Nuclear Blast (2007)
Dutch Gothic metallers After Forever are a band that has always seemed to fall just shy of the mark. With a great look, marketable sound, and powerful live show you would be tempted to think that the band would have found mainstream acceptance early on. That is not the case though.
For many fans, After Forever have always lived in the shadow of bands such as Nightwish and Within Temptation, but with their fifth album, aptly self-titled, they break free and become the leader that has always been bubbling inside them.
A number of things go right on this album. Let me first say the production is superb. On their previous albums the songs have been solid but the presentation always felt off for one reason or another. While the sound got thicker on their last album, Reimagine (2005), here the thickness is joined by a crisp quality that showcases each member’s contribution nicely.
Also noteworthy is the fact that Floor Jansen (who joined the band at the tender age of 16 so many years ago) is finally brought to the forefront. Floor is one of the best female vocalists out there today and she’s really given the chance to truly shine here.
Another thing that goes right on this album is the songwriting. After Forever is the first album the band has offered that doesn’t try to overcomplicate itself. The songs are fast-paced and bombastic without getting over-indulgent as they have in the past (and as many of their peers tend to do all too frequently). The band has always crafted musically interesting songs but here they keep them accessible to those of us who aren’t obsessed with the technical aspects of music.
The best examples of this are easily the operatic explosiveness of ‘Evoke’ and the dynamic ‘Energize Me’. Both are impressive, but also create enough grooves to allow for a metal sing-along. I also love the fact that every time you officially decide the band has lightened up they hit you with just enough male growling vocals to recapture your attention (see ‘Withering Time’).
If you are familiar with the band then you’ll be excited to hear that After Forever perfects what they attempted to do on Reimagine, and this is miles ahead of their early works. If you’ve never heard the band before but you like the idea of beautiful, gutsy female vocals topping chunky, biting guitars and pounding rhythms, with a healthy smattering of electronics and keyboards, then this is unquestionably for you.
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