Sound — 10
Funeral for a Friend's story is possibly the closest thing I can think of to true musical proof of Darwinism. Like a phoenix from the metaphorical ashes, the band has evolved (through both critical hardship and musical turbulence) both in terms of personnel and sound, gradually building up the momentum started on 2009's greatest hits compilation Your History is Mine and 2010's The Young and Defenceless EP and have returned as good as they ever were, if not better, with their absolute triumph of a 5th album, Welcome Home Armageddon. The album has everything you could possibly want from a Funeral for a Friend album. All the boxes are ticked. Aggressive melodic metal riffs, all but absent from FFAF's music for too long, make a welcome return to FFAF's sound in both quantity and quality. It's not all blood and thunder though. For every riff as crushing as Front Row Seats to the End of the World's main riff, there is a lead guitar part as beautiful and intricate as Kris Coombs-Roberts motifs on Old Hymns or a bouncy pop punk riff such as the bridge riff on Sixteen. However, WHA is more than just guitar work. FFAF's trademark blend of vocal aggression and melody and Ryan Richards' thunderous drum work also take on a new lease of life. Furthermore, the addition of a bassist (new boy Rich Boucher) who is capable of both providing counter melodies and proving that there is life in post-hardcore bass lines beyond the virtues of the root note has only benefitted the band's sound. However, it is the sheer variety of song writing on display that is most impressive. From the Deftones-esque Front Row Seats to the End of the World, Sprawling epics such as Spinning Over The Island and the visceral melodic hardcore of Aftertaste, Man Alive and Broken Foundation (the latter even featuring a lengthy guitar solo) to the ambience of Medicated and the sheer melodic sensibility of Sixteen, the ground the album covers beggars belief. Whilst there's no one stand out track which is as anthemic as Juneau or Roses for the Dead, there is no weak link on the album either. Every track is as potent and as relevant as the next and each one stands proud against the band's best material. Even the two tracks included from the band's previous EP The Young and Defenceless slot in seamlessly and do nothing but add to the balance of an album which is both mature and inspiring.
Lyrics — 9
Vocally, it's apparent that the band has made quantum leaps forward. The aggression is back. Matt Davies-Kreye sounds just as pissed off as the kid he once was and this is bolstered by drummer Ryan Richards' guttural growls which contribute further to the additional brutality of tracks such as Broken Foundation and Front Row Seats. The melodic focus which dominated the band's last two full lengths isn't completely absent though and tracks like Old Hymns and OwlsAre Watching are loaded with gargantuan yet saccharine vocal hooks. The band has always been strong lyrically and Welcome Home Armageddon is no exception. Lyrics are useless without delivery though and it's this combination of Matt Davies' lyrical poetics and his convincing delivery that make this album a success.
Overall Impression — 10
Perhaps the biggest complement you can pay Welcome Home Armageddon is that it sounds like a band's debut album as supposed to a 10 year old band's 5th opus. WHA is no return to form or the band's so called halcyon days. That's not what this album is about. Whilst it is reminiscent in places of FFAF's critically acclaimed debut full length Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation, the band's sound has been brought up to date and, dare I say it, improved. They have not sounded more relevant for years. Put simply, FFAF are back to their rip-roaring and aggressive yet anthemia best and it looks as if they are here to stay.