This is the 3rd AFI release that I've reviewed so I'll refrain from bumping up my word count by repeating too much of their background! A quick summary is that they made hardcore punk before moving towards a more gothic and even theatrical style around the turn of the century. Their 4th album 'Black Sails in the Sunset'(May 1999) was their first album with the newer, darker sound and this evolved on their next album 'The Art of Drowning'(September 2000) . This 4 track EP was released in October 1999 was the segue between the two albums.
The artwork features a dark comic book style scene comprising a scarecrow with a pumpkin head, a bat, a sinister looking tree and a scary cat! This was representative of the new metaphors and symbols that were to become the band's style. Dark imagery revolving around themes such as death and vampires became their staple lyrics.
The EP begins with 'Fall Children' and it's a great track. It's probably about the night coming to life on Halloween and the gathering of kids. After the initial 30 seconds it turns to a ridiculously fast song with Davey Havok shouting at the top of his lungs and some of the best backing vocals you will ever hear. One of my all time favourite AFI tracks.
Second track 'Halloween' is a cover of a Misfits song and is one of a few covers of this band that AFI have done. The Misfits are known to be big influences on AFI and some people even described their early work as being similar to a tribute band. The original is from the early 80s and is quite a scuzzy, muffled sound. The AFI version is a much cleaner sound but the melody and lyrics are the same. The main part of the song is less than 2 minutes long but this version actually has an outro that lasts another couple of minutes. This consists of horror movie style pianos etc.
'The Boy Who Destroyed the World' is similar in parts to the first track but not as good. It's another very fast punk track and it's about the loss of innocence as we grow up.
The last track 'Total Immortal' is also one of my favourite AFI tracks. I suspect that this is the song that most fans would also say was their favourite. I'm not sure what the song is about but I think it may be either ghosts or dreaming. The music is heavy from the first second and doesn't let up. The vocals are great, similarly the backing vocals and it's an exhilarating 2:44. It encapsulates everything that is good about this band.
The 'All Hallows EP' is fantastic and it's a shame that it's an EP rather than an album.
*This review is my own work although I may post it elsewhere on the internet.
Before they became a mainstream/sell-out rock band (delete as appropriate), Californian goth-punks AFI were the most consistent and prolific staple of Nitro Records, a punk label owned by the Offsprings Dexter Holland and Greg K. Released in time for Halloween 1999, the All Hallows E.P. contains three completely original songs and one highly appropriate Misfits cover, all of which stand up equally against the material of the lengthier albums surrounding this release, namely 1999s Black Sails in the Sunset and 2000s The Art of Drowning. Stylistically, thematically and production-wise, this E.P. forms a perfect bridge between those two landmark releases, and for fans it should be considered an essential companion piece (and thankfully, a cheap one too).
Its not clear whether AFI had these songs lying around and wanted to lay them down on CD quickly rather than waiting for the next album (which turned out not to be lacking in high quality material itself), or if a conscious decision was taken to rush out a short release to cash in on the Halloween season, but either way the songs bear no tell-tale signs of being unfinished or otherwise rushed into production. With the obvious exception of the Misfits cover song, each track follows a new direction based on the bass-driven, slightly aggressive sound of Black Sails in the Sunset, while incorporating some of the lead guitars that would later characterise The Art of Drowning, similarly featuring a mix of Davey Havoks punk yell and softer singing, though tilted in favour of the former. As a fan of both of those albums, this E.P. is surprisingly satisfying as a middle ground, and along with the earlier and even more distinctive A Fire Inside E.P. it should form a part of any dedicated fans collection.
1. Fall Children
3. The Boy Who Destroyed the World
This thirteen minute E.P. plays out pretty much as would be expected, with a couple of quite glaring and disappointing deviations. The music is fast and highly energetic, the lyrics are intelligent and soppy enough to make goth girls cry happy tears, and the polished production gives everything a clean and inoffensive feel, far removed from the dirty garage punk of the bands predecessors and influences. This is something that counts against the cover of the Misfits Halloween, which entirely lacks the spookiness of the original by polishing up the guitars and, unavoidably, substituting Havoks adolescent yelp in place of Glenn Danzigs immortal croon, but the cover of this simplistic song is performed adequately and largely inoffensively. AFIs own material appears far more complex and progressive in comparison, each of the three songs featuring a significant break of style at one point to offer something more reflective despite the relatively short playing time of each, and all three would stand out among the finest songs of even the best AFI album.
Starting from the top, Fall Children begins with a sort of quiet invocation before launching into full-blown punk rock with everyone working at full pelt, and Hunter Burgans clunking bass leads the rip-roaring verses along as Jade Pugets guitars rise and fall. This style continues into The Boy Who Destroyed the World, as does the tendency for the band to shout backing woah-oah-oahs in unison to punctuate each of Havoks lines, and theres even an extended woah-oah-oah-oah-oah-oah section presumably aimed at live audiences, reminiscent of similar sections tactfully inserted for the same purpose into everything released by Iron Maiden. The Boy Who Destroyed the World is, if anything, even better than the first song, introduced by a brief drum roll from Adam Carson (winning the prize for band member with the least adventurous name), and managing to stay fun and upbeat despite its forlorn subject matter that nevertheless avoids spiralling into true despair or anger. The final, shortest song Totalimmortal is the best of the lot, and was soon released as a black-and-white music video showing the band hanging around some graves to show how goth they are, with the most creative and memorable guitar and bass lines taking turns to show off. Its bouncy, meaningful, pleasant and once again sneaks in a tempo change with a bass-driven bit towards the end, though Ive always found the higher-pitched moments of the chorus to be a little piercing. Still, thats nothing compared to the truly grating performance of Dexter Holland when the Offspring covered it for the film Me, Myself & Irene.
Theres a further problem with this album beyond occasional cringe-inducing shrieks, and it comes with the devious and ultimately irritating addition of pointless interludes between the songs, seemingly in an attempt to make the E.P. appear longer than it actually is. Fall Children ends with about thirty seconds of what sounds like a typical childs musical mobile or lullaby and The Boy Who Destroyed the World ends with an abrupt thunderclap followed by some rain for a short time, both of which are acceptable and add a little character to the songs, but my main objection comes with the time-wasting outro of Halloween, which lasts nearly two minutes and is thus even longer than the song itself, which ends around the 1:40 mark. Its not even creative or fun, sounding simply like someone has opened up a piano to mess around with its innards for a couple of minutes, and theres no way anyone listening to this E.P. more than once would fail to skip it in frustration. These grievances aside, the All Hallows E.P. was the last great in-between offering from AFI and their final release of the 90s; one that will still be highly in demand as the band achieves greater and greater success, as the songs still remain unique to this recording.
The big question we have to ask, on this of all days, is how accurately does the E.P. reflect the spirit of Halloween? The answer is, not a great deal: like all AFI of this era, the gothic sentiment is there, but its all wrapped up in upbeat guitars and energetic, boyish yelling rather than anything truly horror-inspired like the earlier work of the Misfits, and this extends to the cover art. Alan Forbes was AFIs regular artist during their tenure with Nitro (he also illustrated the Offsprings Conspiracy of One around the same time), and the cover art of this E.P. is slightly inferior to his work on the surrounding albums. There are a few Halloween staples, namely a scarecrow, pumpkins (on the back cover) and a sort of cat, but the whole thing is a little too cartoonish. The main problem comes in the chirpy colour scheme, which doesnt even include a properly darkened sky, and despite the many years Ive owned this release, Ive never been able to look at that yellow band logo without thinking of bananas.
And whats so scary about bananas?
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Fall Children
3 The Boy Who Destroyed The World