Sound — 8
"Burials" is the band's 9th album, containing 13 tracks and clocking in at just under 50 minutes. The songs "I Hope You Suffer" and "17 Crimes" were released as singles. The track "A Deep Slow Panic" was made available for streaming, along with an interview with the band earlier this month on Spin Magazine's website. What sets "Burials" apart from the band's previous releases is the work done with post-production and the effort made to create a more layered ambience throughout the entire album. At times the sound reminds me of some of the darker new wave music of the '80s, such as The Cure, and at other times more like NIN if NIN was a little more straightforward rock. The punk sound is most prevalent in the drums and bass parts. The album opens with "The Sinking Night," which does a great job of setting the mood for the entire album in the first 30 seconds. This is also the track where Havok's vocals most remind me of Peter Steele's vocals – not necessarily in the sound of his voice as in the style of delivery. "I Hope You Suffer," the first single from the album, is next up and when the keyboard melody comes in I was pretty much won over for the rest of the album. This song just permeates anger and loss. "A Deep Slow Panic" is next up and it makes some interesting use of a mid tempo punk rhythm section, and layers melancholy on top of it. "No Resurrection" starts out with the coolest bass/guitar intro I think I've ever heard on an AFI track – it manages to be a little bit punk rock and a little bit goth-rock in just the right combination. "17 Crimes," which is the second single from the album, is probably the closest thing to an actual punk rock song on the album though the lyrics are a plaintive croon vs. A snarl you expect from punk rock. "The Conductor" has a really cool vibe to it, especially in the way the background vocals are used along with the keyboards. "Heart Stops" is more like some dark-tinged post-punk or early grunge. "Rewind" sounds more "modern" than most of the other tracks on the album (if that makes any sense), but maintains the integrity of AFI's overall sound. It has a guitar riff that reminds me of that old Nickelodeon show "Pete & Pete" for some reason. "The Embrace" has a cool brooding feel to it, as the track kind of moves in plodding pace, with the bassline doing a lot towards giving the track an emphasized groove. "Wild" moves along at a much quicker tempo, really bringing the band's punk rock roots to the forefront, though also taking heavy elements from new wave once again. "Greater Than 84" is just a straight up new wave song to be honest, but they do an awesome job pulling it off and giving it that dark undercurrent. "Anxious" was probably the hidden gem of the album for me, containing an infectious guitar melody and the drums sounded awesome on this track as well. The album closes out with the track "The Face Beneath the Waves," which has a really wicked vibe to it and could easily be the soundtrack to an H.P. Lovecraft inspired movie. I think that as the band has made efforts to make their sound more layered they have definitely gone more into the realm of their new wave influences, but they've retained their dark musical sensibilities which has created a really unique and excellent album.
Lyrics — 8
Davey Havok has always had an interesting voice, but especially on this album he sounds like a mix of Robert Smith of The Cure and a small splash of Peter Steele from Type O Negative. With that being said, he definitely has his own voice, it is just reminiscent of these other vocalists occasionally. Hunter Burgan and Jade Puget both contribute backing vocals, and do a solid job in that category. The lyrics on the album are pretty dark as Havok has stated, "This record is of silence, of burials, and the burials that result from that silence. It's of betrayal, cruelty, weakness, anxiety, panic – deep and slow – despair, injury and loss. And in this it is shamefully honest and resolutely unforgiving." With that being said, here is a sample of the lyrics from the track "The Sinking Night": "Blackness drips down from both of my hands/ The gold in my palm was mistaken for sun/ Can you feel it? / The blackness that drips down from both of my eyes/ The sign that you make has taken my sight/ I can feel it."
Overall Impression — 8
I hate to admit it, but I'm a sucker for new wave music, and especially dark new wave music - while this album isn't exactly that, it does hold enough similarities to the genre to really draw me in. I was really enjoying this album from beginning to end, and while a few of the songs were just mediocre most were really solid. My favorite songs from the album would have to be "The Sinking Night," "Anxious," "No Resurrection" and "The Embrace." While this isn't a "gamechanger" album for the band, I do think they've taken some pretty large steps creatively, and personally I like the results – I hope you do, too.