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Affector: Harmagedon

Coming together when guitarist Daniel Fries approached Neal Morse drummer Collin Leijenaar with some demo ideas he had put together, Harmagedon is the conceptual, star-studded debut album from Affector. A small project this is not, with a full orchestra, four keyboard players and lyrics taken straight from the bible being presented as a tale expanding on Nostradamus's theories that the world will end in this very year, 2012. With Fries and Leijenaar filling two of the slots in the band, Affector are rounded out by bassist Mike LePond (Symphony X) and singer Ted Leonard (Spock's Beard/Enchant/Thought Chamber), with four distinguished guest keyboard players, Jordan Rudess, Neal Morse, Alex Argento and Derek Sherinian being given carte blanche to spread their magic across the album.

Opening with a short "Overture" courtesy of Poland's Sinfonietta Consonus, immediately it is clear that Harmagedon is set to be a prog metal album unwilling to take prisoners. Long, intricate, sometimes frantic instrumental passages are intertwined with mellower interludes where the lyrics are given the time to flourish and come to the fore. Sometimes that aspect can be too strongly leaned upon, however if the thought of muscular, ever evolving soundscapes from the likes of Dream Theater, Spock's Beard or Symphony X is something that captures your interest, then prepare to blown away. Huge in scope and grand in execution, tracks such as the fourteen minute "The Rapture" will have you gripped as it flashes from guitar run to drum explosions via a multitude of keyboard fills. At times things can become uber-technical, but the level of musicianship is never short of stunning and for the most part even the more technical blasts are in complete sympathy with their surroundings. The guitar style that Fries employs is reminiscent of John Petrucci, or Michael Romeo, but has more than enough individual style to set Affector apart, while the constantly chopping and changing keyboard line-up means that different flavours and colours continue to appear as the album progresses.

For some the lyrical content may well be too based on the religious side of things, but the vocal display from Leonard is nothing short of phenomenal, meaning that whether you have a connection to the words or not, you never fail to be engaged by the singing. As an album everything flows beautifully, with the songs feeling linked and relevant to each other, however the albums closes with two tracks that really take everything to another level. Running to thirteen minutes exactly, the title track is a perfect lesson in how a blistering prog workout can be punctuated with more introverted passages to make a completely rounded journey. Leonard again is stunning, but it is the way in which the guitars, bass and keys blend with the non-stop drumming that makes for something special. If anything closing track "New Jerusalem" takes all of that a slight step further, bringing things to a close in seriously impressive style.

The ideas that have formed this album began to take shape way back in 2005, hopefully, with the results being as convincing as those demonstrated here, it won't be another seven years before we get a second instalment. Although obviously that will depend on whether we are all still here in 2013 or not! In the meantime Harmagedon makes for a great way to while away the last few months we may, or may not have.

Track Listing
1. Overture Pt.1 Introduction
2. Overture Pt.2 Overture
3. Salvation
4. The Rapture
5. Cry Song
6. Falling Away & Rise Of The Beast
7. Harmagedon
8. New Jerusalem

Added: July 16th 2012
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Affector Official WebSite
Hits: 5271
Language: english

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Affector: Harmagedon
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-07-16 15:27:49
My Score:

Affector is built around the songwriting core of guitarist Daniel Fries from Germany and drummer Collin Leijenaar from the Netherlands. The band, however, might initally have drawn most prog enthusiasts' attention due to the addition of Enchant vocalist Ted Leonard and Symphony X bassist Mike LePond. Add to these a stellar cast of guest keyboardists and you're ready for Affector's first album, Harmagedon.

Being primarily a guitarist and drummer's album, the songs are very guitar-heavy with plenty of space set aside for interesting drum parts. On first listen, before I checked the liner notes, I knew the drummer was an integral part of this band. Leijenaar is not only responsible for producing this album, he lays down 'catchy' drum patterns, injects the compositions with complex drum lines and resolves the knotty instrumental breaks with masterful rhythmic awareness. The percussive elements planted in the middle of the 14-minute track "The Rapture" suggest he has a deep understanding of eastern percussion, which he expertly uses to underscore Alex Argento's keyboard work. You may be familiar with Argento for his work with Marco Sfogli, Lalu, or Joop Wolters as well as a plethora of other Lion Music artists, and if you're not, you should check him out.

The guitars have a distinct fusion touch to them; they flow seamlessly, presenting reams of improvised jam-like sessions. I can almost say this album could have been an instrumental record. On the second track "Overture Pt. 2: Prologue," the guitar tone is perfect; it is warm and fluid. Also, it has an eerie Liquid Tension Experiment texture to it, filling every pocket of sound with snaky rhythms and extended instrumental solos. Occasionaly, it adopts some heavy riffing, but Fries strictly keeps within the realm of progressive rock-meets-metal territory. In this aspect, the music could be likened to later-day Sieges Even, Magellan, Haken, and, of course, Enchant, though Affector's music seems more spontaneous and less calculated. Another parallel could be drawn between another Dutch band, the sadly defunct NovAct. Again, though, the similarity lies more in the 'rounded' guitar tones rather than song structures.

This kind of improvised jams often result in beautifully crafted passages, evoking the brilliance of Symphony X's V: The New Mythology Suite given the subtle Egyptian-based themes, powerful bass, and a good dose of keyboard solos. Perhaps for the first time ever, former and current Dream Theater keyboardists, Derek Sherinian and Jordan Rudess, appear on the same studio album. Their distinctive playing styles lend the album variety and depth. Rudess' solo in the title track screams Scenes from a Memory while Sherinian plays two, not one, leads on "Falling Away & the Rise of the Beast." Due to his earthy tone selection, he is instantly recognizable and anyone who hasn't heard his solo work is advised to do so. Of course, there is also Neal Morse on this tune, who plays his lead in his own unique style. He does not try to compete with or match Sherinian: instead, he adds texture and colour to the piece (think Spock's Beard most metallic release V). You'll know it's him when you hear this track anyway, but he is responsible for the first and last solo in the song. Perhaps Fries specifically asked Morse to handle the lead work on "Cry Song," given it is dedicated to his father whom he lost a few years ago. Morse seems to understand the need of the piece perfectly and inserts a heartfelt lead without detracting from its direction at all.

While Leonard puts in a stunning performance as expected, some of his vocals on this album definitely seem like they were added as an afterthought, which could be attributed to the fact that the album has too much of a jam feel to it. That said, from a lyrical standpoint, Leonard fits the sound of the band perfectly. He delivers Christian-inspired lyrics alluding to Biblical references in the songs. I feel his performance on Thought Chamber's Angular Perceptions was much better because the songs certainly seemed to be written with his voice in mind, and the compositions were more coherent.

The production resembles that of early Spock's Beard releases, which is no surprise given it was mixed and mastered by Rick Rouser (Neal Morse, Transatlantic). Also, the beautiful orchestral arrangements and instrumentation is the product of a real orchestra, the Polish Sinfonietta Consonus. The opening strings sound so real and organic; you'll immediately tell they're not synth generated.

The limited edition of the album contains two acoustic versions of "Harmagedon" and "New Jerusalem," and they're essential. The mix is stunning, and the vocal performance surpasses the album versions.

Finally, in the booklet, the band has a request from their fans: please don't upload this album. I don't think any prog fan in his right mind would disagree.

Affector: Harmagedon
Posted by Mark Johnson, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-06-07 20:41:00
My Score:

This German rock/metal band has produced an interesting spin on the Biblical Apocalypse, or End Times. With excellent guest musicians, like Jordan Rudess, Derek Sherinian, Neal Morse, and Alex Argento, on keyboards, it is easily full of some of the best keyboard work I've heard this year, so far. Ted Leonard, vocalist for Spock's Beard, Enchant, and Thought Chamber, does a great job singing the lyrics to describe the evolution of the story.

Full of powerful lyrics, excellent heavy guitar work, blasting drums and the aforementioned great keyboard work this is one of the surprises of the year and a band to look out for in the future.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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