Review Summary: The darkest and most intricate album ever produced by the polarizing AFI
AFI is a very polarizing band. The divide between fans who long for their punk days and those who've accepted the band's evolution is easy to see. And that divide splinters into smaller cracks, with fans devoted to any given time period in the band's history. Personally, I've enjoyed every record these guys have put out. I think the progression and diversity of their releases is something to admire and not look down upon. With that context in mind, this is my review of their latest album. 'Burials'.
From the moment you hear "The Sinking Night", a deeply personal and dreary tone is set. It is without a doubt the most suspenseful and exciting opening AFI has ever produced. The raw emotion built up here spills into the second track, "I Hope You Suffer". With an industrial core and a signature flying chorus, this is truly an epic. The band's front man, Davey Havok, sounds better than ever with his gut-wrenching screams, used to deliver a clear message to a past lover. "A Deep Slow Panic" brings the tension down a notch while keeping the emotions high. The Cure's influence on this band has never been more obvious than here. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention Hunter Burgan's excellent bass lines.
By the time "No Resurrection" begins it becomes obvious that this record will not be content to rest on its own ambitions. If you hadn't noticed it yet, the amazing production work done by Gil Norton is highlighted here as well. Which leads into the first single "17 Crimes". Easily the most radio friendly track on the album, it's not hard to see why it was picked as the first single. It certainly lacks some of the depth found earlier, but not since "Girls Not Grey" has AFI put together such a great combination of accessibility and musicianship. This is good news considering the lack of staying power "Medicate", found on the band's previous effort, had. As we head into "The Conductor" we hear guitarist, Jade Puget, come into the spotlight. His growth as a songwriter is on full display here and Davey's lyrics are equally as impressive.
"Heart Stops" is quite the anomaly. Dark lyrics are attached to perhaps the catchiest song on the record giving it a unique feel. A feeling that is touched upon again in "Rewind", albeit with a much grander approach and another appearance of Havok's painful screams. Then a change of pace comes in the form of one of the album's best, "The Embrace". Everyone is at the top of their game here. It's moody, powerful, and satisfying hearing the venomous lyrics laced over the layered instruments. "Wild' retains the theme of the record while delivering it in a fast, fun, and exciting manner. Expertly pacing what came before and what is to follow, it's unlike anything AFI has done before.
A treat for longtime fans comes in the form of "Greater Than 84". Musically it would fit right in on 'Sing The Sorrow', often seen as AFI's best release. Riffs, backing vocals, Davey's exclaimed ohs, and all! "Anxious" is another ballad with vocals reminiscent of Havok's performance on 2006's 'Decemberunderground'. It's not the strongest song on the album, but it has some great drum work by Adam Carson and a wailing chorus begging to be sung along to.
Then we arrive at the end. AFI has always put together epic finales for each of their albums and that has not changed here. "The Face Beneath The Waves" encompasses the darkest and best this record has to offer. It's powerful, expertly crafted, and deeply disturbing. AFI has never been shy when it comes to dark songwriting, but the bitterness and spite on display here is something out of the most tragic of love stories. It ends as it began, but the journey runs quite the auditory gamut.
If you haven't been a fan of AFI for some time now, this album won't bring back the teenage angst of their very first offerings. But for those who have stuck with them throughout their growth, or are willing to give them another listen... 'Burials' is without a doubt the most impressive, detailed, and lasting record ever produced by AFI.
- The Sinking Night
- A Deep Slow Panic
- The Conductor
- The Embrace
- The Face Beneath The Waves