Review Summary: AFI maintains the polished sound of Crash Love, while recapturing some of the emotion and energy from Sing the Sorrow.
With AFI’s 2009 release of Crash Love, AFI just seemed to be missing something. The dark lyrical themes were obviously weaker, the instrumentation was more straightforward, and the song structures were more standard. AFI just seemed to be missing the energy and passion that had captured the hearts of their fans. With Crash Love following their massive mainstream breakthrough album, Decemberunderground, long-time fans feared that AFI could soon drift into oblivion. After almost 5 years of anticipation, AFI have finally bestowed upon us an album that old and new fans alike can appreciate. While this comeback album is littered with flaws and does not live up to the “dark and heavy” hype, Burials is able to hold its own and be the best AFI album since Sing the Sorrow.
The album opens with “The Sinking Night”, which pays homage to Sing the Sorrow’s “Miseria Cantare” and Decemberunderground’s “Prelude 12/21”. AFI successfully set the overall tone of the album and it is refreshing to hear them again give their album a short and effective opening track. As the track fades, the album jumps straight into the bands first, dark-tinged single, “I Hope You Suffer”. This track is definitely one of the more morose tracks on the album, complete with deep, pounding drumming beautifully complemented by ominous piano and minimal, yet effective guitar chimes.
Jade’s slick and resounding guitar riffs, in songs such as “The Conductor”, sound better than ever and are much better integrated into Burials than they were on Crash Love and even Decemberunderground. The instrumentation is able to sound collective and mesh terrifically with the vocals of Havok. Jade’s guitar riffs and electronic touches seem to be more at the forefront of this album and the result is a new and interesting feel for AFI. “17 Crimes” manages to be a highlight of the album even with it being one of the poppiest tracks AFI has written to date. The nostalgic lyrics and fast, upbeat instrumentation make for an extremely memorable and fun listening experience.
A great triumph of Burials is AFI’s ability to cut out on instrumentation and allow Havok to dramatically steal the spotlight. This is perfectly displayed throughout “No Resurrection” and also displayed beautifully in “A Deep Slow Panic”. One of the strongest tracks on the album, “Greater than 84”, does a great job of showcasing todays AFI as a whole. Fast and intricate guitar rushes you into the song before Havok’s passion-filled, narrative sounding lyrics carry you through the verse and into the soaring chorus. One can’t help but smile at the climax of the song complete with Havok’s characteristic “oh!”. The darkest essence of the Burials is heard in the lyrics. The broad and dark poetics of Havok have definitely made a return on this album and are sure to make listeners feel a certain dark, sad and hopeful feeling.
As I said, the album is littered with flaws. One profound low point of the album is the awkwardly executed track, “Heart Stops”. On this track, Davey sounds dull and bored. The over-the-top, poppy chorus does not mix well with the verses and the guitar and vocals do not mix well at all. Song structures on the album are rather straightforward with few twists and turns. Burials would have benefited from having at least one more ballad during the second half of the album, which rarely slows down. The album is a bit front-loaded, with all of the singles and most instantly infectious tracks being placed on the front half of the album. Some Blaqk Audio influence can be heard in the album’s electronic effects, especially on the second half of the album. Songs such as “Wild” would be far more effective without the overwrought electronics. Thankfully, the influence of the electronic elements is for the most part minimal and does not detract significantly from the album.
As a whole, Burials shows a band who is finally comfortable with what they have become. Gone is the AFI who created Black Sails. Gone is the AFI who created Sing the Sorrow. After stumbling a bit after Decemeberunderground, AFI has regained their balance. AFI has finally learned to channel the energy and emotion of pre-Decemberunderground AFI into the more accessible, radio-ready sound they have grown into.
“I will return again,
I will return to you,
I will return again,
I am part of you,
I will be with you again,
with you again I am”
–“The Face Beneath The Waves”
*A Deep Slow Panic
*Greater Than 84