Concept albums are hard to pull off. In order to do it well, you have to have much more than just a story. In addition to the story, the songs have themselves must be good, engaging, and able to stand on their own. When I settled down, put my headphones on and began to listen to Lost in the New Real, the latest opus by Dutch composer, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and producer Arjen Lucassen, I was immediately sucked into his world.
Lost in the New Real tells the story of a modern man by the name of Mr. L. Mr. L was cryopreserved at the moment of clinical death from a terminal disease. The album begins as Mr. L is being revived at a point in the distant future when technology has advanced enough to cure his disease. Mr. L finds himself in a world that has drastically changed. Mr. L finds himself in a time way in the future where we, as a society, have lost control of technology. Mr. L, with the help of his appointed psychological adviser finds himself trying to adapt to this new world. He struggles to live in this new place and to accept that the way we experience life and nature, the way we procreate, and even the way we listen to music has all drastically changed.
The opening song, “The New Real”, sets the pace for this ethereal journey with its meditative tones, pulsing rhythms, and the trippy, mellow vocals of Arjen. Half way through this song I realized that this was going to be more than just listening to an album. This was going to be an experience like no other. “Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin” has Arjen predicting that eventually we will be able to create new music just by thinking of different artists in our minds and combining them to create all new music. It’s really ingenious yet it’s absolutely horrifying to think that technology may be heading that way. While the music aspect of the concept is what seems stand out, Arjen also addresses things like overpopulation (“Parental Procreation Permit”), music piracy (E-Police), and bringing the concept to a close with “Lost in the New Real.” This song closes with Mr. L remember where it was he came from while expressing his frustration of being “brought back like a lab rat.” This closing track had me feeling like I could be hearing a sequel to this story and I wouldn’t be against that one bit.
Disc II of Lost in the New Real consists of original songs and covers that, while not part of the concept of Disc I, they are somewhat related to it. Arjen included some outstanding cover such as a gorgeous “Battle of Evermore (Led Zeppelin), “Veteran of the Psychic Wars (Blue Oyster Cult) and my personal favorite, “Welcome to the Machine” by Pink Floyd which has been given a somewhat industrial treatment making it even more haunting than the original. That particular cover I feel would have been very much more suited to be part of the conceptual Disc I as it really relates back to the idea of technology taking over and creating music from our thoughts as touched on in “Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin.”
Arjen Lucassen very well could be the hard rock world’s Roger Waters straddling the line between absolute genius and deranged madness. Arjen could be expressing a Nostradamus like prophecy or he could just be letting us deep into his mind, heart, and soul to see his own personal thoughts, fears, and excitement of just what the future may hold for us. Either way, Arjen Lucassen’s Lost in the New Real is something that anybody with a good mind, a good heart, and a good ear for music could and should get behind. This is an experience unlike any other and I can honestly say that this is a journey I will be taking more than once.