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After Forever - Invisible Circles CD (album) cover


After Forever

Progressive Metal

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4 stars Invisible Circles is a critical turning point for a band like After Forever. After the departure of main songwriter and lyricist Mark Jansen (who went on to found Epica), the future was definitely in question for the band. However, with Invisible Circles, After Forever proves that they are complely capable without Jansen, and actually know a thing or two about progressive metal.

Invisible Circles is a prog metal album; vastly different from their previous two releases which were more of the gothic metal feel. It is a concept album, telling the story of a girl who is born into a family who barely even acknowledge her presence, much less show her love. The girl progresses and ages keeping her inner torment and agony bottled in, and in the end, realizes that even though life is unfair, one has to move on and make the best of it.

Frontlady Floor Jansen does a magnificent job throughout the album. Her voice has gotten stronger and stronger from every album that's she done. On Invisible Circles, she showcases more of her rock voice on several tracks instead of her classical voice, which was the domineering force in After Forever's first two albums. While fans of classically trained vocalists might scoff at this rather unorthodox thing for After Forever, it works really well with feel of the compilation and makes it much more accessible, so to speak.

That's another great thing about this album. You can relate! With Mark Jansen's lyrics, you had to keep your dictionary by you at all times to even understand half of what he was trying to tell you. However, now with Floor completely on lyric duty, you can actually follow the story and enjoy it for what it is. Now, don't get me wrong, I love Mark's lyrics...but this is a huge breath of fresh air.

On to the instrumentation. It's simply fantastic, the best After Forever has done so far. This, in my opinoin, is what makes this album truly progressive. While the individual parts themselves are not that technical, it all blends together to create and contrast between sadness, hate, submission, and realization. It is one of those albums where the music tells the story well enough as it is. Not to mention, you get your occasional time change and constant shifts between loud and soft, everything complimenting the story, each making for a truly progressive album.

Notable song mentions:

The first real track on the album is a song called Beautiful Emptiness. It's one of my favorite songs found here, and features Floor singing the part of the tormented, lamentful girl and Sander Gommans (After Forever's male growler, who does a great job) singing the part of the same girl, but rather in a frantic rage. Great opener for the album.

Between Love And Fire. Great song, has alot of different movements to it, and is the most fantastic lyrically of all the songs. Features Floor, Sander, and Bas Maas (AF's guitarist/sometime singer) on vocals. The best song on the album.

Blind Pain. This is essentially a Sander solo piece, with Floor only showing up occasionally, but it is still fantastic. It has alot of alternating time signatures, from 4/4 to 2/4 to 4/4 to 7/4 and then back to 4/4. Good lyrics, and the most technical song of the album...fantastic drum and guitar work.

The cons:

This album is damn good, but not perfect. The biggest turn-off on the whole CD is the lyrics on some tracks. On some songs, the lyrics are just downright lame. I understand that the album is meant to be from the perspective of a little girl, but come on Floor. Why do they have to be so mean?, she sings on the song Eccentric. Give me a break. Another negative is the voice acting. Throughout the album, there are a couple cutscenes that feature the mother and father having a conversation, usually fighting. The female actor is bad, but that's nothing compared to the male actor. He's atrocious. It all seems so incredibly fake, that it almost ruins every song that they talk in. Couldn't After Forever have found someone a little more professional to do the acting? Apparently not.

Despite these minor flaws, Invisible Circles is a a huge change of direction for After Forever, but good nonetheless. It is a much buy for people who love progressive metal as well as symphonic metal and don't mind a simpler themed concept album.

Personal rating: 4.2

Report this review (#158463)
Posted Sunday, January 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Hot on the heels of The Gathering, countless countries started assembling female-fronted metal bands. Holland alone already sprouted two big ones Within Temptation and After Forever, which both took the powerful singing style of Anneke Van Giersbergen on The Gathering's Mandylion into operatic and gothic directions.

After Forever started with a very uneven debut, but followed it up with two solid releases of which the third is probably the best and certainly the one with the highest prog-metal cards. The album flows without dips in the songwriting and has enough hooks to make each piece memorable. Floor Jansen is an excellent singer in this style. Her commanding voice is never shrill, her melodies never hesitant or trite. There's also a male grunter, a cliché of the genre and quite annoying here, as he is as inexpressive and tuneless as Floor is passionate and melodious.

A solid album in a style I quickly got tired of, but if you like Epica, Ayreon, Nightwish, Within Temptation or Therion, this album is worth checking out. Although I'd rather recommend you to go for the real thing and try the Gathering's Mandylion and Nightime Birds or the more experimental band Madder Mortem.

Report this review (#279915)
Posted Friday, April 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars After the departure of "Mark Jansen," a new chapter has been done to the band. He along with "Floor Jansen" were the main songwriters. The challenge would be to release an album that lives up to the previous two did, but unfortunately they failed ... It was not for lack of trying. "Bas Maas" joined the band, thus taking away the guitar left by "Mark". A concept album, an immense challenge for a newly structured band. A reduction in coral and a significant increase in the base guitar, abandoning the Gothic vein to something more "metal" had begun. With more elaborate arrangements and many times more cracked, the band has allowed a more focused sound to the "Prog". The album talks about the work above family, abandonment and how it affects the life of a child born in a home without attention, affection ... A novelty was the inclusion of a clear male voice ("Bas Maas") to add to the voices of "Floor Jansen - female soprano vocals" and "Sander Gommans - grunts". The biggest highlight is the "Floor Jansen" that switches the timbre of his voice according to the change of characters. In it I would not see another musician who has been recognized. In "Between Love & Fire" is the encounter of the three vocal highlight of the album. The slow "Eccentric" is a beautiful song but far from the best of the band. Not all tracks have the same quality, pleasing some and it makes very little difference in the end, because if the idea, the concept is very good, otherwise the level of implementation of the idea, we did not have the same result. The musicians seem very simplistic, as if it were not allowed to dare. "Blind Pain" is the track most "Prog" disk. In short the album is interesting to hear because of the proposal even though the result was not so good. Clearly the potential for "Floor Jansen" as a singer, lyricist, composer.

Report this review (#759186)
Posted Saturday, May 26, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Invisible Circles it the third album by After Forever, whose music is actually better than their fame due to blend of different styles, state of the art vocals, attractive guitar riffing and pretty good synths. Let's not forget melody capabilities as demonstrated by track 3 and certain level of epics or glory.

Some extreme metal inclinations mainly in growling and occassional intensive bass drum are evidenced throughout the album but overall, this album is quite common metal volume friendly. Not all songs have a great compositional elements but it is the varied sound and advanced instrumental parts. Ballads with vocals and piano are also effective as in "Eccentric" I like two longer tracks "Through square eyes" and "Blind pain" that have wild growling but also acoustic passages, however having spoken passages interrupting music is annoying. At times, you can hear Ayeron influence - in the way vocals are handled with duets.

Report this review (#2377871)
Posted Thursday, May 7, 2020 | Review Permalink

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