ALBUM REVIEW: AFI (The Blood Album)

It’s been a hot minute since I listened to AFI (Beautiful Thieves, anyone?) but the band colloquially known as A Fire Inside are back with their first official self-titled album – the first came as a compilation album by way of Nitro Records way back in 2004, though the band was rumored to be less than thrilled about that album’s release – and are better than ever with the band’s first studio album in just over 3 years, offering up 14 bad ass tracks. In reality, it hasn’t been that long since I listened to AFI, with Crash Love coming out in 2009.

Nonetheless, AFI are back after with their first new music since 2013 and set to release their 10th studio album with a new producer – the band’s own guitarist Jade Puget – and a new tour to go with it, but I’ll get to that later. It’s no secret that AFI has changed quite a bit since their beginnings as a punk band, something I still miss listening to their music from the last decade or so as they’ve switched to the more mainstream alt/emo rock rather than trying to stick as a punk band in an age where punk became less and less popular, but different doesn’t necessarily mean bad, so let’s get into it, shall we?

On offer are a trifecta of songs that AFI have already made available in Snow Cats, Aurelia and White Offerings, along with a host of other tracks, some of which I’ll delve into a bit. Of the three that are already out, White Offerings is probably the closest one to “old” AFI in the sense that it’s the hardest track on the album and Davey Havok uses it to show that he’s still got the chops to be a badass and let out a solid scream here and there. Aurelia is the polar opposite and falls in line with the band’s direction for the last 10 or so years, while Snow Cats falls somewhere in the middle – it’s mellow in spots and a little heavier in spots, but most of that is drums. Aurelia’s my favorite so far, which says something the song given my love for AFI‘s punk days.

The Blood Album actually kicks off with Dark Snow, a song that had me very skeptical about whether I’d like the album. After that it was Still A Stranger, and that’s where things started to catch my attention before Aurelia really got me into the new material, but it wasn’t until a few songs in that Get Hurt sold me on how good mellow rock can be.  So Beneath You and Dumb Kids finally did what I was hoping a song or two would do – they made me love the album as a pair of awesome harder songs that are upbeat and in your face and remind me more of what I loved about AFI 18 years ago when Black Sails in the Sunset came out and Davey Havok unleashed havok with his punch-you-in-the-mouth vocals over warp speed punk riffs.

And then there are the album’s final two tracks, She Speaks The Language and The Wind That Carries Me Away. Both are of the mellow rock variety that AFI has made themselves known for, and it really does say a lot about the band despite how much I miss the old days. Think about it, AFI has had the same lineup for nearly two decades and the way they’ve progressed and grown together as a band since their punk days really is remarkable. Davey Havok was this killer punk singer when the band started, and his range has become more and more noticeable with every alt-rock album the band has released. The same goes for the rest of the band, too, with the changes they’ve made to continue doing what they love while adapting with every album to keep selling records.

Change is scary. I’ll always love AFI’s punk years and I’ll always wish for the band to return to its roots, but The Blood Album has finally sold me on this version of the band. I can finally sit down and listen to an entire AFI album again and say “you know what? I like this” – despite the slowed down, almost emo rock that I’ve never cared for. The talent that exists in AFI, to be able to continue as the same lineup all these years later after going from punk to alt to emo and back to alt again, is worthy of applause, respect and undying love. It takes a lot to win over a guy who loves punk rock, and it’s no secret that AFI lost the punk fanbase years ago when they changed gears, but this album might just bring some of those fans back with just the right mix of old and new.

I’m glad I’ve got AFI back in my life, even if I’ll still spend most of my time listening to their hardcore punk albums, but The Blood Album will stay in rotation for a long time. It’ll take older fans of the band some getting used to, but there’s no reason to write it off just because it’s not what we had back in the 90’s. AFI’s The Blood Album comes out this Friday, January 20th, and the band kicks off their North American tour the same night at the world famous Troubadour in Los Angeles. They’ll be out here on 2/3 at Terminal 5 and we’ll hopefully be there to cover it. Check out the track list and tour dates below.

Track list:

1. “Dark Snow”
2. “Still a Stranger”
3. “Aurelia”
4. “Hidden Knives”
5. “Get Hurt”
6. “Above the Bridge”
7. “So Beneath You”
8. “Snow Cats”
9. “Dumb Kids”
10. “Pink Eyes”
11. “Feed from the Floor”
12. “White Offerings”
13. “She Speaks the Language”
14. “The Wind That Carries Me Away”

AFI Tour Dates:

Friday, January 20, 2017 Los Angeles, CA Troubadour*
Saturday, January 21, 2017 Oakland, CA Fox Theater*
Monday, January 23, 2017 Portland, OR Roseland Theater*
Tuesday, January 24, 2017 Vancouver, BC Commodore Ballroom*
Wednesday, January 25, 2017 Seattle, WA The Showbox*
Friday, January 27, 2017 Salt Lake City, UT The Depot*
Saturday, January 28, 2017 Englewood, CO Gothic Theatre*
Monday, January 30, 2017 Minneapolis, MN First Avenue*
Tuesday, January 31, 2017 Chicago, IL Riviera Theater*
Wednesday, February 1, 2017 Toronto, ON Danforth Music Hall*
Friday, February 3, 2017 New York, NY Terminal 5
Saturday, February 4, 2017 Boston, MA Paradise Rock Club**
Monday, February 6, 2017 Philadelphia, PA Union Transfer**
Tuesday, February 7, 2017 Washington DC 9:30 Club**
Wednesday, February 8, 2017 Baltimore, MD Rams Head Live
Friday, February 10, 2017 Orlando, FL The Plaza Live**
Saturday, February 11, 2017 Atlanta, GA Buckhead Theatre**
Monday, February 13, 2017 Houston, TX White Oak Music Hall
Tuesday, February 14, 2017 Austin, TX Emo’s**
Wednesday, February 15, 2017 Dallas, TX South Side Music Hall**
Friday, February 17, 2017 Tempe, AZ The Marquee**
Saturday, February 18, 2017 Las Vegas, NV The Joint**
Monday, February 20, 2017 San Diego, CA Observatory North Park**
Tuesday, February 21, 2017 San Diego, CA Observatory North Park**
Wednesday, February 22, 2017 San Diego, CA Observatory North Park**
Friday, February 24, 2017 Los Angeles, CA The Wiltern**
Saturday, February 25, 2017 Los Angeles, CA The Wiltern**