After Forever - Invisible Circles

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

In the corner of a playground stands a little girl with brown hair and sad eyes amidst the sounds of playing children. When you look at her, you can see she is lonely and unhappy. Before she was born, her mother pleaded to her father to keep her and spend less time on their careers and more on the family. Later, she is witness to a fight between her parents, as they argue about her and their work. They yell and shout at each other and the father leaves angry. The little girl can do nothing but stand there, breathing heavy. Savage guitars, brutal grunts, pounding drum and bass and an emotional yet passionate voice, translate the feelings into sounds that will captivate you and will never let you go...

Six months ago, After Forever released a mini-album, called Exordium, which dealt with social problems like street violence and drug abuse. Now, they have released their best album ever, Invisible Circles, which picks up this theme and formed it into a concept album, only After Forever can. The story is inspired by the daily experiences of Sander Gommans (guitars, grunts), who is a teacher and sees a lot of problems among children. Many of these problems are caused by parents who both work and have a career, and besides that also have children. This is turned into a story of a (fictional) girl, who lives under those circumstances and tries to find her own way in life.

With such a story in mind, personally I find it adds a dimension to the music. With Exordium After Forever had shown they had grown in both musicianship and composing, but with Invisible Circles this is even more evident. The album has a very consistent sound and Floor Jansen (vocals) definitely has become one of the best female vocalists in the metal world, where she does not only use her soprano voice, but she can also sing powerfully as well as "fragile," for example in the beautiful ballad "Eccentric," which features besides Floor, Lando van Gils (synths) on piano. The grunts that were fairly absent on Exordium are back in a double dose! I never was a fan of grunting, but the way the band used the grunts and how they fit into both the songs as well as the story, made me change my feelings: they are great! The use of choir and orchestration on the album shows how mature the band is, as they use these elements provident, so they add atmosphere to the music, but not dominate it.

Although the band used to be labeled "Gothic Metal," over the past years they have proven to be more than that. On the album they use the description "Melodic Dark Metal," which is a fitting label for the music and gives the band more room to work. Despite the obvious metal characteristics, like the grunts, crunchy guitars and powerful double bass drums, there are also plenty of progressive elements in the music, like the use of acoustic guitars, by drummer Andre Borgman and the way they use the keyboards. They also added some theatrical elements in the form of an arguing couple, played by Amanda Sommerville (Aina, AF's vocal coach) and Jay Lansford (narration on several Rhapsody albums), of which I find Jay's part a bit over the top, but it sure emphasizes what this story is about. In a way, I find the songs at times almost catchy, like "Sins Of Idealism," crunchy guitars by Sander Gommans and Bas Maas, but also an important role for Luuk van Gerven (bass). The song "Digital Deceit" will be released as a single and I think it's a good choice. As the orchestration reaches a crescendo, the guitars kick in, but yet the rhythm is a bit more laid back, so it might be a good song for new fans to learn to know the music of After Forever.

The production was done by the band themselves (and Hans Pieters, but probably you haven't got a clue who that is...), but renowned producer Sascha Paeth (Rhapsody, Kamelot, Aina, Epica) also had a hand in the sound and I can say, the result is stunning! It is a treat to listen to the album and I have done so for a long time. No doubt this release will also find its way to your CD player, as this is one of the best releases of this year!! It will be hard to top this one. Now let's hope this "New Wave of Dutch Heavy Metal" will strike across the world and will infect everyone with the After Forever virus ... Buy or Die!

[This review originally appeared at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]

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: April 1st 2004
Reviewer: Marcel Haster
Artist website:
Hits: 1583
Language: english


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