Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Funeral For a Friend - Welcome Home Armageddon

It's no great stretch of the truth when I say that Funeral For a Friend are one of the most underrated bands of the last 10 years. Their debut album 'Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation' and sophomore effort 'Hours' essentially pioneered the British post-hardcore scene which was to dominate rock music for the majority of the decade. People often forget that FFAF were the first post-hardcore band to make it on a major label and in the first half of their career they were one of the most important bands in the world. 
Then the band fell of the wagon slightly when their follow up offerings couldn't live up to their initial hype. Cue various lineup changes and even the most hardened FFAF enthusiast would've admitted they were slightly unsure as to what the future would bring for the band. With 'Welcome Home Armageddon' Funeral For a Friend have literally drop kicked their doubters firmly into touch. 
The album follow up to last year's 'Young And Defenceless'  is quite simply incredible. Opening instrumental 'This Side Of Brightness' lulls you into a false sense of security before 'Old Hymns' pounds you down, delivering hook after delicious hook. The delivery and mastery of instruments and vocals blend into one and the band sound more youthful and buoyant as ever. Not even a minute in to the album and it's clear FFAF are back with a bang. It's like the band suddenly remembered what made their music so crucial in the first place as the intertwining harsh screams of drummer Ryan Richards and crushing riffs ring out during ''Front Row Seats To The End Of The World.' It's hard to believe this is the Same Funeral For a Friend who sauntered along at a canter singing about boats on their 2007 concept album 'Tales Don't Tell Themselves.' 
There's a renewed vigour in 'Sixteen,' a bouncy slice of post-punk brilliance, containing more melodic hooks and catchy choruses reminiscent of 'Casually Dressed..' The band show us they've lost none of their edge with hardcore offerings 'Aftertaste' and 'Man Alive', proving they can compete with the big boys. 'Owls (Are Watching)' is one of the stand out tracks both musically and lyrically. Matt Davies-Kreye's delivery has always been exceptional but he really excels himself here. Multi-headed beast 'Spinning Over The Island' showcases the band's versatility as it weaves and freeforms, crushing and melodic one minute, heartfelt ballad the next. 'Damned If You Do, Dead If You Don't' and 'Medicated' deliver more hooks than a fishing expedition and are catchier than the cold with their gang vocal style choruses. 
Funeral For a Friend are at their absolute heaviest on thrash behemoth 'Broken Foundations', destined to become a mosh-pit favourite at the band's future shows. Closing track 'Welcome Home Armageddon' sounds like it was pinched right from Iron Maiden's back catalogue with it's power metal riffs and killer drumbeats. Matt's vocals carry the song along perfectly, his deep and meaningful lyrics about desolation and catastrophe turn this track into an absolute belter, the last two minutes are so incredibly moving and are a fitting end to a magnificent record. The album ticks every box a Funeral For a Friend fan could ask for and then some. 
Here we have one of the best albums to materialize from the current rock scene and certainly one of the best records FFAF have ever made. They are a much different beast to the one that took the world by storm with their debut in 2003, now sounding like they have purpose and integrity. FFAF essentially opened doors for countless other bands to have a crack at the industy and thus became one of the most relevant acts to grace the rock scene. With 'Welcome Home Armageddon' FFAF have given us an almost faultless album which sounds more relevant than ever.
 'Casually Dressed.. Part Two' this is not, this album is all about moving forward and evolving. While being reminiscent of their former glory this is a triumphant return and a bold statement by Funeral For a Friend that they are back and better than ever. 

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Incubus - If Not Now, When?

If Not Now, When? Surprised a lot of people when it was released back in 2011, especially fans of earlier Incubus work such as Make Yourself (1999) and A Crow Left Of The Murder (2004). These were brash, hectic records. The band themselves had built a following on the back of the success of bands like Linkin Park and Papa Roach. While they didn't follow the Rap/Rock paint-by-numbers methods of the aforementioned bands, on quite a few of their songs the similarities were definitely noticeable.
INNW was released 5 years after their last LP, Light Grenades. Produced by Brendon O'Brien, it shot straight in at number 1 in the Billboard 100 and has since been certified gold. Expectedly, the album had a more simpler, catchier approach than previous efforts.
So fast forward 5 years and step forward, in my eyes, the greatest album Incubus have ever made. Gone was the rampant aggression and snarl from previous albums, this was just 50 minutes of music in it's purest form. The band had noted that during the gap between Light Grenades and INNW they decided to make an album that reflected the growth and knowledge of a band pushing 2 decades together. Guitarist Michael Einziger went to study music composition during the 5 year break and his efforts are grand on this records. They were no longer trying to out-volume each other. On INNW you only heard the guitars when you had to.
The most astounding evolution was that of band DJ Chris Kilmore. As his role in the band was changing he's decided to learn piano from scratch. INNW was the sound of a band with their eyes and minds open.
As the opening hum and swirl of the title track fades in, followed by the twinkle of guitars, followed by plodding bass and snare, you really do instantly notice the change in structure. Everything has been put together magnificently. The vocals were slow, but concise, and Brandon is here singing like no one had heard him sing before. The crescendos of each line just sound, for lack of a better word, epic.
Promises, Promises and Isadore are fuller numbers, especially the former with its piano laden middle section. The choruses on this album are truly special. None of them simple for the sake of it, all of them unwittingly catchy. Things pick up even further with Thieves, no sound is sacrificed despite the raise in tempo and instrument volume. Friends And Lovers is fantastic, and my joint favourite track on the album. It's definitely worth catching the video of this online. Boyd's vocals seem to just effortlessly float from a whisper to an exclamation. The pace is dropped for The Original, that is until the crashing outro that seems to almost catch you out, with the build up being so very subtle. Defiance is a charming acoustic effort that will get you singing and ooh-ing along instantly.
I consider the following track, In The Company Of Wolves as the transition track on the album. You get the warm intro and gentle flow of the song, but the ending has every instrument being played so intensely, you wonder if you're listening to the same album. This follows perfectly into the classy Switchblade. Boyd providing just the right amount of swagger with the lyrics, especially in the chorus. Einziger's guitar riff matching the vocals on bravado points every step of the way. This track also showcases the ever brilliant drumming talent of Jose Pasillas. Adolescents will be the only familiar sounding track, especially for listeners of their Light Grenades LP. It almost sounds like an anthem, a statement reading loud and clear. But no louder than it has to be. The final track Tomorrows Food is a perfect ending to what is indeed a perfectly polished and precise album. Every song is different, something which lacks in a lot of mainstream rock albums. I must say I was pleasantly surprised with If Not Now, When? and it has become one of my all time favourite albums. I urge you all to find it and give it a listen.