AFI are not usually big on surprises. Typically, this band follows a pretty predictable release schedule: they release an LP every three years or so. This time, though, AFI decided to bless their fans with a new EP, The Missing Man. Out Friday, December 7th through Rise Records, The Missing Man contains five tracks that see AFI taking some bold steps in new directions. Produced by the band’s guitarist, Jade Puget, The Missing Man attempts to toe the line between raw and polished – and succeeds.
It is a marvel when a band can still manage to produce exciting new music after twenty-five years, but consistently solid tunes from a band like AFI should be no surprise. Born out of the Northern California Hardcore scene in 1991, AFI has since released ten LPs including 2017’s excellent self-titled release, affectionately called The Blood Album by fans. Where The Blood Album often featured lush, polished tracks, The Missing Man finds power in raw feeling.
Not wasting a single second, Vocalist Davey Havok chimes in within the first few moments of opener “Trash Bat.” The slight hints of melodrama in his vocal delivery and the bloody, incongruent imagery the lyrics conjure should feel familiar to AFI listeners. “Break Angels” and “Back Into The Sun,” however, do not fit neatly into any category. “Back Into the Sun” feels especially revelatory as it harkens back to early Alternative with its crashing drums and thick guitar layers. The result is something entirely new and exciting for the band, once again proving that they can tackle just about any sound they desire while still making it feel distinctly AFI.
Lead single “Get Dark” gave listeners their first taste of The Missing Man. A smart move, as this track has smacks of AFI’s classic characteristics. A memorable guitar solo, quick-tempoed drums, and a chugging bass riff combine to make “Get Dark” what is sure to be an instant fan-favorite. Havok’s vocal performance feels unpolished and raw, capturing that electric energy of a live performance. Where it feels like there should be raw screams, Havok instead opts for clean melodies, pushing the boundaries of what listeners expect while still evoking excitement. The verses and chorus might be simple, but there is a challenge and invitation in the lyrics as Havok asks, “Who do you think you are? Do you think you can get dark?”
Title track “A Missing Man” is a stark contrast to the fuzzed-out Punk beats of “Get Dark” or “Trash Bat.” Somber and deeply personal, “A Missing Man” is a slow burn, placing its focus on Havok’s lyrics and vocals by utilizing minimalist, clean guitar melodies.
After over twenty-five years together, AFI are still producing fresh music and experimenting with their sound. By borrowing from their past and gazing toward the future, The Missing Man feels like both a classic AFI record and a bold reinvention. Each AFI release has its own distinct tones and moods – The Missing Man is no different. Its imagery and lyrics are tinged with gloom, but brighter melodies coupled with clean vocal performances breathe life into these tracks. Overall, the EP might not seem entirely cohesive, but The Missing Man boasts its own characteristic sound unlike anything AFI have done. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives The Missing Man 4.5 out of 5 stars.