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As far as singles go, this precursor to 'The Human Equation' really makes the grade in offering a fair representation of that album as well as providing some frivolous B-sides for fans. Ayreon singles in the past have always focused more on the lighter side of things, which could provide an unbalanced overview in the case of the heavier albums and this one is the heaviest yet - fortunately, Arjen Lucassen doesn't disappoint and focuses on two songs that explore everything that would prove to work so well in his upcoming, full-length magnum opus.
Taken from the finale of the album's first disc, 'Day Eleven: Love' is a climactic song featuring seven of the album's singers (it all takes place in the head of a comatose man played by Dream Theater's James LaBrie, and the other singers all represent facets of his personality and memories - I'll explain later), and it's a first for an Ayreon single for actually featuring heavy metal guitars! Nevertheless, it's still one of Lucassen's more folky, happy songs, blessed with really embarrassing lyrics as he recalls his first date, and the song's overall warts-and-all honesty will easily allow listeners to decide whether they would enjoy purchasing the full-length album, or take out a restraining order to ensure it never comes within audible distance. It's a fun song.
After this comes the delightful 'Day Two: Isolation' from earlier in the album, which is one of its most structurally varied songs and thus one of my favourites. It's slower, darker and heavier than the previous not-ballad, and after a rip-roaring journey introducing LaBrie, Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt and many of the other singers for the first time, it mellows out into a softer movement for a few minutes before plummeting headfirst into Lucassen's most shameless synthesiser extravaganza. This is the perfect meeting between prog rock of the classic and modern ages, and bears undeniable similarity to Richard Wright's 'On the Run' from Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon' - only with a bit more gusto. This is a brilliant song, but it would be so easy to hate it.
The second half of the single, which is more like a generous E.P. considering the quantity and length, consists of covers of famous songs performed in a distinctly Ayreon style, complete with vocalists from the Human Equation sessions. I wasn't previously familiar with Led Zeppelin's 'No Quarter,' but it's a pleasant enough acoustic song and sounds like something that could easily fit onto an Ayreon album in this form, but David Bowie's 'Space Oddity' is a different story. Clearly one of the early, defining space operas that served to inspire Lucassen in the first place, this song is treated with the utmost respect and adapted into several highly contradictory sections that ultimately sound a little daft together and completely over-the-top in the customary Ayreon fashion, but it still makes for an enjoyable listen, and Eric Clayton's bassy singing suits the dark ambience of the keyboards perfectly. This single fulfils its function perfectly, in serving to get geeks like me extremely excited about the inevitable full-length album.
1. Day Eleven: Love (Radio edit)
2. Day Two: Isolation
3. No Quarter (Led Zeppelin cover)
4. Space Oddity (David Bowie cover)
Disc #1 Tracklisting
3 No Quarter
4 Space Oddity