By Funeral for a Friend
We all know about the "difficult second album" phenomenon. I mean, it's featured every year in the Great Rock and Roll Clichés Annual, next to such chestnuts as "we write songs for ourselves and if anyone else likes them it's a bonus" (he said whilst looking nervously over his shoulder at the suits from his record company) as well as the whole kafuffle of throwing a TV in through a hotel window. Sorry, I meant out of a hotel window. But you know what I mean.
Funeral for a Friend are the band with the quest to overcome that potentially problematic second release. Last year was a good one for the Welsh mavericks; Casually Deep in Conversation (their debut album) went gold and, despite the pissing awful name, struck a resonant chord with fans of the "new-wave-of-emo"/ Post-hardcore fraternity. However, the quintets highly stylised blend of polished emo-core also drew its detractors with accusations of watering down their sound (their early songs were more heavily based around screaming and contained more metal elements) and band-wagon jumping. Not everyone's cup of Bovril then, but endearingly popular nonetheless.
But anyway, enough of this gay banter and onto the actual album itself. "Hours" opens in pretty much the way you'd expect a band aiming to reinstate their position in the rock hierarchy would choose to open an album; with all guns blazing and some big fat-ass riffs for our aural acquaintance. "All the Rage" does all of the aforementioned nicely enough but doesn't haven't the required panache or depth to elevate it above anything more memorable than an interval of sub-maiden-esque guitar tomfoolery. Instead it's left to recent single "Racecar" to show how to really carry things off with aplomb - combing a driving power metal riff with a galloping double-bass drum pattern its catchiness more than makes up for the slight whiff of cheese that surrounds the middle eight break down. So far so good then.
However, the pace isn't quite maintained throughout. "Roses for the Dead" manages to carry the baton well enough with some belting guitar work and a strong chorus, but the likes of "Hospitality" and "Monsters" don't really cut the mustard. In fact they don't really do anything much at all, instead preferring to plod around in non-descript blandified emo dirge territory. At times like these Funeral for a Friend are unchallenging, dreary and wet - just what the major label A and R chaps might want, but unfortunately not what modern rock bands should be aiming to be.
Fortunately then "Hours" contains some more inspired moments to bring the rabbit back out of the hat. "History" is possibly the albums highlight; yes, it's a bona-fide lighters-in the-air moment that adheres to the rock-power-ballad rulebook, but it's a beautifully crafted hook-laden acoustic behemoth of a song. Likewise the melodic and rather haunting "Sonny" is a fitting end to the album.
"Hours" doesn't really take any major risks and pretty much sticks to the easy-on-the-ear emo template of the first album with some more technical guitar work thrown in. However, this is not to dismiss the albums achievements - some cracking songs are contained within that any fans of this genre would be well advised to check out. Unlikely to win the band many new fans, but at the same time unlikely to lose them any. Fair play to that sirs.