For those who do not know, Blaqk Audio is the alt-electro side project consisting of Davey Havok and Jade Puget, more known for their efforts with AFI. Around the time Decemberunderground released, it was clear that AFI were trailing more toward a modern electronic sound. They did however maintain punk styles, mixing them with some alt-rock as well. The synthetic sound decidedly had an impact on the fan base, but not so much in the form of backlash. In fact, it really only seemed to heighten the band’s popularity. When CexCells released in 2007 under the Blaqk Audio name, it was extremely comparable to AFI’s previous, which released only a year prior.
Since 2007, Havok and Puget pieced together 13 more songs. They did it quite fast actually. In fact, AFI’s Crash Love was written after the tracks that show up on Bright Black Heaven. The reason for the delay was mainly due to the lack of an AFI release. They did not want to go back-to-back with Blaqk Audio.
So, 2012, and the 13 tracks a few years in age are finally presented in disc form. From the start it is clear that they have dived much deeper into the electronic sound. The previous release was more of a “side project” whereas this album feels more like a band dedicated to their genre. It displays an almost replicate nature to Violator by Depeche Mode. Some songs more than others of course, but the resemblance is clear throughout.
Honestly, my perception is flawed a bit. My reasoning is escalated by my spoiled mindset. Let me explain – CexCells was amazing for me, simply because it took everything I loved about AFI, added a large chunk of electronic flare and the result was terrific. Here, Havok and Puget have shown incredible growth, using their idols in a way to master what they can bring to the table. Instead of seeing the record for the growth and depth, I act spoiled and only want Decemberunderground/CexCells Part 2.
Getting past my complaining and childishness, “Bliss,” “Ill-Lit Ships” and “Say Red” are the three standout tracks of the album. Of course, they most closely resemble anything you would find on the debut record Havok and Puget released five years ago. But, the songs are clearly much darker than the rest. The major disappointment I had with the album was the life and color – something not so common to either band (AFI and Blaqk Audio, alike). Dark, haunting and full of despair, these three tracks cling to those concepts and do so in such a wonderful way. “Bliss” and “Ill-Lit Ships” are much darker, but “Say Red” has this very majestic breakdown to close out the track – you cannot help but enjoy it.
While my recollections of the album are variably mixed, I can claim to respect the accomplishment (which for those who know me, further respect of Davey Havok is nearly impossible). I can see exactly what work went into the record and the product is a stunning change from the debut. As a fan of AFI, you can only expect this kind of thing. Look at almost every album Havok has had some hand in – almost no duplicates, and more impressively, a complete 180-degree change in style over the past 20 years.
For Those Who Like: Depeche Mode‘s Violator – William Control‘s Silentium Amoris – AFI‘s Decemberunderground