Horror punks turned goth rockers AFI will be dropping their 10th album on January 20th, but in advance they’ve released three new tracks: “Snow Cats,” “White Offerings,” and “Aurelia.” All three can be heard on the band’s YouTube as well as on Spotify, where they’ve been posted in a playlist with three short teasers, “AB-,” “A+,” “O-.”
The teasers are mostly backwards vocal samples and static sounds. While I haven’t been motivated enough to reverse the tracks (or find someone who has), I wouldn’t be shocked if the blood types were hinting an overarching theme for the record. It’s a milestone, after all, and a self-titled record this late in a band’s career is usually significant in some way.
Enough speculation! On to the songs.
“Snow Cats” is pure arena rock, from vocalist Davey Havok’s swaggering cadence to the crushing wall of guitar which comes in on the chorus. The harmonies are stacked high by guitarist/producer Jade Puget, who deftly calls in and cuts out instrumental layers for some nice moments of dynamic contrast.
The guitar solo is short, sweet, and reminiscent of 80’s hard rock, another indicator that this song is sure to play well in stadiums. It’s satisfyingly crunchy, but with a memorable melody that’s sure to get stuck in my head.
It’s grown on me even in the second and third listens, leading me to think “Snow Cats” could be a draw for the album as well as the live show.
“White Offerings” comes on strong with some heavy guitar and shouted vocals, showing AFI has kept in the habit of making some good old-fashioned noise.
“White Offerings are all I bring / I welcome you, I offer you this white room,” sings Havok. There’s not a huge amount of thought in the lyrics, but the song is propelled forward by a rocking chorus riff that manages to hold them up. It’s a headbanger for sure, and a pretty competent one at that.
In these first looks at the album, the white/snow motif is repeated, which leaves me wondering where the titular blood will be.
One of AFI’s greatest strengths has always been the band’s versatility, moving with ease from noisy hardcore and goth tunes to universally appreciable and radio-ready singles. “17 Crimes,” from their 2013 release “Burials,” is a great example. It’s an explosive single, and as perfect a four-chord pop song as anyone’s ever come up with. Going further back, you could point to “Girl’s Not Grey” or “Love Like Winter” as well.
My one disappointment with this set of songs is that we don’t see one of those in the bunch. The closest thing is “Aurelia,” which doesn’t quite deliver on its own setup.
There’s a nice poppy beat, a great guitar progression, and even a few moments when a memorable section of bass line cuts through. The chorus is a let down.
“They’re barking in the wrong key,” Havok repeats a few times, before adding “…and you sing along.” It’s a bizarre and sort of lame lyric that doesn’t carry the weight it’s meant to. The melody similarly fails to make an impact.
Whether it’s a lack of lyrical effort or it just plain falls flat, “Aurelia” feels like it had more potential. It’s possible there’s more impressive single the band is holding back for closer to the album release, but we’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile I’ll be putting “Snow Cats” on repeat.