It would seem that once a band like a.f.i. got a taste for arenas (much light Twilight vampires get a taste for teenage blood) it became hard to put that cat back in the bag. The band has chased that cat heavily on 2006’s decemberunderground and 2009’s Crash Love – wearing Joy Division, Duran Duran and The Cure’s influences like an arm band. Their sound managed to get both increasingly sunnier and poppier. On Burials, the band attempts to return to darker pastures for focus.
‘The Sinking Night,’ leads the album in fashion reminiscent of Sing the Sorrow (2003). Davey Havok intones ‘The blackness/it drips down both of my eyes/the sand that you make/has taken my sight.’ The first preview of the album came a couple of months ago with ‘I Hope You Suffer,’ which builds off of percussive elements and electronics before a larger than life chorus and wall of sound guitars. It’s like Event Horizon met the goth emo version of David Cassidy.
The signature galloping-punk back beat is back on ‘A Deep Slow Panic,’ and the disappointment here is that the song, save for the lyrics, sounds like every other a.f.i. song written post 2003. It’s not a bad song and fans will gobble it up, but it’s not treading any new ground. ‘No Resurrection,’ is more of the same – building off of a steady bass line and some Godzilla-riffing from Jade Puget amidst electronics and some rote percussion filling the empty spaces in the choruses.
’17 Crimes,’ is three minutes of purity. It’s the kind of single a.f.i. have become synonymous with and I can’t fault it in the least for being exactly what is – a band in unison. I like the arrangement on ‘The Conductor.’ It infuses some of the electronic elements along with a refreshing set of guitar lines from Puget and Havoc sounds in rare form. ‘Heart Stops,’ sound like something Blink-182 would have put on their 2003 self-titled album.
‘Rewind,’ is serviceable if, again, unoriginal or emotive. The intro to ‘The Embrace,’ sounds like a guitar ripped from the Dave Matthews Band and, like ‘Rewind,’ is equally nondescript. ‘Wild,’ attempts to rev the rock engines once again but fails to truly take off. ‘Greater than 84,’ and ‘Anxious,’ are probably the band’s best contribution to the second half of the album. ‘The Face Beneath the Waves,’ is a brooding, but too long, album closer.
Half an album of good tunes, is still only half an album worthy of mention. If you’re a hardcore a.f.i. fan – nothing on this will deter you from picking Burials up. If you’re a potential new listener – check out Sing the Sorrow in its entirety for the band’s best work and beware that any album that’s come since is only half worth the money you’d spend…
Highlights: ‘I Hope You Suffer,’ ’17 Crimes,’ ‘The Conductor,’ ‘Heart Stops,’ ‘Greater than 84,’ and ‘Anxious.’ The rest sounds kind of rote and monotonous.