AFI (or A Fire Inside as they are also known) have been a strange band for me over the years. Some time they release something that make so much sense like 'Black Sails In The Sunset' and then they go on to produce 'Crash Love' which was a very flimsy album at best (and I am being nice there). However, they have always had a knack at making me interested in what they do and in the live arena so to speak, they are really good live; I mean they wipe the floor with any band that comes before them, they just take no prisoners and that is even with their weaker material. So when they announced their 9th album 'Burials', I know at some point I would give it a listen. Working with Gil Norton who has produced Foo Fighters, Pixies, Maximo Park amongst others I am hoping that they have gone for a more darker route, the artwork alone looks a lot more promising from the beginning, so what about the album itself?
Opening with the desolate "The Sinking Night" the band sound as if they have returned to their early days with a heavy Goth feeling. It is a welcome return after the Las Vegas years of 'Crash Love'. It is a beautifully twisted beginning which gives way to similarly stark "I Hope You Suffer". Everything that the band state before this was released, about this being about the dark periods of people's life is starting to ring true. After that dark beginning, the band sort of bring up the mood with the delicately bouncing "A Deep Slow Panic" - this album is not for the happy bunnies in the world, but never has a dark mood sounded so full of energy, vigour and vitality. They might be talking about panicking but this is the sound of a band that is fully in control of everything around them.
The happy titles continue with "No Resurrection" which slows down the mood again, but aims for that epic sound that AFI have been go for ever since 'Decemberundergound' to good effect; then comes the single "17 Crimes" which is a nice pop punk affair, yet it is a stark contrast to what has came beforehand on this album (also it is the worst song on the album by a country mile). It just doesn't feel or sound as good as the rest of the album. But then things get back on track with the hypnotic and pulsating "The Conductor" which goes back to that 80's punk goth sound which the band seem to have a life time supply on, likewise it continues with the melodic mournful cries of "Heart Stops" which would have the hardest goth reaching for his eyeliner to touch up their make up from the tears they will have been crying.
Next up, the rock foot is firmly on the peddles with "Rewind" where the band are wishing to go back to the past and almost sounding like early Placebo (without the sexual androgyny) and the drive is more punky and spiky here, which the band needed as there was a possibility that this album could go too far to the slow and painful; but they are more clever than that to be honest. Starting with a quite intro and deep rumbling bass with an almost Nine Inch Nails approach "The Embrace" shows more of the muscle and power that is underneath this band at the moment, which is further demonstrated with "Wild".
Then with three tracks to go, they go very retro in their own almost synth 80's way with the album's stand out track "Greater Than 84" which is going on about a place which is home and safe, yet is also stuck in the past. This song will hopefully become a stable in their live set; it is that good and a crowning glory in a sea of gems. Yet the band do not rest on the laurels and keep things going with "Anxious" which brings us towards the ending and "The Face Beneath The Waves" which brings that epic slow methodically sound to the forefront and end the album on a massive (albeit depressing) high note.
Without a shadow of a doubt this is one of the best albums that AFI have ever released. The break since the last album and the various side projects that they have been involved in have been of a great benefit here. Yes, they may be a bit of back peddling in someways against the glam and shiney 'Crash Love', but even that album had some good little moments. But this album is full of moments that if it was a film, it would be one of those Hollywood blockbusters with various aliens attacking the world and big explosions. I cannot praise this album enough here for bring back the band to my attention after the last album. It is not quite perfect, "17 Crimes" really lets the album down but this is an album that should be in a lot of album of the year's lists. It seems that the fire has been lit again.
9.5 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost.
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
You can visit the AFI website here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
Here is the video for "17 Crimes" - only video that would load.