Oh, the purists won’t like this at all. Another underground band emigrating to the majors, beefing up their “punk” with immaculate production and the occasional string section. Professional packaging. Photo shoots. This is the stuff the scenesters avoid like the plague.

Todd Weiser

At first glance, AFI’s (A Fire Inside) immense, impenetrable arrangements — as well as their California mailing address – point to an all-too-familiar fate. The band’s prep school goth dress code, as well as their ridiculous aliases (Davey Havok? Please.) are embarrassing for everyone involved. A closer inspection, however, reveals that the band has been mining this goth-punk hybrid since 1991, never adhering to the traditional sounds of either genre.

Sing the Sorrow, the band’s fourth full-length, doesn’t expand the band’s sound so much as improve it. Their songs are immeasurably anathemic, with a chorus of band members often drowning out the guitar attack. Singer Havok has a tendency to sound like Jim Adkins channeling Trent Reznor, which is ridiculous until you realize that the band is more interested in populist catharsis than narcissism. “Girl’s Not Grey,” “Bleed Black” and “This Celluloid Dream” inspire enough shout-along bedroom cinema to suggest the band is still grounded more in sweaty basements of pumping fists than basketball stadiums. That, more than anything, should keep AFI from flaming out on the fumes of major label grandeur; that, more than anything, should keep the tattooed arms in the air.

Rating: 3 Stars

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