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Ayreon blends steampunk with rock in his new opus

Arjen Lucassen steps out of his comfort zone of space operas to create a new masterwork: Transitus. Set in the 19th century it's part gothic ghost story, part sci fi, with a smidge of musical theatre thrown in. Don't get those jazz hands at the ready just yet, this work has more in common with rock operas like Jesus Christ Superstar and War of the Worlds than 42nd Street. There are overtones of classic musical theatre on tracks like Listen to My Story and Hopelessly Slipping Away, but it's typically Ayreon in genre-hopping style and structure.

Transitus moves outside the Ayreon Universe, but there are links and in-jokes for fans along the way (This Human Equation). As with most of Lucassen's work, the focus is on the voices and his choice of cast. Tommy Karevik (Kamelot), Oceans Of Slumber vocalist Cammie Gilbert and Simone Simons (Epica) take the lead roles and all give some astonishing performances. Twister Sister's Dee Snider also makes a bold appearance on Get Out! Now! - a track reminiscent of Alice Cooper's turn as Herrod in JC Superstar. Elsewhere Joe Satriani lends his axe skills and another highlight is Tom Baker's distinctive voice as the Narrator.

Transitus may lack the cohesion of typical rock-operas and perhaps deserves a more punchy finale, but it's pretty close to fulfilling that remit. The biggest strength is the melodies and typically there's also depth in the lyrics that speaks about our relationship with each other, the human condition and all that jazz.

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