Sometimes when I really get into a CD and feel that I’m being entertained I tend to block all forms of criticisms. “A masterpiece”, that was my rushed judgement after two spins of the latest AFTER FOREVER disc. I’m kinda new to this band. I’ve heard a few songs from the last album, the symphonic atmosphere and emotional voice of Floor Jansen took me by surprise, which eventually made me beg for more and more and now it has come.
Floor and co. decorate the Gothic Metal sound in a more conceptual style rather than having a song-oriented sketch relying on simple arrangements and a big chorus line. It’s a concept album, a very complicated one that circles around serious themes such as faith, choice, love, isolation and computers (well, computers aren’t only for used for fun and games hehe) all interwoven into an impressive storyline, so anything but simplicity is needed to take the listener into the heart of matters.
“Progressive” is definitely a keyword for this album. You’ll be playing “Invisible Circles” more than just three or four times if you want full pleasure for the money you bought it with. The songs are not straightforward, not even when you study them. It all comes together beautifully with the heavy guitars and thick drums, not to mention the guttural deathy vocals that make a stand against the female vocals.
The story is carried out through twelve tracks clocking in at approximately one hour. After the obligatory intro there’s usually a fast/uptempo song to wake you up, not here though; as I said before, the story is deep and well thought out which means that the music cannot be rushed and that’s exactly what the band doesn’t do on the opening song “Beautiful Emptiness”, a brilliant midpaced song that embodies all trademarks of the band and let’s the story slowly unfold. “Between Love And Fire” widens the struggle between the characters in the story and introduces dialogues (with the aid of Amanda Sommerville of AYREON fame and Jay Lansford who has worked with RHAPSODY) and clean vocals, also a brilliant song with impulsive twists. The dialogues fit in with the last mentioned song but on “Blind Pain” they could’ve been more worked out.
By the time the sad piano track “Eccentric” has you in its warm embrace the band has already proved that they’re capable of working with bigger musical concepts. The story’s climax is reached with “Two Sides” and “Victim Of Choices” shortly followed by “Reflections” which ties various melodies and atmospheres from the album together into a lively theatrical epic.
The characters are presented through Floor, Bas and Sander’s voices and they do one heck of a job in conveying their emotions. There are burning fights, introspective thoughts, conflicting discussions and the music shapes itself nicely as the whole tale progresses. You may want to follow the lyrics and read the diary entries when listening to the CD, brings you that one step closer to the storyline, just a tip.
Almost everything on this CD demands respect; “Invisible Circles” is a future classic that has taken the band to the next level both musically and lyrically. This album won’t feed your mind with any joyous feelings but if you want a spiced up Gothic Metal album you should definitely invest in this album. (Online May 5, 2004)