This is the album that introduced Davey Havok and crew to the mainstream, even though they have been around for a while. This is their sixth studio album and one of their most well known. It has some of their best songs here and it’s also the album where they almost completely changed their sound. Here they trade in their punk rock sound for a more Gothic, hard rock influence. Though it may have shocked their original fan base, it proved to be successful for the band as this is one of their best albums to date.
As I mentioned before, anyone who listened to any of AFI’s older stuff would be shocked to hear that their punk rock influences are taken down here. Instead, the album is beautifully tragic with hard guitars and poetic lyrics that make for a dark, intense record. But older fans don’t need to fret, they didn’t completely abandoned their old style. The fast paced guitars and the screaming vocals can still be find on songs like “Paper Airplanes (Makeshift Wings)” and “Dancing Through Sunday.” Granted, their older fans may not like it, but at least they didn’t abandon their roots.
Since they do tone down on their punk rock influence here, this makes this their most accessible release. This is the album that got me into the band and that’s probably how most people found out about them. Not only is the album more accessible because of the change in sound, it’s also because it has some of their catchiest songs. Probably the best known one found here is “Girl’s Not Grey.” It’s not surprising why this track is so well loved; it’s upbeat, energetic, and something that really gets you moving. Another great song that gets you hooked is “This Celluloid Dream.” Not only is the upbeat, fast music reminiscent of their older material, it’s another track that gets you moving.
This album is amazing because you can listen to it backwards and forwards without skipping a track. Every song is awesome no matter if it’s fast and energetic, or slow and depressing. The opening tune “Miserae Cantrae” really sets the dark mood of the album with it’s dramatic pounding percussion and creepy toll bells. The vocals add to the drama by sounding like they’re part of a rally cry as they shout “Love, your hate/your faith lost.” As the song keeps going the music constantly builds to get your heart pumping and your blood racing with the anger pulsing throughout. It’s a great opening song that gets you excited for the rest of the album.
Another awesome song is “The Leaving Song Pt. 2.” This track continues with the aggression and anger found in the previous song. The rallying vocals also make a return here. Everything about this track is perfect for an angry mob and it’s here where you can really hear their new direction toward a darker sound. What’s interesting is its counterpart “The Leaving Song,” is its extreme opposite in every way. The song is quiet and somber with a simple guitar riff playing throughout. Whereas Havok sounds raging in the former track, he sounds heartbroken in this one.
Unlike their previous albums, the songs here follow a sad, somber theme that they would continue on their later releases. You can find these themes the most on the track “Silver and Cold.” The sad piano playing and the rain storm sound effects during the intro set the tone here. The pretty, Gothic lyrics only makes the mood more depressing. It’s probably the most heartbreaking song on the album. Another dark song that’s harsher than the others is “Death of Seasons.”
This one starts with a slow, somber bass line before Davey comes in with throat wrenching vocals. Then the speeding energy hits you out of nowhere bringing you back to their punk rock days. This song is also interesting because it tosses in some electronic elements, which could be seen as a foreshadow to the side band Havok would do later on. The ending here gives you an unnerving feeling because everything stops except for violins playing, almost as a calm before the storm, yet you can still hear Havok yelling in the background.
Overall, the album gets 9.5/10. This is one of AFI’s greatest albums and also their most accessible. Every song is amazing and some are even now considered classic. Though they did go in a dark, Gothic direction here that makes everything sound tragic, they still don’t entirely abandon their punk rock roots as the speeding guitars and abrasive energy can be found in quite a few songs. The future of AFI is uncertain right now, but after listening to this record again, I really hope they make more music soon.