Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Miseria Cantare

For over two months, I have attempted to write a review of an album that has completely taken over my musical mind. In part, this control is due to my inability to achieve what seems such a simple goal-- I am seldom at a loss for words. Mostly, it is simply the fact that the album is just that good.

The music I speak of is A.F.I.'s Sing the Sorrow.

Every aspect of this album is promethean. In fact, it is precisely this fact that has caused so much delay in this review. It is the nature of a review to attempt to convey an understanding of the content of some artistic work in an alternative medium. In so doing, it is inevitable that some essence of the original will be lost, and this loss is an accepted part of the effort.

I have simply been unwilling to accept that loss in this case. A rose, once picked, can be shared with a wider audience-- but it can and will die more quickly than if left to florish. Pressed and dried, it retains a certain beauty, but not the beauty of the original. Nonetheless, at some point in time, it becomes necessary to inflict this damage if there is any hope that others might gain for themselves the desire to travel through the garden and discover the truth for themselves. So, here it is.

WARNING: my musical tastes run wide and deep. While I will never consider for a moment correlating the quality of a musical effort with decibels, I will also not shirk away from decrying the value of music others might consider...harsh. Such is this album. Harsh, dark, and expressive. If you are in any way unable to deal with the artistic rendering of tragedy, this album is not for you. You have been warned.

Musically, the range is amazing. Elements of folk, symphonic, grunge, and even accompanied poetic recital fill the senses with their depth, creating quintessential aesthesis. Pointedly counterpunctual, harmonically discordant, naturally synthetic, energetically forlorn-- all come together in a schadenfreude that is not only encouraged, but demanded. Know the pain, and love the pain. To do less is to diminish the accomplishment.

Vocally, Davey Havok (along with a variety of backup vocals, including choral) carries the music even further by serving not just as a conduit for lyrical expression, but as an instrument unto itself. Never afraid to be unclear if that is what the music demands, this instrument, like the others, is perfectly aligned with the needs of the work. Smooth as silk, harsh as a dentist's drill; soft as a rose petal, hard as a steel beam. Here is a voice in torment, attempting a sisyphean catharsis that, rather than purging the soul of bile, seems to emasculate the heart.

Lyrically, this work brings to mind the classical tragedy of Every Opera Ever Written. Expressed through a singularly self-absorbed perspective that no staged play could effectively convey, the personal involvement in the pain is all the more engaging. Interestingly introspective, the song (secretly titled) This Time Imperfect contains an autological reference that contextually describes this essence:

"There are no flowers, no, not this time
There will be no angels gracing the lines,
Just these stark words I find."


As I mentioned earlier, there is no expression, formed in a medium other than the original sound, that can come close to providing what is available through Sing the Sorrow. If you have the emotional wherewithal to withstand the assault, I encourage you to absorb the essence of this effort. It is most assuredly worth the anguish to realize that in this age of cookie-cutter bands performing me-too works of profiteering, there are still those true artists who want nothing more than to express the full depth of human emotion.

A Fire Inside are just such artists, and Sing the Sorrow is just such an expression.


Jason said...

Your descriptions of A.F.I.'s Sing the Sorrow was spot on. After reading your review I left my office during the middle of the work day to make my way to the local music store. I came away with the CD and have not put it down since. It is a fantastic piece of work.

Thanks for your review!

10:19 PM  

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