The dutch band After Forever has been very quick to release its second studio CD after the interesting "Prison of Desire" (look at the review at "reviews section"). With such a great debut CD and since there are too many "metal-goth-prog-with-soprano" bands as Within Temptation, Nightwish, etc., Floor Jansen (soprano), Mark Jansen (guitars, screams), Sander Gommans (guitars, grunts), Lando van Gils (synths), Luuk van Gerven (bass), and Andre Borgman (drums) should have waited more months or not be influenced by the current fashion.
Technically talking, "Decipher" is unbeatable. Wonderful cover, clear and crystalline production, special guests (string quartet, choirs, tenor,...), brilliant arrangements and orchestrations, etc. But the songs are unconexed and I miss the originality and freshness of the first CD. Am I saying "Decipher" is a bad album?. No. It is a good one if we had not listened to "Prison of desire" and if we had not listened to bands such as Dreams of Sanity or Nightwish.
"Decipher" contains eleven songs very different among them. I would highlight the impressive intro "Ex cathedra" (2:02), the two parts of "My pledge of Allegiance", the beautiful "Intrinsic" (6:44), the potent "Forlorn hope" (6:21) and especially an exceptional duet between Floor and the tenor Rein Kolpa in the song "Imperfect tenses" (4:08), probably the most beautiful song that I have listened in many years. All these songs - and instrumental fragments of other -could have been included in the first CD of the band.
Are the rest of the songs mediocre?. No, simply they are different. Powerful songs that would fit well for bands such as Within Temptation or others with less level than After Forever. The band even offers two very hard songs ("Zenith" (4:21) and "Stranged" (6:54)) that surprised me a lot.
If you are die-hard fans of this kind of bands, you will enjoy with "Decipher". And you will also like it if you don't look for new shades in the music you listen to. But if you were surprised by "Prison of desire", "Decipher" is not so surprising. It moves away from what we call "related musics" and it comes closer dangerously to a mix of metal-goth music successful but not very imaginative. Anyway the band will choose the road that they prefer. And I will always wish all the luck to the artists who choose their road freely.