The major label shackles have been off for a while now, and with each release since it’s seemed as if Funeral For A Friend have been trying to find their feet again. It was only with ‘Welcome Home Armageddon’ that we saw a band who were truly heading back into a clear direction, and the departure of drummer Ryan Richards last year couldn’t have been an easy pill to swallow. Not wanting to let that spoil their a newly found stride, the band recruited the Pat Lundy to take Ryan’s place and started over. The end product has now arrived in the form of ‘Conduit’, their sixth studio album.

Kicking things off with ‘Spine’ – complete with a drum beat reminiscent of the opening of ‘All The Rage’ from ‘Hours’ – the listener is met with a sense of urgency and intent. Pat Lundy’s drumming is intense throughout while the distinct vocals of Matthew Davies – Kreye remain ever impressive. Funeral For A Friend’s collective songwriting ability shines in ‘The Distance’ – with a chorus that wouldn’t be out of place on their earlier material – and ‘Nails’, one of the best songs to come from the band in recent times. The introduction is haunting as well as in your face, and the accompanying guitar as the song ends fits incredibly with the built up emotion in the vocal delivery.

Towards the end of the record, ‘Grey’ is another stand out effort, with the vocals sounding even more impressive. ‘High Castles’ is brilliant as well – the chorus is huge and the song as a whole is representative of the band at their very best.

That said, there are problems facing the band throughout ‘Conduit’. The initial intros can blend into each other a little. It’s not down to a lack of creativity – they get it right in ‘Sun-Less’ and eventually each song finds its own identity – it’s just that there’s nothing there to make you stand up and take immediate notice. It’s something Funeral usually do extremely well.

There’s also a distinct lack of singalong vocals – another signature missing in the end product – and they’ve plumped to stick with the more aggressive side of things this time around. It removes the clean/aggressive vocal dynamic that Ryan gave the band, and leaves a bit of a hole in the sound for the long term listeners.

It’s all too easy to say Funeral For A Friend are a different band these days – and to an extent it’s true – but ‘Welcome Home Armageddon’ was their best album since ‘Hours’ so it’s not like they aren’t capable of delivering the goods. ‘Conduit’ doesn’t feel like a direct follow up to their previous album, and in some ways it’s a step backwards.

‘Conduit’ has a raw, borderline primitive sound compared to any of their previous output, and what is evident is that the Funeral For A Friend of 2013 are writing music for themselves. They’re not trying too hard to please anybody, and that makes for a refreshing and honest listening experience. ‘Conduit’ isn’t their best ever, but it’s very listenable nonetheless.

CHRIS MARSHMAN