The Blood Album was released on the 20th January from long-standing US rock group AFI to a throng of fans hoping for a reward for their loyalty after 3 year wait.
You’d be forgiven for not knowing AFI from the outset, or indeed if you’ve ever picked up a Guitar Hero controller you’d be forgiven for thinking they were a one-hit wonder with Miss Murder, a fairly catchy power chord ballad featured in the easier stages of the game.
As it happens AFI have been on the scene since the mid-nineties, debuting with Answer That And Stay Fashionable an album full of a thrashing punk sound not far removed from The Sex Pistols. Since then their sound has evolved considerably, growing more melancholy, more emo and more talented as years have rolled on. As such, 21 years on from the first foray, we arrive at The Blood Album.
The album opens with Dark Snow, and it feels jumbled from the outset, the song has vocalist Davey Havok’s more recently acquired emo style vocals attempting to lead a confused song, sudden acoustic bridges and effect altered backing vocals prove jarring for what could have been a smashing opening song. As mentioned previously, the band has been going for over 20 years now, and whilst heartfelt, angsty lyrics and aggression in rock aren’t strictly for young garage-bound bands, the same raw passion and feeling simply isn’t there in a band that has clearly matured past their roots.
Still A Stranger follows this opener with a far more urgent entry and far more believable emotion from Havok with his pleading screams of “I need you, I need you” and Adam Carson’s drum rolls aiding in this sense of immediacy sorely lacking from Dark Snow, and in much of AFI’s recent material prior to this album.
Hidden Knives jumps in with far more of a pop-punk feel, and is very much the offering for AFI’s followers of this style, it’s easy to follow hooks and catchy beat will have most jumping, or indeed moshing along. The song’s message is one of imagined murder scenes, whilst violence is present in the previous track Aurelia and also Dark Snow, this almost excitable feeling dissipates into paranoia on the following track Get Hurt, an immediate, secondary pop-punk driven track, layered with plenty of discrete backing vocals and a few guitar solos thrown in to showcase the band’s not unimpressive musical ability.
Dumb Kids and Snow Cats are the two lead singles of the album with Dumb Kids an obvious and not unwelcome throwback to their more hardcore-led days with heartfelt vocals and pacey, rhythmic instrumentals, both ubiquitous in their 90’s sound. Snow Cats is simply disappointing, a slow, dull tempo leads a whiny set of lyrics through three minutes which the fourteen track album could have done without, if only to provide fewer tracks but with a better sense of variety.
Two surprises on the album are Feed From the Floor and The Wind That Carries Me Away. Feed From The Floor is undeniably angsty and with borderline self-indulgent lyrics, but Havok and the band pull it off well, the tone is effects led on the guitar with complex drum riffs and unusually obvious deep bass tones; the end result being a polished and more complicated song than the rest of the tracks would lead you to believe existed on the album. The Wind That Carries Me Away opens with an unapologetically bluesy riff, and leads through a slower paced ballad of a song with powerful, almost dramatic vocals replete with an overdriven guitar solo to help round off the rhythmic powerhouse of a track.
As releases go, you could describe AFI’s most recent offering as flabby, there are several tracks that could comfortably be lost to give a leaner, more refined and varied feel across the album. The production feels overdone across the board, with tracks feeling ‘over-produced’, as though Concord Records have taken effort to try and refine the grittier, more raw sound AFI rose to fame with.
Overall, The Blood Album tries very hard to satisfy the multitude of fans that AFI has picked up over the years and will fail to keep everyone totally happy. But this doesn’t make it a failure, the band have stayed true to the multiple styles they’ve worked on and played through the past 20 years and simply do their best in each arena.
AFI will be supporting fellow Californian heavyweights, Deftones, on May 5th and 6th this year at Alexandra Palace and Manchester 02 Arena respectively before they play Download Festival in June. If you’d rather stay in the comfort of your own home, why not pop into your local Richer Sounds and let us help you bring the live show to your home?
Author: Steve, Southgate store