Review Summary: AFI sound exactly the same and are better for it.
AFI having been a band for a hair over twenty years has given us, as music listeners, one of the most important but under-appreciated gifts that any serious consumer of art can come across. That gift is context. When looking back on AFI's career, their so-called divide from punk to more mainstream stylings is a farce. The core of AFI's sound, even in their Nitro Records days, has always been built on pounding a pop hook into your head under the guise of a harsher medium. If anything has changed in their sound it isn't their edge or their attitude, it's their discovery of atmosphere. But even that goes back to Black Sails in the Sunset
. It evolved from merely a haunting presence hanging over their melodramatic scene on “God Called In Sick Today”, to relying on electronics for their intended effect on Sing the Sorrow
is just a continued stepping stone in that regard. The same hooks and whoa-oh-oh's that have been the cornerstone of every set staple in their discography for the past two decades are still as abundant as ever, the only difference is that that backing atmosphere has now been pushed into the forefront. Single “17 Crimes” sounds as rooted in its punk security as “Wester” or “The Last Kiss” ever did, while “The Conductor” and “The Embrace” pull their power from a shared influence from the darker side of late 80's pop with their abundant nods to Depeche Mode's moody songwriting. It's a simple shift in perspective that makes all the difference, as for the first time it feels as though the two battling sides of AFI's past and where they've always wanted to go are reconciled into a cohesive whole. That's not to say that AFI haven't tried to pull this off before. Decemberunderground
worked on many of these same themes and techniques, but where that record felt suffocated by its own ambition to be both familiar and different, Burials
is secure in its intentions. It's not looking to push borders or dabble in a misremembered nostalgia. Burials
' only goal is catharsis and that is why it succeeds.