Is post-Death Metal a thing? I’m sure there’s some Metal forum that can vindicate that subgenre, but who’s got the time for that. On second thought Gorguts’ Colored Sands probably has already nabbed the coveted best post-Death album title, but I digress. Fallujah’s latest LP Undying Light (Nuclear Blast) certainly seems to fit the post-Extreme label as well, seeing that it’s an album equal parts Death and Deftones. Continue reading
I think it’s safe to say that if you’ve been keeping your ear to the extreme metal ground you remember Fallujah’s The Flesh Prevails. And chances are you harbor good memories about that album. Can’t blame you as The Flesh Prevails, in the parlance of our times, was a motherfucker. It was my pick for 2014 album of the year and that was a year with stellar recordings from At The Gates, Machine Head and plenty more.
So here we are, less than two years and a record label later, with a new Fallujah offering, Dreamless (Nuclear Blast). With the new (and likely more beneficial) Nuclear Blast contract serving as catalyst, Fallujah did not let the quick turnaround and spotlight affect their output.
And if the initial trio of singles, ‘The Void Alone,’ ‘Abandon’ and ‘Scar Queen,’ were any indication you were breathing a little easier. These signaled from the onset Dreamless was meant to be a cut above The Flesh Prevails. But were they up to the task of delivering something above and beyond The Flesh Prevails? That 2014 collection was what from elevated the San Francisco natives from underground darlings to persons of interest in the music industry.
As it turns out, Fallujah have the ability and savvy in spades to match their towering vision. ‘Face of Death and ‘Adrenaline’ are immediate indicators that they plan on living up to their recently acquired atmospheric metal designation. Much like another surging Bay area act, Deafheaven, the core of Fallujah is in extreme metal, but they like to play with mood, tempo, and high drama as much they shred. Throughout tracks like ‘Lacuna,’ ‘Abandon’ and ‘Wind for Wings’ you’ll find beautiful vocal passages from Tori Letzler and Katie Thompson that serve as sonic contrast to Alex Hoffman’s powerful, albeit occasionally monochrome growls. The true showcase for atmosphere here is the title track, ‘Dreamless’ with contributions from the aforementioned Letzler and Thompson plus a haunting solo from Tymon Kruidenier formerly of Cynic.
But behind all the beautiful and gloomy moments lies some of the most technical death metal being produced today. ‘Scar Queen’ and ‘Wind for Wings’ make much rhythm room for Robert Morey’s elastic bass lines and Andrew Baird’s cacophonous fills and speedy feet. Guitarists Scott Carstairs and Brian James shred and channel Paul Masvidal on numbers like ‘Prodigal Son’ and ‘Adrenaline.’ ‘Amber Gaze’ has Fallujah briefly abandoning the atmospherics in favor of their harsh and calculating Harvest Wombs days.
Dreamless successfully follows up on the well garnered hype of The Flesh Prevails by delivering well-informed technical/brutal death metal that is encased by haunting samples and the occasional melodic left turn. I can already predict that Fallujah is destined to become one of those bands the elitists will love to hate. However to dismiss this band over something as petty as uninformed public opinion is straight up foolish.
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One of America’s best kept secrets, Fallujah have made quite the impression in their home nation during their relative infancy. The well-received full length The Harvest Wombs and last year’s Nomadic EP were fine slices of the band’s impressive mix of melodic progressive metal and blistering, ferocious death metal, whilst the UK saw a brief but well taken support slot on Suffocation’s European tour. Now finally the band are about to get some well-deserved attention European attention with latest release The Flesh Prevails (all via Unique Leader).
The initial brace of songs are archetype of what this band can do when at top gear. Opener ‘Starlit Path’ begins in a manner of ambience before slowly creeping forward with blast-beats, chugging guitars and then a guttural bark from Alex Hofmann. This slow build encapsulates this bands formidable streak and perfect marriage between the two contrasting styles in one cohesive mesh. Following tracks ‘Carved From Stone’ and ‘The Night Reveals’ have less of a growth, but still are prime examples of their prowess as masters of the time old cliché of melodic yet heavy.
Things begin to lose momentum in the latter half of the album, which takes its foot off the gas and feels less straight for the throat. Much of these latter tracks, such as ‘Allure’ and ‘Alone With You’, shed vocals almost completely and have less of a death metal focus, with hints of a video game soundtrack. These tracks feel all the more improvised and jammed out and prove good showcases for their talent, but lack in necessity.
What started off so promisingly with an initial barrage of force, sadly becomes fragmented and surplus, if not dull. Shed some of this and The Flesh Prevails would have made a great EP release, but instead brings with it a lot of baggage.