Affector - Harmagedon

Inside Out
Affector came to life, as a project between Collin Leijenaar a guy who serves as Neal Morse’s touring drummer and a guy called Daniel Fries, that was some sort of biz associate of his, or something of the sort, that introduced CL, to some material he was working on and suggested a possible collaboration. Michael Le Pond, the bassist of Symphony X joined soon after and the final piece of the puzzle was placed when Enchant’s Ted Leonard who now also seems to be “Spock’s Beard” vocalist was chosen to handle the lyrical and phonetic duties. His choice, over a multitude of guest vocalists was very wise, since he’s a very evocative and technical singer, that had already displayed his pedigree on one of the genre’s best albums ever, namely Though Chamber’s “Angular Perceptions”.
While the idea of multiple vocalists was abandoned in favor of TL, there are multiple guest keyboard players, including former and current Dream Theater ones, Derek Sherinian & Jordan Rudess, as well as a certain Alex Argento and none other than Neal Morse himself.
One might be inclined to think that this project/album, reeks of Dream Theater and Spock’s Beard, influences and they’d not be 100% wrong, but such an allegation would also be a little belittling for the band and the album, as they try to build something quite unique, but trying to take Biblical quotes and turn them into a cohesive conceptual story. The white metal angle, is a bit tiresome, but the music is far from boring and I’d guess a lot more interesting than the music on the past few Theater albums.
In fact, I’d be inclined to say, that “Harmagedon” reminded me a lot of earlier period DT, soundwise, but from a songwriting perspective, it has its own character no matter, what external influences the band members may bring to the table.
There is a dual overture, at the beginning, with the first part being very orchestral, in fact utilizing a real Orchestra and the latter, more in tune with the rock nature of the album. Their themes are quite immaculate and very very beautiful. “Salvation” reprises some ideas from the 2nd overture, quite nicely and ebbs and flows between slow and melodic and temporally technocratic. “The Rapture” with its 14 minutes, is quite a mind-funk. There are some very smart ideas and some really off beat, off the wall stuff, early on, that add to the atmosphere greatly. Multiple traded solos follow with some minimal but very melodic input by TL and then even more solos, both guitar and keyboard ones... one of them, might actually, remind some people of some certain other song, by some other band... some might call it smart, I call it lazy, but hey... the song is not bad, but there are a few minutes in there, that no-one would have really missed. “Cry Song” is smooth and poppy, but works like an oasis, with its slower, easier on the ear tempos. It’s actually, a nice interlude, before “Falling Away & Rise Of The Beast” comes in and starts strutting it’s stuff around. A certain other guest, sprinkles some magic keyboard dust, over the song, very tastefully and with great finesse around the middle and the song reaches a rather interesting conclusion that veers a bit towards, 80s melodic metal in fact. The album’s namesake is a thirteen minute piece, that has everything but the kitchen sense, going on. Rhythm changes, solos, different parts... it’s like a miniature of the entire album. Finally, “New Jerusalem” is a really nice conclusion with its very uplifting and celebratory melodies elating the listener.
While, Affector, offers us a very promising debut, I suppose the shadow of the genre’s supremos, looms heavy over them, which makes comparisons somewhat unavoidable and also the whole Christian theme, I suppose, was something I found quite estranging, until I decided to treat it as the fairytale it is, ie, a mythos.
All in all, “Harmagedon” is surely a far more interesting album than the last couple of DT albums, but who will give a damn? Relatively few I guess.