The old saying “you can’t make everyone happy” has rung true in many of our lives for one reason or another. But in modern music, that phrase rings true for AFI probably more than most other bands out there. The first ten years of the bands career was characterized by their own dark brand of high octane, hardcore tinged punk rock. Then in 2003 with the release of their album Sing The Sorrow, the bands sound began to change. Goth overtones became more pronounced, tempos slowed down and they even introduced some synths (gasp!) into their sound. With each successive release since then, AFI has moved further away from the filth and fury that defined their earlier releases in favor of a more melodic, if not somber, brand of rock music.
AFI’s last release, 2009’s disappointing Crash Love, appeared to be the final nail in the coffin for the pure punk rock side of the band. The album sounded like a band that was lost and trying to find their sound again. After that experience, it’s understandable that many of the bands longtime fans approach Burials with a bit of trepidation, which is completely understandable. However, much of that reservation ends up being unfounded as Burials is the strongest album AFI has released in years.
From the unsettling opening notes of “The Sinking Night” it’s immediately clear that AFI has found their voice as a band again. Granted it may not be the punk rock rage that purists all too often clamor for, but throughout Burials, one can’t help but feel like this is the album that AFI have wanted to make all along. “I Hope You Suffer” is a perfect marriage of AFI’s past and present sound, with ground shaking synthesizers in the verses, before the chorus explodes in a maelstrom of feedback and energy. Likewise, the Depeche Mode-minded “The Embrace” sees the group embrace electronics more efficiently and seductively than any other time in their past catalog. But don’t let the electronic influences scattered around Burials scare you off. Organic instrumentation still prevails over the majority of the bands songs. “No Resurrection” is a slow burning dirge that recalls shades of Samhain, while the contemplative “Heart Stops” may be the single most melodic track you’ve ever heard out of singer Davey Havok and while the track stands out well on its own, the fact that its planted firmly in the middle of such a dark album makes the stark contrast that much more enjoyable.
There are even some more up-tempo cuts on Burials that encompass the bands newer sound but that will likely satiate older fans. “A Deep Slow Panic,” “Greater Than 84” and “Wild” present just the right amount of aggression without making the band sound like they are trying to regain past glories. Granted, these tracks are nothing like anything found on their 1997 punk masterpiece Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes, but they are vitriolic in their own right. The album closes with the haunting “The Face Beneath The Waves” which sees the band unleash an operatic, goth-tinged masterpiece, ensuring that Burials will not be easily forgotten, even once it’s over.
AFI will never make all of their fans happy. There will always be a hardcore punk rock apologist out there that will refuse to listen to anything new from the band because they “sold out” or turned into pussies. Admittedly, even I wrote off the band after their sound became too foreign and new. Likewise, the band has an entire legion of fans out there that probably have no idea about the bands hardcore past. But with Burials, AFI has finally found a middle ground to connect fans both old and new, but perhaps more importantly, AFI sound like they have finally found comfort with their new sound, which should be more than enough to please most fans, no matter what era they prefer.