A quintet from South Wales that started out about 2001/2 they released a couple of EPs that garnered them an impressive underground massive. Eventually gaining a contract with Warner they put out the first full length “Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation". This spawned a few well received singles; most notably the catchy Juneau and they hit the big time, earning a support slot with Iron Maiden.
Kris Coombs-Roberts - Guitar
Gareth Davies – Bass Guitar & Vocals
Matthew Davies – Vocals
Ryan Richards – Drums
Darran Smith – Guitar
Firstly, the production on this album by Terry Date (Deftones, Soundgarden) is really good. The drums sound powerful, the bass rumbles on and the guitars have a crisp clear tone without losing some of the bite that is popular. We all know what happened to Atreyu, mercifully this has not happened to FFAF. Matt’s voice hasn’t changed much since CDADIC and he still sounds good, never grasping for notes he can’t make, and in a tone that is pleasant.
The overall feel of this album is one of a band sticking to what they do well, and expanding their range of influences. Incorporating pop rock, punk, maybe even some metalcore their sound is maybe not recognisably their own right now, but it is something that could become stunning given time. The screaming is virtually gone, with Matt’s melodic inging comprising the vast majority of the album. They have an amazing grasp of melody; Ryan’s work on the drums is consistently good, Kris is maybe one of the best guitarists around in this genre at the moment. Darran complements Kris’ more technical parts with a good understanding of how to blend subtle riffs with a fast paced attack. The bass, isn’t worthy of particular praise or complaint I feel.
Lyrically, Matt is still firmly stuck in “Woe is me territory" but oh well.
So I think a track by track is called for.
1) All the Rage (3:37)
A short burst of drums constitute the intro for this track and the album as a whole. Matt’s powerful voice comes in over an interesting verse where one guitar riffs and the other plays single notes to complement, it works well. Then there is a small call and respond section before swerving into a ‘chorus’ with small drum fills. Importantly this shows that FFAF are prepared to work with slightly different song structures, and this is very welcome. At the end there is a semi ‘solo’ where Kris’ guitar work is brought to the forefront. Overall a really strong catchy rock song that is there to show that the record has been produced well and they are trying new things.
2) Streetcar (3:39)
The first single and I have to say I think it was a good choice. Opening with a telephone number being dialled and a fast paced, almost hardcore punk riff comes in, eventually a woman says “hello?" and immediately after Matt starts singing a tale of loss and breaking up. The chorus is very catchy and incredibly Kris seems to insert a part worthy of a solo as his part of the chorus. This combined with the fast paced riffing and drumming and Matt’s voice really makes it stand up. For the bridge we hear people saying “I can’t feel the same about you anymore" over a low rumbling bass that is brought to the fore for the first time, and it suits well, it does seem like maybe a slight Deftones influence was taken on here. The song doesn’t end on the chorus, a slightly different tactic, and it’s a good thing.
3) Roses for the dead (4:06)
The guitar kicks of this song and it really is a superb tapping part, light drumming joins it and the singing kicks in, the verse is nothing special save for Kris’ guitar work. The chorus however, does stand out because it incorporates the “jun-jun-jun" sound that is reminiscent of some metalcore, but by layering some soaring singing over the top FFAF are trying to use it in their own way. In the second verse the bass is allowed to have its own part for a while and it’s ok. But because of the way I feel they are utilising standard sounds in unexpected ways and Kris’ guitar work this has to get:
4) Hospitality (4:44)
Opening with strummed clean and slightly echoed guitars this finally allows a decent bass part to get a look in, it’s slowish and reminiscent of “Your revolution is a joke". That is until the chorus, when an even faster riff starts it off and some great vocal harmonies compel you to sing along. The slowish part is never returned to; instead a bridge featuring yearning by Matt and high end guitar work and for the first time a chorus is allowed to fade out to the end.
5) Drive (5:06)
A cover of Incubus’ most famou… nah I’m only kidding. A weird sample lasts a few seconds, and Matt starts singing about another thing hurting him, and the guitar part is for once, rather plain. Then the best bass of the album kicks in, simple yet brilliant in the way it carries the song along. You’ll be able to learn it quick and probably enjoy it for much longer. It builds into a sing along chorus that isn’t heavy at all. The song sits quite well being laid back, there to give you a break, but really doesn’t do enough to stand out, so just
6) Monsters (3:29)
An excellent crashing drumbeat starts things off; it’s very fast paced and uses the cymbals well for the first time. Another speedy, yet undeniably catchy guitar riff comes in and in my opinion this is the best guitar riff/high end combination on the entire album. Like I mentioned before, FFAF have a remarkable grasp of melody, and combine it with good technical ability. Even though this is a standard song structure I think it would be a good choice for a second single.
7) History (4:08)
Clean strumming breaks in this song and it takes a pop rock sound for the verses, easy to sing along to. This is another quiet song and in my mind it is stronger than Drive, because the guitars have more interesting parts. Also the ending features some beautiful vocal harmonization with guest vocalists Brian Valentino & Josh Evans. All in all it goes nicely on the album but as a single wouldn’t stand out
8) Recovery (3:30)
We’re back into the harder rock territory as the song opens with crashing cymbals and drums plus more high end guitar work on top of a riff that really sounds powerful. Then in the chorus Kris’ again shows off his ability. For the bridge the fast paced riffs go on, stop instantly and Matt whispers “Promise me" this happens quite a few times until the drums don’t stop and Matt starts singing, “Promise me you will not ever leave." One repetition of the chorus is enough to bring this song to a close and once again I am impressed.
9) The End of Nothing (3:19)
Another riff that is close to metalcore and very good, I could certainly see Killswitch Engage playing this sort of thing. Ryan’s screaming is audible in the background. The chorus drumming isn’t as strong as it could be but Kris’ work once again especially in the bridge helps it stand out, and we get to hear Ryan scream in that too. This song would also be a good single.
10) Alvarez (4:16)
Another great riff and some of the best drum work on the album. The verse is very catchy but not in an obvious way, the riff almost seems to gallop along and Matt sings in a way very befitting. The chorus hits in and it’s like a brick wall, it’s much slower, I just wanted to scream “WwwwwhhhhhyyyyyY!!!??" because it was all going along at such a good pace. The bridge picks up a better pace again, and contains the closest thing to a solo by Kris, and it fades out on this extended bridge type thig, which is good.
11) Sonny (3:14)
The drums on this track sound like they were produced by a drum machine, they might be, but no credits are given in the booklet so I can’t know for sure. A slow “end of album" song this does contain mellow yet impressive guitar parts, but really it’s about Matt soothing you with this voice (obviously not if you don’t like his voice). It picks up some light distortion towards the end, but still this is no “Your revolution..."
Overall, this is a strong album if you are already a fan, I recommend it if you liked CDADIC and you don't mind the virtual loss of screamed parts. If the first album was too poppy for you then this will drive you further away, but if you like accessible, catchy rock then get into them via this album for sure.
Trying new song structures
A couple of slower songs that maybe could’ve been replaced
The chorus in Alvarez :’(
The lack of Ryan’s screaming
Get these tracks somehow:
The end of Nothing
Sorry if it was too long, but I got it and was very excited hehe.