Michiel B. : Things can go pretty fast for a band which has been proved by the from Limburg (NL) originated melodic metallers of After Forever. In April 2000 the band released their debut album 'Prison of Desire' and ever since the band's career has been accelerated up to gear 5. With performances at festivals such as Eurorock (B), Bospop (NL, at both festivals in both the year 2000 as well as 2001), Lowlands, Metalfest 2001, nearly all Dutch clubs, the band was booked as one of the first bands for Dynamo Open Air 2001 (R.I.P.) and recently shortly after recording this new album 'Decipher' they did a mini-tour in Mexico. Besides that the band's popularity in both their native country as well as in counties like Belgium, Mexico en Brazil is considerable.
And my expectations are that this will only get better with the release of their new album because my God, what a great album this is!! Where many people feared that After Forever would slow down on their second album just like Within Temptation did have been wrong because this album is the best example of a band who have grown more mature without losing any of their power. Ever since I received the new album (with many thanks to the band members and hereby a small sneer to the record label who can easily send 10 copies to our printed brothers of Aardschok and Mindview but keep ignoring a decent e-zine) this CD has been in my CD player nearly without any interruptions and still the album keeps surprising me. Although the album certainly shows some parallels with the debut album 'Prison of Desire' (once again the album opens with a nice orchestral intro, a story line is to be found on the album once again consisting of 11 strong tracks taking approximately 54 minutes altogether), 'Decipher' beats 'Prison Of Desire' on every occasion. The band has clearly given more thought to the compositions and therefore they are more complicated as on the previous album and the band members are obviously better used to play with one another.
After the intro the album opens strongly with the first single to be released namely 'Monolith Of Doubt' (I just read a press release in which was announced that a no-grunts version of this song will be added to the single) which was the first song the band wrote after the release of 'Prison of Desire' and they play this song live since September last year. The album continues with 'My Pledge Of Allegiance part I', sort of the follow-up of 'Follow In The Cry' from Prison Of Desire with once again an Arabic sounding intro this time performed by a sitar player. After these 2 heavy songs unfortunately the album seems to lose a little of it's heaviness to strike back merciless from song 7, 'Estranged'. The album strikes best in the last 5 songs which are absolute pearls. When a sample of the speech former Israeli president Rabin held on the night he was shot to dead in 1993 is included in the last song of the album 'Forlorn Hope', the young band (all members are in the early 20) ones again states that both their music and lyrics show some real in-depth passages and that other bands should stick with elves and trolls.
Also it is quite noticeable that the individual band members have developed themselves quite well. After the recordings of 'Prison of Desire' the place behind the drum kit of Joep Beckers (nowadays playing in Triple7) was handed over to André Borgman (ex-Blind Justice) and on this new album it is quite obvious to hear that André has had much influence in the writing of the new material. In my opinion the drums (sorry Joep) sound way tighter, heavier and more varied then before. Also has André's drumming allowed the band to vary their music more with the uses of tight breaks, varying and awkward rhythms. Also the keyboards (nowadays played by former Wicked Wizard keyboard man Lando van Gils) have been put back a little further behind in the mix which has created more room for the guitars. The vocals have improved as well on a certain points. Floor Jansen shows she is gifted with an extremely varied voice and no longer has to carry the label of only soprano (Although her higher reaches once again give me tons of shivers and goose bumps) by being also very strong in the lower regions. In my personal favourite, the musical-like 'Imperfect Tenses', Floor gets vocal assistance from tenor Rein Kolpa and for one moment I imagine myself being on Broadway. Also guitarist Mark Jansen's screams in 'My Pledge Of Allegiance part II' (part of a 2-piece in which After Forever once again delivers a good note of criticism on oppressing people in the name of religions especially Islam which is a very hot news item these days, just as they did on the previous album) sound way more intense as in for example 'Yield to Temptation' from 'Prison of Desire'.
Conclusion: With this After Forever is ready to rock the world and they don't have to look up anymore to bands such as Nightwish, Within Temptation en Therion (every comparison with these bands have no more ground from now on Because After Forever once again shows all narrow minded people to have developed their very own style) although here and there some minor improvements can be done in my opinion. On the previous album the keyboards were a little dominating the album and now they appear to be a little too thin so in my opinion the band should find some sort of way in between of these 2 opposites and if they manage to keep the album exciting from the first till the last moment the I think my 100% score can be within reach for the next album. But in spite of the great album the band still hasn't reached their actual top by far so they will have to be satisfied with a few points less and I think I already know my album of the year 2001..