Label: Interscope Records
I haven’t listened to an AFI album since The Art of Drowning, released in 2000. Having missed their 2003 release, Sing the Sorrow, I was unaware that the band had evolved somewhat and created not one, but several variations of their original sound. While I could stretch myself to calling Drowning a Punk album, Decemberunderground seems to completely defy classification. It starts out as metal, turns quickly to a pop sound, then moves on to the usual Emo undertones, and finally adopts a brand new techno feel. I’ve never witnessed so many different musical genres in one band, let alone one single album.
In a way, the variety of talent in this band makes for the album’s downfall. With the lack of consistency, there is a great disappointment throughout. I could get used to all the different musical types (maybe not the electric techno drums) and accept it if AFI truly went away from Punk and Emo. But, they have not really made that hard choice. It’s as if they felt pulled in a million musical directions and couldn’t choose the right one for them. The product of these somewhat confused musicians is a choppy and incongruous record that won’t likely be played nearly as much as The Art of Drowning was in its day. It is a shame, but the fact remains that, in pieces, the songs are all good in their own way, for their own unique reasons.
Despite the discordant record, the music itself is melodic as always with AFI, with even more confident vocals and the sort of lyrical poetry that I expected from the band. I liked every song in an individual sense, although for the most part they weren’t my usual pick of musical style. “Love Like Winter” sounded an awful lot like Bon Jovi, for example, and “37 mm” employed the dreaded fake techno drums and probably sounded just like many dance tracks that I avoid like the plague. I am a bit of a purist, though, and I wouldn’t say the song could really entertain clubbers, but it didn’t impress me very much.
This was a strange experience. At first, I thought they’d gone for a hardcore metal sound. Immediately after that, I thought they’d taken on a “Good Charlotte” pop-punk sound. Then came the sound effects and I didn’t know what to think, except that the band was struggling for its identity. It’s not the best effort, and I won’t say it’s being played out on my stereo at the moment. It does have its moments, however, and is worth a listen purely for the chance to actually hear the musical evolution in action. It’s like the album version of the peppered moth — white one day and black the next! Maybe the next album will be country.
AFI (2000). Art of drowning [sound recording]. Nitro Records.
AFI (2003). Sing the sorrow [sound recording]. Dreamworks.
AFI (2006). Decemberunderground [sound recording]. Interscope Records.