Matthew Davies sounds like a man who has lost his faith. “Waiting for God to come around / But he never comes around…” he croons on acoustic ballad Building. It’s certainly a refreshing change to see the front man turn his lyrics towards matters of a more global concern. After all, Funeral For A Friend‘s previous pursuits have tended to come with a tangible taste of teenage angst.
Memory And Humanity has been tipped as being a partial return to the good old Casually Dressed days. For those not so familiar with the Welsh emo-metallers’ back catalogue that means riffs, screaming and heaviness. It’s therefore surprising to discover their latest release to be of a more melodic quality than many of their previous efforts.
It’s big and it’s bold and it’s brash but, perhaps most significantly, it’s largely chord based, relying on Davies’ soaring vocal range to see it through. That’s not necessarily something to cry about. Make no mistake: these are grand, sky-embracing slabs of chorus-rock on offer here. Album opener Rules And Games lifts the epic bar to a lofty height most of the other tracks fail to reach, and the chorus of its neighbour To Die Like Mouchette will stick in your head for days.
Unfortunately, highlights such as these find themselves surrounded by songs apt to be forgotten within minutes of listening. Kicking And Screaming opens with a promising Smashing Pumpkins style stomp, but is let down by a depressingly uninspiring finale. Post-hardcore shout Constant Illuminations fires out of the blocks like a greyhound on speed, but even the whirlwind guitar towards the end fails to bite hard. You expect the album’s first single Waterfront Dance Club to be as heavy as an iron rhino judging from its ominous opening. Suffice to say…it’s not.
But burn the few album fillers that dot the proceedings and you’re left with four or five almost-gems. The aforementioned Building is a short but sweet, predictable but strangely earnest and heartfelt moment amongst a barrage of Thrice-like noise. The infectious guitar pop of Beneath The Burning Tree gives way to Funeral’s most exhilarating verse vocals since Roses For The Dead. Despite its inability to knock you through a wall, Waterfront Dance Club’s ending still packs an admirable punch.
A return to the glory days this is not – let’s face it, whether Funeral For A Friend will ever be able to capture the fever and energy of Hours again is doubtful. What Memory And Humanity can offer is a step forward in sound. Clichés aside, it IS a tad more technical and varied than anything the group have attempted before. Charlie Don’t Surf could be mistaken for a Stereophonics cover and they even dabble in a bit of Killers-esque reverb guitar during the second track.
Don’t panic too much though. They haven’t transformed into an indie-pop chart topping abomination quite yet. There’s more than enough of their traditional style here to keep fans occupied. In fact, Memory And Humanity’s biggest triumph is its ability to blend old and new without causing too much of a mess.