Seventeen singers in total, including Lucassen himself, contributed to the album, more than any other Ayreon album. Apart from Lucassen, only Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering) and Floor Jansen (After Forever, Nightwish) had sung on previous Ayreon albums, on Into the Electric Castle and Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer respectively.
It also stars, among others, Bob Catley from Magnum, Hansi Kürsch from Blind Guardian, Jørn Lande, and Steve Lee from Gotthard in his final guest appearance before his death in 2010. The album was a commercial and critical success.
Through technological advancement, 'Forever', a race of aquatic beings living on Planet Y, has found the secret of longevity. They have advanced to the point that they have become completely dependent on machines and are losing their emotions. A passing comet on a collision course with Planet Earth provides the opportunity to revitalize their race; 'Forever' harness the comet to carry their DNA to a new home on Earth. When the comet and Earth collide, the cataclysmic impact exterminates the dinosaurs (the Fifth Extinction), but from the ashes of destruction, humans arise. At first, the experiment with seeded DNA seems successful: through the humans 'Forever' vicariously relive the emotions they experienced before the age of machines. In order to help mankind overcome their physical ailments and mental limitations, 'Forever' speeds up human evolution. But the result is tragic: people develop a similar technological dependency with their emotions waning just like 'Forever' and moral development not keeping pace with their capacity to invent. 'Forever' must find a way to save mankind from its imminent self-destruction… or should they?
AllMusic reviewer Cosmo Lee praised the album, saying that it has "pristine production [and] byzantine songs that feel like full albums." He went on to say that "Music this over the top almost defies criticism. Reviewing it is like reviewing the world's tallest building. It doesn't care; it just goes on and on." Exclaim's Laura Wiebe Taylor felt that the album had some great songs, such as "Liquid Eternity" and "E=mc2," but that some of the other songs were weaker, including "Newborn Race" and "Web of Lies." She concluded her review by saying that "ultimately, 01011001 is a hard rock extravaganza."
Chad Bower, in his review for About.com, said that 01011001 "has something for everyone," and that the album is "a musical tour de force that takes the listener on a musical journey with an interesting storyline and very well-written songs." Record Collector's Tim Jones noted the differing styles of the album's songs, saying that "The Truth is in Here" is similar to the music of Blackmore's Night, that "River of Time" is reminiscent of Jethro Tull, and that "Beneath the Waves" reminded him of Pink Floyd