Released March 14th 2011
With the departure of guitarist Darran Smith and Gavin Burrough’s consequential movement from bass to guitar, Funeral For A Friend have had a turbulent few years. But as they return with their fifth studio album, they demonstrate a maturity and adaptability, sounding better than ever.
Given this change, you might expect the dynamic, the music, or even the feel of Welsh-born quintet to have been distorted, but I am pleased to say there is something undeniably FFAF in Welcome Home Armageddon. After a classic haunting 44 second opener, ‘Old Hymns’ kicks off the album in style, throwing the listener straight into a dense and outstanding sound. It is classic FFAF, with soaring vocals and some astounding Coheed and Cambria-esque guitar work thrown in for good measure. But where Funeral for a Friend really show their aptitude is first single ‘Front Row Seats to the End of the World’. There is some really dirty and grimy guitar work laced throughout the sound die-hard fans are used to, paired with some screamo vocals that at first sound like they would be more at home on an Enter Shikari record. But what jars at first, comes to be the thing that separates Welcome Home Armageddon from the rest of FFAF’s discography. Granted, screamo vocals are nothing new to the Welsh quintet, but its use in this latest record is inventive and not in the least bit derivative, demonstrating that they are anything but a one-trick band.
This is what makes this record truly amazing – there is something fresh about it, whilst still remaining true to their roots, something that few established acts can achieve. ‘Man Alive’, for example, could have come straight from Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation, which is by no means a criticism. It’s a sound that propelled FFAF into stardom, and they still exhibit this same aesthetic that we know and love from them. But at the other end of the spectrum, tracks such as ‘Owls’ highlight how much they have grown as an act. The opening is simply stunning: clean vocals and beautiful guitar work set it up to be a heart wrenching ballad, but when the rest of the band kick in, you’re left with a result that is somewhat unexpected. The sound is dense, complicated and big, but somehow through all the elements that pile on top of one another, it’s still got a quality that hits you hard, demonstrating that a band need not go acoustic to have a song that hits the heart.
The only thing that lets this album down is ‘Aftertaste’, a track that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere in an overall excellent album. It’s simply not FFAF enough for me, and although after a few listens it certainly begins to grow on you, it still does not make musical sense. But this is just a minor gripe. On a 12 track offering there are 11 astounding songs, with other personal highlights coming from ‘Sixteen’, ‘Medicated’ and title track ‘Welcome Home Armageddon’. It is a mature, sensitive and big sounding album, with excellence coming thick and fast throughout every track that demonstrates why Funeral for a Friend are still starlets on the rock/emo/hardcore stage.
Good: Dense, complicated and heart wrenching sounds
Bad: Some songs simply don’t make musical sense