After Forever – After Forever
05/05/2007 § Leave a comment
Barely months after Transmission Records got itself a website the whole thing bit the cyberdust. Years of expensive ways of promoting bands, putting all its eggs into the Epica basket and neglecting some of the more important areas of business meant the whole thing crumbled without a whimper. Nobody really knew that the record company had gone under, but meanwhile all the orphan bands were scattered around Holland trying to find someone to take them on. After Forever had managed to jump ship well before this, their contract expiring after Remagine, and their new self-titled album sees them signing with one of the biggest labels in the metal business, Nuclear Blast. All the groundwork done under Transmission has paid dividends and now things have settled there are no bitter recriminations on the band’s website, Sander is posting studio reports to the theme of the He-Man soundtrack and the band aren’t screwing around with their image so much that they look like they’re off to a line-dancing contest after every photoshoot. In fact, I’m sure I saw Floor wear a skirt in one of the new videos.
After the strong internet rumour that this album was going to have the terrible title of Energized and the ensuing outcry that After Forever really need lessons in how not to be naff, at the last minute they went for the self-titled option. What exactly a self-titled album is supposed to signify is unclear. It could hint that this is an album through which the band feels their sound is defined, it could herald a sea-change in their mindset now that they have a new label or it could be that they had no idea what else to call it. Nevertheless, what the sound of this album offers fans is much of the same formula as was presented in Remagine, though with more heaviness and solidity. The songs are harder, faster, though not particularly dark since AF have never had that much of a dark edge to them. It’s all one part symphonic, one part progressive, one part power – and whether they like it or not – one part Gothic.
The Gothic elements this time round are as few as the band could be comfortable including. The choirs, when they do show themselves, sound like Floor pasted upon Floor and though there is something of an operatic shade to her voice in places, this doesn’t really rear its head much of the time. Sander has a much bigger part on this album as well, being in a generous number of songs, especially the ultra-heavy De-Energized which almost makes a point of itself in the same way that Nightwish’s Slaying The Dreamer did with heavy riffs, thunderous guitars and lots of growling. This is a little different to the stuff that AF have experimented with thus far and there is further evidence of this in Transitory, easily the fastest song on the album, with many pummelling drum beats and carefully placed guitar chugs.
The album clearly likes its new harsher approach. It runs away with its own energy and momentum considerably, only stopping for a couple of songs which could be defined as ballads before the distortion comes back in and Floor wobbles all over the place for the choruses. One song which tries to remedy this is the 11-minute Dreamflight, possibly inspired by a visit to the Efteling leisure park in Kaatsheuvel. This is the longest song that AF have attempted and thus has the moniker of ‘prog’ written all over it. And it’s a curious thing: slow, fast, slow and fast again, though I have no idea why the band didn’t break this down into a couple of numbers since it just doesn’t work for me. However, for me the album‘s biggest problem is the intemperate bashing and battering of some of the other songs which gets too much on constant listening, only making it possible to take one or two tracks at a time rather than the full album at one go.
Though After Forever certainly know how to please their fans it’s going to be hard to exploit this formula for too much longer. This self-titled effort, though effective and powerful, gets just a little bit sickly after a while and after playing through this three or four times it’s a little too easy to break AF down to their lowest common denominator. It’s all heavy riffing power chords, a few growls here and there, Floor bubbling away in the verses and waiting to explode like a reactor for the choruses. Each album differs from the last by as much as it’s required to do and call me pernickety, but for some reason I was expecting an ambitious step into other forms of songwriting rather than rotating within the same comfort zone. If they’d just stop churning out the albums and take some time and concentration over them, every level of their fan base could be rewarded with something truly brilliant. This, however, isn’t quite it.