The latest self-titled release from symphonic metal veterans After Forever once again sees the Dutch band doing what they do best, delivering heavy hitting, operatic, and orchestral metal. Led by the wonderful vocals of Floor Jansen, who has perhaps the best voice in the genre, this epic and lengthy album is filled with one strong track after another. Although it will be up to you whether you think After Forever is as strong as Epica's The Divine Conspiracy (both were released pretty close to each other, and on the same label for that matter, Nuclear Blast), there's no denying the power and majesty contained on this one.
If you like bombastic metal littered with soaring female vocals, crunchy guitar riffs, sweeping keyboard orchestrations, and pummeling drum work, you've come to the right place. Highlights are the opening killer cut "Discord", one of the heavier pieces on the CD, with Jansen dueling with guitarist Sander Gommans' death growls, the intricate progressive metal of "Transitory", the symphonic "Evoke" (featuring some wild synth layers from former Sun Caged keyboard player Joost van den Broek), the menacing & slightly futuristic sounding "Equally Destructive", the manic, almost black metal frenzy of "De-Energized" (complete with some great death growls from Gommans), and the grand & majestic "Envision", which has some of the best vocal melodies from Jansen on the entire CD. If all that's not enough, strap on your seat belt for the super-charged prog metal piece "Dreamflight", featuring some tasty riffs, blinding synth lines, powerful vocals from Jansen as well as guitarists Gommans & Bas Maas.
Much like what Nightwish, Epica, & Within Temptation have done recently, After Forever have toned down the operatic element just a tad, mixed in more memorable melodies, but upped the metal ante considerably. This is a very strong release that just might help break this band here in the US in a big way. Along with the bands mentioned above, it seems that female fronted symphonic metal acts are here to stay.
Make sure you pick up the 2 disc edition, which contains a bonus DVD containing videos and a photo gallery.
4. Energize Me
5. Equally Destructive
6. Withering Time
8. Cry With a Smile
10. Who I Am
12. Empty Memories