In any life, the end of adolescence and 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. Since their inception just three years ago, gale-force Welsh rockers Funeral For A Friend have experienced more extraordinary highs and lows than most people will go though in their entire existence.
In their native UK, the band have been nothing less than a phenomenon, scoring three Top 20 singles, a gold-certified debut album, headlining the second stage of the world famous Reading/Leeds Festival and winning Kerrang!'s Best Newcomer award. Here in the States, the band has received reams of critical praise while growing their ever-increasing fanbase via tours alongside such like-minded outfits as Linkin Park, Taking Back Sunday, Coheed & Cambria, From Autumn To Ashes and Atreyu. All of which can be quite a headfuck, especially if you factor in the twenty-something tumult as well.
"HOURS," Funeral For A Friend's eagerly anticipated second Atlantic Records release, tells the story of that headfuck, passionately essaying the vulnerability of young adulthood via such potent tracks as the album's first single, "Streetcar." Following on the heels of 2003's breakthrough label debut, "CASUALLY DRESSED & DEEP IN CONVERSATION," Funeral For A Friend have carefully cast a sound by turns heavier and softer than before, with the band's dual 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," adds guitarist Kris Coombs-Roberts. "Something people would either really love or hate, that no one would feel "wishy-washy" about. There's no middle ground."
For this purpose, the band left their native South Wales for Seattle, Washington, where they lived for two months recording "HOURS" with renowned hard rock producer Terry Date (famed for his work with Soundgarden, Pantera and Deftones among others). The two months of sessions working at both the legendary Bad Animals studio, and Pearl Jam's own, personally built studio was the longest the band had stayed in one place for as long as they could remember. They put down roots as deep as they could, digging inside of themselves for the music that would make up "HOURS."
"To be honest, we didn't see all that much of Seattle," drummer Ryan Richards notes. "We were so excited about the process of making the record, we stayed in the studios most days and nights."
"We knew we had to make a landmark record," adds bassist Gareth Davies. "It had to be better than anything we'd done before."
While the band was rightly proud of the acclaimed "CASUALLY DRESSED & DEEP IN CONVERSATION," they nonetheless viewed it as somewhat compromised, compiling previously released singles and only a handful of new tracks. They were determined that "HOURS" would be a proper album of pace, structure, mood and sentiment. It would reflect the distance Funeral For A Friend had come as both musicians and as songwriters. The bludgeoning hardcore assault was finessed, strengthened; the melodies were stronger, stickier, nagging and unforgettable. Matt Davies' lyric sheet rang the changes further: deeper, darker, more mature, his words navigating the same emotional icebergs he and the band had encountered over the past year.
"The album is all about the idea that nobody's perfect, "he reflects, that perfection doesn't exist. That nothing is that well-built."
Though Funeral For A Friend is a true group, stronger than the sum of their parts, 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 the hospital.
"My body was shutting down," Davies recalls. "was skeletal, fucked up. I thought, "All this pain, should I just go away? Should I just croak it?" But then I realized I've got a lot of things to look forward to. I've got to get better, get my ass moving!"
Those feelings inform "HOURS," from its deeply personal lyrics to its emotionally charged sonic power. While "Monster's Ball" and "At The End Of Nothing" are fraught with a ferocious ferocity that is, quite frankly, breathtaking in its force and fervor, songs like "Recovery" and "Hospitality" showcase the band's melodic depth and mounting maturity. Working with the skilled Terry Date enabled FFAF to capture their gifts for multi-faceted songcraft while polishing the diamond-precise crunch of their pulverizing live performances.
"People are going that the emo-screamo tag that was put on us really doesn't fit," points out guitarist Darran Smith. "That's not what we are. We're a rock band, and with the diversity of this album, we show that there are a lot more strings to our bow."
The heartfelt noise of "HOURS" makes it plain that, for Funeral For A Friend, their hard won experiences has endowed the band with a strength and self-confidence that will see them through the triumphs and the trials of the rest of their lives. Funeral For A Friend has grown up, and it suits them fine.