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After Forever's 3rd full-length album, Invisible Circles, is one of my favorite albums of this past year. Fronted by the powerful voice of the beautiful Floor Jansen, AF have the unfair advantage over their symphonic metal competitors with such an amazing talent. Since the departure of main songwriter Mark Jansen, Sander Gommans has taken primary songwriting duties, and has done an excellent job. The guitar riffs are great in this record! Instead of following the vocals, the riffs take a path of their own, and are not drowned out easily by the synths. The keyboards are beautiful, adding an extra whole dimension to the music. Drumming and bass are both perfect, and easily audible.
The concept behind Invisible Circles involves a girl who is physically and emotionally abused at home and school. She keeps track of her life in a diary (whose pages can be read in the album booklet). Her only escape from reality is her computer, where she buries herself in the song "Digital Deceit". In the end, we are taken into the future, where she describes herself as a mother, neglecting her child as her parents did to her. She is trapped in an invisible circle.
The highlights of this record include "Between Love and Fire", a beautiful heavy track where Floor sings her heart out; "Eccentric", one of the most beautiful ballads this band has ever written, almost tearjerking; and personal favorite "Through Square Eyes", a headbanger in which Floor and Sander exchange vocal roles throughout the textured verses.
A couple weak songs deducts points, but when the album hits, it HITS. Whereas Lacuna Coil and Nightwish seem to be going through a downward spiral, After Forever remain at the head of their game. I give Invisible Circles a 9.8/10.