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‘AFI’ review: Veteran band shakes up their sound

"AFI" is being referred to as "The Blood Album," partly for its cover art. Credit: Concord Records

AFI

“AFI”

THE GRADE B+

BOTTOM LINE The ever-evolving rockers shake up their sound again.

AFI has always been hard to pin down.

In their 25 years as a band, the California rockers have incorporated everything from hard-core punk to hip-hop in their sound, focusing mainly on punk-leaning shout-along anthems with dark imagery. For their 10th album, “AFI” (Concord), which they have nicknamed “The Blood Album” due to its cover and the use of blood as a recurring theme, singer Davey Havok and friends are looking to the post-punk days of the early ’80s for inspiration, but maintaining a harder rock edge than they have in recent years.

“Aurelia” starts off like it could have come from Joy Division, with Hunter Burgan’s bouncing bass line and Jade Puget’s spare, pointed guitar work, which eventually builds to a roar. Puget coproduced “AFI” with Deftones producer Matt Hyde, and the focus on the guitar serves songs like the layered, jangly throwback “Get Hurt” well.

Havok, who made his Broadway debut in “American Idiot,” has grown increasingly adept at manipulating his voice to suit the mood of these songs. In “Snow Cats,” he conveys the idea of putting up a brave front through his delivery. In “White Offerings,” he rages and bellows like a man who has lost it all.

The catchy “Hidden Knives,” with its triumphant-sounding guitars and Havok at his cheeriest, is reminiscent of the band’s “Miss Murder” period, when it hit No. 1 on the albums chart with “Decemberunderground” in 2006 and was seen as moving into the rock mainstream with Green Day and Fall Out Boy. AFI didn’t stick with that sound long, opting for more adventurous ideas in the albums that followed.

But “AFI” recaptures a bit of that anthemic arena-filling mojo, while the band also pursues some more experimental sounds, railing full-speed about “Dumb Kids” or channeling The Cure in “She Speaks the Language.” It’s a mix that clearly suits them.

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