fallujah

On paper, the brick-wall brutality and chaotic technique of death metal is the antithesis of chilled out ambiance and lush atmospheres. That hasn’t stopped bands from trying to shoehorn the two disparate tones together over the years to varying degrees of success. The idea is becoming easier to execute these days, with modern groups like Ulcerate and Fallujah making like-minded yet differing approaches in letting soundscapes steep between the blistering drums and hulking vocal style of death metal. As opposed to Ulcerate’s more organic use of dynamic shifts to create ominous atmosphere during creeping phases of introspection, Fallujah’s speed rarely ever falters, with huge effects-laden guitar melodies and ambient pads working directly with the mechanically driving forces — something the group has finally mastered with their sophomore album The Flesh Prevails.

With their debut album The Harvest Wombs and the preceding demos and EPs, the Bay Area-based Fallujah sounded more like an unassuming offshoot of the modern movement of progressive and technical death metal that The Faceless helped to kickstart. Last year’s Nomadic EP changed everything, seeing the group finally embrace the atmosphere, going all-out ambient in the appropriately titled ‘Silent‘ and adeptly combining the two facets of their sound together throughout in a way that put their previous work to shame. The Flesh Prevails is a direct continuation of the ground covered in Nomadic, and as such, puts the band on a higher plane of existence.

No longer are Fallujah comparable to the dregs of soulless modern death metal bands lost in a wake of noodling and breakdowns. The songwriting and experimentation found within The Flesh Prevails paints Fallujah as a band in themselves worth aping and could very well become a style defining album, much like The Contortionist‘s groundbreaking debut Exoplanet. Using prog and tech death as a rhythmic base, tastefully virtuosic guitars weave hypermelodic and passionate leads while electronic synths blur the mix together under Alex Hofmann’s powerful and surprisingly emotive screams. This is beautiful music we should have been hearing a decade ago, had early progressive death metal acts such as Cynic and Atheist not disbanded in the 90’s. Fallujah are making up for lost time.

With their unique spin on modern/progressive death metal now fully realized and mastered, the group are comfortable in taking chances on more instrumentals and shifts in dynamic across the breadth of The Flesh Prevails. Just as they did with Nomadic‘s ‘Silent,’ Fallujah have dedicated a track to sweeping ambiance in ‘Alone With You,’ which features the vocal talents of Roniit Alkayam and borders on dream pop — an entirely new facet to the group’s ever-expanding sound. Elsewhere, the instrumental tracks ‘The Flesh Prevails‘ and ‘Allure‘ are showcases of the band’s progressive metal chops, often incorporating jazz fusion elements throughout. The guitarists aren’t left all the fun either; bassist Robert Morey’s presence on the record is absolutely felt, particularly on the ravishing bass solo during the opening moments of ‘Levitation.’

At the end of the day though, even without taking into account all of the band’s distinguishing stylistic flair, what makes The Flesh Prevails such an engaging listen is Fallujah’s ability to write truly memorable and catchy songs. Too many tech death bands are cycling through riffs and ideas without developing them into a recognizable structure with hooks and stand-out melodies. The Flesh Prevails is rich with color where their contemporaries often paint solely in dark hues. These young acolytes are fast becoming leaders in progressive extreme metal, and the legacy they’re likely to lead may very well move the genre forward into a higher plane of existence. One could only hope, anyway.

Fallujah – The Flesh Prevails gets…

4.5/5

– JR

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