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Album Review

The problem with actually surviving more than a few years in the music industry is that fans and critics alike arguably get more … critical.

And so it is with AFI (which originally stood for A Fire Inside, though no one much mentions that acronym's original meaning these days). AFI has sported an ever-shifting sound over the course of two decades and 10 albums, morphing from hardcore to punk rock to something more in the emo camp—"smeared-guyliner dramatics that never go out of style," as Pitchfork reviewer Ian Cohen put it.

Many aficionados of AFI—fans and critics alike—would identify the group's 2003 effort Sing the Sorrow as its high water mark. Accordingly, much of the muted feedback from those folks regarding the band's 10th studio album, AFI (The Blood Album) goes something like this: "Sounds like AFI, but not as good as earlier AFI."

Plugged In, of course, is less interested in aesthetic style than lyrical substance. Yet our assessment is surprisingly similar on that score: It does sound like AFI. Which is to say, AFI (The Blood Album) is once again drenched in discomfiting despair.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

There's little here that could be described as positive content. If I'm bending over backwards to give the band credit, the best I can do is to note that there's a sincere, subterranean well of emotional pain beneath the grim, cynical and nihilistic lyrics. On "Still a Stranger," for instance, frontman and lyricist Davey Havok confesses, "I feel so strange. I'm still a stranger." Later he asks, "Are you a stranger, too?" Many AFI fans would probably answer "yes."

Lyrics on the anthem "Pink Eyes" perhaps hint at a yearning for beauty, even though the band says that the virtue is a blinding one ("Beauty, how you blind!/Give me a reason/Without sight/I will ever find you"). "White Offerings" vulnerably references giving a small gift to someone ("If I were only here/I'd try to give you little birds I've made"). "Dumb Kids" may include allusions to childhood hurts.

Objectionable Content

Loss, separation, death and unbelief fill The Blood Album from start to finish. Regarding the latter, "So Beneath You" pretty clearly seems to denounce God's authority: "I won't kneel/I won't bow/If you're there now/Strike me down, strike me down, strike me down." Then Havok adds, "And I won't serve anyone/No, there is nothing above/ … Deep in my heart, a disbeliever/Only inviting in the truth."

"The Wind That Carries Me Away" says, "And here we finally part/ … And the blood (blood) runs/Faster than we can." "Dark Snow" talks suggestively of "undressing the blessings" before grimly saying, "Over, I'm over/ … My afterlife is black and cold." "Still a Stranger" adds the album's lone profanity to the lines I quoted above: "I always feel so f---ing strange." On "Above the Bridge," Havok perhaps expresses a longing for emotional connection ("What happened to the place I'd hide? I taught you how to sneak inside"), but in the end deems the risk too great ("It's too much to take").

"Snow Cats" blends gender fluidity with romantic rejection and hopelessness: "Am I coy enough? Not boy enough?/You wanted me in this dress/ … I am not read enough, in bed enough/I've given up on romance/I've nothing left for love."

"Aurelia" ominously talks of "wolves" and "chains" and "the slow kill." "Hidden Knives" suggests more violence: "But we both prefer romantic murder/To erase time and my, my empty life." Near the end, the song's narrator tells someone, "I left a little something on the table for you/So poorly I've hidden knives/You will find them, you will find them."

"Get Hurt" wanders into gothic horror territory. We repeatedly hear, "I can't let you see me sleep." Near the song's conclusion, we find out why: The narrator hints at being a vampire ("I can't let you see old blood on my teeth"). Album closer "She Speaks the Language" juxtaposes lyrics about love ("Now I know/This must be love") with others that strongly suggest bloodletting violence ("Red, red drops upon my cuffs/This must be love"). "Feed From the Floor" metaphorically compares the narrator to a withering, dying flower. AFI (The Blood Album) is a darkly apt title for this band's 10th effort. Blood, death and haunting despair are never far away here.

I can empathize with Davey Havok's assertion that he feels like a stranger. But this album doesn't do anything to address the relational isolation that's expressed in track after brooding track. Instead, AFI once again embraces the angsty alienation that continues to be this band's dysfunctional lyrical calling card.

Summary Advisory

AFI (The Blood Album) is a darkly apt title for this band's 10th effort. Blood, death and haunting despair are never far away here.

I can empathize with Davey Havok's assertion that he feels like a stranger. But this album doesn't do anything to address the relational isolation that's expressed in track after brooding track. Instead, AFI once again embraces in the angsty alienation that continues to be this band's dysfunctional lyrical calling card.

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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