After 4 years of intensive writing and recording, newcoming prog metallers AFFECTOR are finally set to release the concept album “Harmagedon” via InsideOutMusic. The seed for this debut album was planted in 2006 with the initial meeting of Dutch drummer Collin Leijenaar and German guitarist Daniel Fries. As the touring drummer for Neal Morse (Transatlantic, Flying Colors, ex Spock’s Beard), Leijenaar sometimes encountered fans on the road seeking his feedback on their own music. It was a routine that not always brought something interesting to the table, but as fate would have it, Fries had something inspirational to offer. His music was strong enough to forge a friendship with Leijenaar and the pair kept in contact, trading ideas along the way that have only now come to fruition in 2012 in the form of “Harmagedon”.
“We tried several times over the years to do something together,” Leijenaar reveals, explaining the delay on a project that works quite well, “but because of my crazy schedule things didn’t work out. It got to the point where one day I said, ‘I either do this now or I have to forget about it.’” Songwriting began earnestly in 2008, with Leijenaar and Fries creating demos based on separate and collaborative musical ideas, including some dating as far back as 2005 and earlier.
Connections to vocalist Ted Leonard (Enchant, Spock’s Beard, Thought Chamber) and bassist Mike LePond (Symphony X) brought both men on board, and the unit was confident enough in what they’d created to put together a wish list of guest keyboardists for their debut album that included Neal Morse, Alex Argento, Derek Sherinian (Black Country Communion, Planet X, ex-Dream Theater) and Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater). They succeeded in securing all four, adding spice to an already exotic meal. According to Leijenaar it was “’a trip’ getting the quartet on “Harmagedon”. We gave Alex, Neal, Derek and Jordan carte blance, so they could do whatever they wanted and surprise us, which they did (laughs)".
Of course, using terms like “exotic” to describe a newcomer band sounds like shameless lip service. Dive into “Harmagedon”, however, and it’s clear that for all of AFFECTOR’s obvious and admitted influences, there are some unique twists to the proceedings. The album begins, for example, with an instrumental introductory piece (‘Overture pt. 1&2’) – complete with a flesh-and-blood orchestra (Poland’s Sinfonietta Consonus) – to introduce all the musical themes featured in a manner similar to an opera or musical. In the band’s eyes, people should look at the album as one song, one story.
Leijenaar explains: “We didn’t write it for the audience, we wrote it for ourselves. As a composer it is important to stay true to yourself and compose that which moves you; you want to write for yourself as an art form rather than thinking about what will be commercially the right thing to do and what people will dig immediately. At least that is how I see it. I rather hear creative music born from personal inspiration than music that could be illustrated in the handbook "how to write a hit song".
We’re expressing ourselves with all the different styles we like. It’s metal, but it’s also rock, it’s light, symphonic and it’s soulful, even Queen-esque at times. It’s a melting pot of the music we love.”
Thus, AFFECTOR makes no apologies for the lines that can easily be drawn to artists like Dream Theater, Spock’s Beard, Genesis and many other prog rock and metal greats. If someone hears a certain band within the “Harmagedon” framework, it’s not by chance.
Ultimately, if the music isn’t enough to rope the listener in, the album concept is sure to finish the job. As “Harmagedon” will be released in 2012, the band chose to focus on the predictions (via the Mayan calendar and the writings of Nostradamus) that the world is doomed to end in 2012 and thought it would be interesting to do something with that 'end of the world' theme. So Fries and Leijenaar took parts of one of the oldest books in history (the Bible) to tell the story of the end times using only biblical verses. There is no rhyme or cadence for the vocals, the lyrics haven’t been embellished with a personal touch, and the music was written around the verses. It is, in the truest sense, experimental art. Leijenaar add: “We wanted to see if it was possible to do this, and somehow it worked out. It was quite a challenge to get all the text singable, and Ted did an awesome job." The only exception to the rule is ‘Cry Song’, which deals with the death of Daniels father, and somehow sits perfectly in the story.
With “Harmagedon”, AFFECTOR does not want to push the listener in any direction. "The storyline of this album has its roots in the biblical view of the popular "2012-end-of-the-world" hype. It is one of many views on what could happen. We don't know the answers and it is not our goal or intention to give answers. If people want to dig into the lyrics, that’s fine. If not, that’s fine with us too. In the end it's about the idea and the songs.”
AFFECTOR’s debut album was mixed and mastered at The Mouse House in Los Angeles by Rich Mouser (Spock's Beard / Transatlantic / Neal Morse) and its concept album fuses a dark, apocalyptic scenery with themes of hope and light. “Harmagedon” features heavy riffs and lightning fast solos, but also has softer and more fragile moments with soulful vocal harmonies, coming across like an open marriage between progressive rock/metal and orchestral minimalism, destined to appeal to everyone into bands ranging from Dream Theater, A.C.T., Symphony X, Darkwater to Queen or Rush.