Funeral Diner - The Underdark (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Funeral Diner

The Underdark (2005)


It seems that lately, when it pertains to music, movies, or random items, the word "epic" is thrown around all too often, often enough to barely have a meaning at all anymore. Mohammed Ali fighting Joe Frazier for the first time was epic, the battle scenes in the latter two movies of the 'Lord Of The Rings' trilogy were epic, and the Buffalo Bills' 32 point comeback against the Houston Oilers in 1993 was nothing short of epic. The bagel and cream cheese you had for lunch was not epic, and neither was the battle against the half-pound Perch you caught fishing the other day. Epic is a term that needs to be reserved for those things that deserve it, and Funeral Diner's most recent effort The Underdark is certainly worthy of that billing.

Not since City Of Caterpillar have I been so impressed or captivated by anything a "screamo" band has put out. This is screamo as Indian Summer and Heroin intended, kids, so if you're looking for something to hold you over until the next Funeral For A Friend album comes out, you might as well stop reading this now.

Everything on this album oozes raw emotion. This album is everything screamo should be: frenzied, passionate, tense, and powerful. There are certain things that can't be manufactured using Pro Tools, things that no wizard behind the mixing board can artificially create, and that's the kind of emotion that you'll find in this record; it's refreshing to say the least. By most conventions, screamo is a fairly limited genre, with its high-pitched vocals contrasted by melodic guitars, using its emotion to drive the music. But Funeral Diner is far more dynamic than that. This is a band that won't be held to restrictions of "what they should sound like," and these eight songs rage just as much as they soothe. The instrumentation on some recent Funeral Diner outputs, most notably The Wicked, hasn't been a high point, but it reaches almost a level of mastery here, with the cohesion between band members really letting these songs take flight. That cohesion is realized by the overall flow of the album, which almost has to be listened to sequentially, and in a single sitting. The band gets into a deep groove, and through all of the ups and downs of the music, the instrumentation carries one song out as flawlessly as the next begins (think Buried Inside). The guitars aren't always pounding, but the delicate instrumentation suits the flow just as well, creating a relaxed atmosphere before you're quickly snapped out of it.

"Regardless We Fall" exhibits Funeral Diner's power and dynamics as well as any point on the album. The song starts out with some quiet, brooding instrumentation, until Seth Babb's cathartic screams kick in, and the song continues to move along, slowly increasing in power until seemingly reaching a peak at the three-minute mark, but you're only halfway there. The song builds back up, until finally unleashing all hell amongst a storm of pounding drums, driving guitar, and anguished screams. This is exactly the kind of thing I haven't heard since City Of Caterpillar put out their landmark self-titled record in 2002. Every song offers something different, while bringing the same level of talent and emotion to everything they approach. Each member of this band is just as in tune with their fellow band members as they are with themselves, and it shows.

The members have also included some elements not found on previous Funeral Diner albums, including some organ in "It's Good That We Never Met" that exudes an eerie, foreboding tone while the guitars continue to rise and fall in the backdrop of Babb's throat-shredding screams. The production here has lent a lot to Babb's vocals, allowing them to maintain the raw, emotional sound that's always been in place, but keep the raw sound of the rest of the band as well without having a test of who can be the loudest, it all just gels. Not only has the relationship between band members grown, but so has Babb's ability to write meaningful lyrics:

Colors shift, airwaves move and shape themselves into a perversion of what's right, how we were all fooled. And it continues to never add up. With options disappearing fast, the pacing voice and the burning hate-filled eyes make themselves out to be the only possible choice and truth. So long live the hate and long live the self-serving destructive 'ideals' that led us to this closed existence in the first place. Trust becomes an ugly word equated to weakness and a foolish path to better ourselves.
From every possible angle, Funeral Diner have improved beyond belief. The cohesion between band members and epic sense of songwriting has grown far past anything I expected from this band, allowing them to truly create a masterpiece of an album. The Underdark is the record that is passing on the screamo torch to Funeral Diner, that same torch held by Neil Perry, Joshua Fit For Battle, and City Of Caterpillar, and in many ways, this work surpasses anything those bands achieved in their short careers. This is dynamic, raw, emotional, passionate, cathartic, and everything intense music should be. Call it an overstatement, call it blasphemy, but folks, as of right now, this is album of the year.