Review Summary: On "The Flesh Prevails", Fallujah further cements themselves as the next great death metal band.
Bay Area technical/progressive death metal act Fallujah has been rapidly rising in the extreme metal ranks of late. Their 2013 EP Nomadic took them out of the relative underground and launched them into the front of the pack of up-and-coming bands in the crowded death metal scene. As someone who's been watching Fallujah closely since their infancy, I feel this recent wave of hype and string of accolades bestowed upon them could not be more justified. Their wholly impressive second full-length, The Flesh Prevails, should only add to their growing legion of fans and simultaneously shatter any skeptics doubts about the future of American death metal.
The Flesh Prevails is a logical progression from Nomadic as the band further ramps up the atmosphere of that record and takes the technicality down a (slight) notch. It becomes clear that Fallujah is going for a more atmospheric vibe when the first notes of opening track "Starlit Path" kick in. "Starlit Path" features over a minute of mellow guitar and bass before launching into all-out bedlam with punishing blast beats, grinding guitars and the tortured, black metal-tinged vocals of Alex Hofmann. "Starlit Path" sets the tone for the stacked first half of the album as Fallujah once again perfects the delicate balance of death metal ferocity and ambient beauty. Previously released tracks "Carved From Stone" and "Levitation" are the two heaviest songs on the album, but also feature striking moody passages including the eerie clean vocals in the bridge of "Carved from Stone" and the subdued guitar solo in "Levitation" that give these tracks a spine-chilling emotional edge to contrast the onslaught that occurs for the rest of the song. While all three of these tracks are excellent, the third track on the album "The Night Reveals" is easily the biggest triumph of not only the first half, but the entirety of the record. The middle-eastern influenced guitar scales, prominent, winding bass line and constant tempo shifts make this one of the most well-crafted and flat-out bonkers songs Fallujah has ever made.
The second half of The Flesh Prevails see the focus shifting to the instrumental side of Fallujah, with the previously released "Sapphire" being the only song with prominent vocals to appear in the latter portion of the record. The instrumental tracks on The Flesh Prevails are a welcome reprieve from the chaos that ensues for the rest of the album as they mostly focus on the strictly progressive side of the band.From their inception, Fallujah's strongest point as a band has been their ability to craft intoxicating and haunting melodies and when the instruments completely run the show, the strongest melodies in their repertoire come out. "Allure" and "Chemical Cave" feature constantly-shifting harmonies that are consistently stirring while also serving as the perfect showcase of just how talented everyone in this band is. "Alone with You" is a completely different animal than the other instrumental tracks as it expands on the droney vibe of Nomadic's "Silent" with heavy use of electronics, stripped-down drums and a few gorgeous understated vocal lines from Roniit- who also provides vocals on "Levitation" and "The Flesh Prevails". Fallujah has this sense of subtlety in their music that is incredibly rare for this type of music and it especially comes through on the instrumental tracks. Fallujah certainly does their fair share of traditional death metal pummeling, but they also have a desire to change things up and heavily explore atmospheric territory. It's refreshing to see a band not only challenge the rules of the genre, but effectively break them, and possibly change them forever.
The Flesh Prevails is a dense, challenging listen that substantially rewards patient listeners who are willing to soak in the vast number of layers this record has. It takes numerous listens to process everything that's going on here, but once you, you realize just how special this record is. While The Flesh Prevails is a brilliant record, I don't believe Fallujah has come close to reaching their ceiling yet. Whenever they finally hit that ever-elusive ceiling, the metal world should be in for a serious treat.