Remixes, reissues and remasters are all the rage these days with almost every album you can name getting a repackaging and re-release, especially with the re-emergence of vinyl. Sadly, not all these so-called remixes are up the scratch, often just transferred from CD or given token tweaks on the vocal. However, Arjen Lucassen the mastermind behind Ayreon is known for his meticulous attention to detail, so it's perhaps unsurprising that his remixes are afforded the same levels of perfection that he gives to all his projects. To mark the 20th anniversary of his space opera Into the Electric Castle, Lucassen returned to the original ADAT tapes, digitized them and even discovered a few sonic surprises that were not used the first time around. All of these were embellished and given not only a stereo mix but an astonishing 5.1 makeover to enhance the experience of being transported into a new dimension. Forget listening to it through a compressed speaker, on your phone, or on some tinny headphones. This mix demands an audiophile set up to squeeze out every nuance.
Ayreon's third album blends prog, metal, folk, pop, electronica and psychedelia and even the occasional nod to jazz and blues. Lucassen's influences from The Beatles, Pink Floyd to Led Zep and even Jethro Tull are made even more apparent in the early part of the album with songs like Isis and Osiris and Time Beyond Time. The latter part of the record is where Lucassen's ability to fuse these sounds to create his own world shines through on this remastering, although there are still a few nods to the musical consanguinity of his world. The vocals balance on Valley of the Queens sounds clean that it's almost otherworldly. Cosmic Fusion's screams and growls make for an eerie listen bringing another nod to Floyd's harmonies, crescendos and experimental sounds appears in The Mirror Maze. Like all Ayreon projects it featured a stellar cast of guests; Fish, Sharon den Adel, Damian Wilson, Edwards Reekers, Anneke van Giersbergen and Jay van Feggelen.
The stunning box set, gold marble vinyl, deluxe earbook with sleeve notes and other standard reissue paraphernalia are only window dressing for the quality of this epic scale reissue that will drag you into the Ayreon universe. For once this is a reissue that is worth the investment.
Groupie rating 4/5