Author: Gay For Gary Oldman
Genre: Progressive/Technical Death Metal/Deathcore
Label: Nuclear Blast America
In December 2014 I named Fallujah’s The Flesh Prevails as my album of the year. I then proceeded to not listen to it since. I loved the album for combining many subtle differences in the multitude of metal styles into a singular, cohesive sound which sounded ultra-modern without straying from a familiar sound. To borrow a phrase, it seemed to me “as forward thinking as a Ronin sculpture on a freight train.” However, my own personal tastes shifted somewhat from the style, and with few other comparable bands I enjoyed, they became much neglected.
Well, Fallujah are back, and have doubled down on the style built on The Flesh Prevails in order to deepen the place they’ve carved out in the center of modern polished extreme metal. Centered primarily in death metal, the band borrow influences and techniques from technical death metal (think Obscura and Spawn of Possession), modern “proggy” death metal (Job for a Cowboy or Rivers of Nihil), the more extreme end of the djent scale (Vildhjarta), as well as an obvious polish and rhythmic chugging from their origins in the deathcore scene (Born of Osiris). Unlike many of their contemporaries, Fallujah manage to wash these influences with a kind of soothing atmosphere built around the use of synths, as well as Joe Satriani-esque lead guitar tones.
Now, most of those aforementioned influences would send many self-respecting metalheads running for their Bathory CDs, but Fallujah, in my mind, succeed where many would fail by balancing these influences well enough to avoid the pitfalls of any particular one. Their deathcore breakdowns are never so simplistic as to be mind-numbing, being balanced by their technical death metal tendencies (see the midpoint to Adrenaline). The technical death metal never suffers from the sterility of needless fret-wanking by allowing the rich atmosphere to carry a more holistic structure along with it (see The Scar Queen). The atmosphere rarely loses its aggression, and the aggression never feels mindless, as it is focused by tight and original songwriting (see Abandon).
However, one of Fallujah’s strengths is also their greatest weakness. The subtle blend of styles is so seamless that the band never feels truly challenging, whilst other bands able to shed their deathcore chains, like The Faceless, manage to create truly complex and unexpected movements in their music. And when all these influences are blended together, the distilled product is one whose market is quite obvious. Of all possible scenes, Dreamless will obviously most appeal to the deathcore crowd seeking fresh experimentation, and the djent crowd looking to distance themselves from the post-hardcore of their Periphery cohorts.
The album is rather homogenous. Each song has a comparable tempo throughout most of the obvious sections, and within the outright metal parts, the occasional heavier sections are intermittently broken up by the soothing and airy lead guitar melodies of Brian and Scott. Like a haunted house with too many windows, there are very few moments in this album that leave you in actual darkness, and you’re never far away from a breath of reverb-laden melody. That’s not to say there are not standout tracks; Amber Gaze is as consistent and punishing as it is impressive in the heights it reaches, and Tori Letzler’s guest vocals on The Void Alone elevate the track to memorability in a way that latter-day melodeath bands like Scar Symmetry and Deadlock are able to.
The bands have also extended their use of synth and trance music on intermissions such as Fidelio, threatening to fill a much-asked-for niche by crossover fans in a way they only hinted at with their previous release, and expanding it further with drum-and-bass influences in Les Silences.
This album won’t win over any hardened fans for whom the genre is a blight, and the lack of serious growth from the last album raises the question of how much staying power the band has for only casual fans of the style, but if you enjoyed The Flesh Prevails and have continued to do so over the last two years, and have not been exhausted by the output of the Unique Leader record label, then there’s no reason not to continue to enjoy this band. Of the vast armies of pretenders covering the 4 or 5 similar styles in popular technical progressive extreme deathcore, Fallujah is probably the best which offers the most engaging listen.
- Gay for Gary Oldman