Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 15/4
AFI (The Blood Album)
Written by: TL on 05/02/2017 16:49:01
There's something impressive about the persistence of AFI, or perhaps rather - to use wording more fitting of their gothic style - something spookily immortal about them. The Californian skate punks that turned goth punks following the addition of guitarist Jade Puget way back in 1998, burned bright like an alternative chart sensation in the mid 00s but have since faded from the music media's attention somewhat, yet they still seem intent on returning periodically with more servings of their musical mixture: One clearly drawing on Misfits a lot for inspiration, but with similarities to darker British alternative music like The Cure and Placebo as well, and to more recent comparisons like Aiden or Creeper, although these are no doubt more inspired by AFI than the other way around.
The newest album "AFI" (or "The Blood Album") you would assume is intentioned as sort of a definitive statement, considering the self-title, which ends up seeming a bit weird, because after spending some time with it and comparing it with its nearest predecessors, this seems like the album where there's least redefinition of the band's sound happening. It's more like an amalgamation of nuances from the band's discography of the last ten years, from 06's "Decemberunderground" and onward.
Not that this would be bad in itself, because despite the comparisons made before, AFI have always sounded entirely their own. Combining the speed and rampant bass lines of punk rock anthems, with the dark guitar work and ambience of goth rock, theirs have always been a recognisable and inviting atmosphere. Rather "AFI" proves to be a less definitive statement than anticipated for other reasons: It may only take 46 minutes, yet it still feels long at fourteen tracks, though mainly because of how a sizeable slice of them struggle to carve out their own distinct places in the band's discography.
Early on the album, there's some good stuff to be found primarily in "Aurelia", which infects you with the repeated, regretful chorus of "They're barking in the wrong key, but you sing along" on top of weeping notes and driving tempo, and in "Hidden Knives" which fortifies that Puget still has the ability to routinely crank out some positively delicious little guitar figures, here particularly when the song swoops down for its chorus. Yet directly following these songs come two more, "Get Hurt" and "Above The Bridge", which move at a similar pace yet without comparatively noticeable impact, prompting you to reflect on the vague but crucial difference between working with traditional song structure and simply writing by formula.
It's a nice change of gear then, when "So Beneath You" punks things up quite a bit halfway through, with a more gritty signature riff and some deliciously lively bass work. Yet it's a limited taste of redemption because the remainder of the album is sadly rather hit and miss. "Dumb Kids", "White Offerings" and "She Speaks The Language" have some sense of purpose to them, but "Snow Cats", "Pink Eyes", "Feed From The Floor" and "The Wind That Carries Me Away" do not really.
Overall then, as much as new AFI albums tend to arrive somewhat out of the blue these days, "The Blood Album" still manages to be a bit disappointing, partly because the band usually delivers at least a song or three per album that you instantly recognise as ones that will be remembered for a long time, and partly because it feels like the band has traditionally been better at cutting their records down to a rather tight and diverse sequence of tracks. Here you have to sort of sift the noteworthy from the not so much on your own, without getting quite the same feeling of getting to know a new incarnation of the band as you have on each album before it.
Download: Aurelia, So Beneath You, White Offerings, Hidden Knives
For The Fans Of: Creeper, Misfits, Placebo, Aiden
Release date 20.01.2017
Concord Music Group