AFI's tenth set continues the California quartet's maturity and stylistic evolution. The self-titled album -- also known as "The Blood Album" -- draws from each period of their ever-changing past, offering fans of each stage something to enjoy. Of course, as with every AFI album released after 1999, polarizing commentary is likely to bubble up, lamenting how they just don't sound like they used to, which, as of 2017, is over two decades in the past. At this stage in their career, it should be apparent that the sound of those early records isn't coming back. They've been a different band since 2003's breakthrough Sing the Sorrow and haven't looked back since, morphing from youthful hardcore to dramatic goth to this, a punk-influenced take on new wave and post-punk. On AFI, the band delivers competent rock blasts -- like the "Silver and Cold" redux "Snow Cats" and emo-punk "Hidden Knives" -- that are as accessibly pleasing as "Miss Murder" and "Girl's Not Grey," while making sure to toss in a few throwbacks to retain the faithful and adding groovier rhythmic numbers that recall frontman Davey Havoc and guitarist/producer Jade Puget's work as the alterna-dance duo Blaqk Audio. Those latter tracks -- "Aurelia," "Above the Bridge," and "Feed from the Floor" -- are highlights on AFI, as atmospheric and vulnerably seductive as major influences the Cure, Joy Division, and Depeche Mode. Indeed, album closer "The Wind That Carries Me Away" is AFI's direct nod to the desert swagger of Depeche Mode's "I Feel You," buffered by soaring harmonies and sprawling open-sky grandeur. For the old-school fans still at the party, a handful of energetic standouts are the closest AFI come to anything resembling their "classic" punk sound. "Still a Stranger" is packed with Havoc's pleading, emotive vocals atop a jittery pogo, while the bitter "So Beneath You" seethes with a rebellious spirit buffered by a wall of muscle provided by Puget, bassist Hunter Burgan, and drummer Adam Carson. Meanwhile, "Dumb Kids" is as ferocious and breakneck as the band gets on AFI, and "White Offerings" is basically "The Leaving Song, Pt. 3." There's certainly enough here to prove that post-Nitro AFI are a better and stronger group, unafraid to continue pushing their sound with each release.
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AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung