“Does this dress make me look fat?”
As someone who has been in a committed relationship for the last four years, this is a question that I still dread being asked. Of course I know that the answer is a sound “No” (We all know that the answer to that question is always “No”, don’t we?), but it’s important to acknowledge what’s really being asked, which is “Do I look good in this?” and the matter at hand isn’t whether or not the asker actually looks ‘fat’, but if they can pull off the style that they are currently wearing. I bring this up in an album review because with their ninth studio album, Burials, AFI takes on so many styles of music that it’s almost as if the band is asking the question “Does this album make us look fat?”.
Burials begins on a melancholy note, as “The Sinking Night” starts with a droning guitar and near tribal-sounding drums, slowly getting louder as Davey Havok begins to shout over the music. It’s an introductory track much in the same way that “Miseria Cantare- The Beginning” was an intro. If all the teaser videos that came out leading up to the album’s release weren’t enough to conjure up images of Sing the Sorrow, “This Sinking Night” cements the idea that Burials could very well be a spiritual successor to the band’s major label debut. Except AFI then immediately takes a sharp turn and throws that expectation right out the window.
First single “I Hope You Suffer” is where the album really begins, showing off the new industrial elements that AFI has incorporated into their music. Between the piano riffs, guitar tones, and ever-prevalent synth, “I Hope You Suffer” sounds more like Nine Inch Nails than Nine Inch Nails currently does (I think. I haven’t kept up with NIN in a long while). It’s not quite the direction I was expecting to hear AFI go in, but it’s a direction that the band wears proudly and owns it.
Unfortunately the rest of the album doesn’t follow suit. Tracks like “A Deep Slow Panic”, “No Resurrection” and “17 Crimes” aren’t ‘bad’ songs per se, but they come off sounding like rejected tunes from 2006’s Decemberunderground, while songs like “Heart Stops” and “Wild” have the band go full blown pop and electronic, respectfully. AFI’s pop-meets-goth-meets-new wave sound (Dark wave? Post-New Wave? Post-Wave? I have no idea what it’s called) is in full swing on Burials, much to its detriment. Burials genre-hops so much that the album comes off as inconsistent. It’s already a given that fans of AFI’s early hardcore work aren’t going to enjoy any new material that the band puts out, but an album this unfocused even makes it difficult for latter-era fans (such as myself) to defend.
I’m all for band’s trying out new styles. It’s just a lot easier to digest when a band picks one new style per album and makes it their own. On Burials, we get to see AFI trying on six or seven outfits at once without stopping to think about what works (“I Hope You Suffer”, “Rewind” “Greater Than ‘84”) and what doesn’t (“The Conductor”, “Heart Stops”, “Wild”… ugh, especially “Wild”). So no, AFI, Burials doesn’t make you look fat. But your lack of focus certainly does.
3 / 5 Stars
RIYL: Nine Inch Nails, Joy Division, The Cure (if Danzig replaced Robert Smith)