"DECEMBERUNDERGROUND is a time and a place. It is where the cold can huddle together in darkness and isolation. It is a community of those detached and disillusioned who flee to love, like winter, in the recesses below the... more » rest of the world."-Davey Havok DECEMBERUNDERGROUND is also the title of AFI's seventh album. And like much of the record's lyrical and visual imagery, it seems to stand in stark contrast to the name behind the band's world-renowned moniker: A Fire Inside. Then again, the brightest flames burn white-they just don't burn bright for long? "There's a lot more attention to detail on this record," Jade recalls. "We spent a long time writing it. We refused to rush ourselves. We took our time not just on every song but on each guitar part, each vocal, each bass line. We definitely didn't rush into the studio." The fruit of this labor is a record that Davey Havok is confident "should break us out of any preconceived genres." And even on a cursory listen, the wealth and diversity of material backs him up from the first note: "Prelude 12/21" is a rhythm/vocal-oriented curveball that differs radically from the customary calls to arms that have opened all AFI albums since Black Sails. From there, DECEMBERUNDERGROUND veers from AFI's first straight-up vintage glam style shuffle on first single "Miss Murder" (complete with backing chants from The Despair Faction) to the stark and stunning soundscape of "Love Like Winter" and the epic suite "The Interview." The longtime AFI faithful need not worry, as DECEMBERUNDERGROUND features more than a fair share of familiar AFI hallmarks, from the slash and burn of "Kill Caustic" and "Affliction" to the balladic finale' "Endlessly, She Said." Of AFI fans' reaction to the new record, Davey says, "Our fans always come with us every step of the way. I think they recognize honesty in our music, that this is the only way we can express ourselves, to make music that we love. Nothing else. That's what allowed us to make the jump way back when and what continues to keep us going now." "Some artists fear change and their fans' reaction to it," Jade says. "A big part of our relationship with our fans is that we do change with every record. It's expected and embraced."« less
"DECEMBERUNDERGROUND is a time and a place. It is where the cold can huddle together in darkness and isolation. It is a community of those detached and disillusioned who flee to love, like winter, in the recesses below the rest of the world."-Davey Havok DECEMBERUNDERGROUND is also the title of AFI's seventh album. And like much of the record's lyrical and visual imagery, it seems to stand in stark contrast to the name behind the band's world-renowned moniker: A Fire Inside. Then again, the brightest flames burn white-they just don't burn bright for long? "There's a lot more attention to detail on this record," Jade recalls. "We spent a long time writing it. We refused to rush ourselves. We took our time not just on every song but on each guitar part, each vocal, each bass line. We definitely didn't rush into the studio." The fruit of this labor is a record that Davey Havok is confident "should break us out of any preconceived genres." And even on a cursory listen, the wealth and diversity of material backs him up from the first note: "Prelude 12/21" is a rhythm/vocal-oriented curveball that differs radically from the customary calls to arms that have opened all AFI albums since Black Sails. From there, DECEMBERUNDERGROUND veers from AFI's first straight-up vintage glam style shuffle on first single "Miss Murder" (complete with backing chants from The Despair Faction) to the stark and stunning soundscape of "Love Like Winter" and the epic suite "The Interview." The longtime AFI faithful need not worry, as DECEMBERUNDERGROUND features more than a fair share of familiar AFI hallmarks, from the slash and burn of "Kill Caustic" and "Affliction" to the balladic finale' "Endlessly, She Said." Of AFI fans' reaction to the new record, Davey says, "Our fans always come with us every step of the way. I think they recognize honesty in our music, that this is the only way we can express ourselves, to make music that we love. Nothing else. That's what allowed us to make the jump way back when and what continues to keep us going now." "Some artists fear change and their fans' reaction to it," Jade says. "A big part of our relationship with our fans is that we do change with every record. It's expected and embraced."
"When it comes to AFI, I'm very touchy about my opinions. As someone who's been listening to this band for years now, I have to say that even I have had my skepticisms about their transitions through the years. I was one of the fans who initially dismissed "Sing The Sorrow" as the horrid "sellout" album, but with time it eventually grew on me and I realized the true beauty in its nature. And "Decemberunderground" is no different from that album in any respect. Is this the best record they've ever written? Absolutely not. Does that mean that it's not good? Absolutely not. Just how I learned to expand my tastes and take new ideas into account with "Sing The Sorrow", most fans will have to with "Decemberunderground". While it's not at all perfect, it's definitely a nice stepping stone in the ever-evolving AFI sound, and something that fans who want the band to continue to grow and mature should appreciate.
First of all I was not expecting another "Black Sails In The Sunset" (commonly agreed upon as their best record) or "Art Of Drowning" when I popped "Decemberunderground" into my cd player. If you do, you're just going to be turned off immediately. Instead I just decided to let AFI take me to where they wanted to. And while it's true that they've dabbled further into experimental forms of music (there's tons of 80's influence in here), the core of what makes AFI special is still in tact. It's not going to redeem them as the saviors of music or anything like that, but "Decemberunderground" definitely has some things going for it.
The lead single "Miss Murder" at first seemed just like a "Girl's Not Grey" pt 2, in that it had its melodic, catchy chorus, and easily identifiable music. As much as I didn't really care for it at first, it has really grown on me now. There's been cries that the band has gone "emo", because of experimental pieces in "37mm" (which sounds like straight new wave) and "Love Like Winter" (which is full of synths and dance beats). However just because the band is experimenting doesn't mean these songs are bad. Part of the thing I began to love about "Sing The Sorrow" was the way AFI could throw curveballs at us, and still make them work. "Decemberunderground" is no different. "Miss Murder" and "Summer Shudder" are upbeat, poppier pieces, which are destined to be the record's singles. For the older fans, "Kill Caustic" and "Affliction" are old-school tinged rockers that are sure to get the blood flowing. "The Interview" and "The Missing Frame" are two slower pieces that rely more on melody and atmosphere to attract the listener, rather than sheer force. And the album closer "Endlessly, She Said" (however cheesy the title may sound) is simply a great way to end the record.
Musically this is probably one of the most multi-talented bands in any musical genre. How many other bands do you know which can throw out hardcore pieces one second, then instantly transform into upbeat rockers and then to slow experimental works following that? I can probably count them on one hand. Davey's voice hasn't really gotten any better or worse, but it does sound a little different this time around. Maybe due to the production. However I love the screaming he experiments with on some of the songs. It brings back the memories of "Shut Your Mouth And Open Your Eyes". Jade's guitar playing once again takes the cake. He proves how influential he has been in shaping the band ever since he officially joined up on "Black Sails In The Sunset". Adam and Hunter continue to be a solid backing section, and Hunter's bass playing has never been so fully showcased as it is on this record.
"Decemberunderground" is probably going to take time for most listeners to appreciate. Like I said you can't go in expecting any of their previous records, because as it's been shown, AFI has never made the same record twice. While it's definitely different from anything the band has done in the past, and it's a little rough around the edges, this is a bold record that proves AFI will continue to grow and expand their sound. And in almost all cases they will do it successfully. If you're an AFI fan, at least give this a listen before writing it off. It's not for everyone, but it's definitely not as bad as most are making it out to be. As it's been already evidenced, AFI are no longer "in the shadows, growing wings"; Now they're out flying high."
Just a rant, really
Theresa R. Cavey | Forest Hill, MD United States | 08/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm beginning to wonder about all the people who say that they're "hardcore AFI fans" before trashing this album.
I've been a fan since 2002; I was introduced via Black Sails in the Sunset and Art of Drowning. I love Very Proud of Ya, Shut Your Mouth, and Answer That for the punky aspects, I love Black Sails for the raw energy it has, I love Art of Drowning for the exceptional lyrics, I love Sing the Sorrow for the beauty of the music, and I love Decemberunderground because someone finally got the 'modernizing the 80s' sound right.
I'm not just an AFI fan, I'm a music fan. If you box yourself into one category (punk, goth, whatever; most of you think labels are stupid anyway), you're going to miss out on a lot of stuff this band has to offer. If you're really that one-dimsenional, where you only like one certain type of music, then you're not going to like AFI. Period. They change as people as life progresses, so their music changes to reflect that. You like their old stuff better? That's great, but don't say you want another Black Sails, or another Very Proud of Ya, or whatever. Bands that can't evolve don't make it. If Davey and the rest of the guys were still singing about not being able to get mohawks or how people don't understand them, you'd hate it, and I'd hate it. That's like Blink 182 still bitching about high school on their last album when they should be going to their high school reunions and taking care of their kids.
Miss Murder is definitely catchy, and gets me pumped up like only Days of the Phoenix could do. Prelude 12/21 is beautiful, and really shows that Davey knows how to control his voice to get the sound he wants. The Missing Frame is definitely full of that 80s pop sound I love (you know you like it, too, don't deny it), and Affliction is fun to (try to) scream along to, not to mention the last minute or so of it really shows a different side of AFI. 37mm, musically, reminds me that Davey is into NIN, but is still obviously AFI. Love Like Winter is possibly my favorite song on the album, and I can't wait to see the video for it. The only song I don't love is Kill Caustic, and that's only because I can't scream to sing along with it.
So yes. Five stars for Decemberunderground. All you "hardcore punks" or whatever need to get over yourselves and grow up, because AFI isn't going to slow down and stagnate for your sake."
I'm still an AFI fan
J. Finzel | 06/13/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"As a longtime AFI fan, I get really annoyed at people who claim that if you do not like this album, you never were an AFI fan or you are not a true AFI fan. That is ridiculous. You people would like anything that AFI put out no matter how terrible (not that this is terrible).
That said, I also was not expecting the same sound from AFI with this album. Every album up to this one I have really liked. I really liked STS, with my favorite being Black Sails followed by Art of Drowning. These three albums sound completely different so it's ridiculous to claim that people like me want to hear the same thing over and over. I knew it was going to be slower with maybe a few faster songs put in. And there is a lot of slow music that I really like.
With that said, I just have to say that most of the songs are not good, even for the kind of music they are. What they lack is originality and an interesting sound and passion (in general), which is what has always made AFI's music so good in the past (classics such as 6 to 8 and This Time Imperfect come to mind). The instrumentals/singing are not rockin' like they are in Black Sails and Art of Drowing, but even in the songs meant to be slower, they are not interesting to listen to (with rare exceptions) or passionate.
I think "Affliction" is just terrible (though the breakdown is pretty good). It is fast and harder, sure, but it does not sound good at all. The screaming makes me reach for the button to skip to the next track. It does not have the passion that was present in the screaming of "Death of Seasons" or anything on Black Sails.
A song isn't good just because it is hard and from AFI. Hard AFI songs that were awesome are songs like Death of Seasons, The Last Kiss, ...but Home is Nowhere, The Lost Souls, Porphyria, etc. Affliction or Kill Caustic are just not written that well. They do not sound good. The songs do not flow and the singing is just not very interesting or powerful. Even on the slower songs, the singing has nothing like the passion found on This Time Imperfect or Morningstar.
Even on the slower songs, I just hear too many other bands in what AFI is doing. Their originality that marked all of their previous albums is almost completely absent. Most of their songs sound pretty good, but not compared to anything they have released before. By "pretty good", I mean it is okay to listen to when filling the time, but I find myself wanting to move on to another album when I listen to Decemberunderground frequently.
There are exceptions to all this criticism. Notably, the end of Endlessly, She Said and towards the end of Kiss and Control, the singing gives me chills. The Missing Frame also is a good song. I actually do like a lot of the songs, but few (if any) of them are *amazing songs* which so many on their previous records are filled with. From previous albums, examples of amazing songs are God Called in Sick Today and The Last Kiss (BS), Days of the Phoenix and Morningstar (AOD), and But Home is Nowhere and This Time Imperfect (STS). The closest Decemberundeground comes is Kiss and Control and Missing Frame. Unfortunately, even these songs are not amazing taken as a whole. Kiss and Control has an amazing breakdown, I'll admit. I love the song but as a whole it cannot compare to AFI's best.
This album is also not "better than most other music out there today". While that is probably true within the mainstream, there is plenty of really good music that is not heard on the radio that is way better music than Decemberunderground. Check out Sonata Arctica for an amazing band. And the fact remains that this album pales in comparison to AFI's best, even considering it within its own style.
Lastly, I don't think the lyrics, however depressing and cool they are, can save this album. I am reviewing music, not poetry. Maybe Decemberunderground is good poetry, but it is not very good music."
Not Your Older Brother's AFI Album
Apollo Vesuvius | Trabuco Canyon, CA United States | 06/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's the Lebron James problem. The guy can go out and have a 30 point, 10 rebound game and can get picked on for too many turnovers, or for lack of aggression. Greatness can be a burden, especially if you sustain said greatness for such a long period of time that your critics evaluate you with a whole separate set of criteria.
These poor AFI guys put out three flawless albums in a row, follow it up with a great album, and get nitpicked on for throwing in a few mediocre tracks (37mm and The Interview come to mind). All AFI has done is go from genre to genre effortlessly reinventing the craft of music. This time they take on nouveau-80's britpop and arena rock, and somehow make beauty out of them. Classics like "The Missing Frame," "Love Like Winter," and "Summer Shudder" stand up to "Bleed Black" and "This Celluloid Dream" in originality in composition, even if they aren't revolutionary like "Days of the Phoenix." (For those that pre-ordered the album and got the two bonus tracks) We are truly seeing a shocking change in AFI when they can take "The Smiths" Jack the Ripper and create a remake to stand with the original. DU deals more with an inner turmoil less than it does with a world-gone-wrong.
What's most interesting to me is that the stand-offish uber-gothy radicalism that so distinguished the band from their blander contemporaries has been softened to make room for a much more personal sound. Is it only me that is touched by the lyrics "Will the flood behind me put out the fire inside me?" The album doesn't scream so much as it cries.
If you are a true AFI fan, you know that there is no one AFI sound that DECEMBERUNDERGROUND can betray; AFI is a musical journey that requires us to stick with the band and rethink them with every new release. If you do it one more time with DU you will not be disappointed, even if it doesn't equal the last few releases.
It's the Lebron James problem. But wouldn't we all like to be a witness to greatness?"
After over a decade -
Victoria Olive | Seattle, WA | 06/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"AFI still manages to create an album unlike anything on their previous records.
I've been a fan for almost seven years, and I'll admit, when I first listened to Decemberunderground, I was a little skeptical. I wasn't mentally prepared for it. Miss Murder and Kill Caustic (the previously released tracks) are nothing like the other ten tracks on the album, except for Affliction, and even that's stretching it. But after my second listen, I was in love, and the deluge of genuine emotion on this album touched me in the most poignant, eloquent of ways.
The lyrics are intense and gripping, despondent and devastatingly real. Some melodies are beautiful and gracefully tragic, while some are reminiscent of AFI's rapid, raw adrenaline past. Quite simply, Decemberunderground dug deeply into my heart, and refuses to let go.
For those who were expecting an imitation of Sing The Sorrow, or a remake of Black Sails In The Sunset, you'll be disappointed. There are references to AFI's older works on this album, but they're not painfully apparent. You can't compare Decemberunderground to their other records, or base it on a premediated standard, and I imagine if you did, you'd miss the expressiveness that this album has to offer. They've never repeated themselves, and are constantly changing their sound, so holding a grudge against them because you want AFI to musically go back 10 years is just stupid. In a nut shell, enjoy Decemberunderground for what it is - a masterpiece - and leave your preconcieved notions (or desires) that this was going to be the next Answer That And Stay Fashionable at home.
Here's a small track by track digest:
1) Prelude 12/21 - A nice opener to the album, and the beat's pretty infectuous.
2) Kill Caustic - The first example of the fast-paced parts on this album. Very straight-forward, no-nonsense, and catchy, with grating vocals and dissonant guitar.
3) Miss Murder - Reminds me vaguely of a hybrid between the Art Of Drowning and Black Sails In The Sunset, with group "Hey's" that've been basically non-existent, but dutifully missed by fans, in AFI's songs since 2000. And it's in three, which gives it an interesting, bouncy feel.
4) Summer Shudder - The melody is dance-worthy and kind of bubbly, and lends hindsight to the album's later electronic feel. The use of effects is awesome.
5) The Interview - I honestly don't know why everyone's been giving this song such a bad rep. I think the lyrics are gorgeous, like "For a change, I'll refrain from hiding all of me from you," and "Today, this small favor I'm asking. Hold me - you may drop me tomorrow." And the ending is perfect - the dual vocals coupled with the organ is absolutely stunning.
6) Love Like Winter - To put it bluntly, the chorus to this song is effing snazzy. There's more hints to Decemberunderground's electronic aspects here, too. I never thought I'd see the day that AFI would use happy synthesizers - but it's a nice change, nonetheless.
7) Affliction - Haunting, and the chord progression is done extremely well. The lyrics are sad, and when Davey sings, "So stay sweetly numb. Remain lifeless, love. Stay sweetly numb. Maintain lifeless love," not only does it break your heart, it shows just how much his voice has matured.
8) The Missing Frame - I like this song, and I can't really explain why. It's just awesome - like an early eighties pop song, but in a good way, and it's still kind of dark.
9) Kiss And Control - Wow. This song is beautiful, exquisite, magnificient, insert amazed adjectives here. The chorus is dramatic and downright heartwrenching.
10) The Killing Lights - I think it sounds like something off of Sing The Sorrw, but that's probably because of the "Oh!" at the beginning. Overall, it's melodic, but maintains a wee bit of darkness.
11) 37mm - Almost entirely electronic, and feels like a seducitve mixture of VNV Nation and Clan Of Xymox, which isn't surprising, considering that Ronan Harris helped produce this album.
12) Endlessly, She Said - A pristine closing track. Its sadness is drawn out to infinite lengths, and is remarkably epic. The last chorus, with the dueling group and single vocals is brillant. As if that weren't enough, the lyrics are fantastic, as well."