A Fire Inside, or AFI, has been around for quite some time now, having formed in 1991 and releasing eight studio albums since. They rose to fame with 2003’s “Sing the Sorrow,” and their peak in popularity was their next album, “Decemberunderground” in 2006. Although they started as a punk rock band, their sound has deviated from that style quite a bit since; they’re now classified as alternative rock.
AFI is comprised of lead vocalist Davey Havok, Jade Puget, Adam Carson, and Hunter Burgan. Perhaps you’ve heard their most famous song, “Miss Murder,” on the radio or played it on “Guitar Hero 3.”
“Decemberunderground” has a very experimental sound. The first track, “Prelude 12/21,” could be described as a love song, and includes the hushed singing/chanting of Havok, backed by bells, angelic humming, and eventually a bit of guitar.
One might be surprised as the pace quickly changes with the second song, “Kill Caustic,” which begins with blaring guitars and the banshee-like screeching of, “So I’m feeling so much worse now!” It continues with whiny, aggressive guitar and thunderous drums accompanying angst-ridden shouting.
These two styles of music (and everything in between) can be found scattered throughout this album.
The most popular single, “Miss Murder,” falls in the middle, still maintaining the energy of “Kill Caustic” but with less screaming. The band utilizes guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard throughout, but in a very unique and emotional way.
The tracks often shift in mood, moving from sorrowful whimpering about lost love with a gently strumming guitar to hate-filled screaming and almost extraterrestrial sounds droning in the background or vice-versa. In “Affliction,” the music stops altogether at one point, allowing the listener to hear the tearful venting of a young woman about painful memories.
“Decemberunderground,” like its predecessor, is a concept album, and follows somewhat of a broken story line. Nobody but the band knows exactly what it means, but Havok has said, “Decemberunderground is a time and a place. It is where the cold can huddle together in darkness and isolation.” The lyrics and music itself are very angst-ridden, and include strong themes of betrayal, lost love, loneliness, and depression.
The album cover has three rabbits swirling in a circle in front of a winter forest, symbolism Havok incorporated into the previous album. Havok was born in a Chinese year of a special kind of rabbit whose soul dies instead of being reincarnated, and which is doomed to be alone and miserable, even through success. This in itself is basically the story of the album.
Of note, this album was released during the peak of
the emo subculture, when teenagers indulged in quite a bit of autophobia and anxiety. The band itself had somewhat of an emo style during this era, two of the members sporting dark makeup and long bangs. However, nobody should write AFI off as just another emo band. This album is catchy, unique, and multidimensional. You’d be hard-pressed to find deeper or more interesting lyrics. Eight out of ten stars, highly recommended!