The Berkeley, California-based quartet AFI crashes back onto the hardcore/punk scene with their Dreamworks debut Sing the Sorrow. AFI, which stands for A Fire Inside, imbued a goth-influenced murkiness into their trademark maelstrom and put a new spin on their melodic version of hardcore. The disc operates in the vein of 1999's Black Sails in Sunset while innovatively blending in the slower aspects of 2000's The Art of Drowning. Producers Butch Vig (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins) and Jerry Finn (Green Day, Rancid) aptly facilitate AFI's more mature musicality.

Synergizing many styles and forms, the arrangement's complexity marks Sing the Sorrow as AFI's most ambitious move to date. The intro track "Miseria Cantare (The Beginning)" sets the dark tone of the album, grinding guitars and pounding percussion in phantasmagoric pandemonium. "The Leaving Song Part 2" sprinkles spoken Spanish phrases within a piercing guitar tumult. And, "Death of Seasons" utilizes heavy metal, techno, and Misfits-esque guitars encased within a goth-framed overtone. Yet, it is the despondent introspective lyrics delivered in Havok's oft-falsetto wail that takes the album beyond. The sincere emotions oozing from the fabric of his soul serve to exorcise the lead singer's demons in an awe-inspiring way. Writhing and wriggling through lugubrious ecstasy, the pensive imagery of "This Celluloid Dream" transports the listener to Havok's reality. Though those lyrics are stunning and gossamer, his words fit more absolutely in the chorus of "Paper Airplanes (Makeshift Wings)": "From above/a rain of ashes/descends Anathema/I will remain/forever will remain/From below/in my seclusion/look up to the sky to see/paper wings/and watch them burn." Superb vocals and reflective lyrics maintain and cultivate their fan base with sincerity not glitz. AFI's ebullient studio presence, bested only by their explosive live shows, continues to evolve and push them past generic constraints.


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