Review Summary: Ethereal.
Fallujah is a five piece that burst into the spotlight with their first full length record The Harvest Womb
, then remarkably followed it up with an even more critically acclaimed EP, Nomadic
. Both releases had what Fallujah was all about, fierce technical death metal combined with extensive atmosphere and progressive flourishes. The Flesh Prevails
, however, takes all these elements to the max to forge one of the most unique releases technical death metal has seen in recent years. It’s a harrowing task just trying to find artists to compare Fallujah to, an achievement in itself. The Flesh Prevails
had been hyped to an unbelievable extent leading up to its release date and even ardent fans had to have questioned whether the buildup could possibly pay off. All it takes is one cursory listen to reveal that it well and truly has.
All the way from track one, “Starlit Path”, to the last moment of the exceptional closer, “Chemical Cave”, this album takes you on a ride. Rare is the album that doesn’t feature a wasted moment, rarer still in the fairly stagnant tech death pool, but Fallujah has done it. Every track is memorable and entertaining on their own, yet the album flows magnificently as a whole as well, making it all the better for having multiple ways to listen.
Instrumentally, Fallujah is firing on every single possible cylinder and then some. The riffs are absolutely razor sharp in their execution. The guitar work is 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. Naysayers of technical death metal, the sort that complains excessively of “unorganized wank and mindless shredding”, will find little of that here. His playing is fluid, tasteful, and lean, but nothing ever seems left out. The bass playing is happily audible, if a bit faint in the mix. This could be attributed to the smooth jazz tone perhaps. Bass licks pop in at numerous occasion regardless, 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’s a lovely balance of ferocious blasting, accenting fills, and restrained beats. Vocalist Alex Hoffman rounds out the outfit with a visceral vocal performance, his bearlike roar echoing hauntingly throughout. Equally commendable is his programming, as the swirling atmospherics are wondrous additions to the sound.
The place that many have faulted Fallujah for, and should, is the production. The Flesh Prevails
is big compositionally and sonically. The overwhelmingly loud mix is a shame, but it doesn’t really take that much enjoyment out of the record. Fittingly, being a tech death record, the instruments are surgically recorded and clean to the nth degree. Many an album has had all emotion sapped because of this, but it’s remarkable to see it have little to no effect on Fallujah’s sound. As far as this overwhelmingly prevalent production style goes, Fallujah is the rare example that makes it work for their sound rather than being hindered by it.
Fallujah is a band whose album art genuinely speaks for the album it represents. Many of their peers would simply opt for something eye catching that 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 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 compositions 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. It’s certainly not an awkward juxtaposition of aggression and melody, but a union of the two. Every moment sounds perfectly built and crafted to meld these two feelings together. The result is near seamless. This is why I use the word ethereal. The Flesh Prevails
. It’s otherworldly, yet in many ways feels utterly natural. And by god it sticks with you long after it’s done.