After Forever - Invisible Circles review
|Release date:||March 2004|
01. Childhood In Minor
02. Beautiful Emptiness
03. Between Love And Fire
04. Sins Of Idealism
06. Digital Deceit
07. Through Square Eyes
08. Blind Pain
09. Two Sides
10. Victim Of Choices
12. Life's Vortex
The departure of Mark Jansen, the main songwriter at the time of "Decipher", has, in a way, quite seriously changed the sound of After Forever. The changes haven't been bad but I must admit that "Invisible Circles" does not catch the magic of "Decipher"... yet. But it is nevertheless a strong release. So, let us plunge into the world of hate and pain through the eyes of a little girl.
This is a concept album. It tells us a story of the 14-year old girl in the cruel and lonely world. She picks up writing a diary and reveals her life. She realizes that she is an unwanted child, someone who was supposed to glue together her career-oriented ambitious parents, save their marriage and once-been love. She feels the hate and blame her Mother and Father feel towards her, she's picked at and hated at school, she has no friends and is lonely. From all this she hides herself in her imaginary world where she is The Queen, loved and admired - the substitute world of computers, TV and imagination. A strong addition to the story is the diary itself in the booklet (at least in the limited edition version of the album).
The idea behind the invisible circles becomes clear to the listener when the girl discovers that not only she alone has had a miserable life. She finds out that also her Father was quite in the same situation in his childhood and that his parents did the same mistakes he himself has made in his turn. The last song of the album reveals the girl ten years later - a mother herself. And she is in fears that now it is her turn to make the same mistakes her parents did. But she cannot help it... She is trapped, in an invisible circle, where everything goes round and round with no way to break out.
Strong concept is accompanied by strong musical and vocal performances. Music is still the kind of you would expect after their previous releases - quite distinctive drums, guitars and, what's more important, violins and cellos. Despite the minor changes, together it is still something that is the signature of After Forever, a sound you can recognize.
But the most audible is the change concerning vocals. Floor Jansen uses less her operatic voice, which somehow brings this album down from unreachable heights of mere mortals. Nevertheless, one must give credit to her singing; she definitely is one of the best voices. As before, this album features a lot of choirs - something that is part of the band's sound. Though most of the time you will need a booklet to understand the lyrics. The male vocals are by Bas Maas and fit very well. But one thing that is a bit disappointing is the amount of grunts. There's nothing to say against performance of Sander Gommans. It's just that on "Decipher" album grunts were something of the exotic sort, a "spice" that brought in the magical feeling. On "Invisible Circles" grunts are part of the sound, they fully blend with other parts but they're role is not what it used to be and they don't stand out in the way they had.
Together the album is strong, it goes from quiet parts to loud and angry and back enchanting the listener with versatility. Though admittedly it needs to be listened to more than once. The biggest flaws of the album are the dialogue parts in the "Between Love and Fire" and "Blind Pain" performed by Amanda Somerville and Jay Lansford. I'd say two thirds of their performance does not accomplish the sense of overhearing the fight between the parents, which in turn makes you feel like watching a soap opera - and quite a cheesy one. What's worse the second dialogue is by far too long. Such dialogues not only break the flow of the music but they also distract the listener and they are just plain annoying. Not to mention that they are too quiet - the listener must strain to hear them. The album could have done well without those dialogues. Singing them would have been a far stronger achievement - even addition of music in the background might have sufficed.
In conclusion I must say that although the dialogues have gone amiss, the album is still strong. The concept and the idea of invisible circles is a good one. Most of the lyrics are written by Floor and she expresses the idea very well. The story itself is quite reflective of today's world, it can happen to anyone. The album is worth listening if you don't fear the changes. Otherwise you're better off with Mark Jansen's new band Epica. I just wonder how the addition of prog-metal keyboardist Joost van der Broek will affect the band. In the end, to highlight a couple of songs I'd pick "Between Love and Fire" (excluding the dialogue), "Digital Deceit", which has now been released as a single, and "Two Sides".
Written on 30.06.2004 by
I shoot people.
Sometimes, I also write about it.
|With Mark Jansen gone forming another band, namely Epica, the future of After Forever without its main composer was uncertain until the release of the Exordium EP, through which all doubts vanished from my mind concerning the band's ability to write excellent songs. With their new album, "Invisible Circles", the Dutch combo finally put an end to fans' concerns even though the die-hard fans of the "Decipher" era sound might be slightly turned off by the new direction the band has taken. For them, only one alternative arises, checking out Epica. For the others, welcome to a world where progressive metal meets symphonic gothic metal.
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