AFI’s ‘Burials’ shows off band’s evolving musical capabilitiesPosted on October 22, 2013 | by Alyssa Buffenstein
Alternative-rock outfit AFI has come a long way since its punk-rock days of the ’90s, replete with one-minute songs and yelling and screaming about anti-authoritarian themes. Rather than continue with variations on the same theme, the California four-piece reinvented their sound with each album since 2003’s “Sing the Sorrow.” Exploring new musical avenues is risky — it could add a fresh sound, something a band over 20 years old needs, but it could also alienate fans drawn to the band’s early days.
“Burials,” AFI’s ninth studio album, avoids this issue by blending elements of previous successes while evolving into something divergent from its past.
Beginning with a track reminiscent of “Miseria Cantare” off “Sing the Sorrow,” “The Sinking Night” is a multilayered, slow build of cinematic grandeur. “I Hope You Suffer,” the second track and first single, runs in the same vein. The next 11 songs range from catchy pop melodies juxtaposed against emotional, vengeful lyrics to more typical rock riffs featuring singer Davey Havok’s signature mix of crooning and growling.
On first listen, the album plays on elements of AFI’s previous efforts. “A Deep Slow Panic,” with its dance-like introduction, is the album’s answer to “Veronica Sawyer Smokes” from the band’s 2009 album “Crash Love.” Additionally, “No Resurrection” sounds like it could be a bonus track on 2006’s “Decemberunderground,” with screeching guitars and an interplay of Havok’s voice with gang-vocal responses.
Despite any similarities, AFI’s latest work has merits all its own. Havok demonstrates impressive vocal range and control on “Burials.” “The Embrace,” for example, features the singer jumping from aggressive screaming to careful serenading to powerful, rock-god bellowing.
The rest of the quartet matches Havok’s work on the album. Percussionist Adam Carson’s intricate, dynamic drumming, combines with Hunter Burgan’s strong baselines, anchor effect-heavy songs, such as “Wild.” Jade Puget’s guitar work is particularly noteworthy on the pop-rock track “Greater than 84.” The two aforementioned songs are the band’s take on summer jams — pop intros and choruses blend with energetic musicianship and experimental effects to create toe-tapping, memorable songs that still scream AFI’s signature sound. The songs are layered and big in sound, begging to be belted while driving with the windows down.
The build up that begins with the foreboding introduction only escalates as the album progresses, leaving the listener waiting for an explosive release. Unfortunately, “Burials” never quite reaches such a climax. The concluding track, “The Face Beneath the Waves,” ends with the same sense of anticipation as the introduction.
Even without an ultimate catharsis, the album is powerful. It invokes energy, giving it a promising live potential — and judging by the number of sold-out shows on the band’s current tour, it delivers on this front. “Burials” nods to the band’s rich history, while also building on AFI’s familiar sound with dynamic layers and showcasing the band’s extreme technical skill.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 22 print edition. Alyssa Buffenstein is a contributing writer. Email her at email@example.com.