AFI is an incredibly unique band. To pigeonhole them would be a grave injustice as their music spans punk rock and alternative rock genres. In essence, they are an exceptional rock and roll band that have continually refined their sound from serious punk rock, to a more mainstream rock approach. Some bands fail miserably when they shift their style, but AFI is certainly not one of them. Each album continues to be better than the one before; reminding me somewhat of Avenged Sevenfold.
Sing The Sorrow was released in 2003 and was arguably their largest shift in style when compared to their previous five albums. While I do have their previous albums in my collection, and enjoy them, their post-2003 work is exceptional and if you’re not punk inclined, you will likely prefer this latter body of work. That said, their punk style is still present within the music, it is just minimised.
My only disappointment with Sing The Sorrow is the low dynamic range of 06 out of 20. Yes, you can hear that it is overly compressed. A number of minor elements are just screaming to be heard, yet they sound so muted and distant that one would wonder why they are even included. Despite this, Sing The Sorrow is still a thoroughly enjoyable album and the low dynamic range doesn’t prevent me from enjoying it, but I would love to hear a remaster with a dynamic range closer to the original recording, if that exists.
The artwork and presentation is superb. Every millimetre of the liner notes booklet has been used. Even the graphic on the back of the CD case represents a reflective look at where the band have come from and where they are now. The window into another world, that is the size of the CD center spindle hole, showcases their fourth studio album Black Sails In The Sunset. It is the little details like this that can’t be overlooked and is still the reason to collect albums on CD or vinyl. The specific edition I have is the UK release with two bonus tracks [cat: 450 448-2(A)].
As regular readers would note, I’m not generally interested in lyrics and song meanings. I enjoy music without knowing the specific meaning. That said, I love vocals as an instrument. Davey Havok’s vocal range is exceptional as he not only has a great punk style, but he can hold some pretty serious notes. His occasional spoken word lyrical style is also nothing short of hypnotic.
The album starts with Miseria Cantare - The Beginning. Miseria Cantare meaning Sing The Sorrow. The song starts off with atmospheric noise and a deep beat with vocal overtures. It is exceptionally complex and lovely to listen to. It truly sets the scene for the rest of the album.
The Leaving Song Pt. 2 appears second in the track listing, but you may be wondering where Pt. 1 is. Well, that is located later in the album at track 11. The opening guitar work before the song begins, and then throughout and before the chorus, is beautiful.
Bleed Black is truly reminiscent of a slowed down punk song. If punk music gives you the same amount of notes, in half the time, then this 4m 15sec track could quite easily fit the average two-minute punk song length. That said, the song shifts in the final minute to be closer to an acoustic rock song, before speeding up for the finale. It is simply captivating and my mind and body don’t know how to digest it, but it works.
Silver And Cold is a beautiful song that begins with rain and piano keys, before proceeding into the rock track. It is mellow for AFI, but simply incredible. It is one of those songs where I change my views on lyrics as I want to understand the message and sing along.
Dancing Through Sunday is punk infused and a welcome addition to the album. It shows AFI still has it, but isn’t afraid to expand beyond their origins.
Girl’s Not Grey really needs additional dynamic range. The poor drummer sounds like he has a single drum that offers no depth or tonality. In-fact, the song is a musical muddiness that is monotone in presentation. Yet, you can tell there is more to the song, it just isn’t on this release. Such a shame!
Death Of Seasons is a song with an awesome beat, that even goes into dance territory, and exhibits some beautiful guitar and vocal work.
The Great Disappointment thankfully isn’t a disappointment. Instrument separation is present and the soundstage is nicely placed across the stereo field. When I suggest that vocals are akin to an instrument, this song highlights what I’m referring to. Davey’s vocals are beautiful and are perfectly suited to the song and style of music.
Paper Airplanes (Makeshift Wings) isn’t one of my favourite tracks. There is nothing wrong with it, I just don’t gel with the song. The cymbal work on the drums is just too compressed for my liking and I find the vocals are too whiny. It really sounds distorted! A little more spit and polish and I believe this song could have been exceptional. Additional detail may well be in the studio master, but we may never know.
This Celluloid Dream is most certainly a rock and roll track, but sporadically merged with punk. It works and the vocals appear as the lead instrument, or driving force, in this song.
The Leaving Song has an amazing vocal and (I think) acoustic guitar tune. It is punk length, but it is most certainly a ballad. It would have to be one of my favourite songs from the album.
…But Home Is Nowhere is an okay song. It is neither good or bad, but I truly don’t know what to say about it other than it fits into the track listing of the album. I can only think that it is too similar to the other songs and therefore doesn’t have a unique quality to explore.
Synthesthesia is the first UK exclusive track, followed by Now The World. Both UK exclusives are perfectly acceptable and are two songs that I feel work well within the tracking of the album. These songs were also available as a download for US audiences, from a link provided with the original album. That said, the site that was delivering the download is no longer operational and thus you will need to pick up the UK edition to get these additional songs.
The final unlisted, and therefore hidden, track is This Time Imperfect. It is a ten-minute epic that is exceptional and is my favourite song from the album. It is AFI at their very best! On the CD release, you will need to listen to Now The World before the hidden track will play, as it not a separate track. Whereas, on TIDAL Hi-Fi, you can listen to the track independent of the album.
Sing The Sorrow is an album of change. It is not a farewell to punk, but an evolution of sound that appeals to a greater audience while showing a new level of maturity and musicianship amongst the band. It is truly disappointing that much of the album is noticeably brickwalled, but that shouldn’t deter your interest in the album. It is worthy of any rock and roll, or punk rock collection.