Afflicted were a Swedish metal band from the late 80’s to the mid 90’s releasing only two albums and a handful of demos. They began as Afflicted Convulsion playing primitive yet erratic death metal/grindcore. Although the riffs on their earliest (listenable) demo, Beyond Redemption, do little to set themselves apart from their contemporaries, we are presented with nuanced compositions that keep the listener enticed through each track, presenting satisfying wholes rather than myopic moments of inspiration. As Afflicted, the band would take their compositional skills and apply them to unique riffs on their demos and first album, Prodigal Sun. On their second album, Dawn of Glory, we hear them make a complete change into power metal. This change would not be for the better. With the ground work that they had laid as a death metal band they could’ve created something immense within the realm of power metal. Instead, everything they had built was degenerated on Dawn of Glory into base rock anthems.
Beyond Redemption (1990 demo)
On Beyond Redemption, we are presented with grinding hardcore influenced death metal. Its production is demo quality with an emphasis on low mids. The vocals are growls, in a hardcore vein, like those found on Pungent Stench records. The riffs are propelled by rhythmic rather than melodic progression with often spontaneous shifts from fast/mid paced grinding, rock rhythms and slower doom riffs. We are given glimpses into the melodic development the band would later display, through solos such as on “Consumed In Flames.” The drums trace the melodies with standard blasts and d-beats accented with fills and slower rhythms. The bass follows the guitars closely little to no variation. With an emphasis placed on rhythm instead of melody, the songs’ compositions are much more transparent and placed at the forefront with no distractions. Fortunately, this demo exhibits a strong voice through its structures by establishing effective (though simple) motifs that are then modulated through tempo and alterations in the structure of riffs themselves which are then woven in between each other in a self-propelling manner that maintains its pull even when the tracks slow down by explosive bursts back into full speed. All tracks maintain a balance of fast, mid and slow sections that provide point and counter-point interactions. Overall this sounds much closer to something found on a Pungent Stench record than their Swedish contemporaries, with strong hardcore and rock elements. This demo provides us with the framework that would be expanded upon through refined technique and experimentation that the band would be best known for through their first album.
Prodigal Sun (1992 album)
Prodigal Sun is a prime example of a band rising from humble yet solid beginnings, to a soaring culmination of its past and present, traversing new ideas upon its foundational strengths. It begins with an Egyptian influenced synthesizer intro attempting to replicate the sounds of a sitar, producing a high pitched jagged tone. The appropriately short intro ends and there is a brief silence before tensions rise through a false start on “Harbouring the Soul” that builds into a counterpoint interaction with a melody alluding back to the intro, in a similar Egyptian vein, rising until the track bursts open immediately exhibiting the band’s new approach.
The album’s overarching theme (presented in the intro, immediately taking us to an ancient Egyptian landscape) is subtly laced throughout the album’s entirety. Melodies from the first track are reintroduced in the 5th track, “The Empty Word,” in modulated forms. Prodigal Sun toes its line through expansion and contraction. It wanders into different territories then returns with new insights. It is an exorcise in recollection and reinvention. The production is just clean and spacious enough that it allows for all the instruments and ideas to fully express themselves, but it maintains its grit. Everything presented here is a balance, though manic.
What was created on their demos is taken that much farther. The grinding is more intense, the slower parts are heavier and the rock n’ roll elements are fully realized and unabashed. And because of this increase in all aspects Afflicted is able to truly transport the listener. It is an aural celebration of conflict, but it has a tinge of humor about it, reflecting a sense that reality should never be taken completely seriously. Reality is as absurd as it is devastating. It is as punishing as it is rewarding. It is as ugly as it is beautiful. It is a structured chaos. And Prodigal Sun reflects this adeptly.
Dawn of Glory (1995 album)
Afflicted’s 1993 promotional demo would mark conversion from death metal to power metal. Dawn of Glory followed 2 years later. This change in style proved to be the band’s decline as nothing on Dawn of Glory approaches its predecessor. With their approach to death metal, we could have expected something great from the band placed within a new context. But instead of the intricate melodic and rhythmic developments that occurred on Prodigal Sun, we are given repetitious, derivative and unimaginative riffs and linear songwriting. All of the songs’ emphasis are placed upon the vocals like in pop and rock, with the actual music doing very little. While other musicians were making a similar shift from extreme to traditional metal, but applying new found insights from extreme metal, Afflicted reverted to such a base form that there is nothing reminiscent here of what was on their debut. This is not metal all. This is rock n’ roll. This, sounds like an attempt at commercialization. There is nothing else to say since so little was given. It is a very unimpressive work that would mark Afflicted’s descent into obscurity.
Afflicted spent 4 years producing a multitude of demos to cultivate a unique, effective and honest voice within death metal on Prodigal Sun. Then something changed and they cast it all aside to attempt something they proved to have no experience or voice in. Perhaps it was an attempt to commercialize and break out to a wider audience, but when you have nothing real to say nobody cares. Perhaps if they had put in as much effort into developing their voice in power metal as they had in death metal, we could have had something as engaging and moving, but instead they pushed out their first attempts as if they were mature works and became forgettable, so they were forgotten.