I've been waiting for a band to put together 2 consistent albums for a long time now, and it looks like After Forever was the first to do that...funny, I was reading my review to 'Remagine' and I realized just how much my taste for music has changed. Just 2 years ago, I was preaching to bands to end grunting. Nowadays, I've listened to a lot of albums that use grunts and it doesn't phase me a bit. 'Remagine' has received a ton of spins and is ranked #3 all time in my favorite female rock albums. Can't beat them? Join them.
After Forever return with a self-titled affair this time around, and it's almost as good as 'Remagine.' Overall, I feel there are two strong factors in their music style. Obviously, the first is the unbelievable vocals of Floor Jensen, who can belt out not only a solid clean voice, but a mindblowing operatic vocal. Factor #2, the vituoso that is Joost Van Den Broek, someone who can pretty much manipulate any keyboard into anything he desires, and single-handedly make an average band awesome with sick melodies and analog mayhem.
The smartest thing After Forever did though, was getting away from Sony Distribution, who put that god-awful spyware-esk copy protection on their last album, and jumped on to Nuclear Blast, which will guarantee the band a US release down the road (it's about time. They've been one of Holland's best kept secrets for too long...but then, I've felt that way for a lot of Dutch goth bands.) I opted for the import for the bonus track.
To the album., Track By Track
(Red Track Indicates grunt track)
* Indicates Best Tracks
Discord -- Heavy mid-tempo opening to the album.
*Evoke -- This is a track that even Melodic Rock fans would appreciate. Very 80's sounding, with Joost's keyboards being the spotlight of this one.
*Transitory -- A crush-your-skull beauty-and-the-beast style track.
*Energize me -- The single of the album. This is where a lot of goth bands have failed. That is, creating a good single. This one's one of the better ones. Could've fit in Remagine very easily.
Equally Destructive -- Solid hard rock track.
Withering Time -- Sounds like it could've been placed on one of their earlier albums. Overall, a good track.
De-Energized -- Opens with a cinematic-type intro and a shredding guitar solo, then goes into total grunt/opera chaos. There's also a subtle progressive element that isn't too far off from 'Invisible Circles'
Cry With A Smile -- The ballad of the album. To tell the truth, I don't think they'll ever top My Choice, my all-time favorite ballad from this group.
*Envision -- Catchy keyboard hook, and another strong performance from Floor Jensen. Should be the second single.
Who I Am -- This is vintage. Could've fit right in with one of their first two albums. UPDATE -- Apparently, Doro Pesch sings duet with Floor on this one. What's funny is that I've never heard Doro sing clean, clean, I mean VERY clean vocals. She pretty much sounds like Floor! I didn't even catch on until I read the lyrics. That is cool $hit.
* Dreamflight -- As far as I remember, this is their first stab at an epic. It flows well and has Pink Floyd-ian moments...It's got a pretty formidable middle-section. Sander Gommans sings clean (must be a formula thing. He always sings clean at least once per album.) Some progressive moments as well. Overall, it flows extremely well, and it makes me forget I'm listening to an 11 minute track. That's a good thing as it keeps my attention.
Empty Memories -- The end of the album. A ballad that's more of an outro-style song.
*Lonely -- The bonus track to the limited edition digibook. I feel this is the strongest of the three ballads on this album, only because I'm a sucker for piano ballads that are technically difficult to perform.
Overall, I'm satisfied with what I've listened to on this release. It's got a mix of all their past elements, but also a few new surprises as well. I would've preferred a stronger ending (the 'BANG Not Whimper' theory again,) but the fact they're touring the states this year will more than makeup for it. With most of the major releases already out, I can safely say that After Forever will be a Top 3 contender for album of the year.
Final Score: 98 / 100
'All these years you spoke me, to my heart, to my sanity. Revealed to me all my deepest fears, and brought me down, soaked in tears.' -- Sirenia