Funeral For A Friend are in the horns of dilemma – 6 albums into a successful career, do they play safe and keep churning out the same album (a route followed by many bands who find a successful formula) or do they push on and challenge themselves? Let’s take a look.
Chapter & Verse, their 7th album, was recorded in two weeks – a sign of the times for bands at all levels, is the necessary tightening of collective belts. The album has the usual wordy song titles and opens with ‘Stand By Me For The Millionth Time’ and straight away, Matt Davies-Kreye’s vocals come in over the top of a single guitar with a kind of muted scream (possibly achieved by recording the vocal a fair distance from the microphone), which is the theme for the verses with the chorus sounding a bit more like a normal full band recording. The screaming continues but Funeral For A Friend are one of the bands where, for me, it doesn’t grate (although – I’d prefer normal singing….). Next up is first single ‘You’ve Got A Bad Case Of The Religions’ which starts like an express train, the pace never letting up, a real stomp through two and half minutes – with the verses seeming to have a guitar solo for a riff, simply stunning stuff. Another pre-album release ‘Pencil Pushers’ follows and whilst the pace slows from the previous song, the intensity doesn’t falter – another really good song.
A fuzzed out bass guitar over a sampled speech start ‘You Should Be Ashamed of Yourself’ which has a great hook for a chorus. ‘1%’ is the next song and gives you a bit of a break with a relatively calm chorus/verse – during which Matt opines about the state of the country with real menace: “And you think stealing is acceptable, when you’re stealing from your friends – did your parents teach you nothing? When you’re stealing from your friends”. It closes with the band blasting it out behind Matt’s screamed vocals, lifting the song to new heights and another example of the new ‘raw’ Funeral For A Friend. This for me is THE stand out track here and a superb choice for a single.
What follows can almost be described as the ‘hardcore’ section of the album. The next song is the ‘succinctly’ (ahem) titled ‘Like A Light Bulb Going Off In My Head…. After All These Years’ which is an almost punk song – a real thrasher – until halfway through, when the band drops out to leave just a single guitar and the vocals, straying into more familiar melodic FFAF sound. If anything, ‘Modern Excuses of a Man’ dives even deeper into hardcore territory – put an American accent and this heads off into Rancid territory – never a bad thing. The anger, speed and rawness is, as always underpinned by melody and this is something FFAF are particularly good at. Even if the song is heavy, there is still a melody and hook in there somewhere. ‘Inequality’ is a more straight forward rocker and perhaps the weakest track on offer – yet still a decent listen. A moment of relief from the screaming and break neck tempos follows with just Matt on vocals and acoustic guitar for ‘Brother’ – proving what a decent vocalist he is – and offering more reasons as to why I’d prefer slightly less screaming.
‘Donny’ returns to the frantic pace before a cracking arpeggio appears in the middle of the song, another good track. Album closer ‘The Jade Tree Years Were My Best’ seems a bit out of place with the rest of the songs here. Almost a ballad – and lasting nearly 5 minutes whereas most of the others are well under 4, it’s a great song and nearly pips ‘1%’ for the honour of being my favourite song on their album.
Here comes my only big gripe though….. they’ve done one of those bloody hidden songs!!!! Interestingly, here at Music Muso, we were given a link to be able to stream this album and the hidden track wasn’t available – it was only when we got our hands on a CD copy of the album that this little gem was revealed. We can’t even give you a title but we can say, it’s an absolute belter – and is a song that it could have come off the ‘Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation’ album. We will let them off for the hidden track as it’s more than worth the 40 second wait (unless you reach for the search buttons).
So to answer the question at the start of this review…… Funeral For A Friend probably realise that they’re now established veterans of the music scene and as such are now unlikely to gain many new fans with any release but they have still taken a bold step with this album. It’s certainly more raw than anything they’ve ever done and does seem like the natural place for them to explore after previous album ‘Conduit’. Instead of using the fact that they recorded all the songs in two weeks as a reason to let their standards drop, they’ve made a virtue of it. Chapter & Verse is an album worth persevering with as repeated plays are rewarded. Good on them – there’s definitely plenty of life left in Funeral For A Friend.
Review by Adrian Grainger
We met up with Kris Coombs-Roberts (FFAF's Guitarist) before the Bristol show recently and had a good chat, read all about it HERE, we also ran a live review of the Bristol show, you can see this HERE.