2013 has been full of epic returns and with it came the return of AFI. Though their last album received mixed reviews from fans, this one is sure to please everyone even though it won’t make the list of their stellar records. If anything the record shows that the band knows how to play the dark card really well, whether it’s in the bone chilling music or haunting lyrics that stick with you after the song ends. While the album isn’t perfect there are a number of great songs here that show the band isn’t ready to stop yet.
The album begins with the short, but sweet track “The Sinking Night.” In a way it sets the mood for the record as the dark, heavy music with the ambient noises gives it this ominous sound. Davey proves he still has a way with lyrics as he sings “Blackness drips from both of my hands/the gold in my palm was mistaken for sand/can you feel it?” The picture these lines make is really creepy and sounds like a nightmare you hope to never have. “I Hope You Suffer” is one of the best songs here. The entire feel is dramatic and epic as the band adds strings and piano to expand the sound. The piano also adds this pretty element to this brutal song. The dynamic in Davey’s vocals is classic AFI. He sounds sweet and warm during the verses, but unleashes his anger and anguish during the chorus that repeats “I hope you suffer.” It’s an excellent song that shows the band at their best.
While not every song is standout here, there are a few that are stellar. “The Conductor” has great intense music with a guitar riff that gets stuck in your head. You can feel and hear the power in this song. This along with the sound of the pre-chrous makes you want to pump your fist in the air and start a riot. Again, Havok brings on the clever lyrics during the second verse: “Bleed into black clouds/And I will lick them clean/Turn to a tourniquet/And cinch yourself to me.” The metaphor about the tourniquet really sticks in your head because you can visualize exactly what he’s trying to say. Also, it’s a dark romantic image. Another great song is the closing track “The Face Beneath the Waves.”
AFI have never been shy about their influence from The Cure and this song has that band written all over it. The title alone is similar to the dark Cure track “The Drowning Man.” This is probably one of the darkest songs of the album thanks to images of death and isolation. There is also ominous howling throughout the track that gives it this haunting feeling as if a restless spirit is wandering around. Another trace of The Cure comes during the bridge when the bass is playing. It sounds like it’s ripped from one of their songs. The entire feeling of the song is really cold and dark. It’s an excellent track and brings the album full circle.
While there’s not really an unlikeable song to be found, there are some that aren’t as strong as others. “Heart Stop” almost doesn’t fit on the record, especially since it sounds like a Jimmy Eat World song, yet it’s still pretty good even if a bit depressing. “Anxious” is another track that’s not bad, but there’s nothing about it to make it stand out from the others. “Wild” is actually a really great song with a frantic pace and a hint of electronic music similar to Havok’s side project Blaqk Audio, but since it’s buried so far in the album it’s not instantly noticed. It seems that the record starts off strong with great tracks that are memorable, but at the halfway mark it begins to taper off where the songs are easy to tune out or just ignore altogether.
“Greater Than 84” is kind of an odd song. It begins with this weird with this weird bright, disjointed riff that sounds really off. It almost doesn’t fit the band at all. Otherwise, it’s a catchy and energetic track. Once you get past the odd riff, the song grows on you, especially with the intriguing chorus of “The future’s here/it’s 1985.” I know this might be a silly thought, but this line makes me think of Back to the Future, since that’s when the movie took place. “17 Crimes” is another bright, upbeat track and it may throw some off after hearing something as dark as “I Hope You Suffer.” It’s far from the best song on the album, but again being filled with hooks makes it easy to grow on you. It actually sounds like something that comes from their last album.
Overall, the album gets 8/10. It’s not as strong as some of their past albums, but it’s still a stronger than their last effort. While it does have a few songs that aren’t as memorable, there are plenty of tracks that are catchy, darkly beautiful, and somewhat creepy. Havok still proves he has some of the most intriguing and clever lyrics around as some will stick with you, while others get under your skin. It’s a promising return for the band that slows they don’t plan on stopping yet.