Revel in Time by Star One

Release date: February 18, 2022
Label: InsideOut Music

In the world of prog metal, there are very few sounds more recognisable than an Arjen Lucassen riff. The prolific Dutchman has been involved in countless projects, with countless musicians, ranging the gamut of countless musical styles, yet his crunching guitar tone shines through no matter what bells and whistles he throws into his albums, no matter which virtuoso musicians he manages to coax into his one-man show. That each creation manages to sound unique and vibrant is a wonder.

Lucassen has never been one to sit still, with a CV that includes projects as diverse Guilt Machine, Stream of Passion and The Gentle Storm among others. Star One is a separate entity to his more celebrated Ayreon albums, although here the lines are becoming increasingly blurred. Where previous Star One albums distinguished themselves by focusing on a core cast of singers (Damian Wilson, Russell Allen, Floor Jansen and Dan Swano) that feature on every track, Revel in Time veers closer to the Ayreon template with a different guest singer (and, more often than not, guest musician) on each song. While the original quartet all return, they are joined by a host of new faces, and it’s easy to worry that the dynamic of the project will change.

Thankfully, those fears are unfounded. A far cry from the convoluted plotting of the Ayreon albums, Star One remains predominantly a game of Guess the Movie – with a loose theme of time travel running throughout, the Dutchman wears his influences on his sleeve, with each track taking its inspiration from a different film (or TV series, in one case). There are tracks that reference Bill and Ted, Terminator and Interstellar among others, and working out where the lyrics are taken from provides an extra layer to the album. It is an approach that leaves each track feeling like its own beast and, although heavier than much of Lucassen’s other music, gives Revel in Time a tremendous sense of fun.

 

Of course, none of this makes a difference if the songs aren’t up to scratch – thankfully, this is one of the finest selection of songs in Lucassen’s repertoire for years. The charging gallop of the Brittney Slayes led ‘Fate of Man’ gets things off and running, before the doom-laden crunch of ’28 Days (Till the End of Time).’ ‘Prescient’ is one of the strangest tracks on the album, the overlapping vocals of Michael Mills and Ross Jennings combine to create a unique, progressive tour de force. It’s an early album highlight, and the one criticism is that it makes the straight-forward rocker ‘Back from the Past’ (no prizes for guessing the influence there) sound almost pedestrian in comparison, even with the guitar work of Ron Bumblefoot Thal.

Thankfully normal service is resumed for the joyous title track – the accompanying video of which is a sight to behold. From there it becomes a procession of excellent vocal performances – Damian Wilson on ‘Bridge of Life’, Floor Jansen on ‘A Hand on the Clock’ and John Joyce Cuijpers on ‘Beyond the Edge of it All’ all put in astonishing shifts. All that’s left is the obligatory epic, although even at nine and a half minutes, ‘Lost Children of the Universe’ seems to fly past. The involvement of the Hellscore Choir gives the track a grandiose feel, and the presence of Steve Vai for a soaring solo lends an air of authenticity to the track. Yet it ends up being a slight disappointment; a somewhat downbeat end to an overwhelmingly fun-filled album.

It does not detract from the excellence that has gone before, however. Despite only emerging from the vaults once a decade, Star One has always been one of Lucassen’s more popular projects. So, it is understandable if fans feel uneasy about the move away from the core group that made previous albums such a success. Yet those fans can rest easy – Revel in Time not only matches the fire of Space Metal and Victims of a Modern Age, in many ways it surpasses them. After the disappointing reaction to Ayreon’s last album, Transitus, it seems like the dutchman has firmly rediscovered his mojo – Revel in Time is a riot, and firmly up there with some of the finest music of his career.

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