It's been said by many in the screamo and metalcore sanctions that Welsh melodo-punkers FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND have bested their American counterparts in the decade-plus they've been romping and crooning along. While UNDEROATH and SILVERSTEIN will probably be viewed as the most popular if not the best of this species of modern rock, FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND has always made a point to differentiate themselves from their contemporaries. More itching and less bitching has been FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND's doctrine. On top of it, they have the good decency to plug in some traditional rock elements to give their music something for everyone else to snag onto.
Vocalist Matt Davies and guitarist Kris Roberts remain the lone survivors of the original quintet that dropped their 2003 EP "Four Ways to Scream Your Name" and the band's much-lauded full-length debut, "Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation". For certain, this group has weathered plenty of adversity and roster shake-ups to counter their accolades and awards. They've modified their sound a bit over the years, experimented to the receipt of both praise and dismissal and now that emo has reached its inevitable hangover phase, FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND opts for a return to what first gained them notoriety.
Fans of "Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation" and 2005's "Hours" are likely to rejoice with the band's kicked-to-the-curb punk mentality on "Conduit". FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND runs through the motions in a few spots while scratching about for something real to cling to. Matt Davies sings about cutting the proverbial cords on "Nails" since "it's getting harder to stay true". While the song is a mid-tempo clapper with all the elements of emo you either love or you don't, where "Conduit" grooves is on the bopping taps and cadenced static of "The Distance" and the Eighties power rock verves that collide with the rat-a-tat 'core drags on "Elements" and "High Castles". The motoring throb of "High Castles" might've been better served as an opener instead of a closer, it should be stated.
What does greet the listener on "Conduit" is a fan-pleasing wail-along, "Spine", that comes off as a gentle boot in the ass against apathy. Davies and FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND call out the emo crybaby ethos on this track, whirling a slightly politer suggestion to man up. It's also over before it gets started, carrying its bump into the banging title cut. "Conduit" attempts to console the band's audience on top of purge their own demons. At least there's no woe-is-me airs about it, as that's never really been the way of this band.
While the bottom-line emocore scripts play their course throughout "Conduit", which will alienate as much as it will draw forth, at least FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND seldom pushes any of their genre's cliches to the hilt. If it was steadier on the pulse and less inclined towards the modern modes of punk, "Conduit" the song could've been a second cousin to DAG NASTY. In turn, "Best Friends and Hospital Beds" is one of the most guttural, heartfelt songs FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND has ever written. Coming from an Eighties hardcore stance, it could've logically breathed on the DAG's "Can I Say". Ditto for "Travelled", which sounds like a next gen tribute to emo's true masters.
While FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND contemplates mortality and their own longevity as a band by revisiting previously-traveled roads on "Conduit", they remain outside the mold of their brand. Nowhere in the league of "Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation", "Conduit" is still sure please the band's diehards. Not necessarily for others who fall outside this fan bracket, those who come into contact with "Conduit" can take comfort that the prototypes are thankfully vacated here.
- Ray Van Horn, Jr.