AFI – ‘The Missing Man’

By Tom Walsh

The release of 2017’s self-titled, or ‘The Blood Album’, was heralded as the comeback critics and fans had been waiting for from AFI. It was a return to the post-hardcore sound that began with ‘Sing the Sorrow’ and coursed through ‘Decemberunderground’, and it felt like a band getting back to the top of their game.

Lead singer Davey Havok’s lyrics were once again captivating and deviated away from the anger, bitterness and sorrow that was such a feature of 2013’s ‘Burials’. Jade Puget’s guitar work was far more expressive and even swayed into new-wave at time. It was like an AFI rediscovering their mojo and one of heavyweights of the emo era was back to regain its crown.

The opening seconds of the band’s latest EP ‘The Missing Man’, begin to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and dare you to tentatively pose the question of whether they are going back to a style akin to their early days of hardcore punk. Adam Carson’s frantic opening drumbeat for ‘Trash Bat’ will certainly excite those fans who thought this side of AFI died from the moment they started donning powder blue eye shade.

Scale the production values back a little bit and this could have easily nestled into the tracklisting of ‘Black Sails in the Sunset’, as could lead single ‘Get Dark’. Havok’s broodings vocals of “I am not the father/I am not the son/Only a maker of useless things I’ve done” over Puget’s jangling harmonics give way for a thrashing and chaotic chorus.

However, this is not the AFI of 1999 and ‘The Missing Man’ showcases the broad range of musical styles the band possesses. The title track is a haunting song with Puget’s lilting notes backed by a string section as Havok’s breathless words float over the top. The 1980s synth style of ‘Break Angels’ feels very much in-keeping with the AFI we have come to know in recent years.

The only disappointment comes in the form of the ballad-esque ‘Back Into the Sun’ which feels a complete misstep. As it warbles and staggers through the run time, threatening to drain the momentum out of the EP, there is a growing sense of why it simply couldn’t just be left on the studio floor.

This is slightly symptomatic on previous records, of where one song may have been too much, but this can be forgiven – ‘The Missing Man’ provides an indication that AFI are returning to capture our hearts once again.

TOM WALSH

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