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After Forever were not a band I thought I'd enjoy. See, I'm not so much into all of these female fronted symphonic bands. I find Nightwish to be rather mediocre, and Epica just bored me to tears. There's something different about the modern incarnation of After Forever, though. Gone are the flowery, frigid arrangements and most of the cliches they exploited on previous efforts, and in are ushered rock-solid tunes with catchy choruses and hooks and charms that will work their magic on you before you know it, with perhaps the best female vocals of this style I've ever heard. Maybe it was the loss of primary songwriter Mark Jansen that spurred this renaissance of songwriting power and instrumental proficiency? Whatever your explanation is, you'd have to be a damn fool to deny the majesty that is Remagine.
It's a magical album, this one. I don't know how they did it. Everything just sort of flows here, so it's pointless to pick at the guitar tone or the drumming style or anything, because it all gels into one collective whole that will floor you, back up and then do it again. The opening "Come" features jaw-dropping vocal melodies, with Floor Jansen switching from a boastful sort of chest voice to a more operatic style that just works, and all the while you have the guitars rumbling and rolling in the background, along with some light symphonic keys here and there. I like how this album actually has balls. It doesn't just put the double bass drums on high and start blasting away third rate Iced Earth riffs underneath all the fluff, but rather puts to use rocky, solid riffs and drumming that can crush skulls, and the result is something that most "symphonic" metal bands couldn't even dream of.
And they have songs that actually progress from beginning to end, rather than just repeating bland over-produced chorii for four minutes underneath a bouncy fanfare. "Only Everything," for instance, starts off as a slow, synth-infested number, but gradually builds up into a crescendo of metal glory. "Face Your Demons" might be my favorite song on here, with its charging tempo and headstrong, soulful vocal performance, not to mention some of the more complex guitar work on display. And the closing "Forever" serves as a foreboding and ominous outro to an album filled with gems.
After Forever can also write a catchy pop tune and still make it as wondrous and magical as their more complex tunes. "Being Everyone," for example, is a fantastic song, with some of the most memorable lines Floor has sung to date, and don't forget the soaring power of "Boundaries are Open." The touching little ballad "Strong" is a particularly poignant tune, alternating between soft, lush piano sections and louder ones, flowered with the same guitar wizardry that makes the rest of the album so good. "Attendance" is a cold, pounding industrialized tune, and it does well for what it is, and then you have "Living Shields" with its pert growling vocals to compliment Floor's angelic ones. An old trick, but hey, who says it can't still work?
Just go get this right now. Seriously, you need it.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com