After Forever - Remagine
Transmission Records
Gothic Metal
12 songs (49:30)
Release year: 2005
After Forever, Transmission Records
Reviewed by Ian
Album of the month

Since all the previous After Forever albums have been reviewed on this site (3 full-length albums and a MCD), I’m going into the band history. Enough to say that all their releases were brilliant pieces of gothic progressive metal and even though halfway through their career, the mastermind Mark Jansen decided to pursue other pathways (founding Epica), the band managed to sustain the high quality of their music.

I will make short references to the previous style or albums but we need to focus on the present album and for good reason. Too many times I have seen bands who showed great promise painting themselves into a corner never to leave it again; the inability or the lack of desire to try and change a little bit the music style, to experiment with new sounds or new compositions in order to develop and progress as a band has turned many promising acts into the so-called copy-paste type of groups. That’s the reason I have the highest regards for bands that try to change something with each new album, bands that bring every time something new in their sound and keep us interested.

Fortunately After Forever is such a band. Although deeply rooted into the gothic genre, with each album they presented us different sides of the band’s personality and character. First two albums were huge atmospheric musicscapes with deeply progressive insights, doomy background and symphonic drives; afterwards (Jansen’s departure) the band practically re-invented itself and came up with the 2004 concept album Invisible Circles a journey into symphonic gothic and heavy progressive sound. Now, we have yet another façade of this talented Dutch group.

The style of the Dutch metallers has changed again, this time the band has decided for a more straightforward gothic type of metal, with shorter and more compact songs, much more aggressive on one side and more emotional on the other. Some of the more pretentious fans might complain about the lack of atmosphere or the highly operatic elements but the character of the album is stupendous: it blends to perfection the modern gothic characteristics with the classic elements. True, we do not have many endless powerful operatic choirs, extended symphonic parts with strings and soprano verses; instead, all these are crafted to perfection into the catchy rhythms, energetic riffs and double bass drumming, into the inspirational keyboard playing of the ayreonaut newcomer Joost van den Broeck (ex-Sun Caged).

I cannot elaborate the style without referring to the beautiful voice of Floor Jansen. I admit that I love Simone Simons’ voice (Epica), but I really cannot understand how a person can give up the chance to play and compose for such a unique voice. I simply cannot say which type of her singing I like best: her angelic soprano voice, with her cultivated classic background, superb range and power, or her ‘normal’ tone, with the incredible emotional tone, diverse and mature. With an uncanny ability, she manages to morph into the atmosphere of each song, turning each one into an almost visual journey. Thankfully, on this album we are treated with equal shares of her personality: emotional and serene or powerful and commanding. Sander Gommans’ grunts and harsh vocals (on Living Shields and Attendance), or Bas Maas’ rough/deep voice (Forever) only underline the sublime tones of Ms. Jansen, enhancing the gothic atmosphere. As I already mentioned, the addition of Joost van den Broeck is a great plus for the modern sound of the band. Whether it uses an electro-pop sound (Come), atmosphere-enhancing synthesizer in the background (Attendance, Only Everything) or pure song-driven rhythms (the highly addictive Being Everyone), Joost keyboards play a pivotal role in shaping the overall sound, giving it a certain spherical form, working head to head with the dual guitar sound of Bas Maas and Sander Gommans to achieve a complex and powerful sound.

The combination of electro intro and operatic soprano leads, supported by a powerful choir on the opener track Come is just an introduction to the new things the band has prepared for the fans. The superb catchy Boundaries Are Open has excellent vocal harmonies with great keyboard bridges and the Within Temptation styled Being Everyone with its keyboard driven sound and cool background choir are some of the best examples of the new modern After Forever sound. Floor Jansen’s vocal harmonies are superb, with great modulations, being able to change effortlessly from a Tori Amos quiet piano backed lines to full blast orchestrated huge choruses. Of course, die-hard fans will be delighted listening to the powerful and aggressive Living Shields, with its choir/double guitar riff intro, soprano/harsh vocals duet and its highly energetic sound; the mid tempo heavy riffed Attendance, with its psychedelic flavor, or the most complex song of the album, Only Everything, containing all the gothic ingredients, atmospheric synth, operatic choir supporting the soprano lines, with furious riffing, and the best duet between Floor and Sander’s grunts. The excellent fast and angry Free Of Doubt displays excellent drumming by Andre Borgman, catchy keyboard drives, uplifting soprano lines over a modern power rhythmic dual guitar sound. The balladesque Strong is dominated by the superb clear and open voice of Floor leading to an inspired guitar solo. The powerish Face Your Demons has a positive vibe with full rich sound, guitar driven sound, leading to a groovy chorus, superbly sung by Floor backed by a cool keyboard hook. No Control is the first After Forever song without Floor’s vocals; the axe men (Bas Maas and Sander Gommans) dominating the fast angry track both instrumentally (fast double heavy rhythms with a keyboard solo in between) and vocally (harsh aggressive by Sander and cool by Bas). Finally, Forever is an Arabic sounding track, (so often met before in After Forever compositions) with a duet between the soprano vocals and Bas Maas, in the vein of old Rainbow songs, heavy and progressive.

I had high expectations for this album. Now, after listening to it I must admit that the Dutch band has met everyone of those and then some. Such variety, such power behind each song, such attention for detail. Top notch musicianship mixed with flawless production, double guitars on one side, with superb keyboards on the other, with one of the best female voices in the middle, supported by two male voices together with an operatic choir and founded on a tight rhythm section with deep bass lines and exact and powerful drumming. I enjoyed the debut album Prison Of Desire, I liked the 2001 Decipher and I marveled at the 2004 Invisible Circles, but Remagine is by far my favorite After Forever album. No metal fan should miss this excellent record. One my choices for Album Of The Year.
Killing Songs :
Boundaries Are Open, Being Everyone, Free Of Doubt, Only Everyrhing
Ian quoted 91 / 100
Other albums by After Forever that we have reviewed:
After Forever - After Forever reviewed by Goat and quoted 88 / 100
After Forever - Exordium reviewed by Alex and quoted 80 / 100
After Forever - Invisible Circles reviewed by Alex and quoted 89 / 100
After Forever - Decipher reviewed by Danny and quoted 95 / 100
After Forever - Prison Of Desire reviewed by Marc and quoted 94 / 100
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