decemberunderground

Studio Album by released in 2006

decemberunderground review

AFI reunites with renowned producer Jerry Finn

San Francisco Bay Area punks AFI (A Fire Inside) have been the darlings of the underground scene for some 12 years but now having signed to a major label they finally sound destined to adorn the bedrooms of alternative kids across the world. On its seventh full-length album, AFI reunites with renowned producer Jerry Finn for a strikingly dynamic outing that builds on its highly successful and ambitious predecessor, Sing the Sorrow. Due to the clever production tricks employed on that album, fans might expect even more intricate arrangements, sound effects, and sonic landscapes to emerge from the wintry packaging of DECEMBERUNDERGROUND. To an extent this is true, but it's more that the cloudy gloom permeating their career thus far has lifted, allowing a relatively tighter and lighter overall album to emerge. So what exactly is DECEMBERUNDERGROUND? Well according to frontman Davey Havok it's "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." That all sounds rather pretentious, but AFI fans should be relieved to learn that their new album is easily the most commercial thing they've ever done.

DECEMBERUNDERGROUND features familiar AFI hallmarks

The California quartet tightly knits genres together, keeping the sonic patterns from becoming too busy. Havok is confident that this record "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. Take the band's traditional prelude for instance: this time it's infused with stirring strings and an uplifting dance-pop beat that is a far cry from the dark and eerie call-to-arms chants of previous albums. From there, DECEMBERUNDERGROUND veers from AFI's first straight-up vintage glam style shuffle on first single Miss Murder to the stark and stunning soundscape of Love Like Winter and the epic suite The Interview. AFI even comes as close as they probably ever will to sounding like U2 in The Missing Frame. 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. Despite the relentlessly abject lyrics, massively hooky tracks like Love Like Winter have enough arena-rock appeal to register as instant classics. There is plenty to love here, so don't be surprised when you find it has become the current soundtrack to your life.

Most accomplished and labor-intensive work to date

AFI is a band lucky to own fiercely loyal fans who embrace – and ultimately expect – the gradual transformation the band has undergone with each album since 1999's Black Sails in the Sunset. Now with the new album, AFI invite their fans, new and old (and yet to be made), to experience their most accomplished and labor-intensive work to date. Somehow, the guys have managed to combine hardcore instincts with dark emo-coated lyrics, synth shimmies, gothic aesthetics, and electronic beats into a sound that still remains wholly AFI. So maybe that's why fans have stuck by the band over all these years. Even as the guys stretch and flex their songwriting muscles, they never fail to remember where they came from, instead using their past work as the foundation to their essential growth. DECEMBERUNDERGROUND may have more fully realized doses of pop and electronic music present, but the core of AFI's sound never strays too far from what listeners have grown to love about them in the first place. DECEMBERUNDERGROUND's few "screamo" moments reinforce both frontman Davey Havok's vocal range and the group's willingness to journey around the stylistic map, resulting in a bold, assured record.