Plenty of bands decline, sell out, or simply fall apart. It’s rare that one actually ages backwards. But AFI has gone full-blown Benjamin Button on their tenth effort, AFI (The Blood Album).

The jaded garage punk of their earliest albums has devolved into the sort of overproduced scene-core that is only suited for angsty high schoolers refusing to accept their first heartbreak. From its falsely emotive instrumentation to its trite, melodramatic lyricism, this album is more of a temper tantrum than a fire inside.

The band’s newest bastardization of the punk movement that birthed it trades political relevance for narcissism, and spiritual grit for depressive self-obsession. Inspired by nothing more than emotional immaturity — and desperately pandering to the demographic that made AFI almost kind of famous — the appeal of The Blood Album will likely be limited to the new generation of bipolar minors. To call it “emo” would be predicated upon the dubious assumption that anything about this album is genuinely emotional: [LISTEN]

Still a Stranger

AFI captures neither hope nor despair with their whiney harmonies, which fall spectacularly short of the 90s punk gang lyrics (think Pennywise‘s “Bro Hymn”) they’re trying to imitate. They seem to recognize this, and spend the entire 14-song collection complaining about it in half-assed drum punches and shrill guitar riffs.

One reprieve from this painfully derivative soundscape is “White Offerings” — a song that’s hopeful in its vocal strength and hardcore influences. If you listen closely, you’ll hear the echo of AFI circa The Art of Drowningso long as you don’t pay close attention to the achingly redundant lyrics about paper birds and setting fire to the sky: [LISTEN]

White Offerings

Compared to records like Sing the Sorrow or the deeper tracks of Decemberunderground, The Blood Album is the unfortunate end to a pattern that began in Crash Love. AFI’s musical breakdowns have lost their signature touch. Havok’s brooding verses and scream-your-heart-out choruses have become caricatures of themselves. The last echo of punk has been lost to artificial melody and largely prepackaged subject matter.

If you heard Crash Love and thought it needed a more Imagine Dragons sound to it, then maybe you’ll enjoy The Blood Album. But anyone else may find themselves hoping the record will end long before it does.