It’s hard to believe that AFI have been around for 26 years and this is their 10th album. A band that has always been consistently brilliant, and despite being world renowned, they have also managed to remain somewhat of an underground band with a very dedicated fanbase.
AFI (The Blood Album) marks yet another step forward in their evolution, one which see’s another new era forged in the band’s legacy, Like Bowie, Prince and The Cure before them, they are a band who has transcended scenes and genres over the course of their career; with each album fitting into its own era. Each with its own distinct personality and ambience, with no two of their albums feeling the same, forever pushing things forward in new and exciting directions.
I will be the first to say it, this is the best album AFI have put out in 15 years. This is the most enjoyable album from start to finish they have released since 2000’s The Art of Drowning, I know to some that may seem controversial, and certainly the four albums between that one and this one definitely aren’t without their merits, but in a lot of cases they can be very hit & miss. I would argue Sing the Sorrow, less so than Decemberunderground, Crash Love or Burials, but in any event I think this is a rebirth of sorts for AFI, with an album that shows a degree of maturity and emotionality that has started to seep in over the last couple of years. This is an AFI presented as a band rather than a concept; showing you themselves as individuals, whereas in the past the band wrote thematically, this seems much more personal… more intimate almost like pages from a diary set to music.
‘Still a Stranger’ and ‘Across that Bridge’ perfectly highlight this, which display a certain vulnerability about them that puts you right there in the frame as the listener. ‘Still a Stranger’ offers a little more bite and bounce, feeling like it is directed at someone specific, whereas ‘Across the Bridge’ floats along on the back of a synth line borrowed from The Cure, offering the listener a bit more ambiguity to its lyrical content.
Despite all the changes in sound, and the different textures, one thing remains, and that is the fact that AFI can still write a monster chorus better than pretty much anyone else, and every single song on the album is an earworm in waiting! Try getting the likes of ‘Aurelia’, ‘Get Hurt’ and the brilliant first single ‘White Offerings’ (the heaviest track on the record) out of your head. You will find yourself humming them over and over in the days and weeks after this album is released.
About halfway through the album, the track ‘So Beneath You’ hits, and for a moment I felt like I had been transported back in time to the days of the All Hallows E.P. This is the one track that still has the AFI of old attached to it, and it does feel like a track that could stand toe to toe with ‘Totalimmortal’ or the ‘Fall Children’; yet still feels like it belongs with the rest of the songs on here. It is a welcomed burst of old school energy that gives way to the album’s weakest moment: ‘Snow Cats’, which if you are in the know was one of the first two tracks that were released when the album was first announced and is the only song on the album that I find myself skipping. It just seems a little uninspired and plodding in comparison to everything else on offer here.
I know that for years now fans have been clamouring for a return to AFI’s darker more gothic roots, and I while I think those days are well and truly behind them, this is a wonderful album that showcases a more focused, vulnerable band that has reached a new creative peak that while being something fresh, still sounds distinctly like AFI. Without a doubt this should make fans of all era’s of the band extremely happy, and will provide 2017 with some of the years biggest anthems.