The greatest artists are the ones who create without any regard for what they’re supposed to sound like. Whether you’re talking about The Beatles, Prince, Nine Inch Nails or Dolly Parton, these musicians are always unapologetically themselves. It keeps the creative process fun, and, to be honest, makes things infinitely more interesting for their fans. (Not feeling the latest project? That’s cool. Just wait for the next one.)
No one knows this better than AFI. Over the course of their decades-long career, they’ve continually reinvented themselves and found new ways to incorporate diverse influences ranging from hardcore to EDM into their totally unique sound. Like punk heroes Glenn Danzig or Walter Schreifels before them, this journey begins in punk before branching out sonically, melodically and creatively.
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So whether you’re a superfan who’s going to yell at us, a casual listener who only knows the big singles or someone who accidentally wound up here and has no clue what we’re talking about, these tracks are AFI 101.
“He Who Laughs Last…” (Very Proud of Ya, 1996)
With galloping drums and scream-along choruses, early AFI definitely borrowed a page or two from the Misfits’ playbook. (The horror punk era is coming soon. Be patient.) Just like their heroes’ finest moments, “He Who Laughs Last” is a hardcore juggernaut that kicks in the door, blows everything up and gets the hell outta there in under minutes.
“Malleus Maleficarum” (Black Sails in the Sunset, 1999)
Black Sails in the Sunset was the first album to feature guitarist Jade Puget, a watershed moment in the band’s creative growth. While previous releases were pretty straightforward hardcore, Puget brought a greater emphasis on melody that expanded AFI’s sonic palette. “Malleus Maleficarum” (Latin for “The Hammer of Witches”) was one of the earliest songs written by the then-new lineup, and it holds up as one of the most brutal, chilling tracks in their entire discography.
“Girl’s Not Grey” (Sing the Sorrow, 2003)
Produced by Jerry Finn (Enema of the State, …And Out Come The Wolves) and Butch Vig (Nevermind, Siamese Dream), it was clear that Sing the Sorrow would be a bigger, bolder AFI album. Complete with a surreal video that stayed in regular rotation on MTV, lead single “Girl’s Not Grey ” was their introduction to a whole new audience. That monster of a call-and-response chorus just begs to be bellowed by a crowd, which is probably why it’s their most-played live song.
“Love Like Winter” (Decemberunderground, 2006)
A creative restlessness has always separated AFI from their peers. “Love Like Winter” is a perfect example of this, incorporating elements of new wave and early electronic music that feels light years away from the band’s hardcore days. This experiment works, though, and the song remains one of the biggest hits.
“17 Crimes” (Burials, 2013)
Burials may be one of AFI’s darkest albums, but “17 Crimes” is an absolute pop-punk stunner with a bounce that reminds you of The Smiths and The Cure. Don’t be fooled, though! This earworm still contains plenty of the darkness you expect from them. Frontman Davey Havok said he instantly knew it would be a single, and it’s remained a fixture of their live shows in the decade since its release.
“Snow Cats” (AFI, 2017)
Fans and critics like to call AFI’s self-titled tenth LP (often referred to as “The Blood Album”) a “comeback,” but that’s not entirely accurate. They had been right there the whole time, refining all of the past decade’s experimentation into one of the best records of their whole career. “Snow Cats” is a clear standout, capturing the doom and gloom of their early work with a slick new wave sheen.
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Riot Fest 2023 Tickets + Lineup
Ready to Sing the Sorrow with us? Single day tickets are available now to see AFI with The Cure, The Used, Thursday and more on Sunday, September 17.
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