Like most eponymous albums arriving late in a band's career, After Forever's fifth long-player was named thus because it was intended to function as some kind of statement; a virtual catalog of the Dutch band's multiple personality disorder as it was made musical, prog-symphonic-goth-metal flesh. Too bad it also proved to be the group's swan song. But before getting into all that, let us expand on the fact that almost all of the album's tracks were focused on achieving the most seamless combination possible between those disparate sound influences that had been tugging at the band's songwriting over the years; simultaneously ignoring the excessively cerebral concepts perpetrated by 2004's Invisible Circles, and the part-commercial, part-experimental endeavors captured on 2005's Remagine. This philosophy hardly resulted in any sort of bland middle ground, however, but rather elevated stand-out cuts like opener "Dischord," the anthemic "Energize Me," and the sweeping power ballad "Cry with a Smile" up among the best songs of the band's career, period. That being said, After Forever couldn't resist pushing the progressive envelope during a minority set of more elaborate offerings, including the suitably dramatic, orchestra-heavy "De-Energized" (featuring Floor Jansen doing her best Kate Bush imitation), and the simply colossal, 11-minute "Dreamflight," which melded the usual metallic qualities with bristling synthesizer runs and multiple symphonic passages that would probably pass muster at the old classical music conservatory. The latter also made one realize however, that, except for a few appearances on the likes of "Evoke" and "Withering Time," singer Floor Jansen's operatic vocal style was conspicuous by its near absence here, often accompanied by Sander Gommans' bowel-loosening death growls, for contrast. Instead, it was Jansen's tougher, leaner, and certainly more exhilarating rock voice that dominated, suggesting After Forever's willful rejection of the Nightwish comparisons that plagued them from day one. Yet, in the end, perhaps it was the realization that their heavier tendencies and overly ambitious compositional templates would forever stop them short of attaining the commercial success enjoyed by the self-same Nightwish, that ultimately convinced After Forever to throw in the towel after this release. Should they stick with this decision, they can at least move ahead into their individual endeavors with the knowledge that their efforts were not in vain, but rather represented some of the most accomplished female-fronted heavy metal created over the course of the 2000s.
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia