Affliktor – Affliktor 01Delving between sofa cushions, peering into cupboards, kicking over rocks — we music scribes are always searching for the next band that that can bring joy into our pitiful existence. Doing so involves wading through the primordial soup of unknown metal acts, straining to spy a wolf among the bleating of listless mutton. This often plays out as a feedback loop that begins with the hope of discovering something special, followed by despair when our expectations are dashed and, finally, hope again when we give in to the gambler’s fallacy and convince ourselves that the next promo will be the one. I’ll admit my heart rate quickened when I spied the self-titled debut release from America’s Affliktor floating in the promo pool. Billed as a technical and evolved take on blackened thrash, Affliktor is the latest project by respected musician Toby Knapp (of OnwardGodless Rising, Waxen and Where Evil Follows fame) so, naturally, I had to sate my curiosity on exactly what a gilded underground shred-fest entailed. Is it enough to break the vicious cycle of giddiness and misery?

Rather than languishing towards the end of the review I’m going to break with tradition and put the album’s production front-and-centre as its impact is felt in every note. Affliktor is a very fine album, overflowing with surgical shredding and tempestuous solos but much of this goodwill is undone by a milquetoast recording that bleaches the music of character. The drums are too prominent in the mix, the rhythm section is thin and brittle and the lead guitar — the star of the show — gets buried with alarming regularity. The dynamic range is ample but a wide dynamic range can’t make up for a lacklustre production.

The resultant fallout from a flat, anemic sound is a detachment that necessitated countless spins of the record for its worth to shine through. I’m glad I persisted, however, because there’re some scintillating moments on Affliktor and it would be a shame to dismiss the album without giving it its time in court. “Storms of Demogorgon” lists hither-and-tither with a very lead-focused sound, putting riffs on the back seat for some looping solos that impress both technically and sonically. The emphasis on musicianship places the music closer to Black Future-era Vektor than the slovenly output of blackened thrash acts like Abigail. With its mid-tempo chords and copious double-kick, “Born to the Breeder” leans into death metal territory with a distinct Morbid Angel tone but still maintains incisive riffs, hot licks and a chorus that’s catchy enough to chant out loud.

Affliktor – Affliktor 02

It’s a mark of prestige that at no point did I entertain the notion that the album was the work of a single individual rather than a group of musicians toiling in tandem. This is not a mark against one-man-bands but an observation that one can often see the seams where the sole composer has stitched the various threads together. Not here, Knapp’s musical interdigitation is flawless. Sitting somewhere between Nocturno Culto and Mille Petrozza, the vocals are serviceable but unremarkable, a fact only highlighted by the overachieving nature of the rest of the music. Despite his prodigious talents, Knapp displays admirable restraint and places songwriting above showmanship, careful to not overburden the tracks with preening displays of ego. Not something you can say about other luminaries.

Aside from a few pointed examples, the quality of the music released thus far in 2017 has been underwhelming. Every tepid album I consume only leaves me unfulfilled and hoping that the next one will sate my hunger. That Affliktor was almost summarily dismissed out of hand due to the weak production is a point of vexation because I grew to enjoy my time with the album and developed a large measure of respect for its maker. Divorced from the tyranny of the recording medium, I feel that the music here would be better suited to a live environment, the head-banging swagger of “Burn the Earth” and the Annihilator jauntiness of “Nothing Shall Arise” being prime examples. Knapp has mentioned he is toying with the idea of forming a live line-up so perhaps the opportunity to hear the music unfettered is not too far away. For now, the record is held back from greatness by its insipid fabrication. The production didn’t stop me from liking Affliktor but it certainly stopped me from loving it. For now, the cycle of joy and desolation remains unbroken.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Website: affliktor.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/affliktor
Releases Worldwide: October 20th, 2017

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  • Brutalist_Receptacle

    Bring your knives to be sharpened by Freaky ‘Fflictör at the Färmers Märket this Saturday.

    • sir_c

      The picture indeed looks like he’s using a honing steel to sharpen the kitchen knife.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    I’d hate being a PR manager for a reputable underground label like Transcending Obscurity because half of my time would be spent explaining to Philip why a picture of him standing on his veranda wielding a katana while wearing corpse paint isn’t fucking metal.

    Chances are this is more a character fault of my own and I’m just a poser though.

    • PR = Poser Reportage.

    • wayne the devil

      He looks hung over…..

    • Brutalist_Receptacle
    • Dethjesta

      Yeah, that kind of behaviour can get you arrested (in most civilised countries).

    • Nukenado

      Here’s a fun game; take black metal promos shots and add power metal backgrounds.

    • Marshlander

      Could well be those were just drumsticks or celery before PR decided to add a bit of edge with photoshop. Those guys are not the voice of (metal) reason!

  • wayne the devil

    2017 has had a common theme-KBP…killed by production. The list of what would have been killer Metal killed by bad production is far too long this year imo….but I like this album, flawed and all. two cents…

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    interdigitation

  • Iain Gleasure

    So what your saying is DR isn’t key good mixing is? Truly, who would have thought? The war rages on.

  • Bystander

    Dwight Shrute?

  • Eli Valcik

    I liked this more than a 3.0. THE RIFFS MAN THE RIFFS! Planet Rougue and Choas Magik Totality kick ass!

    • PotaD0s

      As usual, Eli rises above the rabble-rousing to speak sense! Oh wait, we are rabble rousing over the score being too low aren’t we? AH WELL, PITCHFORKS OUT BOYS.

      I dig the fuck out of this. Some tasty riffs all up and down this album.

      • Eli Valcik

        Yeah, while reading the review I found that the things that Treble had with the album were things that I enjoyed about it. Hail subjectivity. And yes rabble rabble

    • The Akerstache

      It’s really hard to complain about a nasty slice of blackened thrash, especially with riffs like this.

    • All scores are final. Until, you know, they aren’t.

  • Matt slatz

    It appears my Brazilian gaucho has no meat left on his skewer…….check please

  • Thatguy

    Sounds too horrible to listen beyond 1.56 and all the smart-arse comments on the promo photo have been made. I don’t want to be a dick – no, actually I do but I can’t be bothered – so I’m out of here.

    • You wot m8?

      “I don’t want to be a dick – no, actually I do but I can’t be bothered – so I’m out of here.”

      Thatguy, I think you’re my spirit animal.

  • sir_c

    The logo has a very oldschool Metallica-esque quality

  • ToddRob64

    Was almost going to give this one a miss until Annihilator was mentioned, damn you Treble!!

  • Tofu muncher

    old school goodness… whoo hoo

  • Heretic

    The man creates amazing music on a cheap 4 track with a top ramen budget, in bumfuck Wyoming. 😳 I would love to hear what he could do in an actual studio with proper funding.

  • Blut Aus Jord

    First song reminded me of Blizzard Beasts for some reason.