After Forever – Remagine
11/12/2005 § Leave a comment
No one should know more about running away from themselves than After Forever, who, for as long as I can remember, have been desperately trying to rid themselves of the stigma inherent in being described as Gothic Metal. These have been difficult times for the band. Not only have they been trying in any ways possible to get rid of those crushed velvet garbs that seem to have haunted them since Decipher to the point where they feel the necessity to don spandex Star-Trek style suits, but now they have gone one step further by looking like a reunion of the cast of Tremors within an advert for Marlboro Classics. And as for what Floor is doing with her hair, God only knows. AF are so desperate to have people not concentrate on their image that things have got the point where image management has become a seriously vital issue to the way this band transmits themselves.
And not every form of transmission has been good for them. The band have got themselves in quite a few spats with their label of late to the point where they would quite likely not want to have anything to do with the other again. So what a surprise this is – Invisible Circles was released at the beginning of 2004 and hot on its heals comes Remagine, 18 months later. The band’s reasons for releasing this album so quickly are their own, needless to say that it will be interesting to see who they sign with next. However, as was the case with Leaves’ Eyes, who released Vinland Saga terribly quickly after Lovelorn, to the album’s detriment at to the detriment of the album itself, Remagine actually benefits from being written and released so quickly. The problem with Invisible Circles was that there was too much effort in it and too much to prove. The over-complex playing, the deep song topics and the idea of a controversial subject for a concept album was way too much, the entire edifice was too bogged down with significance to be free-flowing.
This is not the case with Remagine. The difference between Remgainme and Invisible Circles, apart from the quite atrocious cover artwork, is that AF have tried a lot less with it, which actually works well. Gone are the 8-minutes songs, the complex riffing, the poignant subjects and the soap-opera soundbites. Instead After Forever have laid down 12 shortish, easily-digestible tracks, most of them being just three to five minutes long. Each song has a different subject, though they have, being After Forever put in the obligatory children-are-dying-in-war-isn’t-it-awful song and the you-can-make-your-own-way-in-life song, they seem to have some sort of philosophical Tourettes in this way. Nevertheless, the upshot of all of this is that the songs are not bad at all, and by the time Being Everyone hits your ear systems it’s apparent they have come up with something of a winner here. A lot of the songs are easily-likeable, but at the same time manage to carry across their meaning without being too forgettable or shallow. There’s certainly enough here to keep the casual listener and the After Forever fanatic happy, unless you were the kind of person who liked the long songs and the self-indulgent complexity. For the rest of us though, we can breathe a sigh of relief and realise that this band were maybe not as dead as we had thought they were.
Though there are some good parts to the album, there are some equally bad ones. Two songs in particular – Attendance and No Control – are just terrible, Sander’s vocals on Attendance coming across as some attempt to mimic Bryan Erickson from Velvet Acid Christ. The feeling, along with the slightly squishy keyboards which sound as if they’re being pumped through a kazoo, are just not pleasant to listen to. There is also one moment in Face Your Demons when Floor’s vocal line sounds like something that would be belted out by an army platoon while doing physical training for manoeuvres. Floor’s vocals themselves here share the same problem as on Invisible Circles, inasmuch as her stint at the Rock Academy has taught her to sing strongly and in tune but her voice lacks a certain passion and colour that it had on the earlier releases. In this way, and seeing as Remagine as their curtain-call to Transmission, After Forever still have a little bit to prove, and I imagine that this won’t stop since their next album will be on a new label.
Remagine still is a success, though not an immense one. In spite of the fact that songs like Being Everyone, Come and Boundaries Are Open have some very good parts to them and while Strong, Free Of Doubt and Only Everything are the best songs that the band have produced in a long time, there is still something lacking about Remagine which fails to make it something special or truly good. The problem partially lies in the fact that the songs are all too similar. After Forever are an established band and they know the score so it’s a shame that some of the numbers feel like they could have been written in ten minutes down the pub. It does, however, pave the way for their future and it was important that this album showed that the band had not totally lost it. It’s certainly an improvement on their last album and gives me some hope that the best from this lot, since Mark’s departure, is yet to come. Ideally they should spend a lot of time concentrating on their next work and at the same time not try to make it such a poignant opus that it doesn’t need to be. The freedom of leaving Transmission should hopefully give them the ability to do this and we can all look forward to a follow-up album which could, if pieced together correctly, be a resounding success on all levels.