Burials is AFI’s ninth album, and as with every record they’ve released since Sing The Sorrow, it sounds distinctly different to its predecessor. In the case of Burials, AFI have left behind the 80s twinged pop-rock and instead, have come forth with something far darker, rawer and utterly compelling.
It can be said that if nothing else, AFI know how to do a bloody good intro, and it’s fantastic to see that make a return. The Sinking Night unifies all of AFI’s talents, with Adam Carson’s pounding drums, Hunter Burgan’s rumbling bass, Jade Puget’s bleak guitar and Davey Havok’s outstanding vocals creates a sonic landscape of utter despair, all while giving you full-body shivers before jumping into lead single ‘I Hope You Suffer’. It sets a difficult precedent, but AFI keep it going through all thirteen tracks. The Crash Love vibes haven’t totally disappeared – the dark pop of ‘A Deep Slow Panic’, ’17 Crimes’ and ‘Heart Stops’ could fit comfortably on that record. However, there’s a heavier electronic presence, no doubt influenced by Havok and Puget’s side project, Blaqk Audio, and industrial-style synths permeate throughout, touching songs like ‘No Resurrection’, ‘The Conductor’ and ‘Wild’, but never taking the foreground. Instead, AFI lay down some of the most punk rock riffs that they’ve written in recent years. ‘Wild’, for example, starts with Carson laying down some serious beats before Puget kicks in with pure punk pageantry, followed by some proto-punk synths for good measure. And of course, in typical AFI fashion, final track, ‘The Face Beneath The Waves’ is atmospheric, inimitably dark and arresting, with as much despair as you can muster. Beautiful.
It’s worth noting that the rhythm section of this record is probably the shining star – Burgan and Carson are the ultimate dream team, and neither have sounded better than on Burials. Nevertheless, this is the most coherent AFI have sounded in a long time. Despite taking a different approach yet again, Havok and Puget have laid the foundations for thirteen solid tracks, and while Crash Love was so disparate in its style, Burials is totally complete, despite its innovation. That’s as a unit as well – the band haven’t sounded so in sync for a long time, and it’s great to finally see all those elements coming together properly.
Burials, as Havok has stated in multiple interviews since it was announced, is the tale of a broken heart. AFI’s music has always been very emotionally led, usually veiled in Baudelaire-esque metaphor, but that veil has dropped slightly in Burials. While Havok’s lyrics can’t avoid the poetic all the time, Burials is a lot more personal. In ‘The Face Beneath The Waves’, he asks if his former love can “Tell me what it’s like to hold a heart while it shatters, ” and you can feel the vitriol and the pain as he sings. ‘I Hope You Suffer’ can’t be any plainer in its lyrical content. It’s this and more that makes Burials, in its personal nature, perhaps the most genuine AFI record in a while. But for all its misery, this record is catharsis – it’s a chance for Havok to rise out of the ashes, and Burials is where he’s at his finest.
To say that Burials is the best thing that AFI have produced since The Art Of Drowning might seem a bit ambitious. “But what about the lyrical genius of Sing The Sorrow or the slick pop hooks of Decemberunderground?“, you might be thinking (but you probably won’t be, I’ve come to accept that I actually don’t know that many AFI fans). Burials combines both of those, plus Crash Love‘s sense of style to create an effortlessly enduring record, one that will resonate with fans and newcomers alike. From a personal standpoint, it’s been a long time since an AFI album has evoked me with the same kind of rush that I had when I first stumbled upon them, all that time ago. So yes – it is their best work since The Art Of Drowning. It’s also the best album to grace my stereo for eons and will no doubt hold that title for a very, very long time to come.
5 out of 5 high fives!