After Forever

Exordium

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Dutch sextet After Forever seemed to come out of nowhere in the year 2000, their two fine albums, Prison of Desire and Decipher, ably exploring and even redefining the extent to which the whole operatic/symphonic metal subgenre could be developed. But a series of internal issues and personnel changes temporarily derailed the group's incredible momentum, forcing them to fill the three-year void leading up their third album in 2004 with a series of EPs. Released in 2003, Exordium was one of these and, although it had to wait an extra year for its official U.S. release, it came augmented with a bonus DVD to make up for it. Said DVD combines static photo galleries with a set of live performance and concept videos, of which the single "My Choice" also has a "making-of" featurette. As for the original EP's musical portion, four conceptually linked band compositions boast the usual assortment of symphonic and heavy metal devices one has come to expect from After Forever -- combined as ever in astoundingly complex and lush configurations. Opening instrumental "Line of Thoughts" previews ideas fleshed out in the next three tracks, among which the death-defying (as in "death metal") "Glorifying Means" is arguably the most memorable. Closing the mini-album are two cover versions of extremely different natures. The first is an expertly executed reading of Iron Maiden's "The Evil That Men Do," while the second finds the group applying the metallic treatment to "One Day I'll Fly Away" -- an emotive ballad originally recorded by '70s soul singer Randy Crawford. The fact they pull it off quite convincingly is a testament to After Forever's collective ability, as is the whole of this well-conceived EP.

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