Cleveland’s Affiance have been a bit of an underdog in the metal realm for awhile now. Sure, almost everyone has seen their hilarious “Call to the Warrior” video or heard their excellent cover of Europe’s classic “The Final Countdown”, but the group’s solid sophomore release The Campaign must not have received a solid, um, campaign, since so few seemed to get the memo: these guys are really good. If scientists could concoct the most potent brand of metalcore in a lab, Affiance might be the result. The group’s music takes the punch of first-wave groups like Killswitch Engage with the vocal and guitar bombast of NWOBHM greats Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Basically, if you like your metal loud and passionate, get on this now. The question is whether Affiance’s upcoming third album will be the record that propels them further.
I can answer that one simply: absolutely, yes. Blackout shows a band who has improved on all fronts. This may be the most consistent metalcore album released this year. The guitar work is exceptional, with an increased emphasis on nifty solos and twin-guitar harmonies. The rhythm section is on a mission from God to pummel the listener, in a friendly manner, of course. Aside from the few awkward moments when the band tries its hand at breakdowns, everything serves one important purpose: to get your blood pumping. “Monuments Fail” calls to mind some of Unearth’s best tracks, and “In Justice” is the type of song that you literally can’t play loud enough.
Dennis Tvrdik’s voice has always been a point of contention for listeners, as his wailing tenor is much more suited for an Iron Maiden cover band. To be blunt, nobody sings like this anymore. On the first two records, Dennis’ vocals were always good, though his melodies and vocal lines could have been improved. Thankfully, it seems like Dennis is his own harshest critic, as Blackout is his best work yet. No longer does he feel out of place. Instead, his voice exudes confidence and power, coming across more like another instrument instead of simply a platform for catchy choruses. “Death Cycle” isn’t the same song without Mr. Tvrdik’s excellent vocals.
Blackout is easily the best release from this steadily rising group. The entire band feels more confident and comfortable in their shoes. Affiance should no longer be known simply for one awesome music video. 2014 has had some stellar releases, but few are as consistently entertaining and fun. Music doesn’t have to be challenging or dense to be great. It simply has to speak to you. It’s time to turn on Blackout and let this steadily rising band do just that. (Nicholas Senior)