In any life, the end of adolescence, the coming to terms with adulthood, is a cataclysmic time. But imagine vaulting that hurdle while a member of a rock n’ roll group skyrocketing their way to fame, living through and adjusting to these changes in the public spotlight. Imagine trying to learn from your mistakes with an ever-growing army of rabid fans hanging on your every gesture, attempting to ride out both the emotional tsunami and some truly life-altering experiences, like headlining the second stage of the Reading/Leeds weekender, like headlining the NME’s Awards Tour and winning Kerrang!’s Best Newcomer award, and scoring covers on those magazines and more. Like touring with childhood heroes Iron Maiden across Europe, like following Linkin Park through America. Like achieving Gold for sales of your debut album, and scoring 3 Top 20 singles, and seeing all 8,000 tickets for your Alexandra Palace gig this May sell-out in a flash. Quite a headfuck, especially if you factor in the twenty-something tumult as well.
‘Hours’, Funeral For A Friend’s second album, tells the story of that headfuck, from all angles. Not since The Get Up Kids’ modern classic ‘Something To Write Home About’ has the vulnerability of young adulthood been so passionately essayed. And with that tender edge comes a sound by turns heavier and softer than before, the bands impulses for metallic riffage and melodic bloom no longer at odds with each other.
“We wanted to make a record that had no sense of compromise, of ‘middle ground’,” smiles guitarist Kris Coombs-Roberts. “Something people would either really love or hate, that no-one would feel ‘wishy-washy’ about.”
For this purpose, the band decamped to Seattle, Washington, where they lived for two months recording ‘Hours’ with producer Terry Date, rightly famed for his work with Soundgarden, Pantera, Deftones and Limp Bizkit, at both the legendary Bad Animals studio, and Pearl Jam’s own, personally-built studio. The liberal, progressive environs of Seattle might’ve been some miles from the boys’ stomping ground in South Wales, from their family and friends, but they soon made it home. After all, this two months was the longest they’d stayed in one place, without leaving for the next date on the tour, for as long as they could remember. They put down roots as deep as they could, drummer Ryan Richards further pursued his enduring love of Wrestling, and the band started digging inside of themselves for the music that would make up ‘Hours’.
Confidence was the name of the game. The band regarded their debut, ‘Casually Dressed & Deep In Conversation’, with indulgent affection, but ultimately considered its collection of songs from throughout their career to date, a disjointed set of old favourites and newer material, somewhat compromised. ‘Hours’ would be a proper album, of pace, structure, mood and sentiment. It would reflect the distance Funeral For A Friend had come as musicians, as songwriters. The bludgeoning riffage was finessed, strengthened; the melodies were stronger, stickier, nagging and unforgettable. And Matt Davies’ lyric sheet rang the changes further: deeper, darker, more mature, as his words navigated the same emotional icebergs he’d encountered himself over the past year.
Though Funeral For A Friend are a group stronger than the sum of their parts, true brothers of the road, it was Matt in particular who felt the pressures of the preceding months. As the group’s focal point, he became the fulcrum, and sustained the deepest wounds, learned the hardest lessons, on behalf of the band. There were points where his voice suffered, where his health as a whole suffered. There was a stay in hospital.
All of these lessons inform ‘Hours’, and its most personal lyrics. While debut single ‘Streetcar’ packs a powerful message about how people change - how Funeral For A Friend have changed - to a pulverisingly melodic power-rock charge, songs like ‘Recovery’ and ‘Hospitality’ and ‘Drive On’ are going to surprise fans and newcomers alike, with their depth and maturity. Drawn from personal experience and hard-won wisdom, they’re precious.
Elsewhere, the presence of Terry Date has enabled the band to capture the diamond-precise crunch the band’s heavier moments thus far have always hinted at, a focussed ferocity that is breath-taking. For those about to rock, ‘Monster’s Ball’ and ‘At The End Of Nothing’ were sculpted just for you.
It’s easy to think of the kind of Rites Of Passage that Funeral For A Friend have been exploring only in terms of the innocence that’s being lost, those childish things abandoned forever. But ‘Hours’ proves that, for Funeral For A Friend, maturity brings with it a strength and self-confidence that will see them through the triumphs, the trials and the outrageous fortune the album will bring them. A band already talking excitedly of working with Date on a third album, of travelling the world once again in support of their heartfelt noise. Funeral For A Friend have grown up, and it suits them fine.
FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND:
Matt Davies – Vocals
Kris Coombs-Roberts – Guitars
Darran Smith – Guitars
Gareth Davies – Bass
Ryan Richards – Drums