InsideOut Music (2012)
Four stellar musicians work like mad scientists in their own studio laboratories to make a progressive metal album. Only meeting each other at shows on tour- they pass their ideas back and forth through computer files, refining and fine tuning the final product. Welcome to Affector and their debut 64 minute album “Harmagedon”. An 8 track extravaganza, the players may be well known to those who follow progressive rock and metal with any amount of intensity. Drummer Collin Leijenaar is a touring musician with Neal Morse/Dilemma, guitarist Daniel Fries hails from Germany, and they recruited Americans Mike Lepond (from Symphony X on bass) and Ted Leonard (from Enchant/Thought Chamber on vocals) to complete the main components- along with a series of guest keyboardists to take on some of the solos and playing elements there (Alex Argento, Derek Sherinian, Jordan Rudess, and Neal Morse).
After the dual “Overture” instrumental pieces that set up the introduction, the tranquil clean guitar lines from Daniel and serene vocal melody during “Salvation” soon subside into a series of heavier, arpeggio-laced parts that include some serious keyboard/guitar/bass syncopation that has to be heard to be believed (2:17-2:26) as well as gentle moments where harmonization builds and flows like the early work of Dream Theater or mid 70’s period Rush/Yes. Two of the songs eclipse the 13 minute mark (“The Rapture” and the title cut), so those who enjoy broad, sweeping musical movements will have plenty to sink your ears into with this release. What amazes me overall though is the concentration the players place on advancing the music while keeping an ear on hooks and melodic dynamics- proving that you can be adventurous in a cohesive format.
My favorites include the quieter “Cry Song” where Ted channels multiple mid-range and lower voices into this magical, lullaby-like quality and the title cut, where Collin challenges his percussion skills to the max through a series of energetic, almost Morse Code like snare/cymbal/tom time signature maneuvers that prove he’s one of the best in the business. You won’t walk away from “Harmagedon” without feeling like you heard everything- this requires astute, intense headphone experiences.
Glad to see Affector on the scene- let’s hope we don’t have to wait six years for the next outing.
Rating: 5 / 6
Composed by Matt Coe