By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
For two decades, California punks A Fire Inside, better known as AFI, have been making noise and earning a devout cult following that spans several scenes. Formed by frontman Davey Havok and drummer Adam Carson as teenagers, the band’s fascinating evolution began from bratty skateboard punk rock into hardcore, before championing and defining horror-punk as well as a neo-goth movement. Culminating with the band’s seminal masterpiece, 2003’s Sing the Sorrow, and the their mainstream breakthrough, 2006’s Decemberunderground, AFI were on the verge of super stardom, with their popularity reaching new and unimaginable heights.
However, that all came to a screeching halt in 2009.
Crash Love, the band’s eighth studio album, was both a critical and commercial failure, and was widely disapproved by longtime fans. With no shortage ready-for-radio singles filled with sing-along pop hooks, it led many to believe that the fire had gone out.
Flash back 13 years; AFI released a trio of groundbreaking releases, 1999’s Black Sails In the Sunset and All Hallows EP and 2000’s The Art of Drowning. These records caused an immediate resurgence of the Misfits-pioneered horror-punk and saw AFI bridging the gaps between punk, hardcore, goth, alternative and even metal. By 2003, the band began taking steps even further outside the realm of punk rock with Sing the Sorrow. Newly signed to Dreamworks Records, the album had the ability to reach audiences AFI had until then flown under the radar of. Embracing influences from The Cure, Bauhaus and Nine Inch Nails, and trading in up-tempo hardcore slammers for more structured and slowed down songs, it proved to be a hit, pleasing most longtime fans and gaining a wide array of new ones as well.
By the release of Decemberunderground, AFI had begun to drift even further away from their hardcore and horror-punk roots. Their flirtation with pop, evident on the singles “Miss Murder” and “Love Like Winter” left fans to question whether or not the band was trying to fit in with the rising emo/screamo scene that dominated modern rock at that time. Still, tracks like “Kill Caustic,” “Affliction” and “Kiss and Control” retrained the energy and hints of goth that the band had become known and loved for. But by the time Crash Love was unleashed in 2009, AFI had abandoned all previous connections to their underground roots and left fans in the dark. Following the disappointment of the album, the band went on hiatus and were long rumored to have broken up.
What seemed to have come out of no where, AFI updated their official website in May of this year with a very cryptic video, hinting that new (and darker) material would be on the way. In late July, they released the single “I Hope You Suffer” from their new album Burials, scheduled for release Oct. 22 via Universal Music. The single finds the band reenergized and back to their doom-and-gloom status. Musically, “I Hope You Suffer” sounds like it should have been released after Sing the Sorrow. It contains the high-energy and large anthem-like choruses of that record, dripping with the goth-inspired electronic textures the band was also beginning to explore at the time. A second single, “17 Crimes,” was released in August, also sounding in a similar vein yet more up-beat and punk-esque, harking back to Sing the Sorrow tracks “Dancing Through Sunday” and “Paper Airplanes (Makeshift Wings).”
Judging by the first two singles from the upcoming Burials, AFI seem to realigning with the path they originally were set steady on. “I Hope You Suffer” is, in many ways, AFI-by-the-numbers, and that’s what longtime fans who haven’t felt they’ve had a proper AFI release since Sing the Sorrow needed. Their flame may have flickered some, but Burials could prove that the fire is still alive for these icons of goth-punk.