After Forever - Invisible Circles

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Transmission Records
Catalog Number: TME-045
Format: CD
Total Time: 58:56:00

For about five years Dutch goth-metal act After Forever has represented the standard for their genre. Hardly a review or commentary is written about female-fronted metal without comparisons to After Forever or to Floor Jansen's classically trained operatic singing. And this is hands-down the best thing the band has released to date.

Invisible Circles is a concept album about a young girl growing up. Due in large measure to the mistakes of her parents she is a social misfit, disliked, bullied and friendless. The music explores her sadness and anger, and her questioning the causes of her condition. Each song portrays a scene like a sort of play. Among the vignettes covered by these scenes and flashbacks are a confrontation with her parents, witnessing her parents fighting, questioning her grandmother, going into Internet chatrooms and assuming a bold new persona and - eventually - having her own child and making similar mistakes. The music stays close to the storyline throughout and results in a progressive, bombastically theatric piece with more depth and emotion than any of After Forever's prior releases.

The music is still classic After Forever - with changes: It is still rooted in heavy metal instrumentation, it has more keyboards than before, and there are samples, vocal overlays and a small choir. After Forever has produced soundscapes on a grand scale yet they remain true to their metal roots. In fact, the metal instrumentation that is at the core of their music is heavier than before. Listen also for the decent if underplayed clean male vocals. This is the singing debut of guitarist Bas Maas. The guy sings well, and although his vocal style isn't a natural fit for After Forever, it works well here and adds another dimension to the rock opera. Expect to hear more from him in the future. The death-metal growling will be a turnoff to some but it contributes to the storyline. And then there is Floor's singing which is the band's signature sound. It is a successful trade-off between opera and rock. Not as operatic as Nightwish, yet not as soft as Within Temptation.

This music is more complex than one or even two listens would lead you to believe. You see with Floor's singing being so strong and distinctive, her vocals tends to dominate the sound and lead you away from the sophisticated stuff going on in the back office. To find the gems on this record you'll need to focus on the instruments, follow the lyrics, and study the booklet to find additional story details.

One of the more creative aspects of this CD is the spoken conversations between the girl's parents. This probably lasts less than five minutes and is scattered across various parts of the CD. Have you ever attended or participated in a high school sophomore class's one-act plays? Remember the unconvincing dialogue and the pathetic over-acting? These exchanges are reminiscent of those plays. They are an unusual element, but they advance the storyline effectively. The problem is - do these snippets stand the test of multiple replays? For me, it came dangerously close and if they'd gone on for just one or two minutes longer I might be ready to write the CD off. Incidentally - the wife in these dialogues was played by Amanda Somerville of Ania and Ayreon fame.

You will love this album if you can stand a bit of death-metal grunting, if you can handle really heavy metal, if you appreciate operatic female vocals, and if you don't mind that sophomoric stage dialogue. If you're comfortable with those elements, you'll be blown away by this CD. I was.

Childhood in Minor / Beautiful Emptiness / Between Love & Fire / Sins of Idealism / Eccentric / Digital Deceit / Through Square Eyes / Blind Pain / Two Sides / Victim of Choices / Reflections / Life's Vortex

Floor Jansen - vocals
Bas Maas - guitar
Sander Gommans - guitar
Luuk Van Gerven - bass
Lando Van Gils - keyboards
Andre Borgman - drums

Ephemeral (1999)
Wings Of Illusion (1999, demo)
Prison Of Desire (2000)
Follow In The Cry (2000) (CD single)
Decipher (2001)
Emphasis (2001) (CD single)
Monolith Of Doubt (2002) (CD single)
Exordium (2003, EP)
My Choice (2003) (CD single)
Invisible Circles (2004)

Genre: Progressive/Power Metal

Origin NL

Added: June 7th 2004
Reviewer: Duncan N Glenday
Artist website:
Hits: 2037
Language: english


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