AFI’s third album, Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes, was a noticeable move forward for the band. Gone were the head-bopping skate-punk anthems of their previous two full-lengths. In their stead, were a much more forceful and menacing set of songs, accentuated by heavier guitar tracks and darker lyrical content. The shift in sound was certainly profound, but it worked. In fact, it brought AFI to new heights of popularity and acclaim.
From the opening pick slide, it was evident that there was simply a different feel to Shut Your Mouth… Where Answer That & Stay Fashionable and Very Proud of Ya drew heavily on the melodic foundation of the Berkeley, CA. punk lineage, it was clear that AFI’s third full-length meant to diversify. Davey’s vocals were far heavier and complemented a similarly heavy guitar sound. “Let It Be Broke,” for example, was a demonstrably hardcore song in delivery. Sure there were elements of the vocal melodies from releases past, but here was a song that offered a viscerally angry Davey Havok and a closing breakdown that’s as apt for a Sick of It All song as what was for AFI. Similar enmity and heaviness was evidenced on their cover of Filth’s “Today’s Lesson,” “Coin Return,” and “pH Low.” All three songs reinforced the foundationally darker side of AFI that was a welcome development in the band’s sound.
And yet for all of the chaotic aggression captured on Shut Your Mouth…, the record was also to be a portent for the Misfits-influenced macabre rock sound that AFI would harness on their later records. “Third Season,” with Davey’s eerie vocal patterns complemented by Hunter’s bass-driven melodies, certainly predates the sound the band was to hone on Black Sails in the Sunset and The Art of Drowning. The same should certainly be said for the record’s closer “Triple Zero.” But it’s mostly with the record’s most celebrated song, “A Single Second,” that AFI’s evolution was so clearly evidenced. The song was at once exemplary of the aforementioned heaviness of the record but also the complex vocal melodies that AFI was to become so well known for. Davey and Nick 13’s vocals on the song’s chorus were infectiously catchy, and certainly a preview of the where AFI was headed in terms of their overall sound.
Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes was in many ways a transitional record for AFI. They were going through lineup changes that would forever influence the band, particularly the emergence of The Force’s Hunter Bergan on bass. The record was also the bedrock on which their progression towards an ominous dark rock sound would be built. And even with all of that tangential noise aside, the record was great in its own right. It offered something to all kinds of listeners, no easy feat then or now. Listening to it twenty years later, it stirs great memories of an AFI who was not yet in the mainstream rock stratosphere. Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes was, and remains, one of AFI’s strongest records because of its start to finish authenticity and quality.