pre-ordered it on the 22nd of February 2018.
Now after some two and half years Esoteric Recordings have finally done the right thing and re-released it on Blu Ray. You may very well be wondering as to why after shelling out £77 on the box set in the first place I went out and brought it again. Well there are some advantages has to why I did so, but before I go into them let’s take a look at the new package.
The Blu Ray has you can see comes in a standard blue plastic Amaray case. Personally, I would have preferred a cardboard Digipak the same size and that would of gave it a better presentation. Though at its price point I am certainly not complaining.
I was well surprised to see it came with a 20-page booklet. Regarding all the information that was in the much larger 45-page booklet that came with the Deluxe Box Set you are not missing out on much of the content at all and it’s almost like the only thing you are missing is the couple of blank pages that are in the front and back and not a lot more.
The Blu Ray Edition In Review…
The Blu Ray Edition of Fish Out Of Water by Chris Squire was released on the 30th of October 2020. I pre-ordered my copy from Cherry Red Records (who are associated with Esoteric Recordings) on the 7th of September and it arrived a day after its release. Unlike the Deluxe Edition box set which I personally think is well overpriced the Blu Ray was only £11.99 plus £1.35 postage & packing which is excellent value for the buck and quite a bargain.
There are advantages this Blu Ray release has over the deluxe box set though I will say they are more in the way of convenience more than anything else. There are also a couple of disadvantages in that not everything that was on the 2 DVD’s in the box set are included on the Blu Ray. Though in reality they could of easily have been included but I guess Esoteric Recordings chose not to include them to either keep the price down, or leave that bit of extra content out because the box set is still widely available.
However, you look at it certainly one of the biggest advantages the blu ray does have over the Deluxe Edition box set is its price point and that is where I do give some praise back to Esoteric Recordings. So, let’s now take a look at the content and some of the differences between the DVD’s that came in the box set and the Blu Ray.
Blu Ray (Navigational Interface)
The blu ray’s menus and navigation interface have been given a completely new overhaul that gives it a fresh look and is much better for it in relation to the DVD. Not only do the images look more clearer and sharper but they are also animated and it runs through a slide-show of the pictures from the album cover that zoom in and out like a kaleidoscope tunnel effect.
The other major difference is its navigation system is a lot better in that you can simply click on an option and the other options simply pop up (as seen on the second picture above) without having to wait for another screen to load making it much faster to get around.
DVD (Navigational Interface)
As you can see on the DVD’s navigational interface (above) getting about things is much slower and, in all honesty, they could have done away with the main menu and made the second menu (as seen in the second picture above) the main menu. It’s quite evident that a lot more thought has been put into the Blu Rays interface.
Blu Ray (Track Display)
The other notable difference is that when you play a track it displays a different picture taken from the album cover to which also zooms in and out like a kaleidoscope tunnel effect. Whereas the DVD displayed the same picture for all the tracks (as seen below) and the only thing that changed was the title of the track.
DVD (Track Display)
Overall, I personally feel that the Blu Ray is clearly the winner out of the two and its navigational interface not only looks a lot better but functions a lot better. They have really gone to town on it and done a top job of it. So let’s now take a look at one of its other advantages and what content is actually missing.
Advantages & Disadvantages.
As far as I can make out the only major difference between the Blu Ray and DVD is in the audio department. I am fairly confident that the stereo mixes on both the Blu Ray & DVD are uncompressed in other words Lossless and not Lossy. So, there is no difference there.
However, both the DTS & Dolby Digital multichannel 5.1 mixes on the DVD are lossy and compressed whereas on the Blu Ray the DTS HD Master 5.1 mix is lossless and uncompressed. Although I would not say this was a major difference to my ears when making a comparison between them both. Though I can sit better with the lossless mix on the blu ray and do think it sounds slightly better.
In general, I can hear a lot more of a difference between a compressed and uncompressed mix though it’s really down to how good the mix was in the first place. This is the same 5.1 mix that Jakko Jakszyk done for the DVD and although I feel he’s done quite a good job of it, it’s not up there with some of the better surround mixing engineers such as Elliot Scheiner and Steve Wilson for example. I originally gave this 5.1 mix a rating of 7 out of 10 and it scores no more points here.
Apart from how much better the blu ray’s navigational interface looks and functions, plus it’s price point. I would say one of the biggest advantages is more in the way of convenience like I mentioned earlier. Simply because it’s a damn site easier to store the blu ray and get the disc out to play it 😁😁😁.
The bonus content is where there are a couple of things missing in relation to the DVD and although they have included both the promotional footage of “Hold Out Your Hand” and “You by My Side” plus the Vinyl Drop documentary with Chris Squire. They have not included the single of “Run with the Fox” and its B-Side “Return of the Fox” and the 42-minute interview with Chris Squire to which was conducted by Jon Kirkman back in 2006.
Summary & Conclusion…
To sum up and conclude my short review of this new Blu Ray Edition of Fish Out Of Water by Chris Squire. This has to be GREAT! news for SURROUND FREAKS! and I certainly do not think you are missing out on enough to make you want to pay the extra price for the Deluxe Edition Box Set. Had Esoteric Recordings released this edition in the first place I would never had brought the box set. This is a classic example of how record companies try and squeeze more money out of your pocket.
As for it being worth shelling out for it again if you already have the Deluxe Box Set. I personally think it was worth it for the convenience more than anything and at £13.34 including postage & packaging its hardly going to break the bank. For those who never brought the box set I think you are onto a winner with the Blu Ray especially if like myself you are a surround FREAK! The surround mix is far from disappointing and quite good.
The Packaging Rating Score. 8/10. The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10. The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 7/10. The Album Rating Score. 9/10.
The Norwegian band Wobbler are back with a new album and one I was eagerly awaiting to arrive. Dwellers Of The Deep is their 5th studio album to date since Hinterland was released back in 2005 and they are a band who like to take their time and choose the right moment to write new material. I will say that the wait is well worth it as well with how their albums turn out and I can honestly say that I have never been disappointed.
This is a band that fascinated me from the moment I bumped into them a few years back and the fascinating thing about them is the members of it use vintage instruments to try and achieve the sound of the 70’s which is very much the decade and golden era of progressive rock. It’s very much the decade I can still easily live in when it comes to prog-rock and the music I still mostly play today on my turntable so to speak.
Sound very much plays a vital role in the development of their music and even though most of those old sounds from back then can be digitally replicated these days with softsynths, pedals, digital processing and emulated amplification. These guys will stop at nothing to get their hands on the real gear that produced the sound all those years ago and they are the tools that makes their creative juices flow.
No doubt influences also play a part in the process of how their music is developed and it’s not unusual to hear familiarities with the likes of Yes, ELP, Genesis and many other classic PROG! acts that graced our ears back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.
However, they are perhaps more heavily influenced by the instruments that produced that sound, even down to the Krummhorns that was utilised and put to good use very well by the bands founding member Martin Nordrum Kneppen on their second album Afterglow. To which no doubt was influenced by the medieval prog-rock band Gryphon.
Whatever and however the band go about their writing process certainly appears to be working because despite the many influences that can be heard in their music, their own originality shines and cuts through. I would also say in most cases that it is only really the sounds you are hearing and not so much the melodic and rhythmic lines where the familiarities and similarities lie.
Their music very much sounds like it came out of that golden era of progressive rock from all those years ago and can easily sit in with the many records I still play more than anything that came out of it. This is what makes this band quite unique and so different to the many other bands and artists who are still keeping the world of PROG! alive today. But before I delve or DWELL! any deeper into the bands latest offering. Let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.
Packaging & Artwork…
The CD comes in a 2-panel cardboard gatefold Digipak with a clear plastic tray to hold the disc in place. It also comes with a 12-page booklet that is stored in the side of the sleeve like a vinyl record. The booklet contains all the usual linear production notes, a couple of pictures and lyrics. It does not come with any additional informative information.
The albums cover illustration comes from Athanasius Kircher who was German Jesuit scholar and polymath back in the 17th century who published around 40 major works, most notably in the fields of comparative religion, geology, and medicine. He was sometimes called the last Renaissance man, important for his prodigious activity in disseminating knowledge.
The illustration is based on Kircher’s model of the Earth’s internal fires, from Mundus Subterraneus (as seen in the illustration above). The map reproduction was done courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Centre at the Boston Public Library.
Overall, I quite like how the reproduction coloured it up though they did not include the heads that are on the four corners of the original which is a shame. It sort of ties in with the covers that were on their previous two albums and they tend to have a fetish for circular objects. I still think the artwork that was chosen for their debut album Hinterland is the best they have come up with.
The album was released in 3 media formats the cheapest option being the Digital Download priced at €10. The other two physical formats of both CD and Vinyl came with more of a variety of choice to choose from many of which were Limited Editions.
For example, the CD Editions came with the choice of either a Digipak or a Jewel Case both costing the same price of €14.99. Neither are Limited Editions unlike their previous release were the Digipak was limited to so many copies. So, you should not have any difficulty obtaining them.
The Vinyl Editions were all pressed onto 180-gram vinyl and came in a variety of colours to choose from. All the coloured vinyl were Limited Editions and the green vinyl with purple & black marble was the most expensive at €25.99 and was limited to 750 copies. Both the colour in colour and transparent were priced at €24.99 the first of which was limited to 300 copies and the latter 750 copies. All of the coloured vinyl has sold out. The standard black vinyl is not unlimited and is priced at €22.99.
The Album In Review…
Dwellers Of The Deep by Wobbler was released on the 23rd of October 2020. The album contains 4 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 45 minutes, 45 seconds which is a very comfortable time slot making the album much easier to digest and take in. Although it might be pushing the boundaries of vinyl limitations squeezing it onto one LP though many did that years ago too to cut down on cost.
As with their previous album the band video documented the working process and progress of the new album and the bands keyboard player Lars Fredrik Frøislie posted a 9-Part series of short video footage on his Tube channel during the months they spent working on it starting from day one.
The band spent sometime in the summer and winter of 2019 working away on it and finished off the recording in the spring of 2020 working between 3 different studios. The video above shows you them recording and getting the drums down at LFF Studios. I quite like how the band give you a bit of incite in how the development of the album is coming along by filming these videos of its progress and it’s always fascinating watching them.
There is no doubt that since Andreas Prestmo joined the band, his input of injecting both lyrical and musical content into the band is starting to come to the forefront and play more of a role into how the bands music is now further developing. It’s even more evident on this new album I feel too especially in relation to the bands first couple of albums which were more instrumental with what little words and vocals were put into them.
He is without doubt one of the key elements to how the bands music is now shaping up. Although there is still quite a cohesion from all its members with the writing and arrangements, as a unit they are a driving unified force that certainly seem to be steering things in the right direction.
It’s not unusual for the band to call upon a couple of session players to play some of the other instruments, though some of its members are multi-instrumentalists in their own rights. For this album they acquired the services of Åsa Ree who contributes violin and backing vocals on the first track of the album. So, let’s now take a look at the musicians and credits.
Musicians & Credits…
All songs arranged by Wobbler. Tracks 1 & 4 Written by Wobbler. Track 2 Written by Andreas Prestmo & Lars Frøislie. Track 3 Written by Andreas Prestmo. Recorded at LFF Studios, Vilthagen Studios and Studio Paradiso between 2019/20. Tracks 1, 2 & 4 Engineered, Mixed & Produced by Lars Frøislie. Co-Mixed & Co-Produced by Wobbler. Track 3 Engineered & Produced by Andreas Prestmo.
Paradiso Studio Engineer Jorgen Smaland Larson. Mastered at Tinfoil Audio by Jens Petter Nilson. Front cover illustration courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Centre at the Boston Public Library. Photographs by Dvir Barkay & Anne-Marie Forker.
Musicians: Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo: Lead Vocals/Guitars/Glockenspiel/Recorder/Percussion. Marius Halleland: Guitars/Backing Vocals. Kristian Hultgren: Bass Guitar. Lars Fredrik Frøislie: Keyboards/Backing Vocals. Martin Nordrum Kneppen: Drums.
Dwellers Of The Deep is an album that offers an exciting blend of carefully planned and jammed material that encompasses everything the band has done up to now according to the description on Bandcamp. I would certainly go along with that and everything else it states about their latest album on the Bandcamp page.
It’s very much an album that contains three epic lengthy tracks and a short ballad of a song and follows a similar suit to their previous album From Silence To Somewhere.
However, musically this is quite different in the way the album flows and feels although its lyrical content follows a familiar pattern with its Greek Mythology, and is also intertwined with Christianity and Religion to tie in with Kircher’s model of the Earth’s internal fires, from Mundus Subterraneus that’s on the album cover.
There is also quite a strong Yes influence like we seen on the bands third album Rites At Dawn. However, once again this is different and perhaps takes and draws on ideas from all four of their previous albums to arrive at what we have here.
What we do have here is something I personally feel resembles much of the qualities I seen on the bands first two albums Hinterland and Afterglow. Only this time around the right amount of space has been given to the vocal side of things to balance things up. So, let’s now take a closer look at the individual tracks and see if the band have come up with another master-stroke piece of an album.
Track 1. By The Banks.
The album gets off to a flying start and propels immediately into the action. I have to admit upon the first couple of spins it felt like something was missing in the way of an introduction the way it kicked itself in with its speedy pace, but after further spins it soon becomes apparent that there isn’t nothing missing here at all.
I also noticed in some reviews that a few people have mentioned that this opening track is a bit hampered by the production. Though I personally do not hear that at all and everything sounds tight, clear and kosher to my ears. You can also hear every instrument and how they are all interacting with each other.
Musically this is like a cross between Yes and ELP certainly from the keyboard aspect side of things and its a bit like having Keith Emerson on hammond and Rick Wakeman on piano. The interplay between all the musicians is excellent and even Prestmo’s voice is verging towards Jon Anderson’s with its height though far from a sound alike.
It’s the second longest track on the album and was penned by Frøislie & Prestmo. It also comes in two parts in that it also has the subheadings “Part I – Visions From Within” and “Part II – Argentum Ormr” associated with its title. Although they may pertain to lyrical content more than the music side of things because it does feel like one long song that has reoccurring themes throughout its journey.
I am not even going to try and decipher the lyrics and they do run deep down some mythical fantasy. Like most prog-rock lyrical content they tend to be associated with Greek Mythology, Medieval Wizardry and things associated with Religion and the Occult. I have no idea what Prestmo (who wrote all the lyrics for the album) was reading but it’s obliviously come from some source of a book or poetry.
My own observation and interpretation of them is that they are pertaining to a yearning of wanting to cross over to another life, and the first part is about the yearning. The second part is perhaps the thing he has now crossed over to, which happens to be a snake 😁😁😁.
I am perhaps too much of a realist to live in the world of fantasy and when it comes to most prog-rock songs I am more for how the words are phrased and expressed and how they fit in with the music more than anything. I do however think the words have been put into context very well and the story is quite fascinating and adventurous. Though I hardly think that these are the type of lyrics that are going to seep into your brain and stick like many memorable songs will.
Both the vocal lines and music work and flow very well throughout this opening epic song and there is even some fine melancholy along these banks where the recorder has been put to good use. It also contains a lovely reoccurring piano section that first comes into play around the 4:50 mark and reoccurs around the 9:28 mark. Everyone is doing a TOP JOB! including the honoured guest musician Åsa Ree who contributes violin and some supporting backing vocals to it.
Overall, “By The Banks” is a very well-crafted song that has some excellent progression and transitional changes along its path, its also a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!
Track 2. Five Rooms.
There is no doubt the band are well oiled up and are firing on all cylinders and this is another SUPERB! piece of work and song. This track musically has Yes written all over it and it’s a bit like combining something from their much earlier period with Peter Banks and “I Am A Camera” from their later Drama album. I am sure there are a lot of other goodies that have been thrown into the melting pot as well.
I suppose lyrically you could also say its bit like “The Chamber of 32 Doors” by Genesis with the five rooms of sorrow, wondering which way to follow and its land of confusion. What you do get here is PROGROCK HEAVEN! that’s for sure and it’s no wonder the band showcased it first as a single from the album and put out a promotional video for it.
This is literally eight and a half minutes of PURE BLISS! and one of the most exciting examples of prog-rock I have heard in ages. Kristian Hultgren’s bass work is totally cooking on gas and is to die for yet alone all the other goodies that have been thrown into the equation from the other musicians.
It really is an outstanding piece of work that was penned by the band and should by rights win the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! It was very difficult for me not to give it the award and all 4 tracks on this album are easily very strong contenders. Though I simply cannot leave it out and it jointly merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!
Track 3. Naiad Dreams.
Next up we have the baby track of the album and this is quite a beautiful ballad of a song that glistens with its vibes and utilises the space for both the vocals and instrumentation. It’s quite a dreamy folk song and its beauty reminds me a bit like “Riding My Nightmare” by Budgie perhaps for its sweetness.
The song was written by Prestmo and his acoustic guitar crafted this one out very finely with its melodic lines. According to Greek mythology, the Naiads are a type of female spirit, or nymph, presiding over fountains, wells, springs, streams, brooks and other bodies of fresh water and that is what the lyrical content is pertaining to.
The band also put out a live version of the song and unlike the promo video they made of “Five Rooms” this is a live recording. They done a fine job of it as well, though I prefer the sound quality of the studio version myself and this is another really GREAT! song.
Track 4. Merry Macabre.
The final song on the album weighs in at 19 minutes and like the opening track its split into parts. This one has three parts “Part I – The Quarry & the Feast”, “Part II – Beneath the Velvet Shroud” and “Part III – The Bird of Hermes”. Only this time the parts play a bit more of a relevant role in how the music runs along with its transitional changes.
Once again, the lyrical content is way too deep for my comprehension and although some creepy Christmas story about the Merry Macabre was also derived from ancient European folklore back in the 16th century that featured some satanic beast of a Santa Clause. This story has all the Greek mythological Gods under the sun, including some stupid bird that ate its own wings so he was not faster than his master 😁😁😁.
This is another song that is a band composition and it contains a ton of progression and transitional changes throughout. Once again, its members are on fire and the Yes and many other influences are popping out of the woodwork. Perhaps the most notable influence comes from the second piano solo that comes in around the 15:50 mark which sounds like a cross between “South Side of the Sky” and the piano intro on “Awakening“.
However, if you listen it closely it is only really the sound of the piano more than anything that resembles both of those Yes songs because Frøislie is not playing exactly the same melody lines. Though he has very cleverly re-constructed his piano piece from both of the songs and this is a masterful piece of work that puts an end to a truly GREAT! album. It also jointly merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! along with “Five Rooms“.
To sum up Wobbler’s 5th studio album Dwellers Of The Deep. The band really have come up TRUMPS! which is a lot more I can say for the president of the united states 😁😁😁. They have without doubt crafted yet another masterful piece of work that I personally feel is more in line with how well the bands first two albums Hinterland and Afterglow turned out.
Those first two albums in particular have always been my personal favourite output from the band up until this point, and in many respects Dwellers Of The Deep does give you some indication of how much better they could of turned out if they had the hindsight of Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo back then.
Like I mentioned earlier Prestmo’s contribution of where the vocal lines fit in with musical side of things has played an integral part in the development of Wobbler’s music since he joined the band and they are now getting stronger all the time.
Even guitarist Marius Halleland has found his feet since he joined and both Lars Fredrik Frøislie and Kristian Hultgren have always been at the core of the bands strength. Effectively it’s like having Rick Wakeman and Chris Squire onboard whilst their founder member Martin Nordrum Kneppen is improving all the time and is becoming a solid keeper.
My personal highlights from the album are perhaps the couple of standout tracks on the album “Five Rooms” and “Merry Macabre“. Though I could easily include the other two tracks.
In conclusion of my review of this latest offering by Wobbler. Dwellers Of The Deep is how an album should be made and it’s one that will leave you wanting more at the end of it. It’s very much a strong body of work with its written material and a very comfortable album to sit with and enjoy. I could easily liken this album to The Yes Album with how comfortable it is to sit with and how well it flows and get just as much satisfaction from it.
This is a band that have mastered the art of producing prog-rock like it sounded back in its heyday of the late 60’s and early 70’s and that is why this band will float my boat more so than many of the other contemporaries who are still keeping PROG! alive today. These guys are literally that good that I did go out and buy the T-Shirt and at my age that is something I have not done for a long, long time now.
From what I have heard so far this year in the world of PROG! Dwellers Of The Deep is an album that should easily walk away with the award for the best prog-rock album of the year. It’s already received many favourable reviews that point in that direction and certainly gets my vote. Their music will always sit proudly in my record collection that’s for sure. This is an album I feel should appeal to all PROGSTERS! and 2020 just got better.
Another live concert from Roger Waters and I have to say when it comes to doing something in style no expense is spared at putting on a SPECTACULAR! show like this and many of his shows. Waters likes to do things BIG! and many critics might even say that the stunning visuals seen at his shows are there to hide away the overrated or underhanded performance that is put into his shows as many have already done so with this new live release.
There are of course others who will pull him down a peg or two simply because they do not like his political views which in my opinion should not even enter the equation when it comes to judging any live performance.
Whenever I review a live concert, I also tend to look at more reviews from people who actually went to the concert itself, rather than the end product that’s stuck on a DVD or Blu Ray. Simply because the way most concerts have been edited, they can in some cases make them look even more SPECTACULAR! so to speak.
Though from my own experience it’s impossible to capture everything on film that your own eyes will see at the concert itself and there was nothing short of SPECTACULAR! when I saw Pink Floyd at Earls Court back in 1994. The Blu Ray & DVD entitled Pulse could not ever compare to it and boy do I wish I would have had the money to have been able see this concert live.
Technology has moved on since those days and not only can they make pigs fly, but they can make the entire building of the Battersea Power Station magically appear above your head. Though of course the ticket price to get to see a show like this as skyrocketed to near enough 10 times the ticket price it cost back then.
Thankfully much of the magic has been captured on film and you can still get to see it for less than the £22.50 it cost for a ticket to see Pink Floyd back in 1994. But at the end of the day is this concert all its cranked up to be, or are the critics, right? Before I answer that question let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork per usual.
Packaging & Artwork…
The Blu Ray Edition comes in a cardboard gatefold sleeve to which I do feel gives it more of a better presentation in relation to a standard blue plastic case. Both the disc and the booklet are contained in die cut pockets on the both sides on the inside of the gatefold sleeve. The 8-page booklet contains a few pictures and a detailed essay of the concert written by Kory Grow. It also contains all the linear credit notes.
Overall, it’s a neat and tidy package and I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon and got it for £19.99. However, I do find it very hard to retrieve the disc without getting your finger marks over the surface of the disc because the pocket its held in is very tight.
The other thing I noticed (as you can see in the picture above) is that there is an indentation mark around the disc which looks like it gives you the option to remove that section of the cardboard to make it easier to get at the disc. However, if you do remove this there will be nothing left to hold the disc in its place. It’s not as if it has a hub on the inside to hold the disc either and doing so would damage the case.
The artwork design was done by Award winning creative director Dan Ichimoto with the use of pictures taken from the live shows by Kate Izor. He also designed the album cover for Roger’s last album Is This The Life We Really Want? and many other artists including Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Santana and so on.
He does a lot more than albums covers and I would say that his work in the music media is mostly for live albums rather than some of the GREAT! album cover designs you will find on a lot of studio albums. He’s no Storm Thorgerson for example, but you do not need that method of thinking for a live album and what he has done here is well apt and all good.
The live concert was released on five media formats counting the Digital Download which you would expect to be the cheapest. However, on Amazon UK it’s currently priced at £12.99 whilst the Double CD is a pound cheaper at £11.99 which is excellent value. The DVD is also £12.99 whilst the Blu Ray is currently at £18.48. The Vinyl release is currently priced at £40.56 and is pressed on to 3 x 180-gram LP’s.
Us + Them In Review…
This latest live concert entitled Us + Them by Roger Waters was released on the 2nd of October 2020. Although a truncated version of the actual concert was shown in the Cinema Houses a year ago back in October 2019 and is also available to watch on places such as Amazon Prime just like he did with his previous concert of The Wall back in 2015.
To be honest I have not seen that newer concert of The Wall that was released back in 2015 and I have had it in my watch list on Amazon Prime for at least 6 months now. But it’s very rare I will pay more than £1.99 to watch any film on Prime. I don’t see the point in paying the £3.49 to watch it only to find out that if I liked it, I would most likely end up buying it adding even more expense.
I may very well end up buying it at some point though I am not a huge fan of that album and get sick of him doing the material from that album live all the time. I remember seeing the much earlier concert of The Wall he did in Berlin on TV back in the late 80’s or early 90’s where he had many different famous singers performing the songs from it. It totally bored my pants off 😁😁😁.
To be perfectly honest I can get sick of Waters doing more Pink Floyd songs at his concerts and wish he would devote more of the time to his own solo career. One of the main reasons why I did pre-order this concert was because it did contain material from his last rock album Is This The Life We Really Want? and only a couple of songs from The Wall.
Like I mentioned earlier no expense was spared to put on a show with its 3-D visual FX and lighting and around 4 million dollars was pumped into the production of it. By the end of the tour it had grossed over 260 million dollars back in revenue despite losing out on some of the sponsors in the US such as American Express due to his anti-Trump images.
Not everything was running smooth and Waters also was met with some backlash, boycotts by some lawmakers in various cities attempting to cancel some of his shows due to his anti-Israel boycott which some felt was anti-semitic. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington even produced a video criticizing Waters’ support of BDS prior to his performances in Washington, D.C.
As with his last 2010 – 2013 tour of The Wall, Waters once again collaborated with film director Sean Evans to come up with the visual ideas for the show. It’s always good to have two heads on your shoulder rather than one especially when injecting fresher ideas and newer meanings into some of the older songs to fit them into today’s current affairs.
He’s pretty much used the same production team from his previous tour and assembled a nine-piece band together for this tour including some of the musicians who played on his last studio album Is This The Life We Really Want? The most notable musician who is still with him is Jon Carin who has not only played at Waters live shows in the past but also for Dave Gilmour and Pink Floyd. He’s also been a long-time collaborator of Pete Townsend and The Who and he’s a very talented multi-instrumentist.
The only other band member to make this new line-up that featured on the last tour is the guitarist Dave Kilminster. To be honest I had never even heard of him until now though I could say the same for the musicians who appeared on his last album Is This The Life We Really Want? at the time. Before I go into the full musician line-up and the concert itself. Let’s take a look at the Blu Ray.
The Blu Ray.
The Blu Rays main menu looks quite pristine and sharp and plays some music from the concert in the background upon loading. It’s simple enough to navigate your way around giving you 5 options to choose from “Play”. “Audio Setup”. “Subtitles”. “Scene Selection” and “Special Features”. The good thing about the menus navigation is that a box pops up without you having to load to another screen to set things up.
The “Audio Setup” gives you the choice of 3 audio formats to choose from all of which are 24-bit 48K. They are also uncompressed or lossless to give you the best in High Fidelity. It comes with an LPCM stereo soundtrack and two surround soundtracks of Dolby Atmos and Dolby True HD 5.1. It’s also worth mentioning that if your AV Receiver does not have Dolby Atmos you are not missing out on a thing because the Atmos soundtrack will give you a Dolby True HD 7.1 soundtrack instead.
This in my own opinion is more superior in that it gives you a couple of extra genuine channels of separation and not some synthetic metadata that is used to pinpoint a certain sound in a particular area which is generally above you. Even with a 5.1 setup you do not need extra speakers to hear things above you at all. Having extra speakers for the purpose of Atmos is what I consider to be defeating the object of what your AV Receiver is capable of doing in the first place.
The “Subtitles” option gives you the choice of 7 different languages to choose from English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese. By default it’s set to “Off”.
The “Scene Selection” option is where you can pick any song to play at random and this also includes the couple of bonus tracks. All the scenes or tracks have been split into 5 groups along the bottom of the screen (as you can see in the picture above) in total you have 25 scenes to choose from.
The final option is the “Special Features” section and this includes the bonus material. The first of them is a short 15-minute documentary entitled “A Fleeting Glimpse” this was also included in the film that was shown at the Cinema Houses. The other two songs both “Smell The Roses” and “Comfortably Numb” are taken from the live tour and were not included in the film shown at the Cinema Houses and are inclusive to both the DVD & Blu Ray only.
Overall, the bonus material is very good especially, the extra two songs. The documentary shows some backstage footage of Waters and the band rehearsing some of the songs for the show. Personally, I would have liked to have seen him talk more about the setup of the show giving something more in the way of useful informative information.
The Picture & Film Editing Quality.
The picture quality is pristine and was shot on RED digital cameras. It’s very much a 4K multichannel feast that takes live music to a new level and the concert footage was very well captured on several cameras by a very good well professional camera crew. The editing was done by Katie Mcquerrey and I dare say with all the film footage capturing all the different angles she had her work cut out. However, she has done a GREAT! job of it.
The Surround & Stereo Mixes.
Both the multi-channel and stereo mixes were done by Nigel Godrich & Sam Petts-Davis and I can honestly say that SURROUND FREAKS! will not be one bit disappointed by this mix and it’s a bit of a real TREAT! It does very much have more of a Cinematic approach to the mix due to all the effects such as flying aeroplanes, bullets and explosions that are shown throughout the show. Though they have also paid good attention to the musical side of things as well.
Regardless of whether you play the surround mix in 5.1, 7.1 or with Dolby Atmos this is very much a well good immersive experience and you will feel its effects and even the point 1 sub-channel is very well utilised. The stereo mix is also excellent and this is well worthy of 10 out of 10 across the board.
Musicians & Credits…
Directed by Sean Evans & Roger Waters. Produced by Clare Spencer & Roger Waters. Filmed & Recorded at The Ziggodome, Amsterdam, Netherlands between 18th – 23rd June 2018. Jon Lemon Live Recording Engineer. Stereo & Multi-Channel Mixing Engineers Nigel Godrich & Sam Petts-Davis. Mixed in Dolby Atmos at The Michael Powell Theatre, Pinewood Studios, England. Stereo Mastering by Bob Ludwig. Cover Design by Dan Ichimoto. Photography by Kate Izor.
Roger Waters: Vocals – Guitar – Bass. Dave Kilminster: Guitars – Vocals. Jonathan Wilson: Guitars – Vocals. Jon Carin: Keyboards – Guitars. Gus Seyffert: Guitars – Bass. Bo Koster: Keyboards. Joey Waronker: Drums. Ian Ritchie: Saxophone. Jess Wolfe & Holly Laessig: – Vocals.
The Concert In Review…
The concert film footage that makes up this particular live concert was captured over the 4 nights he played at the Ziggo Dome arena on the European leg of the tour that run between 2017/18. All together Waters played a total of 156 shows over those couple of years and toured throughout North America, Europe, Latin America and beyond and performed to around 2.3 million people.
I am not sure how much footage was taken from each night and whether all 4 nights were used from the 18th, 19th, 22nd and 23rd of June 2018 that he played at the venue. But it’s been very well stitched together to make it look like it came from one show sort of thing.
The Ziggo Dome’s location is right next to the Ajax Football Stadium in the Netherlands most populous capital city Amsterdam. The building is designed for amplified music, but is multi-usable and is also used for sports such as tennis and korfball and with minimal adjustments can even be turned into an Olympic-size swimming pool or an ice rink.
However, since 2017 the Ziggo Dome has been heavily used for concerts and its main hall has a capacity of holding up to 17,000 people. Many bands and artists have played at the venue since it opened back in 2012 including the likes of Pearl Jam, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Muse, Pink, Iron Maiden, Rod Stewart and on and on.
On With The Show…
This is a two-hour show that features Pink Floyd’s most iconic album The Dark Side of the Moon played in its entirety but with other songs played in between in a way of stretching out the album and the show. The interesting thing is that although it features the bands most iconic album, it’s really the couple of epic tracks from Animals that are the highlights and steal the show so to speak.
Well that’s perhaps the best way I can describe it. Apart from it also comes with STUNNING! visuals and sound to make your eyes pop out of your head and keep you glued to your seat. It very much has a WOW! factor about it and I don’t think even the critics could argue with the way I have just described it, and if they can all I can say is that they have BRAIN DAMAGE! 😁😁😁.
Though of course there is a lot more one could easily be critical about once you’ve stripped away all the visual FX and focus on the actual live performance itself, and even I can see things to be critical about myself. Although they are only really niggly gripes and I personally would not say the performance by the musicians on the stage was in anyway lacklustre like the majority of critics have stated.
So, let’s now run through the set-list and try and point out some of the things the critics are having a go at and try and iron things out in perspective of how and why certain things may of been done this way in the first place.
The concert starts off with an intro that consists of a mixture of voices from both the intros from Dark Side of the Moon and Is This The Life We Really Want? with some film footage on the screen. I should point out that this is a concert that does display not only the band on stage but the images and film footage that’s displayed on the screens at the concert and flashes between the both throughout its entirety.
The band then proceed to play “Breathe” from the iconic album and this I have to say is a very good smooth relaxing performance of the song that features Jonathan Wilson on vocals and I personally think he sings it quite well. Although Roger Waters does play bass on this song, he does mostly play guitar and switches between the both from time to time.
They then take a short break from the iconic album and immediately go into “One Of The Days” which is a classic from the Meddle album and always goes down a treat and this features Jon Carin on slide guitar. They really do a GREAT! job of it too.
Right from the very start surround FREAKS! are gonna love this concert and it thunders its way into “Time” and this gives the drummer Joey Waronker a chance to display some of his skills to which he does an excellent job and is also accompanied by both the backing singers Jess Wolfe & Holly Laessig banging away on the percussion.
The band then proceed to continue to roll out the first side of the iconic album with both Waters and Wilson sharing the vocal duties with Dave Kilminster taking on most of the lead guitar duties. “The Great Gig in the Sky” features both Wolfe & Laessig playing more of a major role as to be expected. This is also the stage were some of the critics are coming out of the woodwork.
There is no doubt that Clare Torry done a truly AMAZING! and outstanding vocal performance on the original song and much of her qualities have been very well replicated by other female singers who have appeared on both Pink Floyd and David Gilmore’s live shows in the past. What both of these women have might very well not measure up to the higher standards and qualities of those particular performances.
However, what we have here is a fresher approach that is not replicating Torry’s voice in anyway which gives the song something different which I feel Waters may have wanted to do with it. You simply cannot do the same thing all the time and have to do something a bit different to keep songs like this fresh and that is precisely what these fine pair have done and I honestly cannot fault this performance one bit.
Yet some of the critics are not only having a problem with their voices but are having a pop at them for how they look, and I have to say this is absolutely both ludicrous and ridiculous in my book.
Next up is “Welcome to the Machine” which sees Waters return to both bass and vocal duties and so far, I have yet to see a damn thing that makes any of these live performances lacklustre and I am even enjoying this output of classic Floyd songs for a change. The other good thing I like about this particular concert is that he does take on most of the vocal duties himself, unlike his earlier concerts where he brought in other singers to sing the biggest majority of them.
It’s now time for some more Cinematics and it’s this part of the show that Waters rolls out three of the opening songs from his last rock album Is This The Life We Really Want? He jumps on the acoustic guitar for “Deja Vu” and uses his voice only on both “The Last Refugee” and “Picture That” though he does also jump on the electric guitar and plays a bit of lead with Wilson on the latter of those songs.
This is perhaps another highlight for myself and something I would like to see more of at his live shows. He even takes on the vocals for “Wish You Were Here” and it features Waters, Wilson and Kilminster on the acoustics the latter playing the lead and they do a fine job of it. It’s back on the bass for “Another Brick in the Wall (Parts 2 & 3)” and he’s got the kids on the stage for this one. Kilminster also does a GREAT! job on the solo.
Next up we have the real highlights of the show with not just one but two epic classic songs from Animals. The good thing about Waters shows in comparison to both Gilmour’s and Pink Floyd’s shows since he left the band is that you can still get to hear songs from this album. First up we have “Dogs” and even though it features Carin on acoustic guitar I was surprised not to see him sing this one with Waters.
Jon Carin’s voice is about the nearest you will ever get to Gilmour’s voice and you could quite evidentially hear that when he sang this song on the In The Flesh Live DVD back in 2000. No doubt some of the critics have voiced their concern about Jonathan Wilson being put in charge of the vocal duties to sing it this time over Carin.
Personally, I have no issues with his voice on this song and he does a good enough job of it has you will hear right at the end of this short snippet of the opening of song that Waters posted on his Tube channel from the show. You will also see that pigs are quite capable of flying over the Battersea power station 😁😁😁 and this really is quite SPECTACULAR!
Just like on the original album Waters takes on the vocals for “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” and even as old as he is now, he can still belt this song out has you will see in this other short clip taken from the show that he posted on his Tube channel.
There are some GREAT! theatrics and Cinematics during both of these lengthy songs and Waters even gets his machine gun out and surround FREAKS! will be totally surrounded by bullets flying 😁😁😁. It also features some GREAT! guitar work from both Kilminster and Wilson.
It’s back to the iconic album next for the second side of it and I quite like how they have blended in President Trump’s voice with the cash registers on the intro to “Money“. This is a song that also features a GREAT! Cinematic break in the middle of it and if I had any criticism about this show this is very much the song where I do have a couple of niggly gripes myself.
I can to a degree see where the critics are coming from regarding Jonathan Wilson’s voice on this song and he does lack the right expression and anger to deliver the song. I definitely feel that Jon Carin or somebody else should have been chosen to sing this one.
My other niggly little gripe would be with the sax player Ian Ritchie. Although he appears to be playing all the right notes for me, he also lacks the expression in the delivery of the instrument and he’s no match for Don Perry I am afraid. But now I am perhaps being a bit too critical and you cannot expect any musician to sound like the guy who played it originally.
However, I have heard this song played by other sax players who I felt gave it the right expression it really needs to pull it off and this song in particular is the only song throughout this entire concert that I feel lets the show down a bit. However, my faith is soon restored with the both musicians on this next song and throughout the rest of the show.
“Us & Them” is the only full song from the show that Waters posted on his official Tube channel and this gives you a good incite has to how well the musicians are performing and how well the concert has been edited. Especially with how it flows in getting across the live performance of the band and the Cinematics that are being protected across the screen.
This song quite suits Wilson’s voice and if there is anything lacklustre about this performance then I’ll be blown. All the musicians are very much on the ball and the money in my book and they also do a GREAT! job on the final couple of songs “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse“.
Waters then addresses his audience and delivers a short speech about the matters of the world and empathy and you get a reprise of both “The Last Refugee” and “Déjà Vu” as the credits roll.
To sum up my review of Us + Them by Roger Waters. There is no doubt that watching this concert visually is STUNNINGLY SPECTACULAR! I personally do not think I have ever seen a concert quite like it. The most SPECTACULAR! visual live concert I ever got to see live was Pink Floyd at Earls Court and I was disappointed with the DVD release of that show simply because it could not capture what I seen and heard not even with the 5.1 recording that was associated with it.
What you have here literally makes Pink Floyd’s Pulse look and sound mediocre. But like I said technology has moved on so in a way it’s perhaps understandable and as for my two-part question in my introduction regarding of if the concert is all it is cranked up to be, or are the critics, right? My answer would be YES! and NO!
What I fail to recognise is what some of the critics are saying about the lacklustre performance of the musicians. Some have even gone to the point of having a go at Waters for having another bass player on the stage in case he makes a mistake and they are playing to a click track. I find this absolutely ludicrous, come on the guys he’s 77 years old for Christ’s sake and this is far from the case. If anything, Waters has perhaps put more into this show than what he has done in the past.
Speaking of the past certainly, my favourite concert by Waters is on the In The Flesh Live DVD and the musicians on that are quite remarkable. I still very much love that concert and can still play it quite often. But no matter how remarkable those musicians are I certainly could not take anything away from the musicians in this live concert and I now have two excellent concerts of his I can thoroughly enjoy.
My personal highlights from the show are as follows: “Dogs“. “Pigs (Three Different Ones)“. “Déjà Vu“. “The Last Refugee” and “Picture That“.
In conclusion, Us + Them could very well be one of the most visually SPECTACULAR! concerts that’s ever been put on and I personally do not think the STUNNING! visuals take anything away from the live performance. I also find this a very comfortable concert to sit with and it’s got the potential to grip you in a way that you do not want to leave your seat. The 2-hour concert will even fly by and it will seem like it’s all over in 5 minutes and that’s what I call satisfaction guaranteed.
The Blu Ray is most definitely the format to go with to get the full potential out of it. This is a concert that you do need to see with your own eyes and the Blu Ray offers you the best picture and sound quality over all formats. The extra couple of songs you get with the bonus material are also superbly done and its price point of around £20 is well worth the buck for a 4K Blu Ray with Dolby Atmos.
During the course of writing this review, I did get to see his last concert of The Wall for free. I also think that’s quite a good show. Though I personally think this latest release is even more SPECTACULAR! What I would love to see Waters do next is forget the Pink Floyd material and do a concert featuring the material from his own solo career.
It’s been a good three years since we have seen a new album release from Arjen Lucassen’s project of Ayreon. Though that’s not to say he has not been keeping his music and the project busy over the couple of years with the live releases and even the remake of his third iconic album Into TheElectric Castle. Now he’s back with brand new Ayreon album that is perhaps something a bit different, even the plot behind its story line does not appear to have any connection or link with any other Ayreon album like we have seen in the past.
To be honest whether it does or don’t bears no significance to myself simply because it’s very rare that the storyline on most Ayreon albums will gather up my interest simply because I am not a Sci-fi NUT! like the man behind the project happens to be. I would not have a clue how the stories are linked either because the biggest majority of them I don’t find in the slightest that bit interesting at all.
For example, even though still to this day IntoThe Electric Castle is still my favourite Ayreon album its storyline comes across to me like some boring game show they used to show at Children’s TV time many moons ago here in the UK called the Crystal Maze. The plot is more or less the same were each person has a specific task to perform to stay alive in the game otherwise they will fall into the abyss and meet their fate 😁😁😁.
Yet for some reason when I listen to that album it’s a bit like listening to Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War of The Worlds. I even remember when Into The Electric Castle was released that I once described it like that album. Though it was really down to the way the story was put across by the singers playing their character roles in the story more than anything else, and it was nowhere near the well written story that HG Wells wrote for that epic novel of his.
I am not saying I dislike Sci-fi but when it comes to stories, I prefer them to be more on the ground and down to earth so to speak. Something more along the lines of The Philadelphia Experiment and The Terminator appeals more to me than things in space like Star Wars and so on. Or even The Time Machine come to think of it. With some of the stories Arjen comes up with you would think he was living on another planet 😁😁😁.
To be honest when it comes down to most prog-rock albums it is the music and the way the words are expressed that catches my attention more so than the lyrics. The only two albums in the Ayreon catalogue that ever grabbed me enough to pay attention to the story side of things are The Human Equation and The Theory Of Everything and both of those albums were down to earth. I also quite like the storylines that were written for both of those albums as well.
According to Arjen his latest album Transitus is different because he was not sure if the material, he wrote for it would be fitting with his Ayreon project at first. Hence the reason why his long-time drummer ED Warby (who he always says himself that there can only one) does not appear on it.
His intention was to write something that would be more fitting for a film like a musical not so much a rock opera like he’s done in the past with his live shows. He was in the process of seeking out a director and the right people to enable it to come into fruition before all this Covid got in the way. According to his recent interviews he still has every intention of trying take it to the Cinema houses sort of thing if he can get the backing to support it. Does he really think his storylines are that good 😁😁😁.
Well to be honest I’ve seen some right crap in the past brought to the silver screen by other rock and pop artists such as the likes of The Beatles, TheWho and all sorts so it cannot really get any worse. In all honesty the storyline behind The Human Equation would have made a good film unlike the stupidity that the likes of those brought to the screen in films such as Help and Tommy for example.
The one good thing I like about the storyline behind Transitus is that it is down to earth, well sort of 😁😁😁. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the artwork and packaging.
Packaging & Artwork…
The Earbook is made of quality thick cardboard like a hardback book only the size of a vinyl album. The 5 discs are seated firmly in die cut pockets in front and back of the book. The 48-page book contains the usual linear credit notes, lyrics, well detailed pictures of the singers and musicians and a colourful comic book. It also contains some of Arjen’s original black & white sketched drawings detailing the story with both words and drawings.
Overall, it’s a really good well-made high-quality package. However, what I would of liked to have seen was more additional information like there was in the Earbook of Into The Electric Castle for example. That particular Earbook was way more interesting than what we have here. Plus, all the information you do get here is very much repeated with the comic book and Arjen’s sketches.
I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon UK back on the 25th of June and it arrived the day after its release. It also came with the free digital download which came in handy so I could at least listen to the album on the day of its release whilst waiting for it to arrive. The other good thing is that I got it at the price I personally believe it should have been sold at in the first place and I ended up paying £40.17 for it saving me over £20.
The albums artwork cover was done by David Letelier who is a motion graphics artist and is quite new to doing this type of work since he only got involved into working with bands back in 2016. He also done the artwork for the live Ayreon release of Electric Castle Live And Other Tales.
Overall, its perhaps nothing special in relation to Jef Bertels who done the artwork for the biggest majority of Ayreon albums. The comic book illustrations were done by Felix Vega. Additional Artwork Layout by Roy Koch. Transitus Logo by Stefan Heilemann. Ayreon Logo by Thomas Ewerhard.
The album was released in the form of 4 formats counting the Digital Download which is the cheapest option and can be had for around £10.99 on Amazon UK. Things have been done a bit differently regarding 1 of the 3 physical formats with this release. For example, unlike previous releases where Arjen had the sense to release a 2 CD + DVD or single Blu Ray package for surround FREAKS! like myself to get their hands on the 5.1 mix. Your only option here was to buy the most expensive package.
One of the other notable things about this release is that it also came accompanied with a 28-page Comic Book that came free with all the physical formats providing that you ordered it from the Ayreon Webstore as the poster above suggests. You can also purchase the Comic Book individually from the store for €7.50.
However, I do find most artists webstores can be more expensive in relation to other stores and I would hardly say you was getting the Comic Book entirely for free. For example, the 2 CD package is priced at €17.99 plus an additional €3 in postage and packing here to where I live in the UK. This works out to around £20 UK which is £5 more than it will cost on Amazon UK where it retails at around £14.99.
Vinyl lovers will get even more of a better deal on Amazon especially has the webstore is charging €29.99 plus €13 p+p for the 2 LP Transparent Red Edition. That works out to near enough £40 here in the UK were as on Amazon UK it also comes with the Comic Book for £22.99 which is quite a massive saving.
It was also released on Gold and Yellow Marble coloured vinyl though they were Limited Editions and only 500 of each were pressed and most likely all would have been snapped up in no time at all despite the expense. To be honest I could not tell you if they cost any more than the Red vinyl but what was is strange is that the album was not pressed onto Black vinyl which I dare say would of been even cheaper.
The most expensive package is the Earbook Edition which was priced at €49 on the webstore and is no longer available. Because there was no cheaper DVD package released with the 5.1 mix this time, this is what I eventually opted to go for myself. Although if it was not for other stores like Amazon I would of ended up buying the 2 CD package instead because with additional cost of the p+p this would of cost over £60 on the webstore which would of been well overpriced in my own opinion.
The Album In Review…
Transitus is the 10th studio album to be released in Arjen Lucassen’sAyreon project and was released on the 25th September 2020. It’s a double album worth of material that contains 27 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 80 minutes, 43 seconds. This is how double albums should be made just like they were many moons ago.
It’s what I would also consider to be a sensible timeslot especially in relation to fitting it more comfortably onto vinyl. These days many have lost the plot of what a double album is and think we are made of money to be paying the extra expense it costs to put it on more than 2 LP’s.
Though I have to confess that not everything was sensible with how Arjen rushed to get out this new release and he soon had a plethora of complaints plastered over his Facebook page ranging from how he forgot to include the lyrics with both the CD & Vinyl releases, forgot to mention who the vocalists were on the 4th CD that comes in the Earbook Edition.
Though the biggest cock-up was made by his record company who sent out a good few of the pre-ordered Earbook Editions to the wrong address which meant that whilst people where eagerly waiting for them to arrive, they had been sent to other customers who had only ordered the CD. No doubt for the some of the customers Christmas came early 😁😁😁.
Despite all the hiccups and managing to sort most of them out the sales of the album done very well and it even made the Number 1 spot in the Dutch album charts and also sold very well in other European countries such as Switzerland, Germany, Norway and Belgium.
As with most of the material Arjen writes he gets to work on it well in advance and he had been working on the music and the story behind Transitus over the past three years. Like I mentioned its storyline is more down to earth although it also takes in another time or realm that crosses between the boundaries of life and death and is perhaps more of a GHOSTLY! tale of a love story that’s gone wrong so to speak.
As ever Arjen has brought in new vocalists to portray the roles of the characters in the story as well as keeping some of those who appeared on previous Ayreon albums. The same goes for the musicians. Paul Manzi of Arena is perhaps the most notable of singers to me and it was announced back in July of this year that he had left the band. One of the more notable musicians here is the guitarist Joe Satriani who plays a guest spot on one of the tracks.
The other notable person Arjen brought in was the Actor Tom Baker most memorable for his role as the central character role of Doctor Who to narrate the story. I shall go into more detail about the story behind Transitus later on in the “Album Track” section of my review. But first of all, let’s take a look at the packaging contents.
The Package Contents…
No doubt with any package like this they come very well presented, LOOK! the part and are nice to have in your collection. Though quite often not all the extra content serves any real purpose and at times is only put in to make it look like you are getting something of value for your money. It really depends on you as an individual as to what the extra content will give you and I myself can find some of it pointless at times.
For example, regarding the book that comes with these types of packages I myself would rather see more informative information than a load of glossy pictures. Although the book here does lack informative information it is nevertheless still very well done and acceptable in my opinion. Unlike the Picture Books that Steve Hackett does which is only filled with glossy pictures and contains no information at all apart from the usual linear credit notes.
My incentive for buying most of this type of package is for the 5.1 content more than anything though it is a bonus when they come with something to read as well. The reissues of the Jethro Tull back catalogue that comes in a book edition are a perfect example of what a good box set is all about. They even cost less than this and they offer more better content than any other box set I have ever seen and that includes box sets that costs well over £100. Let’s now take a look at the content that comes on the 5 discs.
CD’s 1 & 2.
CD’s 1 & 2 contain the main featured double album. The first disc contains 14 tracks and has an overall playing time of 38 minutes, 50 seconds. The second disc has 13 tracks with a total playing time of 41 minutes, 46 seconds. Please note that the number of tracks on the first CD is only listed like this on the Earbook Edition whereas on the Vinyl and CD packages the first disc only contains 9 tracks due to them making the first track into one longer track.
CD 3 is the first of the bonus discs and contains 22 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 75 minutes, 41 seconds. This is basically the instrumental version of the double album and the reason it’s shorter is mostly likely down to the narration being omitted.
CD 4 is the second bonus disc and this comes with 17 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 57 minutes, 9 seconds. This disc contains the Guided Vocals to which most of them was sung by Micheal Mills & Marcela Bovio. It also features Marjan Welman & Jan Willem Ketelaers who sang Cammie Gilbert & Johanne James parts respectively.
Overall, the extra bonus content does depend on what the individual really gets out of it and to myself it’s perhaps more of a filler more than anything else and I can often see a lot of it as pointless. You are not getting anything different or new here at all and both discs I could see the biggest majority of people only ever bothering to give them one spin.
The DVD’s main menu is very neatly animated and the artwork from the comic book as been put to good use. This would of perhaps made a better picture for the album cover. The menu gives you four options to choose from “Play”. “Song Selection”. “Audio Selection” and “Extras” to which are navigated to by a white square box.
The “Song Selection” is split over 3 screens which can be navigated to by clicking on “Next Menu” and “Previous Menu” respectively. The one thing they did miss out on was to include the “Main Menu” and the only way of getting back to the main menu is via the top menu on your remote control.
Whilst the music is playing it displays a picture from the comic book for each track as seen above. It adds a nice touch and is better than looking at a blank screen like or the same picture all the time like on the DVD of Into The Electric Castle and a much better job has been done here.
The “Audio Selection” offers you the choice of two audio soundtracks and by default it’s set to High Definition Stereo which LPCM 24-bit 48k. The 5.1 mix is in standard Dolby Digital 448kbps 48k and its unfortunate no DTS soundtrack was also made available.
The “Extras” contains the bonus material and I am fairly sure that Arjen has uploaded most (if not) all of this content on his Youtube channel. The video clip gives you the choice of stereo and surround sound and is in the same audio formats as in the “”Audio Selection”. The video itself is 7 minutes, 22 seconds long and is a mix of the music that makes up the “Fatum Horrificum” suite and is very well animated with some GREAT! graphics.
The behind the scenes is a 50 minute, 16 second documentary featuring Arjen and many of the singers and musicians talking about the album and recording their parts for it. You also get 1 minute, 56 seconds of footage showing you Noa Gruman conducting and directing the Hellscore Choir and the official promotional trailer.
Overall, the extra bonus material is quite good to have and contains some useful informative information with the documentary. I would not say it was best bonus content I have seen in relation to what I have seen on previous Ayreon releases but it’s worthy of 6 out of 10.
The 5.1 Mix.
Transitus is very much an album that is suited for a 5.1 mix with all its effects and I quite like this mix that Arjen Lucassen has done and he has done a very good job of it I will say. He’s certainly utilised the surround field very well placing effects, backing vocals and other instrumentation in the rears and panned some of them across all the channels for good effect in the right places.
Considering the mix was only done in Dolby Digital and there is no DTS. It does sound very good and gives you a very good immersive experience and I am not even missing a DTS Soundtrack as much as I thought I would. Nice of him to include a 24-bit lossless stereo mix as well and I don’t see many audiophiles and surround FREAKS! kicking up a fuss with these mixes and I take my hat off to him and give him a very good well deserved 👍👍👍.
Musicians & Credits…
All music & lyrics by Arjen Lucassen. Narration by Arjen Lucassen, Lori Linstruth & Tom Baker. Script & Story by Arjen Lucassen. Recorded at The Electric Castle and various other locations. Stereo & 5.1 mix by Arjen Lucassen. Stereo & 5.1 Audio Mastered by Brett Caldas-Lima at Tower Studio. Artwork by David Letelier. Additional Artwork Layout by Roy Koch. Comic Book Illustration by Felix Vega. Transitus Logo by Stefan Heilemann. Ayreon Logo by Thomas Ewerhard.
Vocalists & Characters
Tom Baker (The Storyteller) Tommy Karevik (Daniel) Cammie Gilbert (Abby) Marcela Bovio (Fury/Servant/Villager) Paul Manzi (Henry) Amanda Sommerville (Lavinia) Johanne James (Abraham) Caroline Westendorp (Fury/Servant/Villager) Simone Simons (The Angel of Death) Michael Mills (The Statue) Dee Snider (The Father) Dianne van Giersbergen (Soprano) Dan J. Pierson, Jan Willem Ketelaers, Lisette van den Berg, Marjan Welman, Will Shaw. (Villagers) Hellscore Choir (Directed by Noa Gruman)
Arjen Lucassen Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Glockenspiel, Dulcimer, Toy Piano. Joost van den Broek Hammond, Piano, Fender Rhodes. Juan van Emmerloot Drums. Ben Mathot Violin. Jeroen Goossens Flutes, Woodwinds. Jurriaan Westerveld Cello. Alex Thyssen French Horn. Thomas Cochrane Trumpet, Trombone. Patty Gurdy Hurdy Gurdy. Joe Satriani
Guitar Solo on “Get Out! Now!”. Marty Friedman Guitar Solo on “Message From Beyond”.
The Album Tracks In Review…
The word “Transitus” comes from the Latin, meaning passage or crossing and in Western Christianity Transitus refers to the time of passage through death to life. This is a story that crosses between earth and the spiritual realm and what we have here is basically a story about a well to do Toffee nosed family set in the late 19th century in like a gothic setting. Although it’s perhaps more like the Victorian times back here in England.
The storyline is a bit basic and nothing really that new especially when it comes to the down to earth side of it. Which is about some well to do rich kid falling in love with one of the maids and the rest of his family being dead set against it sort of thing. The only real difference is how the stories plot unfolds and interacts between the spiritual realm of heaven and earth and it is more like a fantasy rather than something that will give you the willies so to speak 😁😁😁.
There is even a comical side to it and it is perhaps better suited to a comic than being made into a film. But then again, the story is very short and too short for comic in reality, and the comic you get for your seven and half bucks you could easily fit into one issue of the Beano or Dandy. Although I will say that both the musical and lyrical content do help stretch it out more so let’s delve into it a bit deeper as I go through album tracks.
The opening track is the longest on the album weighing in at 10 minutes, 21 seconds although this is far from one track like “The Day That The World Breaks Down” from the previous album The Source and is a suite made up of bite size snippets. The biggest majority of this 6-part opening track is instrumental and mainly features keyboards and orchestration and it kicks off in the graveyard in gothic style and features the Hellscore Choir directed by Noa Gruman chanting words in latin.
The second part the narrator Tom Baker enters the equation and 1884 is where the story is set and I have to say he does a brilliant job of pulling you into the story. To hear the story properly behind Transitus the album is the way to go and all the comic book will give you is a mere snippet of it. You can read it in less than what this 2 minute, 17 second snippet will take to play and the comic book is more of a graphical presentation more than anything else.
The story is one of those that starts at the end and goes back a year earlier to show you who done it and how it all came about sort of thing. I am not going to go into the details of the story though there is a lot of death in it and it’s centred around two characters namely Daniel and Abby who loved each other to death 😁😁😁. The song “Everybody Dies” on his previous album The Source springs to mind as a spoiler alert 😁😁😁.
The third part or snippet very much has a Pink Floyd feel about it and it features some nice slide and guitar work from Arjen it is only very short though and it then falls back into the gothic chanting from the Hellscore Choir which is the fourth part. The fifth part is the shortest snippet to which features the first of the vocalists Tommy Karevik who plays the main character role of Daniel. He enters into the equation by screaming his way through it for a short burst and is followed by a short burst of orchestration that beefs up the dramatics.
The final part of the suite is a short song that features Cammie Gilbert another of the main characters in the story who plays the part of Abby. Also, on vocals is Johanne James who plays the part of Abby’s father Abraham. Musically this chugs its way along with its driving rhythm and most of the main instrumentalists feature in the whole of the 6-part suite.
Overall, the opening suite is the most PROGMATIC! track on the whole of the double album and it features some tasty keyboard work from Joost van den Broek and Arjen himself. It is perhaps that side of the instrumentation that makes it more PROGMATIC! than anything else in reality. I suppose in a way it would have to be a contender for the albums TOP SPOT! Though the way it’s been split into small snippets and how it’s all been put together does not completely GEL! especially the final part which is the song.
Track 7. Daniel’s Descent Into Transitus.
Many of the songs along the album are also bite size snippets and this next track features Tommy Karevik solely on vocals and we also get some more narration by Tom Baker at the very beginning. Musically it’s quite powerful and the orchestrated keyboards, guitars and drums provide the right amount of power for Karevik to express the role of his character very well. It also features some GREAT! work by Ben Mathot on violin and Jurriaan Westerveld on cello.
Track 8. Listen to My Story.
This next track starts off once again with some fine narration by Tom Baker and in reality, he is the only one who is holding the story up and together because musically there is no doubt, they are BIGGING! things up. However, it sounds more like something out of Batman rather than anything from a horror or ghost story. Most of the songs on the album are power chord driven and are more structured like metal to which I can find very boring at times because it does not have anywhere else to go.
Most of the time the guitars and keyboards are more or less playing the same thing and they offer nothing in the way of lead work. The only thing that remotely stands out in the way lead work on this track is Thomas Cochrane’s trumpet & trombone and they add the POW! & ZAP! and are the holy smokes Batman 😁😁😁.
It’s on this song they also inject a bit of comedy into it with the opening words “Well hello there” delivered by Simone Simons who plays The Angel of Death and this is a zillion light year away from Transitus. The song is done in the way of duet with both Simons and Karevik on main vocals with both the other Fury’s Marcela Bovio and Caroline Westendorp backing them up to which they all do a fine job.
Track 9. Two Worlds Now One.
This is one of the better songs on the album and once again it’s got quite a FLOYD-ESC! feel to it and features some GREAT! guitar work from Arjen. It even has a little touch of Jethro Tull from Jeroen Goossens on the flute. Both Karevik & Gilbert share the lead vocals again with Bovio & Westendorp on backing vocals and they all do a GRAND! job and this is another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!
Track 10. Talk of the Town.
Things do start to pick up a bit from from here and this next song features Paul Manzi, Tommy Karevik and Cammie Gilbert taking care of the vocal duties with the main core of the band Joost van den Broek, Juan van Emmerloot and Arjen himself who play on all tracks. Patty Gurdy on Hurdy Gurdy makes her first contribution on the album and both Jeroen Goossens on flutes and Ben Mathot’s violin are also well utilised here.
Arjen did put out four videos of the songs from the album on his Youtube channel before it was released and this one, I felt was the best of them. Paul Manzi is a GREAT! singer and I am sure Arena will miss him. I also see the band have replaced him now with Damian Wilson who appeared on many Ayreon albums and its perhaps unusual not to see him on this one.
The “Talk of the Town” is a GREAT! song that has quite a medieval and Celtic touch to it and reminds me of some of the material that was written for The Theory Of Everything back in 2011. It’s another contender for the albums TOP SPOT!
Tracks 11 & 12. Old Friend / Dumb Piece of Rock.
The next couple of tracks are tied together and “Old Friend” is a short ballad of a song that once again features Tommy Karevik solely on vocals and he’s supported by a fine melody played on the piano by Joost van den Broek who does play some GREAT! piano work throughout the album. Jurriaan Westerveld’s cello also wonderfully supports this fine song.
“Dumb Piece of Rock” is perhaps the stand out track on the album and features Micheal Mills on vocals who has appeared on some of the more recent Ayreon albums and he does do a terrific job not only on the main vocals but with his QUEEN-ESC! harmonies.
It’s a very powerful rock song that gives Juan van Emmerloot a chance to bang out his sticks on the drum kit and along Arjen’s heavy metal guitar and all the other musicians they drive it along very well. It’s my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!
Track 13. Get Out! Now!.
“Get Out! Now!” is another powerful rock song and even though this one is mostly sung by Dee Snider apart from a verse sung by Tommy Karevik. Oddly enough it does sound a bit like an Arena song. Both Marcela Bovio & Caroline Westendorp are on backing vocals and it also features a lead solo shredded by Joe Satriani who does quite a blistering job on it.
The video above is another of the four songs Arjen posted on his Youtube channel before the album was released and this song ROCKS! enough to be another contender for the albums TOP SPOT!
Track 14. Seven Days, Seven Nights.
The final track on the first disc “Seven Days, Seven Nights” gets ended off with another fine short ballad sung by Simone Simons once again backed up on the piano by Joost van den Broek and some fine harmonies by Marcela Bovio & Caroline Westendorp.
Track 1.Condemned Without a Trial.
Things start to hot up and rock up again back on earth and this track is metal driven by Arjen’s guitars, Juan van Emmerloot‘s drums and Jeroen Goossens adds a fine touch of Jethro Tull to it on the flute. The vocal duties are handled by Dan J. Pierson, Jan Willem Ketelaers, Lisette van den Berg, Marjan Welman, Will Shaw who play the part of the villagers and Paul Manzi who all do a GRAND! job.
Track 2. Daniel’s Funeral.
The pipe organ and bells are called for and Joost van den Broek provides them on its sombre opening, though there is perhaps more to the musical side of things of a funeral for a friend here. This is a song that gets built up with other elements such as the cello and violin, driven guitars, drums and expressive vocals by Amanda Sommerville & Paul Manzi.
Track 3. Hopelessly Slipping Away.
One of the better songs on the 2nd disc and its structured around a bass synth, along with the melody lines played on the guitar. Both of these two elements of its musical structure remind me of something from Alan Parson’s 1999 album The Time Machine. Ben Mathot’s violin also lends very well to giving this more of melodic structure.
This is another fine duet sung by Cammie Gilbert & Tommy Karevik and was another of the songs Arjen posted on his Tube Channel before the album was released and it ends off nicely with a nice bit of acoustic guitar.
Track 4. This Human Equation.
Musically this next track is a bit like a rocked-up version of the “Doctor Who Theme” with its backbeat and as ever Tom Baker is doing a GRAND! job throughout all the tracks with his narration. This is the final of the four songs that a video was made for and the vocals are provided by Simone Simons, Marcela Bovio, and Caroline Westendorp who provide the theatrical dramatics along with the music and do also do a NICE! job of it.
Tracks 5 & 6. Henry’s Plot / Message from Beyond.
Paul Manzi & Amanda Somerville share the vocal duties on this short haunting piece played on the keys by Joost van den Broek. It’s good to see Manzi getting more of a role in the story. The bass line on “Message from Beyond” is a bit like something from Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War of the Worlds. Both Amanda Somerville & Cammie Gilbert are on vocal duties and it features a rather nice guitar solo towards the end played by Marty Friedman of Megadeth and all do quite a fine job here.
Tracks 7 – 9. Daniel’s Vision / She is Innocent / Lavinia’s Confession.
“Daniel’s Vision” is the shortest track on the second disc that features the voice of Tom Baker some expressive words delivered by Tommy Karevik set to some atmospheric keyboards from Joost van den Broek. Many of the shorter tracks on the album are merely used for part of the storey and “She is Innocent” is another short track that perhaps has a rush of adrenalin with how the guitars and drums beef it up. Karevik provides the main vocals and is backed up by Somerville.
The tension is hotting up in the story and the rush of adrenalin and power continues on “Lavinia’s Confession” this time with Amanda Somerville and Johanne James on vocals. I quite like the bass guitar on this track and it’s got quite a springy punctuation to it as if its picking up the rattle of the strings so to speak.
Track 10. Inferno.
The story is reaching its dramatic climax and the Hellscore Choir are back chanting more Latin words of doom as more are going to be engulfed in the flames of hell. Johanne James is the one caught in the thick of it all calling out in desperation, adding to the dramatics are the well-orchestrated keyboards, guitars and drums pounding their way along in marching style.
Track 11. Your Story Is Over!.
The Angel and her Fury’s or Batman and Robin are back for a bit more POW! and ZAP! and “Your Story Is Over!” is the same song as “Listen to My Story” and here it gets reprised with a slight change to the lyrics. The same female crew are taking on the vocal duties and it is the end of the story. Well almost 😁😁😁.
Track 12 & 13. Abby In Transitus / The Great Beyond.
The final couple of short tracks are the stories epilogue and the first of them “Abby In Transitus” musically has another FLOYD-ESC! feel about it and that is basically because the intro part of it is a reprise of “Two Worlds Now One“. However, the second part of it also has an “Echoes” feel to it with Joost van den Broek’s keyboards and I quite like the atmospheric sound of Juan van Emmerloot’s drums too. Cammie Gilbert sings this one solely.
More themes reoccur for the closing track of the album “The Great Beyond” and it appears that there is a happy ending after all as Daniel and Abby are reunited. Both Cammie Gilbert and Tommy Karevik express the final words to the story and it all gets nicely put to bed with the Hells Choir breathing down their necks 😁😁😁.
To sum up Transitus by Ayreon. I could honestly say that in terms of the written materials musical structure and how it was all put together could easily be the weakest album in the Ayreon catalogue. There is not really anything in the way of a real good standout track over the whole double album. To be honest I was disappointed how The Source turned out overall, but it did have some strength and “The Day That The World Breaks Down” and “Everybody Dies” were very good standout tracks.
I would also say that 90% of the time the music is not really fitting with the story and the way it’s been delivered by the singers is no different to any other Ayreon album. What we have here is more fitting with a Rock Opera like Tommy was and not really a film like The Who’s other album Quadrophenia. It’s perhaps more suited to the comic book presentation its already been given 😁😁😁.
However, I would also say that the biggest majority of Ayreon albums do not have standout tracks and they are not all like The Source and Into TheElectric Castle and have been glued together to shape and fit into the storyline behind them more than anything. For example, I cannot think of a standout track on The Theory Of Everything though the way that album was put together with its songs and musical structure is way ahead of Transitus. It’s very much more along the lines of progrock and not snippets of pop and rock songs like we have here.
What really holds Transitus together is that it has a narrator and just like War Of The Worlds had a very good one with Richard Burton so does this with Tom Baker. He very much has the right voice to deliver the story and when paired up with the many singers Arjen has always had to express the words like they are acting out their parts. That is what really makes this work more so than its musical structure.
I can understand why Arjen was not sure this was going to be an Ayreon album in the first place just by the musical structure being very different. It would not have been until he added the words to the story, the narrator and all the singers that it started to sound like an Ayreon album that’s why it really fits in with the Ayreon catalogue.
To conclude my review of the latest Ayreon album Transitus. The real core behind the album is its story and how its delivered and that should be enough to draw in most Ayreon fans alike including myself. This is not an album that contains blistering guitar and keyboards solos and its musical structure does not really allow the space for them either.
I would not say it’s the best story Arjen Lucassen has come up with either but least its more down to earth like the stories we seen on The Human Equation and The Theory Of Everything and that is what personally appeals more to my taste and why I can enjoy listening to this album and think it’s quite a good album. I think the 5.1 mix works very well for it too and Arjen gets a BIG THUMBS UP! for it 👍👍👍.
I certainly would not call it the PROG! album of the year either. However, I do feel that it deserved to reach the number one spot in the album charts in his own country and many countries. My highlights from the album are as follows: “Fatum Horrificum: (a) “Graveyard”. (b) “1884”. (c) “Daniel And Abby”. (d) “Fatum”. (e) “Why?!”. (f) “Guilty“. “Two Worlds Now One“. “Talk of the Town“. “Dumb Piece of Rock“and “Get Out! Now!“.
Overall, Transitus might not be the album that will sit with a good few PROGSTERS! out there I would expect, but nevertheless it still has that Ayreon feel about it which should appeal to the biggest majority and still should not disappoint. Please note that my price point rating score below is based on the price on the price from the Ayreon Webstore and not from other outlets.
A Bit More Than A Dumb Piece Of Rock…
The 2 CD track listing is as follows:
Disc 1. 01. Fatum Horrificum: Graveyard. 1:20. 02. Fatum Horrificum: 1884. 2:17. 03. Fatum Horrificum: Daniel And Abby. 1:32. 04. Fatum Horrificum: Fatum. 1:29. 05. Fatum Horrificum: Why?!. 1:08. 06. Fatum Horrificum: Guilty. 2:35. 07. Daniel’s Descent into Transitus. 2:40. 08. Listen to My Story. 4:02. 09. Two Worlds Now One. 4:05. 10. Talk of the Town. 5:21. 11. Old Friend. 1:40. 12. Dumb Piece of Rock. 4:13. 13. Get Out! Now!. 5:02. 14. Seven Days, Seven Nights. 1:26.
Disc 2. 01. Condemned Without A Trial. 3:49. 02. Daniel’s Funeral. 4:58. 03. Hopelessly Slipping Away. 4:28. 04. This Human Equation. 4:19. 05. Henry’s Plot. 2:19. 06. Message from Beyond. 5:21. 07. Daniel’s Vision. 1:44. 08. She is Innocent. 2:09. 09. Lavinia’s Confession. 1:52. 10. Inferno. 2:17. 11. Your Story Is Over!. 2:41. 12. Abby In Transitus. 3:01. 13. The Great Beyond. 2:48.