- Mon, 2011-02-28 11:43
Since battering their way into our consciousness at the forefront of a wave of young post-hardcore/screamo bands at the beginning of the new millennium, Funeral For A Friend have been reluctant to stand still, constantly pushing themselves to try new sounds. Admirable though their intentions have undoubtedly been, their exploratory instinct found itself expressed in a move away from their metal roots to melody-led hard rock; a move that many of their fans mourned. With a recent change in personnel and 2010’s The Young & Defenceless EP hinting at a return to rawer territory, the imminent arrival of the band’s fifth studio album, Welcome Home Armageddon, has raised the question: who are Funeral For A Friend in 2011?
Album opener This Side Of Brightness’ forty seconds of delicate, clean guitars tell us little about the album’s character, but Old Hymns is more revealing, bursting into life in a furious barrage of drums and punky chords and sounding for all the world like early Thrice. The vocals are still sung throughout, and as the song develops it swerves closer to the band’s more recent output, but there is an undeniable crackle of static in the air. The crackle becomes a full-blown thunderstorm on Front Row Seats To The End Of The World, on which chromatic riffs and screamed vocals break into a vintage soaring FFAF chorus. It’s the spirit of Seven Ways To Scream Your Name and Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation siphoned through the melodic sophistication of Hours and beyond.
So the album continues, the two sides of the band’s past sparring with each other, with the former for the most part coming out on top. Owls (Are Watching) and Medicated are the exceptions to that rule, their clean intros, slower passages and earnest vocals coming straight out of the Tales Don’t Tell Themselves/Memory & Humanity playbook, but this time around they stand shoulder to shoulder with busy riffs or darting treble lines. Sixteen also emphasises its melodic side above its punkier characteristics, but does so not with mature poise but the youthful exuberance suggested by its title
The remainder of the tracks are firmly seated in the post-hardcore camp. Aftertaste is dragged along at full speed by some seriously furious drumming, Broken Foundation’s brutal beginning presages a feast of shouted vocals, sing-along choruses and a screaming guitar solo, while Man Alive’s harmonised treble runs are an example of the band’s fleet fingers at their best. The two highlights are Spinning Over The Island and Damned If You Do, Dead If You Don’t, the former of which charges towards a climax of juggernaut riffing via a brief calming middle eight, and the latter of which hurtles through shredding guitars and marching beats to a glorious gang-vocal conclusion.
Welcome Home Armageddon is the sound of Funeral For A Friend re-exploring the raucous spirit of their earliest work, but investing it with the melodic lessons that they’ve learnt in the intervening period. Their riffs are as furious and intricate as they have ever been and their choruses as catchy. Whether the end result fits into the landscape of metal music as it lies today is debatable, but it should leave the vast majority of Funeral For A Friend’s fans very happy indeed.