Review Summary: “Conduit” is shaped by a stubborn insistence to disregard history and anything else outside of the band’s personal interest.
One will never know what served as the catalyst for the US metalcore musings of Conduit. Undeterred by a series of line up changes and generally sub-par albums, 2011’s brilliant “Welcome Home Armageddon” (and The Young and Defenceless) acted as an antidote to the artistic slump that seemed to mire between Tales Don’t Tell Themselves (debatable, if not a good “non” FFAF album”) & “Memory & Humanity (I panned it on an earlier review). Whereas “Welcome Home Armageddon” artistically bridged a gap between the post-hardcore leanings of the E.P’s and the song-craft explored on “Hours”, “Conduit” is an unapologetic exploration of the U.S metalcore (before it was polluted by pseudo melodic death metal, which ultimately stole the “genre”) that played a pivotal part in FFAF’s formative years. Whilst I cannot be entirely sure of the reasoning behind the sonic shift toward heavier waters post “Memory & Humanity”, my own logic points towards the introduction of Gavin Burrough (and the appointment of his former bandmate Richard Boucher), who replaced the more “rock driven” style of Darran Smith in 2010.
Opener “Spine” grants the listener a modest indication of the stylistic direction explored on “Conduit”. On first listen, the technicality and progressive song structures espoused partially on “Welcome Home Armageddon” have been refined for a more stubborn and direct approach, inline with Snapcase’s “Designs for Automation” era. The immediate aftermath of “Spine” is that of determination and personal hunger, undeterred by the mismanagement and corporate cynicism endured throughout the latter stages of their tenure with Atlantic records. It gets better! The ensuing title track disregards any formulation of conventional post-hardcore and alternatively delivers an excellent history lesson in 90’s hardcore. Many may have wondered regarding the departure of Ryan Richard’s “aggressive vocals”, but the Strife esque “Conduit” (with an excellent beatdown to boot) is handled by the remarkable imprint Matthew Davies imposes throughout the entirety of the song. “Conduit” (both song and album) is not only a change of pace, but an artistic shift that refutes the musings of many of their UK contemporaries.
“Best Friends and Hospital Beds” is very much the album’s median. The thumping beats of newcomer Patrick Lundy are aptly complimented by the direct riffing of Gavin Burrough and Kris Roberts, which in turn weave neatly around the ambidextrous vocal delivery of Matt Davies. Whilst much of the album’s delivery is centred on U.S metalcore, the band still places a strong focus on the melody that is evident throughout the entirety of their back catalogue. “Showstopper” “Nails” unexpectedly slows the intensity down with an emphasis on dynamic and guitar theatrics, furthering the sound of a band at the peak of their craft. The first half of “Conduit” is a remarkable statement of intent from a band six albums into their career. The youthful zest, the “fat-free” song craft and the remarkable ownership of the aggressive moments by Matthew Davies make for a wholesome and enticing listen.
The crowning jewel of “Conduit” is arguably the strongest moment of any throughout FFAF’s back catalogue. The Kris Roberts driven “Death Comes to Us All” is a bi-polar take on the album’s sound, placing artistic thrust in equal measure on conventional post-hardcore, chugging guitars and a middle eight that alters the entire atmosphere of the song. The brilliance of “Death Comes to Us All” is not just a consequence of its diversity, but the cohesion that seamlessly exists between an uplifting middle eight and a generally dark and highly personal tone. The almost malevolent intent that shapes the first three quarters of this track is a perfect representation of a band entirely comfortable with the musical muscling that has developed throughout the majority of “Conduit”. The ambidextrous delivery of Matt Davies is complemented by a musical ethos that is firmly influenced by much of the Revelation and pre “naughties” Victory Records stable. The chromatic “Travelled” and downright sinister “Grey” are punctuated by an angst otherwise unexplored by the band previously. Much of this bares little resemblance to the earlier works of the South Wales outfit, but the mentality of “Conduit” is somewhat similar to that of “Between Order and Model”. The truly ferocious “The Art of American Football” can stand toe to toe with “Grey” in all but name. However, to compare “Conduit” to the earlier works of Funeral for a Friend is unjust and a little unfair. (To the older material)
The aftermath of “Conduit” is not one of a band that had world domination within their grasp, but one of genuine unapologetic artistic merit. “Conduit” is shaped by a stubborn insistence to disregard history and anything else outside of the band’s personal interest. Funeral for a Friend may no longer play stadium rock or a brand of post-hardcore that was a deserving hallmark for the following decade, but they honestly don’t care. The charm of this truly brilliant album is the outright honesty that makes “Conduit” such a pleasure to listen to from start to finish. At times it’s angry and at times it’s infectious, but “Conduit” stands tall as the crown jewel of an impressive back catalogue. It may not sound anything like the “misunderstood” and “over-loved” “Casually Dressed and Deep Conversation” (great album regardless), nor the grossly under rated “Hours”, but “Conduit” is the perfect representation of a band that refuses to go quietly. And why go quietly when you’re at the top of your game?