Monday, April 22, 2013

After Forever - Remagine

At this point in their career, After Forever was already sharing the same status as other Dutch symphonic metal masters including Within Temptation and Epica. All of the albums After Forever had released before Remagine had been fairly consistent, which meant that this was now a time for them to dust off the bar and raise it a level or two. The band knew that and promised to release an album unlike anything they had ever done before; in both sound and quality. Writing an outstanding symphonic metal album seems to be pretty damn hard, because there doesn’t really seem to be many out there. Well, maybe I should rephrase that by saying that there aren’t that many bands that have the skill, creativity, and overall ability to write a fantastic symphonic metal album. But, although that may be true, the symphonic metal albums that ARE fantastic really are fucking fantastic (I’m having trouble coming up with words that can describe the ultimate beauty of some of the symphonic metal albums out there). Even though plenty of people would beg to differ on this, I believe that After Forever still had yet to put out a really good album, that is, until Remagine.

Symphonic metal, to my understanding, is a blend of power metal and gothic metal, putting some extra emphasis on the symphonic and orchestral elements (hence giving it the name symphonic metal). Despite the fact that After Forever is and always have been a symphonic metal band, Remagine seems to be the least “symphonic” record out of their discography. I guess this is what they meant by “unlike anything they had done before”. This isn’t exactly what I had in mind, but it makes sense. The thing that’s different about Remagine is that it uses a lot more synthesizers. Yes, it still uses keyboards for all the orchestral sounds and that sort of shit, but there are a lot more semi-generic electric synthesizer voices being used that would most commonly be heard in gothic metal and melodic death (Scar Symmetry, Eternal Tears of Sorrow, and Children of Bodom are melodic death bands that use a lot of that kind of keyboard stuff). This fact that Remagine puts less emphasis on the symphonic elements kind of upset some of the metalhead community, but this is where the surprises that After Forever unleash in this album come into play.

This is easily noticeable right after the intro track flows into the first song off the album, Come. Floor Jansen has a naturally operatic singing voice, so when she sings in a normal tone, it’s extremely powerful. That’s why when I heard the chorus of Discord from their self-titled album, the powerful singing just won me over. But, unlike their legendary self-titled record, the vocals on Remagine tend to be inconsistent. There are several bits where Jansen seems somewhat uninspired. The fortunate thing is that the other guys in the band seem to know this, because the intensity of the music goes higher during the parts where Jansen’s singing feels bland as well as during instrumentals.

As well as that, the complexity of the music tends to go down as Floor’s vocals break out into full operatic mode. Although I understand the whole balance thing, the way that it’s done on Remagine doesn’t sound very good. The whole point of this genre is intensity; especially during the climaxes where the music, the symphonics, and the vocals are at their highest point which creates the feeling that everything around you is going to explode into some Narnia-like world all around you. That’s the reason I love Epica so much. Yes, I know that there are some symphonic metal bands that don’t have that as their main goal. Some bands like to have more of a baroque/classical/more sophisticated sound, like a lot of the stuff that Therion has put out (especially my favorite album by them, Sitra Ahra). The reason why this bothers me on THIS album is because After Forever deliver everything perfectly, create a flawless build-up, and seem to just...fall through the ground. I’m hearing this huge build-up and thinking “oh man here comes the chorus!” and expecting something spectacular, only to be met with an end result with only half of the intensity that the build-up created. Don’t get me wrong, everything on this record is beautiful; the melodies, everything. It’s just that it’s missing the energy.

An example would be the chorus on Come. You get a nice catchy build-up that leads into a BEAUTIFUL, but somewhat phlegmatic chorus. Despite these drawbacks, After Forever produces a fabulous piece of work that can easily be considered one of the best records of their career. I would highly recommend this to any symphonic metal and gothic metal fans. As well as that, even people that are into progressive rock and gothic music in general might find this an enjoyable listen. I would give After Forever’s Remagine a score of 16/20.