Goth-punk stal­warts AFI hint at fu­ture di­rec­tions with mixed re­sults on spotty five-track EP

Kerrang! (UK) - - The Inside Track -

Broadly speak­ing, re­ac­tions to AFI’S 2017 self-ti­tled al­bum fell into two camps. Sub­ti­tled ‘The Blood Al­bum’ (pre­sum­ably be­cause of its re­peated lyri­cal ref­er­ences to the red stuff), some saw it as the com­ple­tion of a mu­si­cal arc some 26 years in the mak­ing; the op­por­tu­nity to ap­pre­ci­ate the Cal­i­for­ni­ans’ jour­ney from the scrappy, hyper­ac­tive hard­core mer­chants of their early days, to pur­vey­ors of a more ma­ture, yet oc­ca­sion­ally still en­er­getic, strain of glacial goth pop. Oth­ers, how­ever, saw it as a valiant, but flawed, at­tempt to try to please fans of all pe­ri­ods of the band’s cre­ative life, in which they spread them­selves too thin and ul­ti­mately wound up sound­ing like a paler ver­sion of them­selves. It’s all very much a case of horses for cour­ses. But which­ever side of the fence you’re on in this de­bate, you’ll find more of the same to val­i­date your ar­gu­ment on this fol­low-up five-track EP. Given how fi­nal The Blood Al­bum felt at times, first and fore­most it’s a re­lief to find AFI con­tin­u­ing on­wards, though re­fus­ing to set­tle in any one spot. Un­for­tu­nately, this cre­ative rest­less­ness is also the big­gest dif­fi­culty here. Open­ing track Trash Bat could have been on n the last al­bum, such is its fa­mil­iar­ity. And while a m it gilds the black lily, with its switches be­tween l r a speedy punk and stut­ter­ing rhythms, and is in e p posses­sion of more hooks than a fish­er­man’s a h spares drawer, there are mo­ments of bril­liance c s i through­out its three-minute play­ing time. m : Such flashes are w sorely miss­ing from a e cou­ple of the sub­se­quent tracks, which can’t i v help but give the im­pres­sion this re­lease also r e serves as a repos­i­tory for lesser ma­te­rial. Break t n An­gels has all the in­gre­di­ents we’ve come i to ex­pect from mod­ern-era AFI – chim­ing gui­tar lines, in­ces­sant drums, a se­duc­tive vo­cal turn from front­man Davey Havok – but it’s strangely un­re­mark­able, which is a word you’d rarely ap­ply to any­thing to do with this band. ‘Plod­ding’ could be an­other one you’d never nor­mally use, but that’s ex­actly how you’d de­scribe Back Into The Sun, which feels like an ex­per­i­ment in style and tempo too far. It’s an un­for­tu­nate mess, ba­si­cally.

Things take an up­swing to­wards the end of pro­ceed­ings, while il­lus­trat­ing that some cre­ative gam­bles pay off bet­ter than oth­ers. Get Dark sounds like the band try­ing their hand at desert rock; and while its page-one cho­rus isn’t go­ing to sur­prise a card-car­ry­ing, long-term fan, the song packs a pleas­ing amount into its 161 sec­onds, in­clud­ing one of ax­e­man Jade Puget’s finest-ever gui­tar so­los.

But it’s this re­lease’s clos­ing ti­tle-track that po­ten­tially says the most here – a dras­tic shift from the other ma­te­rial, which may hint at po­ten­tial cre­ative di­rec­tions in fu­ture. Sup­ple­mented by dreamy sam­ples, sweep­ing strings and Davey at his most sil­ver-tongued, it’s hard not to imag­ine it be­ing a lighter­sa­loft sta­ple of fu­ture sets. Ad­mit­tedly, not all of the five songs on of­fer here are de­serv­ing of the same level of ado­ra­tion, but given the cult-like de­vo­tion of AFI fans, the band may well re­ceive it any­way. These songs all have some­thing in com­mon, too, in that they pro­vide win­ning ev­i­dence of a punk band age­ing with grace and style, with­out dumb­ing down or selling out. And while this EP is def­i­nitely a mixed bag of hits and misses, that’s only re­ally an is­sue when com­pared to the sky-high stan­dards AFI have set for them­selves over the years. JAMES HICKIE

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