AFI - AFI (The Blood Album) (Album Review)

Friday, 20 January 2017 Written by Alec Chillingworth

The word comeback is overused. To call Weezer’s ‘White Album’ a comeback was warranted, because they’d basically been in the shitter for over a decade. To call Faith No More’s ‘Sol Invictus’ a comeback was fine, because that was a legendary band returning to the studio after 18 years apart and still surprising us. Calling ‘AFI (The Blood Album)’ a comeback because it’s got a bit of screaming on it is silly.

AFI used to play like there really was a fire inside them. They were hardcore punks blowing up pumpkins as Davey Havok waxed lyrical about spooky happenings. It was brutal but poetic, and even when they toned that formula down to its most unrecognisable on 2009’s ‘Crash Love’ – which is essentially a pop album – they had some passion in them. Some pizzazz.

‘The Blood Album’ is AFI’s 10th LP in 21 years and it shows, both for better and worse. It’s in keeping with the tone that was established on 2013’s ‘Burials’, but occasionally its sense of conviction wavers.

Havok’s lyrics have always been outstanding, but there are brief flashes of the benign here. Nobody expects him to scream his guts out anymore, but when he’s singing “I lick my fingers” on Pink Eyes it doesn’t sound sexy or disturbing or menacing. It just sounds tired.

Then again, the man’s got standards. You can always tell it’s him behind the mic, whether he’s crooning over the synth-laden, gracefully middle-aged Dark Snow or straddling a buckaroo of piratical/shit on the punked-up Dumb Kids. Similarly, Hunter Burgan’s flurrying bass-work is flawless throughout.

A few songs, meanwhile, find AFI still trying to channel the Cure, with Above The Bridge utilising upbeat, dreamy synths and Jade Puget’s dissonant guitars sprinkling She Speaks The Language with an air of post-punk darkness to let off Havok’s GCSE lyrics: “Red red drops upon my corpse, let me know this must be love.”

‘The Blood Album’ isn’t bad, it’s just that large patches of it fall short of great. And AFI need to be great. That’s proven by Still A Stranger’s acoustic/electric double whammy and Havok’s isolated whisper of “better” (which is going reach I’m Not Okay (I Promise) levels of brilliant live), while Pink Eyes’ helter-skelter riffing is another throwback to days gone by. But, even then, it’s an exercise that doesn’t really serve a purpose.

AFI don’t need to sound like they did on ‘The Art Of Drowning’ or ‘Black Sails In The Sunset’. They’re a different band now. They’re a goth-tinged rock band with choruses for days and when they get the balance right, as on The Wind That Carries Me Away or Snow Cats’ delicate refrain, it works.

Where ‘The Blood Album’ doesn’t get it completely right is in trying to appease both fanbases. What you’re left with is an assortment of new-era AFI anthems telling empty promises, with every choppy palm-mute and occasional yell drip-feeding hope that the band you loved is still in there somewhere.

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