Republic, 2013


REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


AFI (aka A Fire Inside) was my go-to band when I was fourteen years old and in a rage, as fourteen year olds tend to do for one reason or another. The California quartet struck a balance between alt rock, Goth, and pop punk, slowly evolving their sound until they hit the mainstream with their sixth album, 2003’s Sing The Sorrow. Tightly crafted and with a stronger sense of melody than their earlier material, Sing The Sorrow is still a record I spin regularly even as a less moody 25 year old. Later records found them trying out hardcore (2006’s Decemberunderground) and pop (2009’s Crash Love), both to a somewhat patchier effect; nevertheless, AFI does deserve some credit for continually reinventing their sound, especially for a band that was one of the poster-children for the black-clad, eyeliner emo fad of the early 2000s. 

On their first new album in four years, Burials finds AFI trying out a darker, gloomier sound, full of lyrics brooding angrily about the dissolution of a romance. Frontman Davey Havok’s distinctive vocals – which swing raucously from a pristine falsetto to an all-out growling wail, even in the course of one song – are swathed in layers of massive, atmospheric production, creating a batch of songs that swing for the fences and often succeed. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Slow-building opener “The Sinking Night” sets the stage for what’s to come; it’s very nearly over-the-top in its ominousness, but the combo of Adam Carson’s towering drums and Havok’s haunting vocals are commanding, grabbing your attention and leading nicely into “I Hope You Suffer.” This is one of my favorites on the album, a vicious kiss-off as AFI does so well that plays fast and loose with empty spaces in between the thundering drums, light plinks of piano, and Jade Puget’s swirling guitar to create a dynamic feeling of tension. The lyrics, as always, tend toward the dramatics (“I’ve seen my darkest days / You gave each one to me / You have been lost for days / May you find my darkness”) but it’s only fitting given the theatrical build of this track.

Much of this album plays like The Smiths and The Cure crashing into a Sing The Sorrow-era AFI, a surprisingly catchy lovechild of ‘80s Goth and pop punk. “A Deep Slow Panic” couples anxious lyrics with a driving, almost bouncy beat, while the melodic “Heart Stops” manages to make a chorus like “You were my first faith, made of lies like all the others / Heart stops beating, beat like a brutal day / I found my last light but it died like all the others” sound positively peppy with full harmonies and jangling guitars. Meanwhile, “17 Crimes” is another strong moment, straightforwardly catchy and the most reminiscent of their earlier work with its jittering bassline and unyielding drums. 

Burials moves along surprisingly quickly for a 50 minute disc, which is due to the band’s bristling, constantly simmering energy. Some tracks lag a bit, like the muddy “No Resurrection,” the industrial glitchiness of “The Embrace,” or “The Conductor,” which veers into histrionics in both lyrics and in Havok’s wailing tone. The album careens toward its close with the stampeding energy and cool electronic effects of “Wild,” and the band throws in an interesting wrench with closer “The Face Beneath The Waves.” This cut seems to bookend nicely with “The Sinking Night,” crackling with tension and lyrics that are either about devotion or suicide.

For any dark discontent with a place in their heart for songs that combine pounding energy with lovelorn, stylishly Goth gloom, Burials is a solid entry into the AFI catalogue (and a must for those days when you feel need to wear all black and curse love).

Rating: B

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