Review / Multiple Authors
AFI
Sing the Sorrow

Dreamworks (2003) — Sean, Shane, Jeff

AFI – Sing the Sorrow cover artwork
AFI – Sing the Sorrow — Dreamworks, 2003

I picture AFI as a scale that must be kept even at all times. If you take a checker from one side, you better take one away from the other. On this album, they have gained something, but also lost something else. No more are the bouncy 'whoa-oh' charged anthems, instead they have been replaced with a bit more intelligent musical prowess. Davey's lyrics and vocals have improved a great deal, I didn't find myself cringing like I do with some of the lines off of their older LPs. I still await AFI to prove themselves to be the musical geniuses the 'fall children' like to pretend they are, but staying within basic song structure on every song is not helping their case. They have a knack for writing a great, catchy hook, but still are lacking a truly amazing showing.

AFI's newest full length. Since everyone who works on this site has been a member of the AFI community at one time or another, you'd think it'd score 10's. Seems to not be the case so far. I can't say I'll be an exception but that is not to say this record is bad at all. On the contrary actually. When "Girls Not Grey" was first being circulated, I nearly cried. The song was so bad. I still stand by that opinion to this day. Luckily, it was the only terrible song on the record. "The Great Dissapointment" is the only other song that left a sour taste in my mouth. The tracklisting is a bit questionable. Starting off with one of AFI's most powerful intro tracks and going into "Leaving Song Pt. II" might have been a bit of an oversight. "Bleed Black" is quite possibly, one of AFI's catchiest tracks to date. I absolutely love it. "Dancing Through Sunday" is one of AFI's best ever. It sounds like G'N'R. So fun. "Death of Seasons" is another one of AFI's best songs. The use of electronics on this song sounds very natural and not forced at all. This record has some of AFI's best ever but on the opposite end, it also has some of their worst ever. If you were a fan of AFI before, you'll want this. If you weren't, I don't think there will be too much here to sway you their way.

"Oh my God, my God this can't be happening! AFI has signed to a major!"

Is an example of a popular reaction to the announcement last year that that AFI would be releasing their sixth full-length, Sing the Sorrow, on Dreamworks records. Anybody without a huge bias towards the record before it was even released, however, will soon realize that the record should neither turn off old fans with an unfavorable sound change, nor should it alienate new fans who were first introduced to AFI through the melodic and poetic beauty of their fifth release, The Art of Drowning.

With Sorrow, AFI has brought to the listener the best of both worlds. It is definitely heavier than Drowning, but it still delivers awe-inspiring sing-along choruses and ballads that can even bring some fans to their knees. The best feature of the album, however, is that it represents a massive step-up in the lyrics department. Never before has Davey Havok written a collection of songs with such incredible imagery and emotion, and almost any fan can attest to that.

Some of the songs are absolutely solid, and represent an amazing increase in songwriting competence and maturity since Drowning. The slick production value has been utilized to its full advantage, as AFI uses it creatively and effectively. The vocal fade on the lyric "as I disintegrate" followed by a flowing cello line in "Death of Seasons" is the most powerful part on the album. Production-wise, the rhythm section sounds incredible, from Adam Carson's solid snare pops in the beginning of "Bleed Black" to Hunter's precise and almost psychic connection to the melody.

Is this AFI's best album to date? No. In order for me to consider it as such, they would have to seriously alter the basic song structure that happens in literally every song on this album. I have always admired AFI's untapped talent at writing breakdowns and choruses, but I was hoping that this would be a slap in the faces of the critics who accuse the band of never deviating from their "verse-chorus-verse-breakdown/bridge-chorus" basic song structure.

On no AFI album have there been any "bad tracks," but "Girl's Not Grey" and "The Great Disappointment" have definitely made an unwelcome addition to the quartet's otherwise empty box of the mediocre. The former is AFI's worst songwriting effort to date, delivering predictable progressions and irritating vocal harmonies. No song of theirs has ever made me cringe, but Girl's Not Grey changes that. When Davey jumps an octave on the final reprise of "Girl's"'s chorus, I find myself rushing for the volume down button.

"The Great Disappointment" delivers different problems, though. The song isn't necessarily bad, but the chorus and the subpar lyrics, "I was wasting away," conjure up unwanted memories of Linkin Park and Chevelle. To make it worse, this chorus is repeated too many times to count and, clocking in at about 5 and a half minutes, "The Great Disappointment" is AFI's longest song yet. Too bad there's no epic feeling whatsoever, and it makes you even more eager to skip it. All of the songs are long, much longer than their previously longest song, "Morningstar," and that isn't necessarily a good thing.

The astounding presence of experimentation is truly impressive, with the completely unexpected shredding by Jade Puget in "Dancing Through Sunday," and the Skinny Puppy-esque industrial breakdown in "Death of Seasons." These two examples show that AFI is at a crossroads of creativity, and once they finally embark on a specific route, it will blow your mind. I smell a breakthrough album on the horizon.

AFI – Sing the Sorrow cover artwork
AFI – Sing the Sorrow — Dreamworks, 2003

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Average score across three writers

7.5 / 10 — Sean, Shane, Jeff • February 25, 2004

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