March 14th is the time that many of us have waited for: Funeral For A Friend will release their much anticipated and already critically acclaimed 5th studio album ‘Welcome Home Armageddon’. The new album brings a new line up with Gavin Burroughs switching to guitar and Richard Boucher joining the band on bass.

The burning questions are: is it any good? And is it as good as their old material? I want to try and approach this review in two different ways. Firstly, as a music reviewer by looking at this album on its own and alongside other bands. I am going to try to be objective and judge this album on its own merits. Secondly as a fan, as I own every album and as hard as I try I will still look back and compare.

One thing that comes through very clearly through this album is the influence of the aforementioned new band members. There seems to be a new sense of urgency that you could say FFAF have missed on their past two outings – ‘Tales Don’t Tell Themselves’ and ‘Memory and Humanity’. The swaying, sentimental ballads have taken a back seat and the higher tempos of more hardcore/thrash influences come through. They haven’t lost what has gained them so many thousands of fans over the years, but at the same time some of their new songs will please diehard fans of the ‘Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation’ era without alienating any fans that came along later.

The first look back to ‘CDADIC’ has to be on the album’s first single ‘Front Row Seats To The End Of The World’ which sees drummer Ryan Richards drive the song’s verses with his guttural vocals, which haven’t been heard on new material for a while. His vocals have improved a great deal with a more convincing delivery. This song is a great example of the balance they have managed to strike between heavy and melodic without too much emphasis on one or the other. It grinds, lifts and drops with ease and a mosh worthy track with a sing-a-long in to break up the chaos.

I can definitely hear more thrash metal influences across the board with faster tempos, more intricate guitars riffs and almost automatic rifles like drums. There are definite nods to Metallica, Megadeth and more contemporary metal core bands. I’m not saying that this album will particularly appeal to fans of those bands, but might be worth a listen if you are looking for something a bit more melodic.

Overall the musicianship on the record is really high. As a band, they sound super tight and each member of the band have their moments to show case their talents, in particular lead guitarist Kris Coombs-Roberts who seems to have let go a bit more on this album and really gone for it. The band as a unit seem to be stronger than ever with the addition of backing vocals from Gavin Burrough, which are particularly prominent on ‘Old Hymns’.

Highlight of the album for me come from ‘Aftertaste’ which has an almost Iron Maiden-esque pace and drive to it. It changes tempo at will and seamlessly slips from fast and thrashy to slow and sludgy with a breakdown thrown in for good measure. This is a start of a strong mid album trilogy followed by fellow barn stormers ‘Spinning Over The Island’ and ‘Man Alive’.
There is real conviction and drive to this whole album, with absolutely no filler. You can tell they weren’t short on ideas. Not only are the tracks individually worthy of praise, but the order they arranged in contribute a lot to the overall feel. This is evident with the choice of album closer and title track ‘Welcome Home Armageddon’ not letting up or compromising.
To answer the questions I posed at the beginning of the review – Is it any good? Looking at it objectively as a fan of rock music there is a lot of moments in this album that please me. Along with the subtle nods to classic metal bands and contemporaries, there is an overall strong sound to ‘Welcome Home Armageddon’ that puts Funeral For A Friend right back into being a relevant band again. It’s exciting and get’s better with each listen.

Is it as good as their old material? The answer is a resounding yes, possibly even a hell yes on that one. I’ve followed FFAF since the beginning of their career and they’ve grown so much and what ‘Welcome Home Armageddon’ represents is a band full of confidence and happy with their new and old sound respectively. Many bands lose their way or change direction, and I was afraid FFAF has lost their way after ‘Memory and Humanity’ but they’re back and better than ever.

Welcome Home Armageddon is out 14th March on Distiller Records/Good Fight Music and Funeral For A Friend will be on tour from 16th March with a stop off at Bournemouth’s own Old Fire Station 1st April.

Read our tour preview here.

Words by;

Tom Fisher.

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