We all have those albums that we got into that changed how we listen to music. We heard them when we were young; we heard them when we couldn’t fully appreciate them, but we knew they were leaps and bounds ahead of the other music we were listening to. Years later, after taking a break from them, we go back to it with the capability of fully appreciating them.
AFI’s fourth album Black Sails in the Sunset, released in 1999, is one of those albums for me. I got into AFI when I first heard their song “Miss Murder” on Guitar Hero 3 in 2007, and from that point I knew that I had to listen to more of their work. I purchased a number of their albums at once, such as Decemberunderground, The Art of Drowning, and Black Sails in the Sunset. With the utmost respect to the former two albums, it was Black Sails that truly showed me what darkness in music could be.
I didn’t listen to a lot of heavy music at that time; I had mainly been listening to Linkin Park and Green Day at that point, along with whatever was on the radio. AFI blew everything else out of the water for me. I knew I was in for something I had never experienced before upon hearing Black Sails’ intro anthem “Strength Through Wounding”, and the existential lyrics “Through our bleeding we are one/ Through the darkness breaks the light/ Through the light unending pain/ Deify the wretched ones/ Until the darkness comes again”. Their horror-branded hardcore sound would stick with me for years to come.
The distorted guitars, prominent bass, and hyper fast drumming sucked me in immediately. Davey Havok’s passionate screaming is what I can say really turned me on to all of the heavier vocals I would go on to listen to. All I wanted to do when listening to that album was to play along with Jade Puget’s distorted guitar chords and melodies that would put modern pop punk and hardcore bands to shame.
AFI was also the first band that I listened to where the lyrics didn’t constantly rhyme; they broke down more barriers in music for me than I was even aware of at the time. The topics of their songs were subjects of my obsession for months. For example, the catchy horror track “Malleus Maleficarum” is written from the point of view of a witch during autumn. AFI’s music gave energy to topics like depression and loneliness, topics which the average hormonal seventh grader is no stranger to. Their songs “Narrative of Soul Against Soul”, “At a Glance”, and “God Called in Sick Today” all made me want to channel any negative thoughts I had and put them into music, where I could create something artistic with my limited life experiences.
To sum it all up, AFI was the most important band of my early high school years. They made me realize that anything and everything could be discussed in music, and the darker thoughts that many of us try to suppress are just more of what makes us human. AFI is the thinking man’s hardcore, and Black Sails in the Sunset is the album that exemplifies this.