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Curiously released in a different form, 'Loser' is technically the second single from 'The Human Equation' despite this version being different, and indeed even labelled as Star One, the other musical endeavour Arjen Lucassen was keen on promoting at the time. With its Eastern flute and guitar melodies, entertaining lyrics and compelling performance from guest vocalist Devin Townsend, this was one of the stand-out songs from the album and easily one of the most memorable even if you didn't particularly like it, and as a comparatively aggressive song it works well against the other tracks released as singles. The only differences to come in this 'Star One Version' seem to be re-recorded guitar, drum and keyboard tracks, but the vocal performance is thankfully left untouched.
The rest of the single is made up of previously unheard B-side material, but doesn't impress quite as much as some older material. The cover of Alice Cooper's 'How You Gonna See Me Now' is fairly bland and uninspired, lacking the usual character that Ayreon brings to covers and featuring the average vocal talents of Mike Baker, but there's at least an amusing moment where spacey synthesiser intrudes upon the acoustic guitar and really fails to integrate in any meaningful way. The same goes for the live version of the Ayreon classic 'Into the Black Hole,' which is interestingly changed enormously but unfortunately not for the better. The acoustic/synthesiser combo sounds even more ridiculous in full force like this, and although Irene Jansen's vocals are good (even if they don't match up to Bruce Dickinson's originals), this highly edited and slimmed version feels disappointingly tame compared to the expansive original.
Fortunately, a similar take on the even older Ayreon song 'Castle Hall' works much better, and is a rare case of the acoustic version perhaps being better than the original, which didn't require the heavy guitar riffs in the same way 'Into the Black Hole' does. Jansen fills in nicely for the two guys who sang the original, and the acoustic guitar is paired up with a flute, making for a more sensible combination at last. While this B-side material isn't up to the standard of the previous single, it's still nice to see this release bulked out with something original rather than more album tracks, but it's still pretty weird that the title song was tampered with at all.
1. Loser (Star One Version)
2. How You Gonna See Me Now (Alice Cooper cover)
3. Into the Black Hole
4. Castle Hall (Acoustic Version)
Disc #1 Tracklisting