Ayreon albums are usually large-scale concept epics and sometimes rock operas and on the later albums, used different vocalists for each character in the story.
Drummer Gerard Haitsma of the band- Bodine, called Arjen Lucassen and after an audition as a singer, convinced the band to use him as a second guitarist in addition to Rheno Xeros. Bodine moved into a heavy metal and in 1984 after a numer of albums, Bodine split up.
In the 1990's, after a solo career and a stint with Vengeance, Dutch multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Arjen Anthony Lucassen, formed Ayreon in 1994 and released its first album, `The Final Experiment,' then followed up with `Actual Fantasy,' Both were European hits. In 1996. Ayreon not only became more elaborate, Lucassen involved a huge cast of collaborators and guest musicians that change from project to project. `Into the Electric Castle,' released in 1998, is an upbeat two-disc epic sci-fi concept work spanning and featuring guests like ex-Marillion singer Fish, Damian Wilson (Landmarq), and Clive Nolan. Lucassen explained about the mega-produced epic CD: "The characters are blown out of proportions quite a bit. To inspire myself I rented a few B-movies to check out how Romans, Barbarians and Egyptians were stereotyped in those years. I like this tongue in cheek-thing, although I take the music itself very seriously." Lucassen used a lot of analog instruments on the album, giving the songs a warm, instantly recognizable non-digital sound. The year 2000 produced `Universal Migrator,' another double-disc set issued separately under the subtitles `Part I: The Dream Sequencer' and `Part II: Flight of the Migrator,' featured guest performers such as: Tiamat's Johan Edlund and Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson, Rocket Scientist's Erik Norlander and ex-Gorefest drummer Ed Warby. In the beginning of 2001 Arjen Lucassen created an ambient album, based on Ayreon songs, with a stunning vocalist, 14 year young Astrid van der Veen. Ayreon proves to be extremely successful in Japan and Europe. The profit from the first Ayreon album enabled Lucassen to build a complete studio.
'The Human Equation' was released in 2004. As on 'Into the Electric Castle,' there are several singers, each playing their own role. With The Human Equation, Ayreon turned away from the usual science fiction and fantasy themes with a seemingly semi-normal psychological theme.
Starting in 2004, after changing from Transmission Records to the InsideOut label, In 2005, to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Ayreon, The Final Experiment was reissued with a bonus semi-acoustic disc.
At the end of September 2006, when Arjen's new studio was finished, he began making a new album entitled 01011001, which was released on 25 January 2008. This album was noticeably darker than previous Ayreon releases, Lucassen attributes this to a depression and his divorce in the preceding year,
On 25 April 2008, Arjen released a new Ayreon EP named Elected. The EP features two tracks from 01011001, one from The Human Equation and an Alice Cooper cover (Elected), with vocals by Arjen and Tobias Sammet.
On September 16, 2008, Arjen announced in his official website the release of Timeline, his second compilation album, that will reunite selected songs from all Ayreon albums and an unreleased one in three CDs and a DVD. The album was released in November 2008. It was released in America in January 2009.
Arjen took a break from Ayreon and completed a new side project, Guilt Machine, in 2009. He also went on to release a second Star One album in 2010, and then a solo album under his own name in 2012.
During the Ayreon hiatus, Lucassen released a solo album, Lost in the New Real, which also takes place in the Ayreon universe.
On 8 August 2013, in an announcement on his Facebook channel, Lucassen stated that the new album- 'The Theory of Everything' was "basically ready" and "just in time for a release this year". The album was released on 28 October 2013. This album featured 7 vocalists and 11 guest musicians. He invited renowned musicians such as Rick Wakeman from Yes, Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater, and Steve Hackett of Genesis. For the guest singers, he invited Janne "JB" Christoffersson of Grand Magus, Cristina Scabbia from Lacuna Coil, Marco Hietala of Nightwish, new Kamelot vocalist Tommy Karevik, and Toehider vocalist Michael Mills to play the characters for the storyline. Similar to the Human Equation album, Arjen developed a story that had more of a psychological theme and it took place here on Earth as opposed to outer-space.
In 2015, The Human Equation was performed in its entirety live in an unofficial full-scale theatrical production called The Theater Equation. Although the shows used the Ayreon name and received Lucassen's blessing, they were not official Ayreon concerts; however, the last performance was recorded, and released as an official Ayreon live album/DVD on 17 June 2016; Lucassen took charge of the album's mixing himself.
In November 2016, Lucassen announced the first ever official Ayreon concerts for September 2017, entitled Ayreon Universe. The show featured 16 singers and 11 instrumentalists, all of which had previously worked together with Lucassen on his studio albums. Unlike The Theater Equation, it consisted of unrelated songs from Ayreon performed after each other as in a traditional concert, with a few songs from Star One featured as well. Performers included Floor Jansen, Marco Hietala, Damian Wilson (Headspace, ex-Threshold), Hansi Kürsch, Tommy Karevik, Jonas Renkse (Katatonia), Anneke van Giersbergen (VUUR, The Gentle Storm, ex-The Gathering), and Edward Reekers (Kayak), among others, as well as Lucassen himself. The performances were filmed and recorded, and they will be released on DVD, 3LP, 2CD, 2Blu-ray and vinyl on 30 March 2018 titled Ayreon Universe – The Best of Ayreon Live
On December 7, 2017, Lucassen stated that a new Ayreon concert would take place on June 22, 2018 at Graspop Metal Meeting, where they would headline the Marquee stage. It featured the same instrumentalists than the Ayreon Universe shows and most of its vocalists, along with Simone Simons and Tom S. Englund, who had never performed live with Ayreon before.
The Final Experiment 1995
Actual Fantasy 1996
Into the Electric Castle: A Space Opera 1998
Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer 2000
Universal Migrator Part 2: Flight of the Migrator 2000
Actual Fantasy Revisited 2004
The Human Equation 2004
The Theory of Everything 2013
The Source 2017