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Review: After Forever - Invisible Circles
After Forever
Invisible Circles

Label: Transmission Records
Year released: 2003
Duration: 59:04
Tracks: 12
Genre: Symphonic Metal

Rating: 2.7/5

Review online: June 30, 2007
Reviewed by: Bruce Dragonchaser
Readers Rating
Invisible Circles

Rated 3.63/5 (72.5%) (8 Votes)

Accomplishing the almost unfathomable, After Forever's appeal has continued to grow along with their music ever since band founder/chief songwriter Mark Jansen packed his things, and decided he'd had enough – or so we're led to believe. And the first of those accomplishments was to be their third full length outing, "Invisible Circles", their first attempt to rekindle the flame of their searing conflagration initiated on 2000's debut "Prisoner of Desire" and the follow up "Decipher" in 2001. Jump ahead a couple of years, and while Jansen was testing the water with Epica's debut, After Forever took that bold step and created an album composed entirely without Jansen's input. Fortunately, they have gotten better at it…

While the neo-gothic Nightwish-isms of the debut are still haunting a few of the arrangements, "Invisible Circles" is a different species of record. First of all, this band should never be labelled 'gothic' or 'female fronted'; primarily because they are too unique to be hindered with such unsuitable categorisations, but also because they are simply a heavy metal band, who happens to be fronted by a vulpine vocalist. Tits or no tits, After Forever are a metal fan's band, who, circumstantially, feel more at home within progressive, thrash or power metal categories. As a consequence, most of "Invisible Circles" falls under one of the latter genres, being extremely complex and versatile within the boundaries of musicality.

Thematically heavy, the lyrical matter follows a rather serious concept – although handled petulantly, in my opinion – about the disgrace and emotional torture a child of a loveless marriage must face, and the captivity within a disdainful, career driven household. In all honesty, this could have been done better. And unlike so many albums that use a plethora of verbose lyrical padding, this is so strongly relevant to the music that it cannot be ignored. That's what makes this album difficult; the songs themselves suffer from a lack of direction, not knowing which genre to pursue next. There is a lot of variety – take stocky opener "Beautiful Emptiness" for one, which kicks off with a blasting array of symphonics and epic choirs, before slipping into a slow, dirge-like Leave's Eyes section of gothic banality; which ultimately flowers into a sharp, jagged progressive metal riff-fest boasting one of the best guitar advances on the album. Following nicely is "Between Love and Fire", which is the first track of the album to include spoken dialogue – Jesus Christ; these two are in need of some serious acting classes. I wasn't surprised at vocal coach Amanda Somerville's dire performance, but Jay Lansford? He should know better. This track however offers a very addictive middle section – after the aforementioned ham lessons – which contains a brief vocal section comprised of the band's three vocalists, Floor Jansen – our famed lead vocalist – growls from our resident axe-wielder Sander Gommans, and a nice falsetto from guitar partner Bas Maas. Really, it is sharp stuff that most power metallers will enjoy, especially with the rampant drum work.

But in general, there is just too much confusion. Take "Two Sides" for example; the blasting synth/double bass intro could have been ripped straight from Stratovarius, but then for some reason the band slide back into gothic-bore mode, ruining the song completely. Same can be said for "Digital Deceit", which speaks of our child's comfort in the Internet, and boasts an extremely catchy bridge, but wimps out for the chorus. What's going on here, I'm not quite sure, but it is obvious that After Forever have ironed out the creases, as their last two records clearly demonstrate.

Probably not a good starting point for this great band – although it is their most progressive effort to date – but without it, we wouldn't have been given "Reimagine", an album that in my mind is better than anything Nightwish could ever administer. Buy that instead.

Other related information on the site
Review: After Forever (reviewed by Larry Griffin)
Review: Decipher (reviewed by Larry Griffin)
Review: Exordium (reviewed by 4th Horseman)
Review: Exordium (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Prison Of Desire (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Remagine (reviewed by Bruce Dragonchaser)
Review: Remagine (reviewed by Larry Griffin)
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