The Blood Album opens out in a way that may not be expected of AFI: the big, heavily electronic sound of Dark Snow appears with a little guitar lick played over the top that works well. The vocals here are an instant pull back to the older material in the veteran band’s catalogue with melody and harmony atop the instrumental, though the instrumental is perhaps not of the norm.
They return to what would be expected on second track Still A Stranger however, which opens with acoustic guitar chording followed by a lead-bass-drum buildup to the eccentrically-voiced verse and a soaring chorus. The layered backing vocals half-harmonising and half-shouting are a throwback almost to Decemberunderground all those years ago. Octave guitar parts and bass fills keep the track particularly AFI, and the middle eight section brings back the classic Havok desperate layered shout style which works well to break down the energy for a time.
Vocally, the album varies hugely. Mixed with the layered screams there are traces of rock, punk, pop punk, alt-rock and even some chorus sounds in tracks like Dumb Kids reminiscent of a child of Kaiser Chiefs‘ Ricky Wilson and Meat Loaf. The backing vocals again fit fantastically on the back of Havok’s leads, with stacked sounds absolutely filling any remaining space in the audiosphere with harmonies and powerful shouts.
Stylistically, Aurelia is one of the better tracks. It acts as one of AFI‘s more alt-rock ended songs as opposed to their “punk” pigeonhole in many minds, and shows how they can explore different parts of their sound in a short period of time. It has just the kind of rhythm that would lend itself to an acoustic version incredibly well – whether one of those will come is another question though. It is almost impossible however to ignore Hidden Knives when speaking of Aurelia – the two tracks sound as if they are each two halves of a conversation. The former acts as the more upbeat reply with its more constant rhythm as opposed to Aurelia‘s lilting and more pulsating feel.
Overall then, it’s a very solid return for the California crew. A vast array of styles have been combined in AFI (The Blood Album) that they haven’t fully explored in past releases and hearing them become very comfortable within that area cranks the album up a notch. It sounds almost like AFI got a bit excited with some new pedals and effects they’ve found so they’ve spent hours working them into songs – a bit weird but working in a very AFI way.