AFI’s AFI (The Blood Album) is their tenth studio album, and could come as a surprise to the fans the band has garnered over the course of twenty-two years. The punk band have lost some of the punchy, upbeat declarations of despair and anger that categorised previous offerings as ’17 Crimes’ on Burials (2013) and 2006’s hit single ‘Miss Murder’ found on Decemberunderground.
The Blood Album functions almost as two separate parts. Initially, the songs are lacklustre and repetitive, which is lyrically enforced by the introductory song, ‘Dark Snow.’ AFI’s lead singer, Davey Havok, echoes the line “over and over again –“ well, over and over again. As the album progresses, it remains stuck in a tone that reflects the emotional inflections that may have led some to categorise the band in the imaginary genre of “goth-punk” – without the harsh melodies that captured listeners’ attentions.
It starts to feel as if the songs are a meta-narrative about the album, when ‘Still a Stranger’ expresses guttural screams anguish of feeling like a stranger to yourself and wondering does “it feel the same?” and ‘Aurelia’ is about singing in the wrong key. ‘Hidden Knives’ and ‘Get Hurt’ reveal that this is probably an album about broken relationships with “words unspoken / we’ve broken” and bitter sentiments about painful secrets.
It’s at this point that the album moves into its second act, almost unrecognisable from the songs that preceded ‘So Beneath You.’ Suddenly, we are listening to a song that is about AFI unapologetically being themselves. Heavy drumbeats, along with an upbeat tempo and a pessimistic lack of belief are present once again.
‘Feed on the Floor’ is where The Blood Album truly begins to feel like an AFI album, as its lyrical harshness and anger is what makes it so enjoyable to listen to. With a career as expansive as AFI’s, it is admirable that they are willing to experiment and move away from their typical style. Where this falls down is the fact that they don’t move far away enough – the lyrical mood feels the same, it’s just that the first half of the album has been stripped of AFI’s vibrancy.
Funnily, it’s in the second half, where they return to their more traditional sound, that AFI manages to showcase a song that is markedly different to the vast majority of their discography.
‘The Wind That Carries Me Away’ is the final song on The Blood Album. It’s also the best song on the album – a wistful song with an alt-rock melody that isn’t afraid to take a slower pace.