AFFECTOR – Harmagedon [Limited Edition O-Card packaging] (2012)

AFFECTOR - Harmagedon [Limited Edition O-Card packaging] (2012) FRONT

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Coming together when German guitarist Daniel Fries approached Neal Morse drummer Collin Leijenaar with some demo ideas he had put together, “Harmagedon” is the conceptual, star-studded prog metal debut album from AFFECTOR.

The band, however, might initally have drawn most prog enthusiasts’ attention due to the addition of Spock’s Beard / Enchant vocalist Ted Leonard and Symphony X bassist Mike LePond.

Add to these a stellar cast of guest keyboardists 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 or Spock’s Beard are 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. 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 this track suggest he has a deep understanding of eastern percussion, which he expertly uses to underscore Alex Argento’s keyboard work.

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.

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.

The lyrical concept over “Harmagedon” is a biblical slant on Nostradamus’ end of the world theory, told with conviction by vocalist Ted Leonard which is one of those severely underrated talents, and he really struts his stuff all over this recording.

AFFECTOR - Harmagedon [Limited Edition O-Card packaging] (2012) sticker

Perhaps for the first time ever, former and current Dream Theater keyboardists, Jordan Rudess and Derek Sherinian, appear on the same studio album.

Their distinctive playing styles lend the album variety and depth. Rudess’ plays a solo in the title track 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.

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.

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.

In this CD all 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.

This limited edition contains two acoustic versions of “Harmagedon” and “New Jerusalem,” and they’re great, with a completely new dimension. The mix is stunning, and the vocal performance even surpasses the album versions.

For progressive rock/metal fans, Affector is nothing short of a supergroup, and in their debut “Harmagedon” the band delivers exactly what’s expected from them: big riffs, orchestral swells, symphonic keyboards and plenty of bombast permeate this concept album, which, for lovers of epic releases, will push all the right buttons.

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.

For some, the lyrical content may well be too based on the religious side, 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.

This kind of material requires expert hands, and Rick Rouser’s (Neal Morse, Transatlantic) mix and mastering is clear and organic.

Supergroups for the most part seem to let down more than they impress. But if truth be told, this is one of the exceptions. Affector’s lineup will ensure there’s no shortage of fans that will quickly pick this up without a second thought.

And so they should. “Harmagedon” is a worthy effort.

01 – Overture pt. 1; Introduction

02 – Overture pt. 2; Prologue

03 – Salvation

04 – The Rapture

05 – Cry Song

06 – Falling Away & Rise Of The Beast

07 – Harmagedon

08 – New Jerusalem

09 – Harmagedon [Acoustic] (Bonus Track)

10 – New Jerusalem [Acoustic] (Bonus Track)

Ted Leonard – Vocals

Daniel Fries – Guitars

Mike LePond – Bass

Collin Leijenaar – Drums

Guest musicians:

Jordan Rudess – Keyboards

Derek Sherinian – Keyboards

Neal Morse – Keyboards

Alex Argento – Keyboards

The Polish orchestra ‘Sinfonietta Consonus’

AFFECTOR - Harmagedon [Limited Edition O-Card packaging] (2012) back cover

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