Two years ago I was singing the praises of FFAF’s Welcome Home Armageddon; an album which included a streamlined sound with heavier tones. The evolution continues on Conduit, but sadly one member of the band is being left behind. Unfortunately that man is singer Matt Davies.
Without vocals, Conduit is an extremely heavy album for the band. Guitar has some great crunching chugging riffs, bass is deep and rich and drums are as great as they’ve always been despite the fairly recent introduction of new drummer Pat Lundy, previously of Rise To Remain. The players have tightened up their skills and sound like an accomplished metal band rather than the FFAF I’ve known and loved for years. This does unfortunately mean that there’s much less of the signature guitar neck high string trickery though which is a shame.
With vocals the album becomes a different beast entirely and sounds messy. I’d commented on this before on the last album review, but the problem lies with the fact that Matt just can’t scream properly. Musically they seem to have left behind most of the melodic moments which means for most of the album he just sounds shouty, but not in an appealing metal fashion. In fact there are a few instances where you can hear his voice break completely.
At one point I started listening to Conduit whilst imagining Matt’s vocal replaced by Fei Comodo/Hey Vanity front man Marc Halls and suddenly the album improved ten fold. Matt still sounds good on the melodic parts but those are few and far between. There’s a tiny moment at the end of final track “High Castles” that has a proper growl, but all it does is further show up Matt’s weakness.
I’m not sure what FFAF’s direction is. If it’s down the metal route then the vocal style needs to change. It’s that or revert to an earlier sound but that’s perhaps a step backwards in their eyes. There’s one song in particular, “Travelled”, which is a schizophrenic mess of old and new. Huge new instrument sound, old melodic vocal, and they don’t gel well at all.
I know I’ve pretty much laid into it, but Conduit isn’t an entirely bad album. It’s definitely listenable and I do love the musicianship and would be more than happy to hear more of that, but the jarring vocal just doesn’t work for me and sadly consigns this album to the listen once in a while pile. It doesn’t change my love of the band though and I’m still looking forward to seeing them live again pretty soon. I just hope that the back catalogue isn’t forgotten or given a reworking with their newer sound.