(19 April 2003) Star One is the side project of Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Ayreon). The follow-up to their Space Metal album (review) is an double live CD with 18 individual tracks entitled Live On Earth (InsideOut (USA/Germany) IOMACD 2054, 2003). Also available as a special edition with an accompanying DVD (InsideOut (USA/Germany) IOMASECD 121, 2003) the album captures live performances during 2002 with an all-star lineup. The DVD is done in Dolby Digital 2.0 and is region free NTSC (PAL compatible).
The straightforward and hard-edge metal project was a reaction to the soft and atmospheric Ambeon (review) released a year earlier. Although Star One was initially intended to be a single-singer band, it quickly transformed into a multi-singer band featuring singers 'Sir' Russell Allen (Symphony X), Dan Swanö, Damian Wilson and Floor Jansen (After Forever review). The lineup for Live On Earth is slightly different.
Arjen Anthony Lucassen fronts Star One in Live On Earth primarily with his outstanding electric guitar work. His acoustic guitar on two of the lighter tracks is equally incredible. Male vocal work is shared between the harder edge of Russell Allen, and Robert Soeterboek (Wicked Sensation, Ayreon) and the more melodic textures of Damian Wilson.
Stunning female vocals, primarily backing or as duets with the men are provided by Floor Jansen with support from her sister Irene. Lucassen's work is known for lush symphonic arrangements--these are provided in the live setting by Joost van den Broek (Sun Caged) on keyboards, Peter Vink (Q-65, Finch) on bass and Ed Warby (Lana Lane, Gorefest, Lana Lane) on drums. Ewa Albering (ex-Quidam, latest review) contributes flute and recorder two a couple of the tracks. Her performance is completely awe inspiring but unfortunately too short.
Star One's brief tour drew thousands of fans from all over Europe and America and concluded before the majority of Lucassen's fans could see the performance. The DVD captures both the sound and atmosphere of the group on stage and provides an extremely effective medium to share it with a global audience. Sound, video and production quality are all superb. Multimedia effects used on stage were translated to the DVD extremely well and do not detract from the artists' live performance. These are outstanding performers and their stagecraft clearly demonstrates they are not just studio musicians!
Material on the album has been drawn from all prior Ayreon albums and the Star One collection and therefore it spans the entire range of Arjen Anthony Lucassen's work from the softest most melodic standout tracks "Valley Of The Queens" (featuring Floor Jansen and Ewa Albering) and "Isis And Osiris," both from Into The Electric Castle, to the harder edges of Star One's Space Metal tracks.
Guitar and keyboard solos pervade the complex progressive arrangements. Lead vocals alternate principally between the three male vocalists superbly contrasting Damian Wilson's polished theatrical style with the more domineering sounds of Sir Russell Allen and Robert Soeterboek.
The stagecraft within the DVD is especially well choreographed. Combintations of the band's vocalists come and go throughout the performance with positions taken center stage or on high above the instrumentalists.
Floor and Irene--normally situated up a level and to the right of the other musicians--join Arjen and the others right up front during the more melodic moments of elongated choruses. There are plenty of video closeups that illustrate each of the musicians' instrumental virtuosity. Arjen even sings the brief Beatlesque part in "Amazing Flight In Space" before his solo duel with over the shoulder keyboard by Joost van den Broek. More attention to the visually stunning Floor and Irene Jansen in the video footage, especially given their consistently rhythmic dance movements, could have been provided.
The main set ends with the tremendous vocal harmony of "Castle Hall." The multimedia show continues when the band return to perform the dramatic numbers "The Eye Of Ra" and "Star Child." The progressively textured track "The Two Gates" includes a break to introduce the artists and an accessible chorus to leave the audience humming a tune as they depart the venue.
DVD extras include an enticing photo gallery taken from thousands of images submitted, informative behind the scenes rehearsal and soundcheck footage and the three bonus tracks: "Space Truckin'," "Intergalactic Laxative," and "Dreamtime." Joost van den Broek's keyboard and Peter Vink's bass solos are also included on the DVD but omitted from the CD set. The packaging is a quad fold digipak with cardboard sleeve. The accompanying booklet includes plenty of photos that commemorarate the band's tour.
Arjen Anthony Lucassen's website has been significantly enhanced with full album information, photographs and other useful material. Read further information, listen to soundbites and order the DVD special edition at amazon.com here and the double CD here.
As with Arjen Anthony Lucassen's earlier Ayreon, Ambeon and Star One releases, the Live On Earth DVD is worth a trans-Atlantic journey and is a must see and as one would expect, the CDs are a must listen!