Sing the Sorrow

Sing the Sorrow

In 2003, AFI (or A Fire Inside) found themselves on the cusp of fame with their sixth studio album. Before Sing the Sorrow, the gothic quartet of singer Davey Havok, guitarist Jade Puget, bassist Hunter Burgan, and drummer Adam Carson spent years perfecting a kind of romantic hardcore-meets-horror punk on California indie label Nitro. Suddenly, they’d found their way to the big leagues: a deal with DreamWorks Records, a move from playing punk clubs like 924 Gilman Street to arenas, the opportunity to work with famed producers Jerry Finn (known for his work with Green Day, blink-182, Sum 41, and Rancid) and Butch Vig (Nirvana’s Nevermind, The Smashing Pumpkins, Muse), and a series of singles that proved the mainstream was ready for their particular brand of melodic melancholy. Thematically, Sing the Sorrow spans the darkest corners of the most alienated minds: self-mutilation, suicide, a general sense of disillusionment presented as poetry in swaggering genre play: post-hardcore, emo, goth, grunge, and beyond. Programmed by Puget, blasts of electronic noise echo in an empty room; church bells toll, distorted guitars build, drums hit like a militaristic cadence: “Love! Your Hate! Your! Faith Lost! You! Are now! One! Of Us!” the band launches into gang chants on the album’s opener, “Miseria Cantare—The Beginning.” The track sets the tone for what remains one of AFI’s most dynamic releases: the post-hardcore “The Leaving Song, Pt. 2,” the cold-wave synth detour of the raging “Death of Seasons,” and the plucky, palm-muted guitar riff that softens the verse in “Silver and Cold,” allowing them to go full-throttle in the chorus. “Girl’s Not Grey,” the best-known track of the bunch, with its uptempo punky pop—far faster than the other rock songs on the radio at the time—and chanted call-and-response lyrics, almost didn’t happen. After the band finished writing Sing the Sorrow, they decided they needed one more track. Puget bunkered down in a hotel room in Toronto as a final exercise, Havok penned some quick lyrics, and “Girl’s Not Grey” was born—a perfect distillation of the band’s most identifiable signatures: an anthemic chorus, a broken-down middle-eight, a cheerful approach to life’s frustrations. AFI has long been a band to resonate with the eyeliner’d masses—young people inclined to mirror Havok’s ethical code (veganism, abstaining from drugs and alcohol, endeavoring to be a good person) and outsiderness. Turns out, that emotion—feeling alone in this world, out of step with the crowd—is a universal one. There’s nothing more mainstream than sensing that you don’t belong.

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