Many people have heard of goth metal before. For quite a few, the word "goth" conjures images of people you've seen at the mall: large pants with an obscene amount of chains and straps, more makeup than Richard Simmons at a gay bar, and a generally depressing attitude. However, goth also describes a style of music: very symphonic, an emphasis on epicness and more opera styled vocals. There are tons of countless knockoff bands that claim to be "goth", but only a few can claim the style as their own.
Here's where After Forever comes in. A goth/symphonic metal band from the Netherlands, they were one of the best of female fronted goth metal. Even from a very young age, the band showed their talents as songwriters. Their music was epic, and worthy of being played by bands twice their age. From their debut in 2000 all the way up to today, the band has showed no signs of slowing down and continue to release album after album, each as good (if not better) than the last.
2001 on Transmission Records
Members (at the time of this release):
Floor Jansen - Soprano vocals
Sander Gommans - Guitars, death vocals
Mark Jansen - Guitars, death vocals
Andre Borgman - Drums, acoustic guitar
Luuk van Gerven - Bass
Lando van Gils - Keyboards
Decipher, simply put, is an amazing album. Considering the average age of the band members was 19 when it was recorded/released, it was almost unheard of. The band showed their promise as songwriters, and it paid off on this album. With an epic quality found in only a select few, the album radiated originality.
The undoubted best part of the band is the superb vocals laid down by Floor Jansen. Yes, she is a soprano, like many other female fronted bands. However, few can convey emotion as well as Floor. Her voice is haunting. It will stay in your head forever and refuse to get out. Unlike some singers, who are all about being pretty and not delivering much impact, Floor can do both. Her voice is one of the prettiest voices I've ever heard, and it grips you as much as some of the most powerful singers can do. Also noteworthy is that she can sing in different styles. She can go from more traditional vocals straight into operatic and back again without missing a beat. That, my friends, is truly the sign of a great singer.
Floor is backed up by a superb backing band as well. On this release especially, the group excels. Pounding double bass and heavy guitars galore, they create a powerful sound that perfectly complements Floor. And if the music needs to slow down? They can do that as well. Once again, considering the band's age, it is remarkable that they were able to write an album as good as this.
Decipher was the group's sophomore release. It possessed an edge not found in many of their peer's albums. The band was out to prove that no matter how old you are, you can still write mindblowing music. They completely hit it on the head. With absolutely phenomonal vocals and the perfect music to back it up, the album is quite close to sheer perfection.
Along with the normal band members, they recorded with an orchestra as well, to give their music that other edge. Some bands seem to rely on an orchestra just to make their music seem better and more complex than it actually is (read: Dimmu Borgir's Death Cult Armageddon); however, After Forever makes it work in a way that makes you just stop and take it all in. It makes the music absolutely beautiful to listen to.
Interestingly enough, the group also uses male vocals in a few parts as well. Pretty standard metal styled vocals; they don't really add, but don't take away either. This seems to be a growing standard in goth metal today.
Even though the instrumentation may seem minimalist, it truly isn't. There aren't crazy shred solos in this type of music. Per usual of a goth metal band, all the instruments are focused on creating an atmosphere that draws you in. Too many bands to count try and fail at this, leaving their music boring, bland, and generic. Not After Forever. They craft beautiful chord melodies, a few harmonized parts here and there, and back it all up with keyboards and superb drumming. Truly worth a listen.
A few recommended tracks, if you wish. However, the album is much better viewed as a whole...it gives you a much deeper sense of knowing.
- My personal favorite on the album, it is everything After Forever is known for. Atmospheric music, great instrumentation, and some of the best vocals in the genre. Floor turns in an absolutely crushing part on this song, probably the best on the album.
My Pledge Of Allegiance (1 and 2)
- 2 songs that go hand in hand. Usual After Forever styled tracks...great drums especially on 2.
- The album's closer. From the intro forwards, you'll know it will be a trip. A haunting intro that almost conveys the impending end, and great vocals from Floor.
. Albums don't get much better than this.