As a result of their 25-year career as a band, AFI’s newest album, “The Blood Album” showcases their artistic growth. This is the band’s 11th album; and although they have changed throughout the years, the band is as successful as ever.
The tracks are independent expressions of their state as a band today, covering a multitude of emotions and style. The final track, “The Wind That Carries Me Away” displays a draw stylistically from previous albums. The track contains poetic and melancholic harmonies brandishing long notes, a somber melody and gothic tones, as heard on the band’s 2003 album “Sing the Sorrow” with the song “Silver and Cold.”
Though similar, “The Wind that Carries Me Away” expresses something evolved only in part from “Silver and Cold.” Defining the song is a soft rock and blues bass and guitar that builds in the long vocal notes from the band’s singer, Davey Havok, which are clean and clear as they ever have been. This dynamic is the freshest and newest sound on the album and perhaps the newest dynamic in the band’s repertoire up until now.
“We're trying to encapsulate the essence of what we are as a band on every album we make; our sound has evolved and progressed along with us. Each album is an expression of who we are and where we were at that time. I think the themes on this record are about us and where we are as a band,” said Hunter Burgan, the band’s bassist, according to an interview with “The Independent.”
Key to the point of where their sound was versus where it is today is not a short story. As an overview, it begins with the band’s former member Mark Stopholese, who served in the band as their lead guitarist during the early and mid-nineties. He was a guiding force in the band’s 90’s punk style. It isn’t until after Stopholese leaves that the band’s contemporary sound begins to take hold. The driving force is due in part to his replacement, Jade Puget.
Puget had been friends with the band for years before their first steps into fame with Stopholese. After Puget joins, “Black Sails in the Sunset” and “The Art of Drowning” come out one after the other, first in 1999 and then in 2000. The change is only a baby step away from punk compared to the jump the band would take towards its contemporary style with the release of “Sing the Sorrow,” under the DreamWorks label in 2003. The tracks “Girls not Grey,” “The Leaving Song Part 2” and “Silver and Cold” take the band into the mainstream, the album landing number 5 on the Billboard 200 in 2003 and eventually becoming a certified platinum album in the U.S. and Canada.
However, the band keeps itself in the realm of punk until the bitter end, alongside other groups such as “The Offspring,” “Blink 182” and “Rise Against.” “The Art of Drowning” embraced subgenres of punk, like skate, hardcore and melodic punk, but ultimately “Sing the Sorrow” is the departure from the band’s previous material and is its sudden and immediate step into post-hardcore and emo genres.
“The Blood Album” however takes listeners a lot farther from emo and a lot closer to alternative and hard rock.
Their sound has adopted digital expressions of modernity, such as the bands haunting synth sounds heard on every album since “Sing the Sorrow,” and “The Blood Album” is no exception. This commonality first appears on the album “Decemberunderground” in 2006. The tracks that show this trend on their most recent album belong to “Dark Snow,” the first track, and “Feed from the Floor.”
The synthetic tones aside, the album is more saturated in its high-energy rock and crisp and haunting rhythms that keep the band’s style constant. “White Offerings,” “Pink Eyes,” “Hidden Knives” and “Snow Cats” are solid examples of that stylistic nostalgia on “The Art of Drowning,” and “Black Sails in the Sunset.” This signals the bands ability to make new music by reinventing their artistic choices reinforced with the wisdom and talent from the last 25 years.
Ultimately, “The Blood Album” does well to show the band and all its colors. The variety in the track list projects the band’s talent and drive to continue to make new music and stave away any static feelings or style choices in their music.
The album keeps the core of the band’s identity. No one track is the same on the album, but from start to finish, AFI does not hide what they have become and shows everyone just how they got there.
Matthew Gilbert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.