Ayreon’s epic 2020 album, Transitus, left Dutch guitarist Arjen Lucassen completely spent. Understandably so – It was an elaborate, 27-song rock opera that sometimes leaned on fanciful woodwinds and brass more so than Lucassen’s prog-spiced riffery. After completing the project, he was determined to ramp his guitar back up in the red with his decidedly chunkier prog-metal outlet, Star One.
“I really felt I needed to do a heavy, guitar-oriented album again. You know, that’s in my blood,” Lucassen says. “It’s much easier for me to grab the guitar, plug in and come up with 20 riffs than to make a whole rock opera with all these different moods and instruments.”
That’s not to say Revel in Time is comparatively one-dimensional. Though not locked into an overarching narrative, it’s an equally ambitious outing that finds Lucassen taking inspiration from time travel-themed sci-fi flicks.
Opener Fate of Man, for instance, is a wormhole-riding ripper that pairs Lucassen’s pace-quickening pull-off motifs with the plotline from The Terminator; Symphony X’s Michael Romeo also stops by to bend the space-time continuum with a molten blur of sweeps and agile tapping.
Romeo’s not the only guest soloist present, with leads across Star One’s latest also coming from Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, Whitesnake’s Adrian Vandenberg, Steve Vai and more. Complementing the album’s era-hopping theme, 28 Days (Till the End of Time) also ties Lucassen’s past and present together via the inclusion of guest shredder Timo Somers.
“I actually played with his father [the late Jan Somers] in the ’80s in the hard rock band Vengeance,” Lucassen says, gushing over the younger guitarist’s performance, “It’s that rare combination of power, aggression and melody. It’s not mindless shredding; it’s very tasteful. He actually made me cry when he sent me that solo.”
While Lucassen’s own playing laser beams from limberly picked, meter-shifting sublimity (Prescient), toward drop A-damaged grooves (A Hand on the Clock) and onto Rainbow-modeled power rock (Back from the Past), he was happy to mostly secede from soloing.
“I have so many great guitar players on this album that there was not much space for myself. There’s just one solo of mine in there, in the track Beyond the Edge of it All,” Lucassen says, adding that while he cut the bulk of the record using a seven-string Ibanez RG, he used a Strat for his lone, dive-warped lead.
“I always play my solos on a Fender. It’s more specific. It goes back to Ritchie Blackmore, Hendrix – the typical single-coil Stratocaster sound. Also, I’ve got the Shift 2001 tremolo on that [Strat]; I love that thing.”
- Revel in Time is out now via Inside Out.