The Missing Man is the latest release from sad punk legends AFI. Hot on the heels of 2017’s Blood Album, this newest EP is a slightly more raw sounding mashup of post-punk and hard rock. The Missing Man didn’t sweep me off my feet, but the five-track release is solid enough for a few revisits.
Before we delve into the release, I think it’s important to know that I’ve never really given a shit about AFI. I’ve heard the band at numerous points before this, but I have no real attachment to any one era of the band. As such, I don’t really care about the musical roots that the band has supposedly abandoned in later releases, nor do I long for the peak emo days of Sing the Sorrow or DECEMBERUNDERGROUND. With that long preamble out of the way, let’s get into The Missing Man.
The EP starts off with the song “Trash Bat,” one of the more hard-hitting numbers on the EP. While I wouldn’t say the track is my favourite, its interesting guitar work and no-nonsense runtime make it one of the standouts on the release. “Break Angels” is another solid track, with a gloomy, Cure-esque opening passage and a very strong vocal performance from Davey Havok. My favourite song on The Missing Man, however, is “Back Into the Sun.” The song is a bit of an oddball, with much more of an alt rock feel to it than the rest of the EP. Guitarist Jade Puget changes it up a fair bit on the track, toning back the thin, melodic playing heard on the previous tracks in favour of a heavier, more rhythm-based style. Havok’s vocals take a turn as well. Sure, there’s the usual soaring chorus, but his dulled down singing in the verses is a really nice change of pace. All in all, “Back Into the Sun” is a weird sounding track that I just keep going back to.
The remaining two songs are where The Missing Man lost me. “Get Dark” tries to bring back the high energy feel that “Trash Bat” set in place but is a far less interesting track. The instrumental is bland, and, by the third chorus, the band just sounds desperate to establish the tune as a sing-along at live shows. I’ve seen the titular closing track praised for being a step away from sounds explored on any previous AFI releases, but I do not understand the hype. I’ll admit that the dark guitar melodies caught my attention at first, but the song never really builds up to anything and seems to simply drag on.
I really can’t tell you how The Missing Man stacks up against AFI’s extensive back catalogue. If you’re a long-term fan of the band, this EP might carry some more weight. On its own, however, I can say that I enjoyed the majority of The Missing Man.
Written by Justin Bruce
*edited by Danielle Kenedy