The transformation of AFI (short for A Fire Inside, if you didn’t know) from gritty, eccentric punk band to gothic rock arena fillers has been a huge success story for the underground scene. Although some have questioned some of the major label output since 2003’s platinum-selling ‘Sing The Sorrow’, the Californians have maintained their ambition and integrity through an astonishing two decade career that has led to their self-titled tenth full-length release, that will be referred to as ‘The Blood Album’.
After a lacklustre opening with ‘Dark Snow’, ‘The Blood Album’ holds a remarkable consistency right ’til the end of its 14-track playspan, with a range of variation along the way. When you’ve done as much as AFI and been around for as long as they have, you can pick out inputs from different eras of their own back-catalogue and similarities in vocal style to contemporary singers that Davey Havok has influenced.
‘Still A Stranger’ kicks in with an acoustic guitar, but beefs up for a ridiculous vocal melody that Gerard Way would reform My Chemical Romance if he had written, and has one of a number of killer sing-along choruses from the record.
‘So Beneath You’ contributes a guitar tone straight off of ‘The Art Of Drowning’, but the track gradually interprets the softly spoken hooks that the band have flirted with over the last couple of records, and it’s finally working a treat. It paints the canvas for the excellent ‘Snow Cats’, that slithers through at a hypnotising half pace that entices you along the whole way.
‘The Blood Album’ has certainly answered some questions that past two records ‘Crash Love’ and ‘Burials’ left within the AFI‘s fanbase, and there’s plenty to entertain listeners of the band since the turn of the century, and if you checked out at ‘Sing The Sorrow’ or later then you probably aren’t interested in picking up album number ten anyway.
‘White Offerings’ is there to tug at the ‘Decemberunderground’ heartstrings with the echoed vocals and mysterious and scenic background sounds that help you imagine Havok flaunting around in the snow, whereas ‘Hidden Knows’ holds the early noughties emo torch that works to a more conventional template.
This self-titled return is just what AFI needed for their re-emergence onto the scene after a few years off and time for Havok and guitarist Jade Puget to focus on their side-project Blaqk Audio to fully excite the rock world once again.
‘The Blood Album’ is a full reminder of how the band have left their mark on music over the last two decades, and evidently what they still have to offer us in spades today.
Written by Mike Heath (@MikeBeef)