Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Black Sails in the Sunset - AFI (Album)

I'm a big AFI fan. I think I've seen them in concert now four or five times, although not within recent years. I was introduced to the band through a friend of mine before their "breakthrough" album Sing the Sorrow came out, and I remember being really happy that they made it big my senior year of high school. Their progression as a band is an interesting one; formed in '91 and releasing their first album in '95, their sound was much closer to early punk bands than to the gothic rock it would eventually become. I appreciate each of the band's albums for different reasons, but in the last year or two it's become obvious to me that I prefer one over any of the others: Black Sails in the Sunset, which debuted in '99. It is one of two "bridging" albums between their old and new style, I think that gives it a unique feeling and genuineness. Wow, is there really not a better form of "genuine" to end that sentence with? Genuinity? Whatever.

Sails is the kind of album that has hidden depth. I remember listening to it only sporadically growing up, opting instead to listen to The Art of Drowning and Sing the Sorrow. The recording quality of both albums was better than on Sails, and I could actually understand what Havok was singing. Now, however, I hear and feel an intense energy in Sails that I don't find elsewhere. It's true, at first many of the songs sound very similar to one another, and without looking up the lyrics you don't have a prayer of understanding the words, but to me there is something almost pretentiously good about Sails.

The lyrics are most powerful when in context of the songs. Here is one of the best tracks on the album, with lyrics included:

Open my eyes as I submerge and I won't deny what I've been since birth.
I'll die drowned by your standards.
Breathe in the life of the summer's death as the orange and red breathe their first breath,
So welcome as they're burning through.

We all begin to burn. Autumn's flame dances in my eyes
Set alight for all we've learned. My ashes falling.

My skin is singed but it heals my heart, and with glowing pride I'll wear my scars.
I'm honored by your hatred.
Leaves fall we arise again, and the end impending, it will begin.
So welcome as they're burning through.

We all begin to burn. Autumn's flame dances in my eyes
Set alight for all we've learned. My ashes falling.

Can you feel me? Go!
Ashes fall and I'm rising up again. Ashes fall.
Ashes fall. Ashes fall as we all arise.

I doubt if while they were recording the album the band knew how good it was going to be, and I have a suspicion that even if they were to try to duplicate the feeling and power of Sails now they wouldn't even get close. It's probably a good thing that they moved from this sound, and found new legs with Decemberunderground and Crash Love, because Sails does not need to be recreated. It is beautiful as it is, you just need to listen to it about a hundred times.

-MA 04.16.13

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