without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
After Forever's third release, Invisible Circles, was the first album I bought from the band. As soon as I heard that it was a concept album, I could not hold back, despite the far from perfect reviews I had read about it. My first impression was one of surprise; the album had great production, exciting contrasts, interesting songs, catchy melodies, brilliant vocals from both parties...
The strength of Floor Jansen's voice is one not often heard in metal, or even female-fronted metal music, as populated as that genre has become. Her notes soar majestically over the music (which is heavy, dynamic metal, contrary to the majority of similar bands), with power and emotion. Her voice isn't exactly what you would call "angelic" or "delicate", but strong and beautiful. It is truly awe-inspiring, and you'll find yourself marveling over it throughout the whole album.
After Forever also makes use of an excellent harsh vocalist, Sander Gommans, who is given a fair share of "air time". For the most part, female-fronted Gothic/Power metal bands steer clear of harsh vocalists, or only give them a verse once in every 4 songs. Fortunately, that is not the case here. Gommans does nothing but strengthen this album. His grunts are top-notch and distinctive, outshining the majority of the some thousand growlers out there. He has a great clear(-ish) tone, and every line is executed perfectly. Even when dueling beside the amazing Floor, he still delivers. Great job on his part.
The musicians play solid music. For the most part, it seems a bit pushed into the background by the outstanding vocals. And with a vocalist of this caliber, that could be expected. However, it certainly is much more prevalent than the majority of female-fronted metal bands. The guitars are strong and heavy and a playing more original and melodic riffs than, say, Nightwish or Within Temptation. Also, while there are keyboards, the guitars are definitely the leading instrument here.
The songs are well-written, creative, and memorable. They do not blend together and they do not get boring. There are choruses, riffs, ballads, and highlights, even some low-lights (but that makes it more exciting...). Although there is no particular song that blatantly stands above the rest, there are more than a couple songs you'll want to replay over and over. They all sound good, which is really what matters most. However, they are not perfect.
Unfortunately, the part of the album I was most anxious to hear was the part I was most disappointed in. The Concept. Sure, they have a right to write about whatever they feel, but I believe that the majority of metal-heads do not want to hear about a little girls' social problems. For the most part, the album is great to listen to despite the awkward lyrical theme, although sometimes...it can get a bit annoying...
For example, the arguing couple. Is there anyone who doesn't fast-forward through that part? I have listened to this album probably twenty times through now, but only listened to the couple's parts once or twice. It just doesn't fit with the brilliant music. Sorry.