Review Summary: Merciless. The sorrow speaks the truth.
For 5 albums straight, AFI has always been an edgy hardcore punk band. Suffices to say, they didn't emerge into glory. Their first two albums sounded raw, bland, and Davey's lyrics were no where near the level of sophistication they are now. It was all very "teenage", which you can forgive them for, considering the band was formed when they were in high school. Their third album showed some improvement. The vocals became more intense as well as all that accompanied it. As soon as Black Sails In The Sunset came around, you could see how much this band grew in a short time. Now with the line-up that still stands, AFI's 4th and 5th album were horror punk masterpieces. They both showed heavy improvements on lyrics and song writing with a huge increase in aggression. It was almost as if they found a sound they could stick with for years and years to come. But then came 2003. The band had changed labels and went into mainstream. Their sound, while still recognizable had changed. Sing The Sorrow gashed in like a dagger, with a wound that still bleeds the same as the first day you heard it.
Love your hate, your faith lost.
You are now one of us.
Nothing, from nowhere, I'm no one at all.
Radiate. Recognize one silent call as we all form one dark flame.
Sing The Sorrow is a miserable sensation that doesn't end. It's completely unforgiving. There are periods of pure serene beauty where the eloquence of the sound cannot be overlooked. These times make it hard to succumb to how dark this album actually is. The opening track "Miseria Cantare (The Beginning)" creates a barren atmosphere perfectly. Its emptiness is calling to all who have been broken. This gathering's rising angst is the birth of Davey's screaming. Combined with the uniform howls of a crowd, this introduction is nothing less than bold.
This newly designed sound for the band features notable sounds from many elements, but most noticeably pop-punk. This by no means they have abandoned the hardcore punk moments created on their last few outings. Perhaps the song most evident of this is "The Leaving Song, Pt. 2". It is a great balance between this newly developed sound and their previous works including some exceptional instrumental improvement as well as showcasing Davey's vocal talent. The song itself is a broken soul's feeling of uselessness. It feels as if there is nothing it can give as it sings to someone wanting to save it. But all it does is wait to die. That's it. No remorse in any shape or form. This is the album. A later track "Paper Airplanes (Makeshift Wings)" is also attempting a recreation of punk. Jade's guitar work is quite standout as it blazes through most of the song. The chorus is one of the best on the album showcasing divine screams and unrivaled clean-vocal talent collaborating.
The best representation of pop-punk is located all around the album. First single "Girl's Not Grey" is a particularly upbeat track. With a simple formula and a catchy chorus that begs for a sing-a-long moment when backup vocals belt out "What follows...will swallow whole",
what can possibly be so ominous about this song? This disguise becomes uncovered when the lyrics are made sense of. Although Davey's profound writing abilities make interpretation open, there is clear evidence of suicide and hopelessness.
A near-end highlight "This Celluloid Dream" shows some practical guitar while Davey harks a tale of love that is fated to never occur. Moments may grace one individual as the person is fortunate enough to be in the presence of another and have an enjoyable experience, but in the end, the individual is bound to remain "in the shadow of a star".
Earlier track, "Bleed Black" begins with clever hints of breathing. The song's liveliness builds into the somber, deathly bridge.
I know I died that night and I'll never be brought back to life.
Once again, I know.
Screaming is nearly everywhere on this album. "Death of Seasons" and "Dancing Through Sunday" are centered around this style. "Dancing Through Sunday" is a rampaging track that never ceases bombardment. It works similarly to "Miseria Cantare (The Beginning)" as it collectively captivates despair. Jade's signature solo is without a doubt his best work. "Death of Seasons" exposes Davey's ability even more, with the beginning bass line leading into a ruthless chant from Mr. Havok. This chant becomes an untamed rebellion as all instruments begin to show the same kind of rage. The clean-vocals in the chorus are some of his best. The end of this song is truly heartless with an exquisite lyric and strings with unparalleled emotion. Truly one of the band's best songs.
The strings from "Death of Seasons" begin to settle into what very may be the ultimate hell. "The Great Disappointment" is the best depiction of everything this band can put forth. It all begins with a beautiful arrangement of instruments working together to create the sorrow this album is known for. This effort put into an eerie intro goes all but unnoticed. It's beauty is unfortunately shrouded in darkness. Davey's voice is perfectly controlled upon arrival. It's subtle, but effective. Quickly it builds until its malevolence is at its peak during the chorus. The hopeless line "While I waited, I was wasting away"
is haunting. The song truly does justice in describing a great disappointment, speaking greatly of unfaithfulness. I can solemnly say this is the best song on the album. I'll even go as far to call this my favorite AFI song which is a hard statement to claim. Writing this sacred cannot be overlooked:
Inside a crumbling effigy
But you promised
So dies all innocence
But you promised me
The more popular ballad "Silver and Cold" is a fan-favorite. The rainfall as well as the piano were successful attempts at trying something else and creating somberness. The duet between Davey in Jade was even more of a welcome risk, and is surely something we'll see more in future years for the band. "The Leaving Song" is another coordination between these two except in a different way. Adam and Hunter take a back seat as these two work their magic. Davey's voice never pushes at new heights here; rather it remains calm while Jade follows that tone. It's innocent sound still wreaks of self discontent, while there are lines of how a cracked heart will remain the same forever and how those cracks will always continue to show.
The closing track is actually a 3 part track. "...But Home Is Nowhere" contains the song itself, "Spoken Word", and "This Time Imperfect". This is not only an epic finale, but I don't they could have picked a better way to finish this album. "...But Home Is Nowhere" itself is about how you try to find your place in life, but you can't seem to find purpose. After all the time you have lived, you still don't have anything. It's eternal. Overall, this song is the acceptance of these feelings. The intro is odd at first but takes a drastic hit, just like how this feeling is expressed. Davey is pleading for something in a way that builds up into...this:
I lay strewn across the floor, can't solve this puzzle
Everyday another small piece can't be found
I lay strewn across the floor, pieced up in sorrow
The pieces are lost, these pieces don't fit
Pieced together incomplete and empty
"Spoken Word" isn't a song, it's an interlude poem between these two actual tracks. The poem is actually split into 3 parts itself. The first and the last are written by Jade while the 2nd is written and told by Davey. The poem is told over a cryptic piano. The use a of a child and elder voice only contributes to this effect. The whole poem as well as the accompanying music is outstanding. Everything is well written and of course...sorrowful.
"This Time Imperfect" begins with an odd distorted sound. Davey's vocals are full of sadness as they enter. The song is always building up. By the end, the song releases the last words of defeat which is basically what this song is. The intensity in his voice achieves new heights that are earth shattering which is only appropriate for a song so antagonizing. This song's message is that there is nothing. It's directed at anyone who caused this feeling. It's merciless. And who knows? The sorrow may speak the truth.
There are no flowers, no, not this time,
There will be no angels gracing the lines,
Just these stark words I find,
I'd show a smile, but I'm too weak,
I'd share with you could I only speak,
Just how much this hurts me,
Just how much this hurts me,
Just how much you...
Sing The Sorrow is an album that causes me to look down on everything. Down at the world in "Death of Seasons", down at love in "This Celluloid Dream", and down at myself in the entirety of "...But Home Is Nowhere". There is so much here to be looked at, but none of it is necessarily supposed to be pleasant. What AFI created is an emo masterpiece. Every song not only displays this feeling, but enhances it in a way only this band can. Not only that, but this album has a wide variety to look at. Screaming, punk, and pop-punk may not sound like it's a lot, but the way this album differentiates them surely makes it that way. Sing The Sorrow is meant to last ages, with plenty to discover in the lyrics and enough variety for it to never get old.