Review Summary: Jolting change of direction concentrates on melody & cannot be considered post-hardcore. Patient listeners will be rewarded, however this lacks a standout track to win over too many new fans.
Post-hardcore bands with leanings towards the melodic portion of the genre such as Funeral For A Friend (FFAF) will usually at one stage of their career release what I term a bridging album. Or simply put an album with at least a few songs that test out the mainstream waters to see if it results in any success that genuinely could bring them in an extended fanbase. Bridging albums are often difficult to pull off though as it is not always easy to find that right mix which retains the loyalists while attracting new listeners.
FFAF's 2nd full-length album 'Hours' may be one of the more jolting attempts at a bridging album I have heard. It is arguable that over half of the tracks included on it bear little resemblance to any of the band's previous work. And even those songs that do contain the general style of their debut 'Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation' are toned down to the point that this album itself cannot be placed under the post-hardcore genre at all!
Probably the most noticeable factor absent on 'Hours' is the lack of genuine background screaming by drummer Ryan Richards. The opener 'All The Rage' is an excellent example of this as the backing vocals come off a lot more standard than in the past. Either way, it is an impressive song that actually improves with further listens. Very good guitar-work complements some fantastic lyrics. From the opening "Who was it that said that great things come to great men? Well that ***er lied to us", to the "I'm sick and I'm tired of always being the good guy" through to the "All The Rage" themed chorus, it's memorable and suggests the band have improved as songwriters.
This is further backed up by the tremendous 4th single 'Roses For The Dead' which contains similarly impressive lyrics but backs them up even more with a triumphant musical background. Well-structured & emotional, this ballad of sorts is my album highlight. One could even argue that it should have been the 1st single, however track 2 'Streetcar' got that gig and while being solid, it lacks the hooks and catchiness to satisfactorily appeal to the mainstream. It actually comes off as a bit of a mish-mash to be honest.
Following the first 3 tracks comes the jarring shift in style as the next 4 songs completely change the direction of not only this album, but the band as well. 'Hospitality' and 'Drive' have an overly dramatic emo ballad feel to them that have them come off as pieces you may hear in the background of a movie. The former is overlong and average including a repetitive 2 line chorus, while 'Drive' admittedly has its moments without being special. The shift then moves more to the mainstream with the next duo as 2nd single 'Monsters' is a radio rocker that gets by with good guitar work and a catchy chorus, while 3rd single 'History' is the kind of effective sing-along ballad that you could hear at last call in a British pub.
Continuing what appears to be a deliberate formula of working in pairs, tracks 8 & 9 take things up a notch. 'Recovery' is an up-tempo rocker, while 'The End of Nothing' is the closest thing to FFAF's post-hardcore past with its rapid-fire drumming and screaming breakdown complementing sufficient melody. The 2 closers pretty much fade into the background here, although Sonny interestingly contains programmed beats, even if it seems rather out of place.
'Hours' is one of those albums that require many listens to suitably judge it due to its significant change of direction from the band's previous releases. While the guitar-work is still excellent (even if it seems to be just the lead and not the usual dual attack), there is little to suggest this is anywhere near post-hardcore, for it is the melody that is clearly being concentrated on here. For those that are patient, the melody will eventually wear you down, making this a rather good album in totality. However, it unfortunately lacks that standout 1st single for it to gain enough attention to win over too many new fans.
Recommended Tracks: Roses for the Dead, History, All The Rage & Monsters.