Review Summary: Passable compilation release is best recommended for fans of hardcore & metal. Very good use of dual guitar attack and an underlying sense of melody clearly show potential in this inconsistent effort.
This EP (or mini LP) is an interesting marketing ploy of sorts that I am a little surprised hasn't been used more often. The digital age may have rendered the method a little ineffective nowadays, but in theory, the idea is simplistically sound. What has occurred here with Welsh band Funeral For A Friend (FFAF) is basically the compilation of 2 previously released EP's, with the aim being to break the practically unknown band into the larger United States market. By scattering the individual tracks over 2 previous releases, and therefore timeframes, it also hypothetically shows progression and variety in the one release. For the most part, it is effective, if not spectacular.
To best describe FFAF's music here is to imagine a mixture between hardcore and emo with tinges of metal. But there is no doubt that the band attempt to infuse enough melody into the equation to keep everyone happy. The mixture can all be heard in opener '10:45 Amsterdam Conversations', which is rather heavy and contains a fair bit of angsty screaming, while including a sufficiently effective chorus. It's all a little too raw and under-produced to work totally, but it does show off probably the band's major positive; their twin guitar attack.
Too often a 5 piece will include a lead guitarist who hogs the entire spotlight as a 2nd guitarist seemingly strums monotonously in the background while looking bored. That doesn't occur here as many tracks are highlighted by some form of dual guitar sound that more often than not are effectively hooky and draw you into the songs in an involving nature.
Two of the more effective tracks on this release are 'The Art of American Football' and 'This Years Most Open Heartbreak, both of which are delivered at breakneck pace and include their fair share of screaming, but are structured cleverly enough to peak at their somehow effectively melodic choruses. In both cases, the drumming is suitably at the forefront and brings energy to the songs.
Heavier cuts 'Red is the New Black' and 'Kiss and Makeup' are fan favorites but the raspy screams of drummer Ryan Richards don't do a great deal for yours truly, especially when the raw production seen here doesn't really deliver the payoff that I am looking for. The weakest cut on this release is most probably 'The Getaway Plan', which unfortunately shows up lead vocalist Matt Davies' voice limitations. Emotionally bereft, this track simply never involves and ultimately comes off a little annoying.
To finish it all up, we get the rather interesting and effective closer, the 5+ minute 'Escape Artists Never Die'. This is the EP's Alt-rock offering of sorts and it stands up well amongst the heavier efforts that precede it. While the attempt to add genuine emotion to this more mid-tempo track is only partially successful, it at least shows the further range of vocalist Davies while adding some variation to this release. The background screaming practically comes off as almost standard backing vocals here and the usual twin guitar attack still exists to add an important hook to the song.
Overall, there is enough potential shown in this release to suggest FFAF do indeed have a future. There are clearly things to work on as the vocals, production and general variety need work, but that should come with time and maturity if the band is willing to put in the hard yards. This inconsistent offering is best recommended for fans of hardcore and metal as it definitely leans that way, but the very good use of 2 guitars and the underlying melody should draw in the more casual listeners also.
Recommended Tracks: The Art of American Football, Escape Artists Never Die & This Year's Most Open Heartbreak.