Funeral For A Friend

Welcome Home Armageddon

Written by: TL on 21/03/2011 22:41:02

At some point or other, most music fans are going to air the cliché hipster sentiment "their old stuff was better", and while some bands escape it more than others, one that's probably heard it to death is Welsh quintet Funeral For A Friend. Stumbling into pole position of the emo-core wave with the release of their 2003 debut "Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation", FFAF have struggled since, and often seemingly in vain, trying to keep their momentum while developing their sound from its emo/metalcore roots, towards full-blown arena-rock. This development never went down very well with the established fanbase though, and critics soon started to suspect the band of fading relevance and lack of ideas.

You might have expected then, that after long time cornerstones bassist Gareth Ellis-Davies and guitarist Darran Smith left the band in 2009 and 2010 respectively, FFAF would let their greatest hits album "Your History Is Mine" serve as the band's last farewell. Instead though, Richard Boucher and Gavin Burrough were recruited from trusty bench-band Hondo Maclean (four out of six Hondo Maclean members are playing/have played in FFAF) to fill in on bass and guitar respectively.

Now upon entering the band and overtaking Smith's part of the song-writing, Burroughs chose to address the band as a fan rather than a member, suggesting that they should try to rediscover what things had inspired the band and made it good originally. And from the sound of this their fifth LP "Welcome Home Armageddon", it seems the other guys listened, because the record that some has called the band's best yet, entirely abandons the clean-cut chorus-orientation of its two predecessors, and focuses instead on dazzling the listener with busy metal and punk instrumentation. Hell, there are even some screams here and there for the fans that have been crying for their return.

The occasional return of the screams however, is largely inconsequential compared to the impact of said instrumentation. With punk-rock rhythms and guitar-riffs both melodic and metallic, Funeral For A Friend do their best to appear a band reborn, offering us listeners a more vivid and energetic experience than any of their last two albums did. While that in itself is encouraging however, what I think should really get most people's hopes up, is that the band seem to have finally broken a declining curve when it comes to having good, worthwhile hooks present on their albums. Plainly speaking, each FFAF album has had less catchy songs, and weaker ones at that, until now, with "Welcome Home Armageddon" providing numerous memorable moments in tracks like for instance "Old Hymns", "Sixteen", "Spinning Over The Island" and "Owls (Are Watching)".

When that's been said however, I do have a number of critical observations, and in regards to those calling this the band's best album to date, I'm tempted to laugh and accuse them of overly wishful thinking. Compared to the debut album, "Welcome Home Armageddon" still feels more straight-forward, and less urgent and dynamic in its range of emotion. The reason can possibly be found in the somewhat limited vocal offering of frontman Matthew Davies-Kreye, who doesn't appear to have improved much over the years, and in fact, the album's better moments often appear when backing vocals come in and provide contrast to his performance. Furthermore, while the hooks I mention as the album's strength are certainly better than those of "Memory And Humanity", and possibly also those of "Tales Don't Tell Themselves", I still remain to be convinced that they will stick with the listener as long as those of the two first albums.

Criticism aside, I'd like to emphasize that I still think this is an important album for the band moving forward, because it proves that they can in fact still produce a record that provides a listening experience that is consistent almost from end to end, as well a handful of songs that you'd actually look forward to hearing live. It may not be an heir to the throne of "Casually Dressed...", but it seems to suggest that FFAF are about to start rising up in relevance, rather than sliding down, and that I find is a serious and muscular achievement coming from a band that some of us was just about to count out.


Download: Old Hymns, Sixteen, Spinning Over The Island, Owls (Are Watching)
For The Fans Of: Silverstein, Yashin, Finch

Release Date 14.03.2011
Distiller Records/Good Fight

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