Well, here we go again with Symphonic Gothic Metal from the Netherlands, and this time the band in focus is well-known AFTER FOREVER. They have decided to self-title their fifth full-length album and that record is what I will try to canalize to you in this review. First, I have to say that AFTER FOREVER do have some aspects that are their own and not collective features of the whole Dutch Symphonic/Gothic Metal army. The riffing here is fairly speedy and accompanied by outbursts of drumming. The guitars donít take much place and are mostly placed with bass and drums as makers of the base music. Keyboards and vocals share the spotlight here. The symphonic keyboard parts often have a slightly more electric sound than most acts in the genre, but there is also the classic NIGHTWISH-esque sound and also some large sounding orchestral bits where the music actually reminds me of DIMMU BORGIR. The vocal duty is shared between Floor Jansen and Sander Gommans. I must say that I am a little disappointed, Floor Jansen is not as good as everyone claims, at least not in my opinion, and the few growls of Gommans are decent, but donít add the power they should to the songs.
There seem to be different influences that share the space of AFTER FOREVERís compositions, since the songs have fairly different starting points. Most of the songs here have a pretty heavy basic riff and have sort of a thumping rhythm that I donít feel really go anywhere. Then there are the sugar sweet parts, like the first half of ďCry With A SmileĒ. Those arenít really my cup of tea either. There is however one thing that AFTER FOREVER succeeds with, and that is the symphonic parts. Some of you will surely sigh and leave my review now, but I think this is better executed than in any other band of the Dutch school that I have heard. In connection to the symphonic sequences, Floor Jansen often switches singing style to a much more operatic voice, instead of her usual one, that is more of a normal ďfemale vocalist voiceĒ, even though it still comes from the classical direction. I really like her operatic style better and that is not because I always prefer more pompous acts, I really liked the very down-to-earth-voice of Franziska Huth in EYES OF EDEN for example, but Jansen sounds much more impressive when going into the grand singing voice.
The final grade canít reach any impressive heights, because I am not particularly interested in listening more after doing this review. I am convinced that fans of the band will find a work of stable quality here and be satisfied, but if I am allowed to guess, I donít see this album conquering the appreciation of new fan bases.
(Online February 7, 2008)