This edition of Kvlt Albvm Ov The Weak is a little different to others. Don’t be alarmed, it’s still totally dark but not in the way you’ve come to expect.
This time around….it’s AFI. OK, it’s not “trve kvlt grimmmmmmmm” black metal (deal with it); but this record is incredibly dark and twisted and there’s a depth to it that I appreciate more and more as I get older and older. I guess I should explain.
I love AFI.
They are the first band I really and truly fell for. I mean, I liked bands before that and Metallica were the first band I really got into, but there was something about AFI that spoke to me a on level I hadn’t experienced before. And I was fourteen. What the hell did I know?!?!
Black Sails in the Sunset still sounds as good today as it did the first time I heard it. The record after this, The Art of Drowning continued on the gothic path forged by it’s predecessor and then came the magnificent Sing The Sorrow. What happened after that….no one likes to talk about. So let us relive the glory days of one the most vital punk bands of their day.
1. Strength Through Wounding
4. Malleus Maleficarum
5. Narrative of Soul Against Soul
6. Clove Smoke Catharsis
7. The Prayer Position
8. No Poetic Device
9. Weathered Tome
10. The Last Kiss
11. At a Glance
12. God Called in Sick Today
From the stirring gang chanted intro “Strength Through Wounding” to the delightfully morbid “God Called in Sick Today,” Black Sails in the Sunset is the sound of AFI maturing and growing into their sound. Previous records fell a heck of a lot more on the “…we’re so pissed off, look at us being teenagers and being angry, no one has ever done that before” side of things. With Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes in 1997, AFI started to embrace a more dismal side, the tracks having that abstract “Oh God, what does it all mean?!?!!?” edge to them. In 1999 Black Sails in The Sunset and this strange new gothic punk sound staked a claim for the hearts of confused fourteen year olds everywhere, and oh, how we fell in love.
It’s no secret that AFI did, and to some extent still do, elicit a massively emotional response in their fans and the lengths some of those fans will go to for this band even now is incredible. As mentioned, Metallica is the first band I really had a thing for. I was…..twelve, maybe thirteen and starting to form some kind of awful personality. I’d heard heavy metal before but I just didn’t understand it. Then I got a hold of the first few Metallica albums and everything changed. I listened to Ride the Lightning and the track “Fade to Black” stood out immediately. That’s when I realised that heavy metal wasn’t all about shouting and mad guitar riffs, that there was an emotional depth to some of that music and this track about suicide made me feel something. And that’s where it all started to go wrong. From this I discovered a lot of bands, most of them terrible and should never be mentioned again, and through a basic internet connection (56k dial up baby), I found a couple of things I liked. AFI were one of those bands and I took from them what I took from Metallica a year or two before. I felt something when listening to them. I felt the darkness and the channeled anger and I wanted more. I “woah’d” when Davey Havok did, I shouted where it was appropriate and I wanted to fall to the floor in complete and utter despair more than once.
Sorry, that all got a little personal huh? Let’s get back to the music. There’s a distinct current of electricity running throughout Black Sails in the Sunset, the atmosphere of sheer desperation is palpable and the excitement of wondering where it’s going to go after that rousing introduction is tangible. You can almost feel the band and their knowledge that this, this is the record that’s going to make them. And it did.
Somber tones of desolation permeate the record. Snatches of sadness echo during “Exsanguination,” the furious pace covering the wickedness of the lyrics and the moments of crushing hopelessness that burst into the final minute of the track. Themes of death and rebirth flow throughout the record; “Malleus Maleficarum” especially angular in its approach to the changing of the seasons and the cycle of life…a love affair with the beauty of the Fall and the demise of summer.
Death is a fairly common lyrical theme for this band, at least up to and including 2003’s Sing the Sorrow, which seemed to conclude a trilogy of spectacular shadow filled records. AFI conceived an incredible run of albums, a fact which cannot be denied, and it’s painful to see where they’ve ended up. Whether that’s a personal decision on their part or something much more sinister….I’m all for bands evolving their sound and exploring but AFI became almost unrecognisable. That’s a story for another day though.
The Prayer Position” slyly meanders with a venomous slant, taking the opportunity to lull with calming interludes before screaming its way back into the consciousness with huge wails and harmonious cries. “No Poetic Device” pushes along on a deliciously quick beat whilst you’re left wondering when you’re going to have the time to draw a breath. Because this album is relentless in its pace and misery. You see, not all inherently melancholy music has to sound like the end of the world. Wild eh?
Final track “God Called in Sick Today” is the most out and out gloomy song on the record. Slow and acoustic for the most part with sweetly sang vocal lines, the aura of pure despair seeps through the cracks in Havok’s voice. It’s devastating in its subtly bleak tones and content and the record ends on a beautifully tenebrous note (not counting the obligatory hidden track of course).
So there you have it. I’m not ashamed of my musical roots and if it wasn’t for this band I probably would have never discovered a lot of the music I like today. Everyone’s gotta start somewhere and to be honest, there’s much worse places to start. Right?