Note: I wrote this three years ago. I stand by my comments, however you might notice my rating has changed from 4.5 to 3. This is because I don't feel the record is as timeless as I once did.
AFI is an interesting band. One of the few bands that I know of that has been able to completely reinvent itself with every new album, and not release one bad album. This is what sets AFI apart from other bands; it's also probably why they've been around for more than a decade. They began playing simple hardcore punk in a garage in Ukiah, California, and now have just released their second record on a major label, Decemberunderground.
Decemberunderground is, in my honest opinion, a great record. It is completely different from all of their past releases, and is a quite obvious evolution of the band that released Sing The Sorrow back in 2003. The album incorporates much more in the way of melodic tracks, a lot of electronic elements and some different vocal styles from the lead singer, Davey Havok.
The vocals on this album are fantastic, lots of variation from Davey, as he once again shows his versatility as the front man of AFI. He has changed some aspects, such as his screams; they are now more raw, definitely different sounding than before. The vocal lines, melodies and hooks on this record are fantastic, and extraordinarily catchy. Some of his vocal lines on this album feel as though they belong on a pop punk album, and some of them sound like they were taken straight from a screamo record. Some of the best vocal work on this album can be found on Prelude 12/21
, for the cool melodies, Miss Murder
, because it sounds nothing like anything we've heard from Davey before, completely different vocal style, and Love Like Winter
has some great hooks.
The guitar on this record seems to take a backseat to a lot of the electronic elements, as well as the drums and bass. This fact is somewhat disappointing as Jade is a phenomenal guitarist. The bass on the record is ever present, and brings the edge to AFI's music, as Hunter's basslines always have, this record is no exception. Adam's drumming is once again, stellar. He uses some cool beats, and is the driving force behind the majority of the songs, I am interested to see what his live set up is going to look like when they tour behind this album though...a half electronic kit perhaps?
Now, even though I hate track by tracks, the songs on this album are no less than phenomenal, so I feel the need to talk about each one individually.
- A very cool intro track, the drums and the vocals are the central focus of this track. Adam's beat is somewhat reminiscent of hip-hop music. Davey's lyrics are fantastic, with a cool, catchy melody. But...an intro to an AFI wouldn't be an intro to an AFI album without the chanting backup vocals - have no fear, they are ever present on this track. The track is very rhythmic, with a soft synth part going over top. All in all a great intro, one of my favourites by AFI. - 4.5 / 5
- This song is completely jarring, and unexpected following Prelude 12/21
. It starts of quickly, with a bit of guitar feedback, and it gets right into a frantic, fairly intense verse, featuring some interesting vocals from Davey, a style of screaming which we have not heard before. The chorus of this song sounds like it could have been pulled from a pop punk album, save the screams that punctuate it. All in all, a decent track, typical punk fare, with some electronics thrown in during the bridge. I find it to be somewhat of a throwback to Black Sails In The Sunset era AFI, nothing spectacular, but have no fear; the best is yet to come. - 4 / 5
- A fantastic song, the first single from Decemberunderground. This song shocked a lot of AFI fans, as it sounds like a completely different band. The song is in a compound time signature, and is very "dancy", if you get what I'm saying. Davey's vocal style is like nothing we have heard from him before, and the chorus is great, catchy and very easy to chant along to, the lyrics are great too. The drums and bass drive this song, and are fantastic. All in all, a different style, something we've never seen from AFI before, a great song. - 5 / 5
- In this song, we start to see the electronic elements a lot more. From this track on, the album goes in a completely different direction. This track has some cool synth bits, and a catchy chorus. Once again, this track takes a lot from the drums and bass, which follow a fairly cool groove in the verses. Not a lot of guitar work, though there are some spots, namely the pre verse section, where Jade has some cool parts. A decent song, featuring no screaming, shows a more melodic side of AFI's new sound. - 4 / 5
- This may be the one track on the album that I'm not really into. I actually find it to be quite boring, slow and repetitive. The verses are mellow, involving some simple parts, and some synth in the background. The choruses aren't much more interesting. The lyrics aren't too bad though, and this is where we hear the words "Decemberunderground" sung softly by Davey near the end of the song. - 3 / 5
Love Like Winter
- Definitely my favourite track from this album. Starts off with footsteps, and some synth sounds as the vocals come in. The track builds up and explodes into an extremely catchy chorus that could have very easily been taken from a pop punk album. The song contains a lot of synth throughout, and a quick, but cool synth interlude just after the first chorus. Again, another track based around the drums, bass, and synth elements, but definitely a phenomenal song, best on the album in my opinion - 5 / 5
- Another punky song, starts off quick, with a guitar riff and more of Davey's screams. The track reminds me of Dancing Through Sunday
from Sing The Sorrow for some reason, I think it's the whole feel. The only thing is, I love Dancing Through Sunday
, and I'm not really feeling this song so much. Davey's screaming gets annoying, and nothing really stands out about it. It breaks down in the bridge, first as a whole band, then it is just Davey singing over top of Jade's soft chords, but this doesn't last long, and we're soon back to the chorus. This is probably the most guitar-oriented song on the album, and while there is some cool guitar work, the song feels like filler to me. - 3 / 5
The Missing Frame
- Starts of with a nice punchy beat from Adam, and then a guitar with what I believe is a wah effect comes in over top. The beat continues into a cool verse, with the same beat, and a matching bassline from Hunter underneath some cool single note picking from Jade. Davey's vocals are once again different from usual. The verse builds up into a chorus that is reminiscent of The Arcade Fire or The Killers, which is cool, and definitely a new feel for AFI. A great upbeat song, that sounds nothing like anything we've heard from AFI. - 5 / 5
Kiss and Control
- A slower, darker track, starts with electronic drums and synths, which break into a picked guitar part and a simple drum beat layered underneath Davey's vocals. The song's chorus has some great back up vocals, accented by Davey's excellent screams. The vocals in the verse remind me of The Great Disappointment
from Sing The Sorrow. Jade does some excellent guitar work in the bridge before the song breaks down completely to a short, spoken word passage by Davey. This song has some great lyrics, and definitely shows the best side of each separate member. - 4.5 / 5
The Killing Light
- Another upbeat track, driven by Hunter's bassline, the drums, and a simple, yet effective guitar riff. The lyrics in this song are cool, and Davey's melodies are great. The song also has the only guitar solo to be found on the album, which is short, but sweet. The solo fits the mood and energy of the song, and isn't too long or drawn out, Jade definitely shines on this track. Which is another of my favourites from this album. - 4.5 / 5
- A mellow track, starts of with some synth noises and a bassline. The drums, which sound very electronic, enter at the same time as Davey. This track is very electronically oriented, it uses a lot of synth, and the electronic drums, as well as some sampled sounds in the verses. However, I still think the song is great, and I find Davey's vocals to be quite soothing. - 4.5 / 5
Endlessy, She Said
- The closing track of this album. The verses are reminiscent of This Time Imperfect
, the secret track from Sing The Sorrow, and build up into a dramatic chorus. There aren't a lot of electronic elements on this track, save some sampled sounds in the verses, and the intro. The song is quite epic, and a great closer to this album. The mood is very dark and depressing, while the song still has quite a "big" sound to it. The bridge breaks down, then builds up into yet another breakdown, before it leads into another epic chorus before the song fades out, each instrument dropping out until Davey's voice is left alone and brings a close to this fantastic album. - 5 / 5
- I guess this is the true end of the album. It consists of some electronic drums, and synth parts, and is punctuated by a spoken word bit; by a girl who is either crying, or laughing - I can't tell which. A short but sweet track, not the typical AFI "hidden track", but I actually quite like it, the song feels like it puts a note of finality on the end of the album. - 4 / 5
Overall the album is great, with only a couple of tracks that I wasn't particularly fond of. AFI has once again successfully reinvented their sound, and put out another great album.
- Miss Murder
- Love Like Winter
- The Missing Frame
- The Killing Light
- Endlessly, She Said
Overall, I give this album a 4.5 / 5. The song writing is great, and really shows how AFI has matured; I also love the incorporation of the electronic elements. The only real downside to this album is the few tracks that feel like they are filler. If you have managed to read this far, I both congratulate you, and thank you for reading my review, and please believe, I did not intend for it to be this long, it's just the way it ended up.