Oh my God! Is this album really true or am I dreaming? The debut "Prison Of Desire" already had been a killer, but "Decipher" can hardly be put into words anymore... Finally there is an album that could almost reach TRISTANIA's godly "Beyond The Veil", 'almost' because the Norwegians and AFTER FOREVER are inhabiting two different corners of Gothic Metal, qualitatively I would not separate them!
What we have here is a truly masterly combination of atmosphere, heavienss, brilliant vocals by front-lady Floor Janssen, accentuated by some well-timed growls and screams of Mark Janssen and Sander Gommans, crunchy double-bass and dreamy, emotional passages.
After the atmospheric intro "Ex Cathedra" the sextet sets off to a furious tour de force with "Monolith Of Doubt", driven by fat double-bass and heavy guitars, but at the same time with a complete string-quartet, atmospheric keyboards and an incredible vocal performance by Floor, a masterpiece of Gothic Metal in itself! Not far behind comes "My Pledge Of Allegiance - The Sealed Fate", with oriental melody-lines, again cleverly incorporated strings and accentuating Death-growls, which never disturb the atmosphere, but rather add another fitting dimension to the compositions.
"Emphasis" again is driven by heavy guitars and mid-paced double-bass, which are in contrast to the atmospheric keyboards and strings, both extremes are amalgamated in a truly magnificent manner and each and every note of Floor sits perfectly, I cannot get enough of this! But there is more to come, "Intrinsic" is the counterpart to the heavy crackers of before, a very calm and emotional song with acoustic guitars, oboe, the strings and after that some suiting e-guitars, inviting us to dream and just float away...
Again in the same vein as "Emphasis", just with some added Death-growls we have "Zenith", also living off the opposition of the vocals and moods, but always powerful and flowing, just like the following "Estranged", which is pretty swift at times. On "Imperfect Tenses" Floor is supported by a tenor, whose warm voice is the perfect counterpart to her vocals, while the song itself is balladesque and could without any problems be used for any movie, not least thanks to the, as always, very well implemented strings.
After "My Pledge Of Allegiance #2 - The Tempted Fate" brilliantly continues the theme of the first part, also "The Key" convinces with its variable song-structure, including an organ and all. The album is closed by "Forlorn Hope", which again excels in the great alternation between heaviness and speed on the one side and atmosphere and emotions on the other.
Man, a very hot contender for the title of album of the year, an album without anything even remotely resembling something like a filler, only killers here, what WITHIN TEMPTATION's "Mother Earth" is for Ralf, "Decipher" is for me. Next to "Beyond The Veil" the pinnacle of the genre of Gothic Metal so far, no doubt at all!