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Album Review: TBA

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Album Review: Funeral For A Friend - Conduit

The Welsh band have never been ones to rest on their laurels. Generally accepted as a hard-hitting rock group, they have explored a penchant for the alternative and the emotional, to one that conjures easily-accessible, enigmatic, heart-bursting anthems. Now with ’s old drummer, Pat Lundy, on board, they appear ready to travel the Conduit to locate their inner punk.

Without doubt, it’s an album that still features, to some degree, the band’s driven melody, gorgeously rich harmonies and addictive choruses but there is a definite shift of focus towards metal and hardcore. Vocalist Matthew Davies recently neatly summarised the change with the words “it’s a post-hardcore record that is not afraid to drop into some hardcore for good measure.”

Former band member Matthew “Snowskull” Evans has painted a startling cover for Conduit that is oddly reminiscent, like some of those old albums or Trey Moseley’s artwork for ’s One Wing. Rest assured though, FFAF’s songwriting hasn’t gone anything like as deep into the chaos as those particular bands regularly do. Despite Davies’ assertions, these additions to the music do feel somewhat forced at times – initially, you may wince at the irksome slips from boisterous verse into slick chorus (lead single “Best Friends and Hospital Beds” and “Travelled” are in a league of their own), but ignoring this, it’s still a clear statement of intent and one that does need multiple plays before sound judgement can be passed.

They certainly don’t go off half-cocked at this crossover monster – even their usually high-end production has trimmed a little off the sides to make way for the added gristle. It’s a full-bore attempt to interweave both their rough and smooth edges and when they manage to segue the two styles effectively the songs can invigorate you. Some go in harder (bruisers like the title-track, “Death Comes To Us All” and “High Castles”), but there’s still plenty of rousing sing-a-long choruses to grab onto. They come thick and fast with “Spine”, “Best Friends…” and “Nails” all liberally doused in colourful, soaring harmonies. What the contrast has highlighted is the minor limitations of Davies’ vocal. There’s no denying his passion, but every now and then, when he peaks and reaches up to hawk out another yelp of anger, his pitch and tone become painfully strained – as an example, the line “How many friends can I lose before it all makes sense” catches him out every single time.

Thankfully, the complex, technical guitar melodics do help to bolster this weakness in his delivery. They form the kind of backdrops that Sylosis would be proud of. One particularly memorable example lies in the jarringly-angular closing segment of “Nails”. The gentle build, tight-as-fuck chorus and crushing ‘core elements are all implemented magnificently. It’s these multiple hues that stick it on a pedestal.

As you journey through, there emerges a noticeable overall lack of track variation but it’s hard to deny the momentum that FFAF build throughout. You do have to wait for “Elements” to provide the deviation the album craves. It really would be the perfect closing track; not overstaying its welcome and melodically-enduring with a gently warbling fade-out. Well, it would be, except that the -lite metalcore tactics of “High Castles” take the honour – “Our words are weapons, they are our shield, our words are weapons, fist by fucking fist” – with over-eager call-and response chicanery.

Having screamed back from the edge of the creative abyss with 2011′s cracking Welcome Home Armageddon, to head back to their EP days and begin re-establishing their love of punk and hardcore makes Conduit a risky album for FFAF to write at this moment in time. Even more so, when you consider just how much metalcore influence there is on this and how much that particular genre has taken a battering over recent years. Thankfully, none of that matters much. There is just enough true grit and spirit powering this offering to really warrant that risk. Conduit is a whole different beast but, most importantly, it’s an album that’s honest and committed and deserving of your attention.

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