Affector are a new band that can be regarded as a progressive metal super group. Drummer Colin Leijenaar is a prominent name in the Dutch prog rock scene; he's also drummer in Neal Morse' s European live band. Bass player Michael LePond is a band member of Symphony X, and singer Ted Leonard is courtesy of Enchant and off course Spock Beard's new frontman. Only Daniel Fries is a fairly unknown German guitar player, but with the release of Harmagedon, his name will surely enter the ranks of stunning progressive metal guitarists. The band lacks a keyboardist, but the ivory black and white keys are being played by some of the most prominent names in the metal scene, namely Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Derek Sherinian (Planet X, Black Country Communion), Alex Argento, who plays on many prog metal albums and moreover, he made an incredible solo album Ego, and last but not least Neal Morse (ex-Spock's Beard, Transatlantic, Flying Colors).
With a line-up like this complemented by the guest musicians, I think quality will be guaranteed. I only received an MP3-download for writing this review, but this certainly is an album of which I'll buy the limited CD edition. The album opens with The Overture, parts 1-2; part 1 is a short instrumental and bombastic atmospheric prelude to part 2, in which we get acquainted with the style of playing of Daniel Fries: melodic and with a certain heaviness. He plays his solos nicely and fluently, but his riffs are really powerful and heavy. In part 2 of The Overture, he's duelling with, I think, Alex Argento but this is not mentioned in the booklet. That duel makes this piece a stunning instrumental opening for the album.
Next is Salvation on which we can hear Ted Leonard's vocals for the first time referring to Thought Chamber and Enchant, but the guitar and the bass give this composition an Iron Maiden touch. Musically everything sounds well-balanced; Colin Leijenaar's drums sound quite impressive and Michael LePond's bass has a fine rumbling sound. In the softer part of the song, Leonard's vocals contain such an emotion that it lifts the music above average; plenty of keyboards help to achieve this. The Rapture is a fourteen-minute piece with a killer riff. During this riff I just had to pump up the volume to twelve! It looks like Leonard is doing a duet with himself. The link to Dream Theater's music can be heard in Jordan Rudess's keyboard solos and in certain guitar parts, mainly the solo parts in which the influences of John Petrucci are evident. All keyboards on Cry Song are played by Neal Morse, but I guess Neal was also involved in writing this song, because it would have been a great piece on one of his solo albums.
In Falling Away & The Rise Of The Beast the power returns. A strong riff and impressive vocals go hand in hand with the impressive keyboard solos by Derek Sherinian and the melodic guitar parts. This bombastic powerful song holds excellent showcases of the instrumentalists. The title track contains bombastic sounds as well, but with more up-tempo singing. The first part is virtuoso, the guitar sounds almost jazzy in the middle-section, but the lyrics about the end of the world, larded with Biblical quotes are getting over the top, especially when the hallelujah chorus takes over. However, the excellent craftsmanship of the musicians draws most of the attention. Heavy sounds notify the coming of New Jerusalem, with pleasant vocals and majestic keyboard playing. Different layers of keyboards form a solid foundation for the impressive guitar work of Daniel Fries. On the limited edition the songs Harmagedon and New Jerusalem are added as a bonus in an acoustic setting, which give these songs a completely different atmosphere.
I'm very impressed by Affector's debut album. The music is outstanding, bombastic and contains quite a number of instrumental highlights. Ted Leonard does a tremendous job and the instrumentalists take the band to the ranks of Dream Theater. The only thing that prevents me from giving the album five stars is the Biblical content of the album. If you're a believer and you got no problems with quotes from the Bible, just add a star and as far as I'm concerned, you got one of the most impressive albums of the year. Since I'm not a believer, I got stuck on four stars.
**** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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