Much ado has been made about After Forever’s potent combination of symphonic black metal, gorgeous soprano vocals, and throaty growling. Guess what? The music IS wonderfully intense, Floor Jansen could sing her grocery list and we’d still be enthralled, and the growling and screaming male vocals… well, more on them later.In the same sort of vein as Nightwish, Tristania, Sins of Thy Beloved, Within Temptation, and others, After Forever brings us dark, progressive metal complete with symphonic and choral touches. The lead vocalist is arguably one of the best in the business. She’s not as operatic as Nightwish’s Tarja; rather, she commands a strong, clear, vibrant voice that gives After Forever a beautiful trademark.I really don’t feel like breaking down the relative ratings of each song, so how about a general “feel” from the album? Musically creative, technically advanced, quite beautiful – ’nuff said. Of special interest to Within Temptation fans (like myself) is the track “Beyond Me”, where Sharon den Adel adds guest vocals. It’s quite a treat to hear these two talented ladies trading lines in this song.A few words about the so-called “death” or “belly” growling (and here’s the part where everyone starts scrambling to press the “This review is NOT helpful” button):It is terrible. Say all you want about it “adding drama” or “adding to the darkness” or “providing a counterpoint to the ethereal female vocals.” Frankly, it’s ridiculous and annoying, and it detracts from the beautifully gifted female lead singer.It’s not singing. It’s the sound of the Cookie Monster in an extraordinarily bad mood. It’s the sound of the world’s longest belch, like the type you get after chugging an overly-carbonated beer. It’s the sound of gargling, chundering throat juice. It causes me to be mildly concerned that the “singer” is doing himself permanent damage.Now, I’m not saying that it’s easy to do, oh no. I tried to sing along with the opening lines of “Leaden Legacy” and only got through “We cannot beeee… what yooouuu…. expeeeecccct…” before I fell into a fit of violent coughing.You know what would be great if these types of bands wanted to present a “dark” counterpart to the soprano? If they got someone like Peter Steele of Type O Negative, someone who is capable of singing with a genuine baritone. If someone like that is not available, then I wish they’d take a cue from Within Temptation and lose the male vocals entirely.It is therefore a strong testament to the pure talent of After Forever that I really like their music. I listen to “Prison of Desire” much the same way someone would eat a tasty-but-outrageously-spicy burrito: you’re enjoying every minute of it, even though tears of pain are running down your face.In conclusion, I strongly urge you to purchase this CD, if you can find it for the right price. It is a rich, symphonic black metal excursion fronted by one of the most talented vocalists in the business today. And it has some grunts and shrieks, but you can tune them out if you try hard enough.