The year 2000 has remarkable similarities to 2001, musically. It saw the release of an extremely excellent 'black metal' album, Cradle of Filth's "Midian". It then saw the release of Within Temptation's "Mother Earth". In 2001, something similar happened with Dimmu Borgir's "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia" and, now, After Forever's "Decipher". For people who like 'commercial' black metal as well as heavy female-vocal bands (such as I), both years have been absolutely ace.

After Forever was launched on the music market last year with their excellent debut, "Prison of Desire". Now has come the time for them to consolidate their position in the genre...and with the release of "Decipher" they have pulled off that task successfully.

"Decipher" shows a more mature band that has grown with regard to their ability to write songs. Vocally, Floor Jansen manages to lift the tracks to another plane of aural joy altogether. The girl can wail!

"Ex Cathedra" sets the tone for the album, with its subtle and rather Therion-esque style. It is followed on its heels by "Monolith of Doubt", a truly superb song with a more than excellent vocal performance and eastern-influenced violins. After that comes "My Pledge of Allegiance", kicking off with a sitar intro, a heavy thumper with eastern influences as well. And if you get "eastern influences" twice in two songs, that shows you the one small weakness of the band: They tend to use only a limited range of sources for musical variety. Having said that, they don't use it quite as overtly as might be concluded from my words. It's still quite tasteful and not too blatant.

"Emphasis" to me is the vocally most satisfying track, which features multiple goosebumps-and-tears-in-yer-eyes vocal moments (positive ones, needless to say). This is truly amazing, hauntingly enchanting stuff. There is more room for grunts and screams in the ensueing tracks, especially in the faster "My Pledge of Allegiance #2", an excellent track that seems to have been written with a live setting in mind. The tracks not mentioned here are a little less exceptional, but still provide ear candy in generous quantities. The album closes off with the exquisite "Forlorn Hope", a powerful track about the Middle Eastern problem, including a haunting spoken sample.

Musically everything is fine, and on top of that the booklet is atmospherically designed, lavish too.

This is the stuff you'd like to get more of.



Written November 2001


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