Twenty Years Later

When daylight forms blinding walls, where do we go? The darkness calls.

Black Sails in the Sunset was my first real introduction to the band. I had heard of them before, thanks to the Third Season video that used to get played on Fuse a lot back in the late 90s, and I liked that song because the chorus was fun to sing along with, and I had also seen the Totalimmortal video once and thought it was just about the coolest thing ever, but I really had no idea who AFI were. Lucky for me, I used to hang out with a kid in middle school whose older brother was a fan, and he was nice enough to burn this album for me, along with Shut Your Mouth and The Art of Drowning, which had been released only a few weeks before. I remember sitting in my room one night after he brought the burned copies to school with him, these plain Memorex CDs with the album titles scribbled in blue sharpie on the front. I honestly had no idea what to expect, except fast and loud.

I had headphones and a walkman CD player which I had to use to listen to this, because I just knew my crazy strict, ultra-conservative religious parents would think it was bad and something I shouldn’t be listening to and take them away from me. So in the middle of the night, after my parents thought I had gone to bed, under the covers with the lights off, I chose to listen to this one, Black Sails, first because I liked the title the most.

I just remember my first reactions being something like, this music is so loud and aggressive, it’s almost frightening, but I like it, I’ve never heard anything like it, I can’t even tell what he’s saying, what is this??? But I couldn’t stop listening and I let it play all the way through, and I remember I had such a splitting headache afterward hahaha. But I found myself wanting to listen to this album all the time, and I did, every night, for weeks, and I became a huge fan almost immediately. I had no lyrics to read so I tried to piece together what Davey was singing about myself. I remember being totally shocked the first time I heard The Last Kiss and thinking that surely I wasn’t hearing those lyrics correctly. I wasn’t even certain what exactly this music was about, but it was way heavier than anything my naive little pre-teen self had ever considered listening to before. I could tell it was dark, and I could tell that whatever Davey was singing about was honest and real. It was music like I’d never experienced it before.

Breathe in the life of the summer’s death as the orange and red breathe their first breath, so welcome as they’re burning through.

When I was old enough to finally purchase this album and the others for myself, is when I realized the full emotional gravity of this band. Black Sails is, to this day, probably the angriest music I have ever heard. It is explosive from beginning to end, even when they slow it down a bit in Clove Smoke Catharsis and God Called in Sick Today. This is a damn near perfect album in my opinion. I became more of a metalhead in my late teens and I still am, but this is still my second most favorite album of all time, outmatched only by Sing the Sorrow and followed very closely by The Art of Drowning. The beauty of Davey’s lyrics cannot be overstated in any of those albums, but here they are so brutally honest in a way that’s almost provocative, and the misanthropic themes are something I’d waited my entire life to hear someone express with the same depth I myself feel. I just remember hearing this album and feeling such a bizarre connection to these four guys who I had never even met, like we were very much alike in a way I can’t explain, and when I felt (still feel) all my life like I’m too strange and freakish that I don’t belong anywhere in this universe because I am nothing like any of the people I know in person, cannot understand them and they cannot understand me, I realized that as lonely and alienated as I feel, and as isolated as I have always been physically, I am not alone. Not truly. There are others who think just like I do, who feel just like I do.

What if I could go to sleep for days, would you count the hours, or would your restlessness consume fading memories of me?

Black Sails in the Sunset has always felt, to me, like a declaration of war against humanity. It’s not just being fed up with other people’s bullshit; it’s more like a realization of how cruel human beings actually are, and a conscious separation from them, a willingness to not be part of them. Black sails in the sunset…it’s like a farewell, but in solitude there is also power and freedom. Davey’s vocal delivery on this album is incredible. I have never heard anyone scream their soul out with utmost conviction like this before or since, and despite the darkness and seriousness of the lyrical content, it never ceases to be somehow uplifting.

The gardens have all been overgrown. I pushed my hand through the thorns just to crush the final rose.

This album has only become more relevant to me as I’ve gotten older. I don’t think I really began to have a real understanding of it until I was about Davey’s age when he penned these lyrics. I don’t believe I truly understood it until I was about 26 years old. I have been alone all my life, and in desperately seeking not to be alone, I remained in a violent sexually exploitative, physically and psychologically abusive relationship for years - and then was promptly abandoned because I’m too crazy and disabled and fucked up to deserve love and all of that had been my fault and I had deserved it all. The entire experience was so dehumanizing that I no longer perceived myself as a human being - if I ever did - and this album was the only thing that taught me to even try to learn how to treat myself like a human being. Because I really had to face it then - it’s not like anyone else ever had or was ever going to. I blasted this album for like two years, non-stop, day and night. It was the only thing that made sense. And really since then I’ve been a lot more okay with my differences and my aloneness…

In an instant, my life just slipped away. I fought for life the whole time you were holding me down. You watched me dying. Holding me down, you brought my rebirth.

In 2019, this album still sounds new and exciting to me, even though I’ve spent probably hundreds of hours with it over the years. There is a timelessness to it, and even though the production isn’t nearly as good as, say, Sing the Sorrow, I think the raw, gritty imperfection just adds to its emotional impact. Everything about it sounds natural and passionate. Davey’s lyrics border on almost a gothic fantasy of sorts, which never fail to elicit strong emotions and sensory experiences for me, in which I feel like I’ve been transported to some sacred past - definitely not the same tedious reality in which I live. The song order is brilliant, instrumentally it’s tight as hell…I mean I don’t really know what else I can say about it. Like I said before, it’s a damn near perfect album. I can’t think of much else that could have possibly made it better.

So here’s to you, Black Sails. I’m looking forward to another 20 years of rocking out to this beautiful racket.


You wrote this beautifully. And Black Sails is one of my all time faves (it might actually be my favorite album).


Thank you. :slight_smile:

It’s actually really difficult to express in words exactly how I feel about this album. I could write an entire book about it and I’d still have more to say, I’m sure.


Very Well written … by far my favourite AFI and all time album


I just want to say that I am still so in love with this band. My feelings toward their pre-DU output haven’t changed a bit even after all these years. Always and forever my favorite band. None will ever compare. :black_heart:


You are a beautiful writer. Thank you for sharing your story with this album. I wish I could articulate my feelings in a way half as good as this.


Thank you so much. I don’t believe I am but I have really strong feelings about this album. This music is powerful enough that it was capable of changing some really deeply held beliefs about myself that I had. I mean I realize I stayed in that relationship because I’ve been treated that way since I was very young, and I was taught to believe that I was responsible for other people’s violent behavior toward me. And I punished myself physically for a long time for my ex’s behavior toward me because I was blamed for that too, and told over and over that I’m the abusive one and that I’m “crazy”, it was so bad I really felt like my mind was permanently broken. There was no amount of therapy that could even begin to help, and they pedaled this bullshit about “forgiveness” and how being alone is “unhealthy”. I can tell you with absolute certainty that being alone is not anywhere near as unhealthy as staying around people who are hellbent on destroying you. And anyone who refuses to acknowledge my humanity and treats me accordingly does not deserve my forgiveness. This album helped me embrace my solitude, where I’ve learned to find a lot of peace, and I believe I have a very real need to be alone. As for other people…they have two choices from now on: they can treat me like a human being, or they can fuck off. Because I really don’t give a damn either way, but I’ve drawn a line in the sand here. This album really opened my eyes to a new perspective and made me realize a horrifying truth about people, which I had always taken the blame for.

Sorry for getting into the deeply personal, but this is a deeply personal album for me. It doesn’t hurt that the music still absolutely rips, either.


Black Sails was my introduction to AFI and remains my favorite album to this day.
I cannot believe it’s been twenty years.


You did well, this album holds dear to many of our hearts.

I don’t think this album will ever quit being relevant, ever.

Words to fucking live by.


I first heard black sails at age 13, and it instantly became my favorite AFI album. I didn’t understand a lot of the lyrics (and had to break out the dictionary a lot, thanks davey), but I liked the raw energy and emotion in the album. Now 13 years later at age 26, it’s still my favorite AFI album. But now I understand the pain, the loneliness, the despair, the beauty, the darkness, the hope behind all the lyrics. It’s haunting, it’s perfect. The older I get, the more relevant this album becomes

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@Midnightrunner It’s all fucking true. All of it. Every single word.

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I believed and still believe that if you took a community vote on everyone’s ULTIMATE favorite AFI song… God Called in Sick Today would be it.

It’s one of the only songs that include Davey singing and (scream)singing… plus it’s just an overall beautiful song.

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Great write up. I’m totally with you regarding your favorite albums (StS>Black Sails>Art of Drowning) Those three albums are in a class by themselves. Incomparable to others.

I also think that this band, more than any other, are capable of hitting home with fans in a way that will last all our lives.


Very beautifully written, it amazes me that so many people were touched so emotionally and deeply by this band. They are perhaps the only band I know of to do this in the long term on so many people. Sing the sorrow was my introduction to the band, my introduction to music and rock music in general, the reason I picked up a guitar, and continues to inspire me to this day. Somehow this music is the only music I’m still listening to after 20 years, all the other bands which I have enjoy it over the years lack the timelessness. For some reason this music evokes emotions, smells, taste, that indiscernible excitement which seems to hang in the air which you associate with certain memories, I’m not sure how something so beautiful ever came to exist but it shaped me in a way nothing else in my life did. Although musically I have taken a much different direction my heart still swoons for Davey and still there is nothing that puts such a flutter in my heart as the aesthetics of their music.

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Thank you…although I don’t know why everyone is saying it’s beautifully written; it’s just my thoughts and feelings…

AFI was really my introduction to music as well. I didn’t have a real interest in music until I discovered them, and that led me to digging for more obscure genres and bands. I’m way into metal now, have been for about a decade or so, but I still listen to AFI. There are few bands I feel have this “timeless” factor…I can think of a few which I’ve been listening to since I was about 15 or so, and that music was already old when I discovered it.

Have to agree with you about Davey, too. I’ll be the first to admit I still have such a huge mancrush on that man. Show me any interview from the Sing the Sorrow era especially and I could just die haha. Wish I could have even 10% of that confidence.

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It’s written beautifully because it comes from the heart. Very heartfelt post. I too got into metal and all sorts of different genres but but AFI continues to be probably my favorite band of all time. Davey’s voice is extremely haunting and chilling to the bone there is nothing else like it in the music world, period. He’s also an extremely talented poet. I think these things more than anything else are what contributes to his mysterious allure, trust me me and you aren’t the only ones in love with him haha.

Thank you. :slightly_smiling_face:

I completely agree. AFI was always alone in the world stylistically. They just have a very unique feel to them which I don’t believe any other band will ever be able to recreate. Even among some obscure genres of metal you can still find a small handful of bands that sound somewhat similar and who were typically influenced by each other, but AFI was always something entirely different, especially around the time they wrote The Art of Drowning and Sing the Sorrow. There’s a lot of factors why, and I think a lot of it comes down to how Jade and Hunter play together, but I often think the four of these guys were meant to play in a band with each other. Their sound is completely unmistakable.

And I have to agree about Davey’s voice. It was one of the very first things I ever noticed about them and his vocals on Sing the Sorrow especially are the most beautiful I have ever heard.