With Harmageddon, the progressive rock group Affector has really tried to push the boundaries of an album, creating more of an epic that attempts to take the listener through the end of times.
Often, the band succeeds in telling this tale, and what is most impressive is that they do it with their music (as opposed to the lyrics). I was very surprised that the first two tracks on the album were instrumental, as I’ve never seen that before in an album that wasn’t entirely void of vocals. What I realized after listening to the album a few times though is that these opening tracks really do well to set up the mood of the album.
The opening track is completely orchestral. It begins very softly, but progresses forcefully into a galloping climax that lets the listener know that they are in for a dramatic album. It is a very nice intro, setting a solemn but determined tone.
The second track is then just a further ascension into the mood, but adds the instrumentation that will be featured throughout the rest of the album. I thought this was a clever way to introduce the talents of the members of the band who do not do vocals (vocalists don’t’ have any problem being noticed, thus don’t’ really need to be introduced). Really, I just thought this gradual climb into the album was very clever and really served the title of “progressive rock” well.
The album finally kicks in full-force in the third track, and the rest of the album stays pretty consistent from there. What comes through almost immediately is the noticeable talent of each of the players. I found the bass work and keyboard work most riveting. Mike LePond is not a typical stick-to-the-roots-and-stay-in-the-background bassist; throughout the albums he puts forth very nice embellishments to the melodies of the songs. What I liked most from the keyboard work (which was done by several different players, including Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater) was the amount of texture it added to the songs. Whether the keys sounded like an organ or a synth or a violin, they always seemed to mesh really well with the mood of the songs. The orchestra-sounding parts were particularly moving, keeping the epic feel of the album alive.
Though I was very impressed with the first two tracks, I felt the progression through the rest of the album was lacking. A lot of times, I felt more like I was listening to jam band, as the guitar would solo over one riff that was played over and over in the background. When the rhythm section stuff isn’t changing, the solos become flat because they are unable to progress. In the best progressive music, harmonies and rhythms are being manipulated measure after measure. Affector’s music doesn’t really do that—and they come off a little bit lazy because of it. The rhythms were particularly flat, as there was very little complexity going on.
Harmageddon is a good effort with some nice textures and thematic elements; however, as a progressive album it has a lot to want.
Key Tracks: Cry Song, New Jerusalem, The Rapture
July 23, 2012