Top critical review
Fast paced, aggressive, but lacking melody
on 19 July 2014
I had high hopes for Conduit after 2011's Welcome Home Armageddon, which suggested that FFAF were back to their best. It was packed full of awesome riffs and catchy melodies and highlighted some of the bands heaviest and most tuneful songs.
Unfortunately Conduit falls short of expectations. There's plenty of aggression present in all of the songs which will no doubt please many. These 11 songs are probably the closest in sound to Funeral's earliest work, but that isn't necessarily a positive.
The album opens with 'Spine', which is fast paced and features some semi-screamed vocals from Matt. It has promise but is let down by a lack of melody and also feels short lived. In many ways it's a perfect snapshot of the entire album.
The following song, 'Conduit', is a little heavier and much more frustrating. This song could have been excellent if it had a chorus with a killer hook; the type we know FFAF can pull off. You're left waiting and waiting for that sing-along hook that never comes.
Thankfully things pick up, albeit briefly, from this point. 'The Distance' wouldn't feel out of place on Welcome Home Armageddon and provides the chorus that the opening two tracks were lacking. 'Best Friends and Hospital Beds' continues in the same vein with an aggressive verse and melodic chorus. Completing a trio of outstanding tracks, 'Nails' shows a bit more variation. The aggression is still there but the pace is a little slower and the vocals a little bit cleaner.
At this point the album seems promising but unfortunately the next three tracks fall flat. 'Death Comes to Us All' reverts to the formula of the first two tracks and is no more successful. Then comes 'Travelled', which is arguably the lowest point of the album. It features clean vocals in the chorus but it's tuneless, bland and uninspiring. Following on, 'Grey' is punchy but once again is let down by the vocals and absence of melody.
Things do pick up a little towards the end, although not enough to redeem the album. 'Sun-less' is a little more tuneful but would still be considered a weak song on previous albums. 'Elements' is one of the few highlights of the album. The song seems to showcase real emotion that is lacking elsewhere and highlights just how much better FFAF are when they're tuneful.
The final song, 'High Castles', is possibly the strongest song of the lot, which in some ways is disappointing as it was recorded before the departure of Ryan Richards, whose trademark screams as the song draws to a close provide a sense of nostalgia.
While the album has it's high points, the rawer sound, the return of hardcore and punk elements and the harsher vocals seem to have removed more than they've added. At under half an hour in length the album feels short lived which only adds to the sense that something is missing. It's not a bad album, but it does fall short of previous efforts.