The guys in After Forever had to go through some big problems, the most important one being Andre Borgman's illness. Thankfully Borgman managed to survive cancer and returned to record the new album. Remagine is certainly a different After Forever release. Their new keyboard player Joost van den Broek not only gave the synths a much bigger and more vital role, but he also wrote all songs together with guitarist Sander Gommans. This has surely resulted in a quite different sounding album for After Forever, and it's bound to please and disappoint some fans at the same time.
Given that new keyboardist Joost van den Broek has an impressive back catalog with progressive metal bands and projects including Ayreon, Star One, and Sun Caged, it is inevitable that an album he co-wrote and arranged is going to have his sound stamped all over it. Joost is an incredible player. He isn't just about adding layers of gothic atmosphere, which the first two After Forever discs are popular for. He loves to experiment, throw in sound samples, effects, electronic elements, quirky time signatures, and synth leads into the songs, giving them a new face. Although After Forever will probably always be labeled as a gothic metal band, Remagine certainly shies away from the genre in more than one way. At times the music presented here is melodic power metal accented by cutting guitar work, while on other tunes, mostly because of Floor Jansen's angelic voice, the classic After Forever vibe is still there, only different. Moreover, the production the band employs on the album dictates a more aggressive and rawer delivery. The songs are littered with driving guitar and bass rhythms, forceful drums, quirky synth work, and excellent vocals from Floor Jansen. Sure, she still does use her amazing soprano abilities on some songs, such as the "Living Shields", one of the more conventional After Forever numbers with beauty and the beast-type of vocal exchanges and a terrific bass solo. However, Floor Jansen mostly impresses with her more clean singing voice on this album. Take "Come" as an example. Not only does this song represent the classic After Forever sound, punctuated by orchestral synths, electronic key patches, heavy guitars, but at the same time Floor's regular voice is used at its full capacity. Note how she harmonizes with her own vocals, moving from a more aggressive singing style to a more laidback and fragile delivery, and mixes it up with her beautiful soprano voice. The classical piano piece at the end is also gorgeous.
Arguably After Forever's most diverse release, each song seems to be purposefully written to stand on its own. This is no concept album like their previous effort Invisible Circles, so this has obviously enabled Joost and Sander to experiment with as many ideas as possible. Track six, "Attendance", is quite possibly the most experimental song they've ever done. It has nothing to do with gothic metal - this is a song filled with acoustic guitars, awesome synth work, and an overall industrial edge characterized by weird drum loops. "Being Everyone" is another song worthy of its interesting vocal melodies, where Floor Jansen's harmony vocals seem like they were inspired by 80's AOR - I know it sounds funny, but they certainly fit the music. "Free of Doubt" has a long silence in its end, while "No Control" features Sanders doing death growls and the other guitarist singing clean vocals. No Floor Jansen on this one. I love the guitar and keyboard interplay as well. "Only Everything" and "Forever" are the ballads, with occasional growls and face-ripping rhythm guitars. However, the most emotional track on the album has to be "Strong", a tune written for Floor's sick mother. Her voice sounds really strong on this track. As a matter of fact, Floor Jansen sounds incredible on this album. I've never heard her sing with so much aggression on any previous After Forever disc before. So if you decide to pick this album up and like it, make sure you seek out Freak Neil Inc. - Characters, also with Joost van den Broek and Floor's sister Irene Jansen in the lineup.
One minor complaint is about the artwork. It is truly disappointing and in no way represents the heavy content of the album. It has a strange 80's feel to it, but I just don't think it connects with After Forever's musical statements in one way or another. Remagine comes recommended to those who are willing to explore more melodic metal fury with aggressive vocals than just atmospheric gothic metal with lots of death growls and soprano vocals.
- Boundaries Are Open
- Living Shields
- Being Everyone
- Free of Doubt
- Only Everything
- Face Your Demons
- No Control