Affliction XXIX II MXMVI
01. Self-Consciousness Is Desire and
02. After 38 Weeks
03. My New Playground Became
04. Dark and Gray.
05. So, It Feels Like Misunderstanding When
06. All My Hopes and Dreams Turn Into
07. Affliction XXVII II MMIX
It’s hard to deny that last year’s progressive metal releases were dominated by the two huge releases by The Ocean. In, the somewhat eccentrically titled Affliction XXIX II MXMVI (henceforth referred to as ‘Affliction’), Polish sludge aficionados Blindead seem to go some way towards capitalising on this success. Though I’m not for a minute suggesting any foul play, it is worth noting that if you were a fan of The Ocean’s last two albums, Heliocentric especially, this album may be worth a solid listen.
Affliction is comprised of 7 relatively long tracks, all sharing a brooding and developing atmosphere. Juxtaposing sound-scaping and tension with violent aggression in the manner that sludge metal has grown to define, Blindead perform admirably in a field in which they have many competitors. The tracks all run together remarkably well, with Affliction definitely coming across as a cohesive album as opposed to a collection of songs and despite a similar feel throughout, each track has its own individuality and value.
As is to be expected, the production and mixing is largely without fault, with the drum track especially well placed in the mix. Careful effort was clearly put in to allow the creation of a powerful tension within the slow, gloomy passages and booming noise in the crescendos and breakdowns. Subtle and precise use of sampling in some songs is again well incorporated, along with interesting touches such as a saxophone backing in the albums second track. This is an especially well executed trick, giving a strongly Morphine-esque feel unique to the track.
Musically the performances are all well matched to their purpose. The guitars serve largely as layering of harmony or noise, with little riff-based writing and a strong incorporation with the powerful rhythm section. The vocals stand out as one of the more defining characteristics of Blindead’s style and, though a little lacking in clarity at times, the vocalist’s ability to contrast bellowing guttural vocals with a distinct low register croon adds a lot to the record’s drive and feeling. Especially prominent is the tangible emotional strength in the bleaker, softer sections of the album.
Not to be too gushing, this album is not without its faults. Though, as mentioned earlier, the album does a great job of defining a consistent sound and feel, if listened to without attention it can be difficult to recognise the individuality in each track. The vocals sometimes sound weaker than they should and the bass is somewhat lower in the mix than is appropriate for music in which the low-register is such a prominent force. Overall this is a surprise success from a relatively unknown of band and, though a Heliocentric-beater it isn’t, it makes for an interesting listen. The final track especially is a tour de force of doing a lot with little instrumentation and generating a powerful doom-like emotional drive.
Blindead’s Affliction XXIX II MXMVI gets: