Ever since their 2005 debut, The Afters have continually evolved with their genre, initially beginning as a crossover rock outfit. In recent years, the band has moved more in the direction of CCM electro/pop, which has been well-received by many fans, but also quite divisive amongst their original fanbase. Their fifth studio release (or sixth, for those of us who followed them as 'Blisse') moves a little bit more in the direction of the band's beginnings, but more often retains components of their recent projects.
The album's opening track, "Shadows," is hands-down the best offering from Live On Forever. Easily a five-star song, it perfectly meshes the best elements of The Afters, both past and present. In what can most accurately be described as a heavy-electronic song, "Shadows" paints a clear picture of the direction where the band most flourishes. Containing rock, pop, electronic distortions, and falsetto, this song sets the bar a bit too high for the rest of the album, but is easily one of the best songs of the year.
While "Sunrise" is a catchy track, it's nearly impossible to ignore how blatant of a clone it is of "Light Up the Sky," both thematically and atmospherically: "You are the sunrise in my sky, in my sky, in my sky / nothing can hide You from my eyes, my eyes, from my eyes." While it's somewhat acceptable to rip off your own music, it's far less respectable to do so with other artists' music. "Time of My Life" seems far too similar (in every manner) to American Author's "Best Day of My Life," to the point of some discomfort.
"Wake Up My Heart" is a solid piece, but contains nothing original enough to make it stand out. The album's lead single and title track, "Live On Forever," has been circulating on the radio for quite some time, and for good reason. While the lyrics aren't particularly impressive, the melody and pacing contribute quite a bit to making the song feel similar to something off of Never Going Back to OK.
"Eyes of a Believer" is a tad bit cliché, but not to the degree of "Survivors." Neither song is bad, with each containing a few good hooks and lines, but they don't feel fully brought together in a cohesive manner and seem partially unfinished. "Legends" is another great piece that shows the band brought back into their element, and while not as strong as "Shadows," it seems to be cut from the same cloth. The album closer, "When You're with Me," is a well-composed love song, complete with sentimental lyrics and peaceful acoustics and string elements. While a lovely piece, calling it "out of place" would be a gross understatement, as it fails to bookend the album and comes across as melodically jarring by following "Legends."
While some of the album's CCM tracks are more or less mediocre, their worshipful nature holds up well against other comparable artists. Additionally, the band's more original songs showcase some of their best work yet. If The Afters decide to stop cookie-cutting and trying to meet some rather generic expectations, they could easily produce five-star albums in the near future. For now, this album serves as a step in the right direction, boasting several tracks that are worthy of multiple listens.- Review date: 9/10/16, written by David Craft of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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