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After Forever: Mea Culpa

In 2006 as their contract with Transmission Records was drawing to a close and the Dutch Melodic Metal band After Forever drew the curtain on their early years in preparation for the move forward into a hopefully promising future, a retrospective entitled Mea Culpa was released. Unlike many compilations that review a bands past and give the listener two choice tracks from each album, Mea Culpa would be far from the standard summary of the After Forever back catalog and instead present thirty three bombastic tunes in one of the most beautiful packages that I have ever seen for a release of this kind. The two disc set is broken up into distinct chapters with the first CD covering the years and albums that guitarist/grunt vocalist Mark Jansen was a part of the group. It's on this disc that we find the albums Prison Of Desire and Decipher being once again brought to the front, and these are two truly powerful recordings that still have quite a bit of life to them. Knowing there are fifteen tunes on the first CD makes one think that they re-issued the entire album for the sake of the collection but what they did became all the more special as it is here we also find unreleased tracks and those that would only be found on band singles. As it begins it sets their heavy mood properly with "Mea Culpa", an a-cappella tune loaded with big choir and brooding tones but from there is very much a dark feast of Melodic Metal. There are other Dutch musical superstars present as well and get a duet between Floor and Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation) that is quite good and somewhere across the tracks Arjen Lucassen offers some guitar and keyboards. There is an interesting thing about the older material from After Forever and that is in how close it comes in both musical style and sound to that of the band Epica. When Mark Jansen left their ranks to form this band he would bring this aspect of the writing to his new group and while After Forever morphed into a different musical animal going forward, Mark would continue to experiment within those lines and offer up an incredible group that could also be appreciated by fans of his After Forever music. Of course it was not only Mark who wrote the material, but also Floor Jansen and Sander Gommans and across this whole CD the world gets to hear just how amazing Floor is as a vocalist. The Soprano is truly one of a kind and at times sounds like she could knock a wall down while at others offers up a hushed whisper. Chapter One closes with a cover of Queen's "Who Wants To Live Forever", and while I love the tune I expected just a little bit more out of Floor for this one, since I am not only a fan of Freddy, but also her own incredible vocal powers. Highlander fans might like to know this one exists for their music player of choice.

Chapter Two continues the journey back into the band's early years by presenting the next three albums that they did Exordium, Invisible Circles and Remagine. Exordium was actually an EP. It begins with a cover of Iron Maiden's "The Evil That Men Do", and I like their take on it and was not too fussy here since it's never been one of my favorite Maiden tunes. I often find that the more you like the original, the less you are receptive to a cover of it. Either way, AF did a bang up job on it. The CD is interesting because it shows the band moving on to how material was delivered in their earliest stages and how they moved deeper into more of a Power Metal or Dark Gothic as opposed to Symphonic Operatic. The tracks from Exordium are the closest to that which they did before but with Invisible Circles we find the group delving into a concept record their first ever. From the compilation it's a little difficult to absorb the concept and story but either way the music is very good and Floor once again shines. This was my own first album from them and I have been a fan since. The album was one of the bands most popular so getting to hear different tracks from it was a great bonus. On "IC" we find that the band was able to move on and excel once again even without the contributions of Mark J. Sanders picked up the growling as opposed to sharing it and showed himself as a great composer as well. CD2 closes with Remagine, and based on the previous albums popularity became something that the Metal community was looking forward to very much. The band was welcoming in a new keyboard player on this one (Joost) and as result his presence is very strong on the material. It might not be something that fans of the very heavy stuff would take to right away, but then again the After Forever fans seem quite loyal and those who follow them seem to do so until the end. I am sure that those who know them already will see more progression and musical growth happening with their new album as well after they have had the chance to absorb it.

The CD comes in a stunning package and as mentioned earlier it's probably one of the nicest looking that I have seen in some time. It's a slip cased double digipak and when opened reveals a very colorful interior and a 44 page full-color booklet. The booklet itself is awesome as it begins with some commentary about the bands tenure on the label and offers you images of all the albums and lines out where each of the tracks had come from. It's also loaded with photos of the band from over the past few years so in the end this becomes a perfect addition to or beginning step in the music of After Forever but it is with that comment that I must warn the reader that it's not going to be all that easy to find. With the dissolution of Transmission Records the band has found their back catalog in limbo, lock down or however you wish to think of it. There are copies out there and most of them can be found for reasonable prices. Its worth looking into this one especially, for not only is it a type of Anthology, but it also offers up a lot of the hard to find tracks and unreleased ones. There is truly something for everyone on this release and I found myself leaning to CD1 and hoping that this unavailability issue gets resolved so that I could snare copies of those early albums. This is a high recommendation if even found at a higher price and it allows many who only learned of them recently the chance to look back in time at one of the most exciting Metal bands to emerge from Holland. After Forever is currently signed to Nuclear Blast Records, and released the album After Forever in the last quarter of 2007.


Track Listing
1. Mea Culpa
2. Follow In The Cry
3. Yield To Temptation
4. Silence From Afar
5. Wings Of Illusion
6. Beyond Me
7. Forlorn Hope
8. For The Time Being
9. Imperfect Tenses
10. Monolith Of Doubt
11. Intrinsic
12. Emphasis
13. My Pledge Of Allegiance
14. Who Wants To Live Forever
15. The Evil That Men Do
16. Glorifying Means
17. My Choice
18. Beneath
19. Digital Deceit
20. Two Sides
21. Sins Of Idealism
22. Eccentric
23. Life's Vortex
24. Blind Pain
25. Being Everyone
26. Face Your Demons
27. Taste The Day (Remagine)
28. Boundaries Are Open
29. Come
30. Attendance
31. Live And Learn
32. Strong

Added: January 11th 2008
Reviewer: Ken Pierce
Score:
Related Link: After Forever Website
Hits: 1617
Language: english

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