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Technical yet melodic Swedish death metal emphasizing progressive rock influences in composition and instrumental interplay. Soul-searching progressive death metal which strays from stylistic expressive traditions, instead employing the elements of death metal the way that progressive rock bands use ‘rock’ elements, resulting in death metal as if played by a 1970s progressive rock band. The psychedelic atmosphere and the cosmic spiraling space-rock guitar melodies give this music a unique character, a distinct and somewhat quirky sound that pushes Afflicted to the outer reaches of their foundational style.
These songs are quite involved; not to the extent that it is unnecessarily ‘complex’, but rather, like the best of experimental music, its many sections are organized in a fashion that suggests sequential chaos, or jam-room randomness passed off as ‘improvisational’, yet intentionally resolves itself in aesthetically logical and satisfying conclusions. Each song-as-journey ends only when all possible and adequate explorations and their elaborations have been exhausted to the degree required for each track to properly represent itself, resulting in engaging songs that are always legitimized because of the band’s talent for interesting melodies and the eccentric atmosphere, which seems like a natural result of the combined elements rather than an intention of its creators.
Translucent melodies flow in lucid streams over dark, murky riffs that groove as well as shape tonal patterns for clear melodies striving from the depths of the unfolding conceptual design, a process right out of the tradition of Swedish death metal, but the particular phrasing in complex yet logical patterns, and the surging forward motion of rhythmic energy through musical themes that dramatically portray inner reflections of conceptual substance through a variety of tempo changes and technical instrumentalism is a direct influence from classic theatrical progressive rock. Enthralling guitar solos course through fluctuating rhythmic networks leading to an access of newly revealed passages suggesting a confrontational perpetuity, an eternal vision of the universal continuum, dynamically expressive as in reflecting all affections as one in a limitless potentiality within a never-ending experience of self-affirmed existence. The music is performed with an abundance of energy and skill, and this combined with the intelligence in structural design, especially the awareness of mood dynamics, makes this an exciting listen. The production might be a tad muddy for music this involved, but the clarity of the guitars, always a staple of Sunlight Studios, brings out the sometimes weird yet mostly thrilling riffs and cosmic melodies.
"The home of life
will seal his doom..."
The death metal growls are a bit goofy, which, at least for the first few listens, leaves the listener with the impression that this might have been more effective as an instrumental work, but in the context of the busy music with its rapid shifts in quick transitions, gives the band’s sound an aura of madness, a lunacy that interestingly contrasts with the keen awareness of the music and its thematic presentation, exploring the self and its relation to a bizarre world and its destruction by its own inhabitants, a lost humanity falling into error of environmental destruction and technological obsession as it desperately and therefore thoughtlessly tries to make sense of its existence. The superficial uniformity of a society which unifies itself only through and for appearance, rather than for the purposes of logicality and harmony, is often contrasted by the band with pagan mythology, esoteric spirituality, and reverence of nature as a way to express through comparison the difference between opposed perspectives.
Though the music contains identifiable elements of early 1990s Swedish death metal, particularly the guitar melodies and leads, not to mention the Sunlight Studio production, which peculiarly merges the obscure and the translucent, this band’s adventurousness separated it from its contemporaries of the time (1992), most of whom were hoping to cash in on the success of Entombed and other forerunners of the Swedish scene. Prodigal Sun sounds like nothing else that was being produced in Sweden (or anywhere else for that matter) at the time of its release, but it’s the music’s substance that allows this freshness its validity. The vocals are the weakest part of this album, but after a few listens this is hardly recognized, because the musical journey is, much like the journey of life, interesting enough to keep one from ending it because of one slight annoyance, which is quickly and easily overcome. It’s inspired music, that in turn inspires its audience by its will to self-discovery and creation. The music rises and sets with the sun, never losing its way in the obscurity of total night or midday functionality. Its spirit reflects the glory of dawn and the mystery of twilight, as the rising and setting sun commenting on the events to come and those that have passed. Chaotic yet purposeful, overflowing with inspiration, vision, imagination, exploding with creativity and power. Somehow this gifted band managed to become lost in the sea of Swedish death metal bands of the time, but they had a lot more to say, and much fresher and more interesting ways to say it, than most of their regional competition.
Apparently this band Afflicted was promoted by Nuclear Blast like the next big thing back in 1992.... and the hype backfired so catastrophically that today, few people know that Afflicted even existed.
It's is basically a much weirder version of early 1990s Swedish death metal, if much closer to the first death metal records back from the eighties but also unusually complex. There's some rather unlikely influences ranging from Arabic folk music to the heavy blues-rock metal evolved from, but they don't feel jarring.
The rather dry-sounding production has the bass much higher in the mix than usual for the genre, as it's far more active than usual for the genre - there's a lot of interaction between bass and guitars.
The individual songs are quite varied. Some are rather internally fluid in their progressions with the individual riffs slowly and progressively changing in texture, others containing much more dramatic developments. Completely abrupt ones mostly appear in only one song, "Astray". A few leitmotifs in the forms of specific riffs or lead breaks keep the album coherent.
As for cases when comparing specific songs... "Tidings from the Blue Sphere" is a good example - it seems to be anticlimactic by design, with the occasional outburst of energy, giving the whole thing a tragic but far from lifeless expression. The following song "The Empty Word" feels more like an unpredictable whirlwind. In fact, the songwriting on this album is overall very unpredictable by design and somehow manages to pull it off correctly.
Except for two songs being more spiritually oriented, the lyrics here are more overtly political than usual for the genre, full of criticism of contemporary civilization. The subversive vitriol shows in the music too, so nobody can accuse this of sacrificing attitude for complexity like much tech-death is criticized for - making it a very good example of how to do this style. Definitely recommended.