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AFI, an unusual hard-rock band, recruited veteran producers Butch Vig and Jerry Finn an unusual duo to produce its major-label debut, Sing the Sorrow.

Vig made his name producing Nirvana's Nevermind, and built on his heavy but dreamy style with Smashing Pumpkins and Garbage (for whom Vig drums). Conversely, Finn is known for work with Green Day and Blink-182, punks who you'll never (really) catch frowning, and whose hooks are as sugary as they are snotty. No surprise, then, that AFI, whose predilection is to go dark, feels the freedom to challenge itself, dipping into gothic electro, grunge and metal balladry without losing the notion that it's creating uplifting pop songs. It's Vig for sound and diversity, Finn for structure and glory.

Examine Sing the Sorrow's opener, "Miseria Cantare The Beginning." The song is at once a soundtrack for hell and a football anthem, spine-tingling and catchy as hell. Ominous industrial drums and spooky keyboard effects build as band members, portraying Vikings, chant sentiments like "You are now one of us," and singer Davey Havok wails something about "one dark flame."

The band meshes moods even more effectively on "Girl's Not Grey," which on first listen you might swear is a pissed-off Blink-182. No doubt it's intended as a sing-along punk anthem with a chorus that intones "What follows me as the whitest lace of light/What follows just begs to be imbrued?" The band is still working hard to be meaningful, but like Billy Corgan's anti-music-biz screed "Cherub Rock," it stuffs the darkness into a groovy chorus, so that "What follows!" stays in your brain for days. And in the music, AFI indulges in the Pumpkin's chord athleticism shit's trickier than you think. Thanks to meticulous planning, AFI launches into nu-metal without falling into nu-metal laziness.