It has been four years since AFI graced the world with AFI (The Blood Album). Since doing so, the band has definitely changed it up; as they tend to do over the course of the last 10 years. Now we get Bodies.
During the pandemic, all bands have had to change their approach in releasing new music. AFI is no exception to that. Since the announcement of their 11th full length album, Bodies, on New Year's Day, they released a couple of tracks at a time; beginning with "Twisted Tongues" and "Escape From Los Angeles" in January 2021. Having been a fan of the band since 1999, I enjoyed each song's release. Some were better than others, in my opinion, but I was excited to hear them back to back.
The album was finished prior to the world coming to a hard stop. Unfortunately, the music industry suffered great impacts; and the album was not released until June 11, 2021.
The Change in Sound
AFI is like any other band; constantly evolving. What started out as hardcore punk in the early 90s turned to angsty goth rock by the end of the decade with Black Sails in the Sunset. 2003 brought us Sing the Sorrow, which has since been labeled as one of the quintessential "emo" albums of the era.
By the end of the 2000's the band had evolved again with 2009's CrashLove, which definitely felt more mainstream and poppy. This album took a while to grow on me.
However, in the 2010s with 2013's Burials and 2017's AFI (The Blood Album), we got a small taste of the Art of Drowning/Sing the Sorrow sounds. Even the 2018 EP The Missing Man had more of that punk/emo feel.
So, where does 2021's Bodies fit in? In a definitely weird spot. There are bits that make me feel like I am listening to the old stuff. Then we get hit with synth wave. Bodies was produced by AFI guitarist Jade Puget. It is not Puget's first rodeo, having done remixes and production for bands like The Cure and Tokio Hotel. He does well overall with his own band.
Bodies is mixed well. You can hear each member equally, which I think is extremely important. I can't begin to mention how many albums instantly turn me off simply because of how awful the mix is. The biggest highlight though is Hunter Burgan's bass lines throughout the album. My ear is immediately attracted to the bass on each track. I am so glad that it wasn't buried in the mix.
What to Expect?
So, how is each track and the album overall on a song level? It's good; not great. Each track is a bit different from the one prior. I've noticed a lot of fans either love or hate the album. Having not been a huge fan of the last two records overall, I think this is the superior of the three. However, it feels like more of a b-side compilation rather than a full cohesive record. Is that a bad thing? Not in the slightest. Each song has things I like an dislike. The biggest complaint I have seen about the record is the lack of emotion in Davey Havok's lyrics. Are there some songs that are lacking lyrically? Sure. It's no worse than "Trash Bat" off of The Missing Man though. While catchy, I simply can't feel that song.
"Twisted Tongues" kicks of Bodies. If I could add it to any record, I'd say it has a CrashLove feel. The track highlights Adam Carson's drumming, which is quick regardless of what the other instruments are doing.
"Far Too Near" is next up. This has a similar feel to the previous track. Lyrically, I think it is great. I don't think there are really any issues with this song overall. It crescendos and draws back at the perfect times. The synth is buried just enough under the instruments for it to not be a focal point; which I feel is well done.
By far my favorite song on the record is "Dulceria", which was co-written by The Smashing Pumpkins' vocalist Billy Corgan. This song feels very much like the desert to me. I cannot compare it to any of the previous records. It stands 100% on its own. If there is any song that highlights Burgan's bass lines the best, it is this one. It's silky. The entire song is like butter. Havok's vocals are soft velvet during the chorus.
"On Your Back" harkens back to the DECEMBERUNDERGROUND days in my opinion, with a hint of "Veronica Sawyer Smokes" off of CrashLove. The drums carry this song with synth and bass.
I've not mentioned Puget's guitar playing on this record. That's because it is barely there. He comes in like Mike Campbell does on any Tom Petty song; just enough and only when needed.
"Escape from Los Angeles" is basically nothing but synth and drum. It is possibly my second least favorite song on the record, but it is still catchy.
Second Half of the Record.
Next up is the single "Begging for Trouble". This is another synth heavy track, and unfortunately it does nothing for me at all. It is a skip-able song.
If you are looking for something that will remind you of the gothier Sing the Sorrow days, then "Back from the Flesh" is for you. It's dark and Depeche Mode-esque. Again though, we miss the guitars.
We finally get a taste of guitar throughout an entire song on the single "Looking Tragic". Now this I can understand being chosen as a single. It has a bit of a "Miss Murder" feel in the sense that it is catchy and radio friendly, but still sounds like AFI. It has a good breakdown in the middle of the song, a catchy melody, great guitars, and a great bass line.
Unfortunately, after "Looking Tragic", we are back to synth heavy sounds with "Death of the Party". The song sounds like a drum machine was used on this as well. This is another skip-able track for me. I simply couldn't get into it.
"No Eyes" is a pretty good song. At least we get some guitar again. Although, the mix on this track is by far the worst on the record. It is a bit muddy. There's no forefront sound. The bass is barely there. Havok's vocals are at too far forward on the verses and muddy as hell on the chorus. The guitar is barely able to be made out, and the drums have far too much treble on them. Fortunately, the drums aren't as bad as Metallica's St. Anger, but the fact I can even slightly compare is not a good thing.
The album finishes with "Tied to a Tree", which is dark. The chorus comes in with great volume and as the key switches from major to minor, it feels like true AFI. I wish other tracks had been mixed the way this one was. Puget called this his favorite track on the album. I can see why. But is it a cliff-hanger of what to expect in the future? Or will the band keep us all on our toes and just reinvent themselves again? I suppose only time will tell.
As I mentioned before, is this their greatest album? No. Music is not objective. My opinion is simply that; an opinion.
There are different issues with the record, mainly with lack of highlighting all instruments. A lot of Bodies felt like it could be more Blaqk Audio rather than AFI. That's not necessarily a bad thing though.
As far as it not being as heavy; that matters not to me. The fact of the matter is that these guys are all in their mid to late 40s. They're not the angsty twenty somethings that Answer That and Stay Fashionable or Art of Drowning gave us. They've evolved as humans and as musicians. If I had to put an actual "rating" on this album, I'd give it a solid 7.5/10.
With everything opening back up in 2021, AFI has announced a tour in support of Bodies. I will see everyone at the February 2022 show in Las Vegas. Check out the tour dates and make sure you get yours too!
PHOTO CREDIT: All photos and videos ©AFI, Rise Records, and original artist/photographer. Used for promotion only.