Review Summary: Ethereal.
Fallujah is a five piece that burst into the spotlight with their first full length record “The Harvest Wombs” and then followed with a highly praised ep “Nomadic”. Both of these releases had what Fallujah is all about, technical death metal combined with extensive atmosphere and nearly progressive melody. “The Flesh Prevails” however took all those elements to a new level and created something as close to unique as technical death metal has been in years. It’s a harrowing task trying to find another artist to compare Fallujah to in order to properly convey a description of their sound. The closest representative I could come up with is Aegaeon. The comparison isn't perfect as Aegaeon is more of a breakdown heavy deathcore fare but both bands combine death metal with great atmosphere. “The Flesh Prevails” has been hyped up to an unbelievable extent leading up to its release date and even an ardent fan such as me began to worry that this couldn’t possibly follow through. Thus the question is whether it had. I can say with the utmost honesty that I believe it has.
All the way from track one, “Starlit Path”, to the final track nine, “Chemical Cave”, and the last moment of its forty-two minute time this album takes you on a ride. The oddest thing is that almost every song could easily be a single to promote this yet at the same time they all flow impeccably well as an album. The confusing part is whether it is meant to be listened to as a collection of songs or a complete whole with each song being a part of the next. That uncertainty actually improves it, letting it be listened to in multiple ways.
Instrumentally Fallujah is firing on every single possible cylinder and then some. The riffs are absolutely razor sharp and as cleanly recorded as you could imagine. The riffs are equally melodic and heavy and ultimately beautifully crushing. Special commendation most definitely needs to go to lead guitarist Scott Carstairs for not only holding writing credits for every song, and even some by him solely, but for his amazing lead work. Every note is perfectly chosen and beautifully rendered and is responsible for half the reason I describe this album as Ethereal. There is no mindless sweep picking and indiscernible shredding. His playing is fluid and lean but nothing ever seems left out. It truly is an art. The bass playing is happily audible but a slight bit faint. This could be attributed to the tone as it has a very clean jazz kind of tone. It pops out on its own numerous time, with a particular highlight deep within the bowels of “Chemical Cave”. The drum work is absolutely astounding. Andrew Baird blasts and batters his way through this album as tastefully as death metal drumming gets. There are blast beats but surprisingly few compared to Fallujah’s peers. His cymbal work is varied and used to great effect. The double bass is viciously fast. Some have complained about the production of this album but I find no fault with it. It’s extremely clean but this fits their sound as it highlights every note they play and their general technicality. The atmospherics shine as a result as well. The mix is filled to the brim at almost all times and the album sounds massive as a result. Some listeners could find this exhausting but I’m confident that most metal listeners will feel right at home.
Vocalist Alex Hoffman is arguably the weakest member here but that really doesn't say much. His vocal performance is viciously good but unvaried. Luckily the sheer instrumentation carries the album and allows that lack of variance to be only a slight issue. Surprisingly his vocal presence is very scarce. Much of the album is instrumental and at least a third of it lacks his signature low roar. Hoffman’s lyrics are exemplary and he is responsible for the atmospherics as well, which he does very well on. “Alone With You” in particular as a solely atmospheric track showcases his skills.
Fallujah is a band whose album art genuinely speaks for the album it represents. Most of their peers just have something eye catching that fits the genre maybe but doesn’t truly represent what their product is going for. Fallujah does just the opposite. The art above depicts two figures, one bright with light, and the other almost shrouded in darker hues. I can’t help but feel that this perfectly sums up “The Flesh Prevails”. This album is the perfect amalgamation of light and dark, brutality and melody. The vast majority of the riffs and pieces on this album are played at blinding speeds but whether it be the choice of notes or the atmospheric effects weaving tales untold above the soundscape, there is a near constant beauty to it. There is no awkward juxtaposition of heavy chugging and clean singing such as one might find in the modern metalcore scene. Every moment sounds perfectly built and crafted to meld these two feelings together. The result is near seamless. That is why I use the word ethereal. “The Flesh Prevails” feels fresh despite using elements commonly used by other bands. It’s otherworldly, yet in many ways feels utterly natural. And by god it sticks with you long after it’s done.
In the end I hesitate to give this a five because it has only just released and I think a perfect score is something that should be very carefully rendered. From what I've experienced so far, this is so very very close and it is truly a shame if you don't experience this.