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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Album Review: Funeral For A Friend - Welcome Home Armageddon

It’s 2005 and Funeral For A Friend are a band on top of their game. They’ve crept up and stunned us with their debut album and followed it up with a wodge of incredible live shows and a, supposedly difficult, second album that, if anything, makes our hearts beat even more rapidly. Fast-forward to the present day and, following the double cardiac arrests that two uninspiring, sterile album releases represent, and with guitarist Darran Smith following bassist Gareth Davies out the door, they now appear to be a band on the critical list. There is but one glimmer of hope, a faint pulse, that I, personally, clung onto before I span this latest effort, and that was that last year’s fan-funded EP definitely felt more urgent, passionate, grittier. To see a couple of tracks from it lurking on Welcome Home Armageddon is not necessarily a bad thing then.

Well I’m happy to report our patient is out and about and doing well. It’s softer and more subtle, but the 44-second guitar intro ‘This Side Of Brightness’ evokes the opening to the magnificent ‘History’ from their 2005 album Hours. Thinking about it, it’s a little stroke of genius and it sets you up for reminiscing fondly on times when FFAF albums used to weld themselves to our souls with triumphant melodics, containing both smooth and rough edges, and addictive lyrics delivered with feeling. The following track here, ‘Old Hymns’ disconcertingly speaks those thoughts back at us – “I used to mean something to you, but I turned and left you in the cold”. Spooky, no?

There’s no doubting there are instant big-hitters here but what marks this album out as a giant step up is the switch of anaemic filler for angry, slow-growers; complex song structures that worm their way slowly into your brain and end up surpassing the instantaneous high of the single releases. In the former camp, you have tracks like ‘Sixteen’, a soaring pop-laced anthem with plenty of top-end guitar noodling, ‘Front Row Seats To The End Of The World’, a glorious marriage of screams and cleans, and the rock punch of ‘Aftertaste’. Opposite them, you’ve got the intricate webs that are weaved by the spasming ballad ‘Owls (Are Watching)’, ‘Spinning Over The Island’s threaded grunt and the superlative 5-minute title-track with its multiple personalities.

Yes, the god-awful, faux-American drawl of Matt Davies-Kreye pops up every now and again and goads the guitars into riding roughshod over the softer tracks, but those moments are few and far between. It was probably inevitable when you consider the amount of aggression that the band have thrown at this album. Thankfully, with added angst comes added variety and this is exemplified by the skidding metal bursts lurking in ‘Spinning Over The Island’ and the speed-demon ‘Broken Foundation’ with its explosive guitar solo. If you also take into consideration the fact that Funeral For A Friend are already the undisputed kings of vocal harmonies and suddenly you’re talking about a band that can, again, not only look their peers in the eyes but can once more inspire them. Yes, it’s just one album but, put into context, it’s going to mean the world to a whole lot of people. Welcome home, FFAF.

Also online @ The Line Of Best Fit = http://www.thelineofbestfit.com/2011/03/funeral-for-a-friend-welcome-home-armageddon/

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