Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Arjen Lucassen envokes The Golden Age of Music

Arjen Lucassen, alongside artists like Devin Townsend, falls into the category of performers considered to be ‘musical marmite,’ in that both of them operate very much on their own terms, which occasionally means pursuing projects of interest only to themselves, and in doing so, depending on where you stand, you’ll believe they’ve either produced a body of top quality work or they’ve produced a whole lot of pretentious drivel.

Lucassen, however, deserves at least to be applauded for the range and vision of the work he’s done down the years, from Star One to Ayreon to Guilt Machine and releasing some amazing music, and on this album, he’s reverted back to the formative music of his youth for inspiration which, he says, was “the golden age of music” and he’d ‘hide under the covers at night listening to Radio Luxembourg and the pirate radio stations.’ As a result, there is plenty of name-dropping of bands here, including T Rex, Deep Purple and  Pink Floyd amongst others.

This new album arose out of a request from a German music magazine to provide a track for a cover CD, and from this comes an album, not about concepts like space and time, but looking back to the music of the seventies, rooted more in metal than prog, with vocalist, Jaycee, doing his utmost to channel his innermost Ronnie James Dio. In compiling it, Lucassen’s challenge to his fellow musos was to write songs in the style of the seventies, but not to copy it as ‘we can’t do it any better than Stargazer or Kashmir.’

After ‘SR Prelude’, a short instrumental opener, ‘The Glamattack’ explodes into life and, for a song about the early seventies, with references to practically every glam rock act you can imagine, it’s glam as perceived through the lens of thrash metal. No glam band could ever play like this!  The title track ‘Golden Age Of Music’ contains admirable references to browsing record shops and pirate radio and claims ’these are the days of innovation.’  

The Deep Purple influence comes to the fore in tracks like ‘Burn It Down’, which appears to be based on Smoke on the Water, and ‘They Took Us By Storm’, which is very Purple-ish but with much better harmonies. ‘Golden Boy’ has the feel of Argent, a much-underrated seventies band who deserve to be remembered for much more than just one single. The pace relents somewhat with ‘Odyssey’, with the keys well up front, and ‘Holy Holy Ground’, with its retro Hammond organ sound, with ‘Came To Mock, Stayed To Rock’ ending the album with a slight Van Halen touch.

There’re also several bonus tracks included, ‘Children Of The Revolution’ contains some of Marc Bolan’s most trite lyrics “You can bump and grind, cos it’s good for your mind” is just one example. Billy Gibbons never sounded like Supersonic Revolution do on ZZ Top’s Heard It Through The X, rocked up but without the Top’s groove, and you have to wonder why they even bothered with Earth Wind and Fire’s Fantasy.

Arjen Lucassen has evoked the spirit of the seventies admirably on this album, even if Timo Somers’ guitar flash is sometimes overdone, with his imagining what seventies-based songs would sound like if transposed into the modern era. It’s doubtful, however, we’ll get to hear these songs played ‘live’ as Lucassen is a reluctant stage performer, which is a shame as the basis for a damn good rock gig is contained on this album.

Golden Age of Music is out May 19th via Music Theories Records / Mascot Label Group

Laurence Todd
Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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Arjen Lucassen, alongside artists like Devin Townsend, falls into the category of performers considered to be ‘musical marmite,’ in that both of them operate very much on their own terms, which occasionally means pursuing projects of interest only to themselves, and in doing so,...Arjen Lucassen envokes The Golden Age of Music